AMC recently announced the end of it’s flagship series, the long running adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series, with the eleventh season. To continue the show’s legacy, the network is expanding on the popular universe, with current spinoff Fear the Walking Dead renewed for a sixth season and multiple projects in the pipeline. A spinoff with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) and writer Angela Kang does sound promising, along with an anthology series titled Tales of the Walking Dead.
Bridging the divide between these newer shows however is The Walking Dead: World Beyond, a limited series premiering on Amazon Prime Video. Bizarrely aimed primarily at YA audiences, could this new show signal AMC scraping the bottom of a zombie shaped barrel? Co-created by Scott M. Gimple, with Matt Negrete on board as co-creator and showrunner, The Walking Dead: World Beyond is set ten years after the initial zombie outbreak. Centring on sisters Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale) who team up with school mates Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) to leave the comfort of the Campus Colony and journey into the world beyond, in the hope of finding their father.
A decade after the ‘The Night the Sky Fell’, a small, gated community commemorate the memory of those lost on ‘Monument Day’. An alliance between Portland, Omaha and the mysterious Civic Republic Military (CRM) has lead to relative peace; with the next generation attempting to adapt to a “new normal” following the apocalyptic outbreak. Sound familiar? Yes, awkwardly there’s a big parallel to the current global pandemic – with talks of a vaccine being worked on.
The growing tension between the sisters and shady military leader (Julia Ormond) hint that all might not be as it seems – just who are the CRM and what is their agenda? With a connection to Rick Grimes in TWD and Morgan’s group in FTWD, hopefully Gimple will compellingly reveal pieces of the puzzle throughout the series, connecting the dots between the shows.
Intriguing CRM narrative and world building aside, there’s unfortunately not all that much newly added for the show yet. Feeling like a bit of a missed opportunity to really push or expand upon the genre, there isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in the first two episodes screened to press. Targeting the younger audience, there is a distinct lack of gore and horror that will disappoint hardcore TWD fans, along with an extra layer of drama and emotion. As the group finally embark on their road trip, the inexperienced youngsters recklessly and awkwardly attempt to dispatch “empties”, in a scene I feel like we’ve seen a million times. It’s all just a little too familiar.
Delving into the shared psychological trauma of the young generation, particularly throughout a number of flashbacks, the series focuses predominantly on how they’re coming to terms with moving on from outbreak. While it takes a while for the young cast to gel, particular standouts include Nico Tortorella as head of security Felix and Julia Ormond as the tough cookie CRM commander. As expected, the production values are consistently high, with impressive practical effects and prosthetics bringing the empties to life. Added details like moss on the walkers effectively highlight the time jump from the flagship series.
With the tease of a potentially captivating exploration of the Civic Republic Military, The Walking Dead: The World Beyond could make for a fascinating watch. But with the heavy YA angle, the show has shown more bark than bite so far. With a two season order, hopefully Gimple and Negrete can breathe new life into the franchise, as the flagship series concludes.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC in the US and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.