If The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that kids are terrible in the apocalypse. From Henry jeopardising everyone’s safety to psychotic Lizzie Samuels killing her own sister, or Ron Anderson popping a cap in Carl Grimes’ eye, there’s a substantial case for youth’s swift termination when the dead rise.
The franchise’s second spin-off, following Fear The Walking Dead, feels like an argument built for their defence. The Walking Dead: World Beyond, essentially a young adult take on the universe set 10 years after the outbreak, is centred around four teens who have grown up with zombie armageddon as the norm. They all have individual childhood traumas but their isolated upbringing hasn’t hardened their personalities. Life on Nebraska State University’s campus means they’re mostly shielded from the undead.
This changes when sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) sneak outside the compound to look for their scientist father. He’s been been shipped off to an allied, mysterious group called the Civic Republic on a very important mission. Coupled with two classmates, Iris and Hope put their training for taking down “empties” to the test – with guardian and security officer Felix (Nico Tortorella) in hot pursuit.
Led by veteran The Walking Dead writer Matthew Negrete, World Beyond crafts a distinctive identity with a hopeful, optimistic tone. It might repeat the ‘cross-country adventure’ set-up we’ve seen countless times before, but the younger cast makes this outing feel fresher. Think Stand By Me, with the occasional corpse stumbling into scene.
It’s oddly relevant in places too. A touching sequence in the second episode sees Hope and Elton Ortiz (Nicolas Cantu) reflect on their potential fate as the “last generation” of human existence, dealing with responsibilities forced upon them by past mistakes. Awkwardly delivered dialogue sometimes undercuts World Beyond’s charm, especially with shy-but-dull character Silas (Hal Cumpston), but hopefully the cast will grow with confidence as the series progresses.
Even fans vomiting at the prospect of ‘The Walking Dead Kids’ should give it a try. The Civic Republic’s introduction indicates answers are finally coming for the long-running helicopter mystery – prevalent throughout the main show’s recent seasons. It’s unclear how big a role this will play in World Beyond’s story, but it’d be a shame if this spin-off turns into a prelude for the upcoming Rick Grimes movies – with the franchise often prioritising universe world-building over coherent, smaller stories.
Considering it’s only set to span two seasons (if AMC keep their word), World Beyond could be used as a ‘feeler’ project to gauge the appetite for future Walking Dead titles. That’s the cynical viewpoint, and these new survivors probably aren’t interesting enough to attract a massive new audience. But for fans, this is a welcome, lighter addition to the post-apocalyptic family.
NME was provided three episodes of ‘The Walking Dead: World Beyond’ for review