Last night, THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND, the third series in the franchise, premiered on AMC. It follows four teenagers in an Omaha college campus-dwelling community beginning about ten years after the zombie apocalypse began. These four are dissatisfied with the Civic Republic Military, an organization that seems to run wide swaths, if not the entire, former United States and travels in helicopters. This group has been glimpsed in The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, but now takes center stage as the teens seek to rescue the father of two of their group from the CRM.
THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND seems to be an attempt to set a teen drama in this universe. The relationships and dynamics at the center of the show feel more like a typical young adult work than the deeper, more complex series that spawned it. None of the four lead performers are very recognizable, and at least one of them is just a downright terrible actor. Which immediately lowers the quality of the production.
Iris (Aliyah Royale, The Red Line) is the do-gooder who seeks to be a leader in the community. Her sister, Hope (Alexa Mansour, Unfriended: Dark Web), is the opposite, a troublemaker who acts out. Both have experienced a lot of pain, and are hiding it from one another, refusing to engage in any serious manner. They miss their father, who is a brilliant scientist and leader on loan to the CRM. Things come to a head when a CRM general, Elizabeth (Julia Ormond, Witches of East End), arrives in Omaha, while at the same time, their father sends a message that he is in danger.
So the girls, of course, decide to set off on their own to rescue dear old dad. They are joined by two of their misfit peers, Elton (Nicolas Cantu, The Amazing World of Gumball) and Silas (Hal Cumpston, Bilched), one of whom shares a secret history with the sisters. And the four are pursued by their guardian, Felix (Nico Tortorella, Younger), and his fellow guard Huck (Annet Mahendru, The Americans), who want to make sure they stay safe.
THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND is not without its high points. There are some moving scenes, such as when Iris speaks to a counselor pal of hers, or when Felix and Huck learn the girls are gone. The adult performers are, by and large, good, and so are a couple of the kids.
But besides inexperienced performers, the main problem THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND seems to be dealing with is its half-hearted attempt to stick to the format they’re pushing. I complained about the young adult conceit early on, despite liking a good many shows in the genre, because this one seems to be picking some of the worst tropes of genre. Perhaps if the story committed to it, they could make it better.
The most interesting aspect of THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND is the CRM and whatever they’re up to. Elizabeth herself does some puzzling things in the pilot, and there is a lot of mystery surrounding the group from appearances elsewhere. This seems like a much better foundation to build a show on, and in fact, appears much better developed than the central premise.
Fear the Walking Dead didn’t start out all that great, but it grew into a more-than-worthwhile show. As such, I’m inclined to give THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND a chance to be something more than the first episode indicates it is. But they really need to lock down what they are and replace a few of the characters (primarily Iris) for the series to be something worthy of the franchise.
THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND airs Sundays at 10PM on AMC.