It’s hard to judge a show like The Walking Dead: The World Beyond only by its premiere, which spent almost an entire episode establishing the idyllic nature of the campus settlement in Omaha before wiping it all off the map in the final few minutes. In his cliffhanger ending, World beyond established itself as a road show – but we didn’t really get a idea of what the road was going to look like.
“The Blaze of Gory” is therefore an instructive and consistent episode, defining the model of what a standard episode is. World beyond will look like. And I’m happy to report that this model looks pretty promising.
First and foremost, this episode makes the wise choice to let the children at the center of this story act like real children. Iris and Silas shyly flirt over what kind of music they like. Hope and Elton have a (understandably) anguished conversation about the existential hopelessness they felt growing up on the other side of the world. The whole gang spend a night in a tree house and play a game of Monopoly. They even develop their own joke inside, which is hilarious for the four of them but impossible to explain to anyone else. (Big Moe!)
These scenes have a natural, lived-in authenticity, and I honestly think I would settle for a version of World beyond it was just a hangout show about kids around the world. But there is a whole Walking Dead the mythology this show remains tied to, so the back half of the episode pivots down the long road that will eventually lead these kids to the CRM’s secret base in New York City.
The big obstacle this week is a tire fire. I mean a real tire fire. (Apparently these kids aren’t afraid of metaphors on their noses.) It’s called the Blaze of Bloody, because terrible puns also survived the apocalypse. And for the residents of the campus colony, this is very useful, as the smoke tends to attract zombies in the area and keep them away from people.
Sadly, the Blaze of Gory also sits directly between the kids and New York City, which means they’ll either have to cut it or take a long detour. Considering the archetypes established at the premiere, you’d probably expect Iris to push the long way and Hope to insist on the shortcut – but it’s interesting that it’s Hope rebellious without a cause who prefers to do the trek. of 60 miles around the fire, and Iris by the book who prefers to cut straight. (Of course, this is a TV show, so Elton and Silas ultimately vote for the shortcut, which also happens to be the option that will be a lot more fun to watch.)
All the while, Felix and Huck follow behind, following a trail of breadcrumbs so obvious that Felix suspects that one of the children has decided that they want to to be found. But the route also gives Felix the chance to get his own shutdown. In a series of flashbacks scattered throughout the episode, we get Felix’s own poignant story. When Felix was a teenager, his deadpan father found out Felix was gay and threw him out of the house for good. When the apocalypse erupted, Felix attempted to return home, only to be pushed back by his parents behind their locked door.
Back in the present, Felix approaches his childhood home for the first time in years and hears the zombies moaning behind the locked door. When he storms in and kills his own zombified parents, it’s hard to determine if this is an act of mercy, an act of rage, or both – but either way, it seems like he’s succeeding. to a much needed closure here.
And it’s a good thing that someone did something productive this week – because by the end of the episode, the kids inevitably discover that they could be over their heads. Smoke from the Blaze of Gory makes navigation impossible, and the gang find themselves stranded in the middle of a horde of zombies. Surrounded on all sides, Elton offers a Hail Mary: cutting through the crowd to set off an old tornado siren that will attract zombies.
While there are, of course, no immediate volunteers for this work, Hope ultimately decides this is a great opportunity for her to step up as well. While everyone is sleeping, she grabs a walkie-talkie and slips into the smoke. Hey, no one said being the hero was easy.
• Following the conversation about how the zombie apocalypse is likely an extinction event for the human race, Hope and Elton christen their little group “The Endlings,” after the scientific term for the end of a species. (A friendly suggestion: only click this link if you’re willing to be super disappointed!)
• At one point World beyond going to need to do a time / geography jump, right? Maybe between seasons one and two? Because there are 18 episodes left in this series, and the Endlings appear to have covered about eight miles of their 1,100 mile journey.
• Hope apologizing to a zombie after Iris launches at it is a good reminder for the pilot of the original. Walking Dead, when the much less jaded Rick Grimes apologized to a zombie before killing him.
• The CRM may have turned out to be duplicitous and murderous traitors, but at least our gang removed some canned peaches from the case.
• Even by relaxed post-apocalypse standards of fun, a game of Monopoly feels way too long and boring.
• World beyond really determined to make “The Night the Sky Fell” a thing, eh?
• Will Iris / Silas senders call them Irilas or Siliris?
• Elton says the anatomy of a zombie is like “a bag of dumplings and candy cane”. Evocative!
• No Julia Ormond this week. If you ask me: More Julia Ormond, please!