GORE IN THE STORE
THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND SEASON ONE **
Directed by Magnus Martens, Sharat Raju, Rachel Leiterman, Dan Liu, Michael Cudlitz, Loren Yaconelli, Sydney Freeland.
Starring Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Cumpston, Nicolas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, Julia Ormond, Ted Sutherland.
USA 2020 Certificate: 15 Running time: 7 hours 30 minutes.
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Acorn on October 11th, 2021
For those who lost count some time ago, THE WALKING DEAD as we know it comes to an official end next year, with its eleventh season the last after what will be twelve years on the air. AMC’s spin-off FEAR THE WALKING DEAD starts its seventh season this year, having gone Nuclear at the end of season six. The second spin-off, WORLD BEYOND, which broadcasts via Amazon Prime outside the U.S. was conceived by THE WALKING DEAD alumni Scott M Gimple and Matthew Negrete as a self-contained two-season series and will breathe its last in December 2021. For those who lost count a long, long time ago, yes, Rick grew a beard, went weird and left and, no, we never got the whole Norman Reedus-as-sex-symbol either. And, before you ask, analysts have now confirmed that the three series combined officially showcase more walking than the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.
WORLD BEYOND skews younger in its protagonists and, thus, presumably, its intended audience. It unfolds in Nebraska, ten years after the apocalypse and its best asset is Julia Ormond, whose film career once flitted between bold turns in Peter Greenaway pictures and leading ladies in big Hollywood movies. Here she brings humour and humanity to a stern, omnipresent Colonel who, as part of the “Civic Republic”, believes she is on a mission to revive the world as it was.
Ormond is fun to watch, and the main cast of college students are quite likeable, as these things go. Fatalistic activist Hope (Alexa Mansour) yearns to be in the city and is a major opponent of the Civic Republic. She considers all the plans for rebuilding hopeless in a doomed world. Her adopted sister Iris (Aliyah Royale) is haunted by nightmares and guilt from her mom’s death a decade ago and, with Hope, sets off to New York State to find her dad. He’s working on a cure for the Civic Republic and his communications have been suspiciously blocked off. They’re teamed with smart junior Elton (Nicolas Cantu), who knows karate and talks of the Sixth Extinction and nervous, outcast transfer student Silas (Hal Cumpston) on an inevitably dangerous mission tracked by campus security guard Felix (Nico Tortorella).
Alas, what unfolds is a plodding, teen-based facsimile elements from the two sister shows. The format follows a familiar flashback-laden structure, conveying soap opera back stories involving parental homophobia, dead parent issues, anger management problems, domestic abuse and assorted “You should’ve told me” revelations between friends and siblings. We have glimpses of the beginning of “the end”, when the sky exploded and it all went to Hell, alongside scenes of the kids learning zombie-killing self-defence classes at school. There are major longueurs in between action beats, with the zombies (here nicknamed “empties”) incidental for long stretches while our heroes pass the time with Monopoly and muse over being the “last generation”.
It’s written with a heavy hand and relies a tad too much on slo-mo montages for dramatic effect. The zombies, when they’re on screen, are as superbly crafted and impressively detailed as we now expect from all three of these shows, but they’re under-used in scripts that favour corny voice overs and wisdom like “Accept the wind, it always wins”. Occasionally, it bursts into (decaying) life, and there’s a nicely handled shadow play interpretation of the apocalypse in episode six. But so much is either predictable or sentimental, paying off with a distinctly under-powered season finale. At the point where someone waxes lyrical about Mountain Dew, you would be forgiven for wishing an undead ensemble would rip all their heads off.
The two-disc set comes adorned with a couple of short behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Review by Steven West.