An answer to the unasked question of what if The Walking Dead was on the CW, “Brave” isn’t the most promising start for AMC’s new teen-focused spin-off.
This recap of The Walking Dead: World Beyond season 1, episode 1, “Brave”, contains spoilers. You can check out our recap of the flagship show’s season finale by clicking these words.
As I said in my (spoiler-free) review of the flagship show’s tenth-season finale, The Walking Dead as a franchise is in a weird place right now – like, even weirder than usual. It might be the only show in history to start out okay, get really good, stay decent, rapidly get worse, become shockingly terrible, and then suddenly get good again, finally finding fresh energy under a new showrunner in its tenth season. That season is over now, even though there are apparently more episodes of it planned for next year, and the proposed eleventh season will apparently be the last, one assumes in the same way that Andrew Lincoln left and will be in feature-film spin-offs, and Lauren Cohan left and came right back again.
With those planned feature films and a talked-about show featuring Carol and Daryl, the wider Walking Dead universe isn’t much clearer. Fear the Walking Dead, the first proper spin-off, started out as a serviceable but ultimately disposable addendum, then it got excellent for one season, then it became inexplicably awful – and it’s due to return soon. Into that very bizarre media milieu steps The Walking Dead: World Beyond, a teen-focused spin-off set a decade after the downfall of civilization that’s already booked for two seasons even though the first episode hasn’t even aired yet – not if you don’t have AMC+, anyway, which is why this recap, like the one of “A Certain Doom”, will be spoiler-free.
The bad news about World Beyond is that it isn’t very good. The good news is that quality doesn’t seem to mean anything in this universe, so it might suddenly become great next year or even next week for all anybody really knows. Nevertheless, it’s set in Nebraska among a cloistered community of survivors who live generally okay lives on campus under the watchful eye of the nebulous, militaristic Civic Republic, who appeared in Season 8 of The Walking Dead when Anne tried to trade Negan to them, then in Season 9 when they flew Rick Grimes away to places unknown, and in several episodes of Fear the Walking Dead’s fifth season. In “Brave” they’re represented at least in part by Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), and they’re of particular interest to the show’s teenage sister protagonists, Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alex Mansour) Bennett, since their scientist father is working with them on something all mysterious and they ultimately resolve to set out and find out what.
A good chunk of The Walking Dead: World Beyond episode 1 is set on the former Nebraska State University campus under the watchful eye of guards like Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru), and for a while, it feels so distinctly unlike a Walking Dead setting that I forgot a few times that this is even a zombie show. With everyone so used to the idea of the roaming undead now, which still populate the landscape but don’t pose much of a problem to anyone within the highly-guarded campus confines, there’s room for levity, some routine, and a bit of typical teen-drama angst that is one thing that shows in this franchise really haven’t grappled with much over the years.
Naturally, then, “Brave” elects to abandon this fruitful setting so that Iris and Hope, along with their companions, Silas (Hal Cumpston) and amateur anthropologist Elton (Nicholas Cantu), who is the kind of quirky dork who wears a tan corduroy three-piece suit for no reason at all, can venture out into the wasteland in search of the Bennett patriarch and further on-brand misfortunes. Perhaps I’ve aged out of the demographic for whom “what if the CW made The Walking Dead?” would be a compelling setup for a show, but then again perhaps that just isn’t a good idea for a show in general. Time will tell, I guess.
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