Iris welcomes an enigmatic ally to their community while Hope questions the visitor’s motives. A message upends the sisters’ worldview, forcing them to decide between the safety of their home and the uncertainty of the world beyond.
The Walking Dead has been a franchise I’ve found myself drifting away from and back to in recent years. Having left the main series back in season 8, I returned to season 1 during lockdown and caught up to date in time for the season 10 finale.
I also had the privilege of seeing the first footage from World Beyond at last year’s New York Comic Con. Back then it seemed the series was being pitched to audiences as Stand By Me meets zombies. But this final product feels like something with a little more drive.
I can’t help but feel like there’s a major purpose behind World Beyond which will tie heavily in to both the main series and Fear The Walking Dead. To that end I can understand why World Beyond is only set to run for 20 episodes across two seasons.
Watching “Brave” it become abundantly clear that there’s some kind of plan for the journey the four leads will be taking. Going in to the episode I had expected four similarly entitled kids getting bored with life in the safety of their compound and venturing out to explore the world. Whilst that is true to a certain extend it by no means covers what this episode lays out in terms of story.
Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) are sisters who seem heavily entwined with the Campus Community populous. “Brave” spins out some of their backstory through flashbacks but fails to explain more outside of necessary plot points. Their father is high up in the science and technology field in the new world and has left the safety of the compound to work with The Civic Republic.
The Civic Republic are the ones in control of the helicopters we’ve been seeing across the franchise. They’re also the ones who took a heavily injured Rick when he departed The Walking Dead. Connection number one. We’re told The Civic Republic are central to the story of World Beyond and “Brave” demonstrates that perfectly.
With their father gone, Iris seems to be running the show as class president. She’s oddly presented as one of the only leaders of the community across the episode. It’s Iris who welcomes representatives from The Civic Republic. She is also the one to make a speech to the gathered masses to celebrate Monument Day. A celebration of ten years since the sky fell (aka the apocalypse).
There’s a Hunger Games-esque approach to commemorating the end of the world. Monument Day feels like a reaping ceremony which becomes all the more apt when we return to the Campus Community at the end of the episode and discover what Julia Ormond’s Elizabeth Kublek has been up to since the teens have left.
“Brave” feels trapped between two worlds: a CW style teen drama and serious player in The Walking Dead universe. There’s no dialling back on the zombie gore. In fact the series pushes it to new limits, particularly in its flashbacks.
It creates an odd hybrid tone which, whilst unique to the TWD franchise, feels like its two core elements are at odds rather than working together. Thankfully this feels like it’s beginning to cohere by the end of the episode.
The four leads themselves are all compelling characters. Given the short lifespan of the show they feel a little undercooked apart from Iris and, to a degree, Hope. Both Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) need more development before they are able to shoulder the narrative individually.
“Brave” not only sets up the world of The Walking Dead: World Beyond it also tries its best to develop some conflict between its characters. There’s a subplot, tied to the flashbacks, which is sure to cause fireworks between Hope and Elton. Unfortunately the episode tends to signpost what is coming rather than allowing it to develop fully organically.
In promoting World Beyond the series has also strayed away from the importance of two supporting cast members. Nico Tortorella’s Felix and Annet Mahendru’s Huck are also central to the plot. It seems the series will follow their exploits as well as the teens. They may well all join up in the near future. I only hope the narrative doesn’t come to rely on these slightly older characters.
In terms of production value World Beyond absolutely stands against both the main series and Fear. Set design, costume design and makeup effects are all cinematic in quality. There’s also a similar aesthetic which easily identifies World Beyond has part of the franchise.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond lands with some generic teen drama but with enough underlying premise to make a promising entry to the franchise.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond stars Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Annet Mahendru, Nicolas Cantu, Hal Cumpston and Nico Tortorella. The series will air on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.