CS Soapbox: Why World Beyond Doesn’t Deserve the Hate
Spoiler Warning for Season 1 of The Walking Dead: World Beyond
This year, another spinoff in The Walking Dead Universe was born with a fresh lens centering on a young group of kids growing up in the post-apocalyptic world as they peel back the layers of the mysterious Civic Republic — the same society whose military force, the Civic Republic Military (CRM), has appeared in every TWD show and also snatched up our beloved Rick Grimes when Andrew Lincoln exited The Walking Dead in Season 9.
Since its premiere, The Walking Dead: World Beyond has been met with some harsh criticism from fans and critics alike. The first season of the two-part season spinoff has certainly had to navigate a few bumps in the road while finding its footing, but even though it may not outshine its predecessors — especially with Fear the Walking Dead delivering such a solid season alongside the new show — World Beyond has more to offer than it’s getting credit for.
For some fans, the biggest draw of the series was learning more about the CRM since they’ve been a mystery embedded in the TWD Universe for a few years now, especially knowing that a badly-wounded Rick was taken by the organization after the explosion on the bridge, unbeknownst to his surviving loved ones. Learning more about the group, including how massive and secretive the authoritarian society is and how they believe they are the answer to humanity surviving and rebuilding (no matter how many innocent people they massacre along the way), has offered a few hints as to why Rick has been unable to make it back to his family after so many years, undoubtedly trapped but also likely protecting his family from the threat of the CRM as the Civic Republic has seemingly left The Walking Dead crew alone ever since nabbing Rick. Has he made a deal with them to keep his family safe? What exactly are they using him for, especially after so many years? While we may not actually see Rick during the second and final season of World Beyond (at least we have the movie to look forward to) what we continue to learn about this big threat in the final 10 episodes will obviously play a part in the next chapter of Rick’s journey when he makes his franchise return.
Outside of the loose connection to Rick, though, what makes World Beyond special is its diverse and lovable cast of characters that only grow on you more with each episode. Namely, adopted sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope Bennett (Alexa Mansour), Silas (Hal Cumpston), and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) who leave their home together to find the Bennett siblings’ father, Leo (Joe Holt). The coming-of-age story combines a feeling of adventure, discovery, family, and the harsh reality of the outside world as these kids attempt to adapt to an environment unlike where they have been raised, where civilization has collapsed and the undead roam freely as desperate people struggle to survive the living and the dead. Joining them for the ride is Nico Tortorella’s Felix, the sisters’ guardian who is determined to keep them safe like he promised their father — and who finally got to be reunited with his boyfriend, Will (Jelani Alladin) in the Season 1 finale — as well as Annett Mahendru’s Huck, aka Jennifer Mallick, another security officer from the Campus Colony of Omaha like Felix. Unlike her friend Felix, though, Huck is revealed to be a traitor to our band of explorers and the daughter of the series’ main antagonist Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), the lieutenant colonel of the CRM, creating an intriguing new dynamic full of dysfunctional family issues and betrayal. Even after deceiving the group, believing everything she has done is for “the greater good,” something tells us Huck, who once killed her own fellow soldiers in order to save innocent civilians, may not be thrilled with mommy dearest when she learns about the massacre at the Campus Colony.
Some viewers have complained that World Beyond is too boring or slow, oftentimes with direct comparisons made to the other two Walking Dead series. The first season of the planned two-part season series hasn’t been a perfect origin story, but it arguably has been solid enough to stand on its own and draw us further into the characters’ complex lives and their relationships as we explore the parts of the show that makes it good: What is it like for those lucky enough to have been scooped up into communities swiftly after the world came crashing down as young children, each with a traumatizing past but many of them having found relative safety within the colony’s gates, to then leave what they know behind? What is it like for the same kids to have to confront their PTSD while venturing out into the unknown, to have to kill for the first time (except for Hope), or feel the sting of betrayal when serious truths are unearthed and they continue to learn the hard way sometimes even the people closest to you cannot be trusted? What happens when the same protagonists refuse to succumb to the terrible realities of the new world and instead decide to fight back and cling to the hope and light that still exists in pockets and in certain people who believe in a better way?
The violent, post-apocalyptic world is regarded a bit differently in World Beyond because it is seen mainly through the eyes of these kids who are open-minded and forgiving, always doing their best to find understanding and to offer second or third chances if they see even a spark of goodness, wanting to trust instead of being quick to throw people away. No matter how terrifying a situation or the traumas they have experienced, they are all as brave as they come, and little geniuses, too, ready to take on whatever is waiting for them around the corner and refusing to give up even at the bleakest of times. There’s something refreshing about seeing the world through their eyes and how the characters feel unique in the TWD Universe, providing a perspective that is distinct and engaging, finding its own footing while still remaining connected to The Walking Dead story as a whole.
Beyond the CRM and the show’s characters, another fascinating element of the series centers on science as it explores everything from the study of zombification to the migration patterns of the Empties, as well as how the undead has deteriorated over time in addition to nature’s evolution as the environment continues to change. The heavy focus on science in the series teases possible answers behind the origin of the virus, or what could potentially lead to a cure, while never ignoring the argument of morality that has acted as a throughline for the franchise.
With only a few episodes left, there’s no telling what answers might await in the second and final season. The season finale set up Season 2 in a fantastic way with a little bit of a cliffhanger and many questions lined up for what’s to come: How will our group take on an organization as large and as advanced as the Civic Republic with a highly-trained military unit that is really to kill at the drop of a hat? Will Iris and Hope’s mini-war against the CRM change them and their friends forever as they are all faced with difficult choices and life-altering sacrifices? Will all of the characters that started out as protagonists still be the “good guys” by the end? How will the events of World Beyond inform the future of the franchise, including the Rick Grimes movie? And, most importantly, who will survive? (Protect Elton at all costs).
Despite a few narrative issues, The Walking Dead: World Beyond has been worth the ride so far, and with the threads woven in anticipation of the remaining episodes, Season 2 is bound to be unforgettable.