“The Tyger and the Lamb” doesn’t work as a zombie-horror or a teen drama, but it at least suggests that World Beyond might work as a component of the expanded Walking Dead fiction — eventually.
This recap of The Walking Dead: World Beyond season 1, episode 3, “The Tyger and the Lamb”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I knew this about The Walking Dead: World Beyond anyway, but “The Tyger and the Lamb” confirms it: The show thinks we’re stupid. I don’t know what gave it this impression. It’s almost as if it mistakenly believes it’s arriving in a media landscape that is somehow unfamiliar with zombies; where ten seasons of the show it’s spun off from and six seasons of another spin-off from that show don’t already exist. This is the only possible explanation for it expecting us to buy into its obviously contrived suspense sequences, such as the one that capped off last week’s episode in which Hope slipped off in the middle of the night to set off a Walker-luring siren.
As it turns out, this is even less of a big deal to her than it was to us, or at least that’s the impression we get when her curious friends contact her via walkie-talkie to chase up her location (she’s inside an office in the tire factory.) She knows, like we all know, that a show isn’t going to kill off one of its protagonists in the third episode of its first season. Hope was never in any real danger; the show just expected us to believe she was. This is a longstanding television trick, nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s also a trick that only creates the desired illusion by mastering sleight of hand. If you stuck with the flagship show over its many ups and downs, you’ll recall how it stretched imperilment of major characters over many episodes and often padded its roster with enough expendable hangers-on that a relatively well-liked character could genuinely be killed off for real. World Beyond has neither of those advantages at this point. All its drama is cheaply manufactured, sold at a discount price to a weary audience who already have enough tat as it is.
I get it. I get that the idea of four teenagers having grown up in the apocalypse and spent the entirety of their short lives being protected by adults is what affords World Beyond its ostensibly unique perspective. I get, then, that they can’t be hardened zombie-slaying badasses in order for the story to work. But do they have to be quite so stupid? Do they have to blunder headlong into obvious threats just so we can delight in them barely – though inevitably – bungling their way out of them? And, perhaps more to the point, do they have to be built on such a bedrock of flimsy clichés?
“The Tyger and the Lamb” did accomplish something I thought was impossible, which was make Elton more interesting by proxy. It’s Silas’s turn for some backstory this week, and his factory-standard “gentle giant with a violent past to hide” shtick is so boring that Elton’s precocious existentialism at least feels a bit different. I still hate him, obviously, but as discussed above, the chances of him dying any time soon are almost nil. That’s a shame, at least in my eyes, but you can’t really fault the show for keeping its core characters alive, even if its core characters are indescribably bland.
By way of example, here’s what we learned about Silas in The Walking Dead: World Beyond episode 3: He’s big. His grandparents were very religious, which never bodes well. At one point he underwent a kind of psychotic break and throttled someone, leading to him and his Uncle venturing to the Campus Colony for a new beginning. There, he was of course socially ostracised and bullied behind his back, but not by Iris, obviously, which explains his crush and his presence on this ill-advised mission. Some of this he confesses to Iris in the present day in a regretful self-pitying bit of dialogue. As I said, this is as dull as dishwater.
The problem is that the main thrust of the plot is only marginally better, really. Hope manages to repair and set off the siren and then everyone just inexplicably blunders into the horde anyway, entirely defeating the purpose of it. What it’s building towards, really, is Hope’s realization that she is stronger with Iris; that they’re all a team, and more likely to succeed as such. She’s required to almost get herself killed so that Iris can rescue her just to facilitate this markedly obvious conclusion, and the whole sequence is set to a voiceover of Iris reading William Blake’s “The Tyger”. Oh, goodness me.
Naturally, the whole gang, which now includes Felix and Huck, since they caught up in all the commotion, gets out unscathed after their close encounter with the Blaze of Gory, which for budgetary reasons isn’t anywhere near as fearsome as it was advertised to be. That means it’s time for home truths: Hope confesses to Iris about their mother and shooting the pregnant lady, and Iris naturally takes it really well. At this point, everyone sits down, holds hands, and sings a song.
Okay, I invented that last bit, but you notice how little it stood out from all the other dumb stuff that happened?
The problem – or, at least, the biggest problem – with World Beyond is that it’s ostensibly about the uniquely tormented perspective of a teenager but isn’t allowing its cast to actually be teenagers. They’re just idiots narrowly avoiding a chomping by pop-culture’s most tedious menace after putting themselves on the menu through sheer stupidity. Anything that actually resembles legitimate teen angst is either not included at all or promptly resolved as quickly and uncomplicatedly as possible. It doesn’t work as a zombie-horror and it doesn’t work as a teen drama.
The only hope, really, is that it eventually comes to work as part of the expanded Walking Dead fiction, which “The Tyger and the Lamb” suggests at the last minute that it might. This is mostly in what the Civic Republic Military actually represents, given that it has featured in all three shows and actually whisked away the longstanding “hero” of the main one. Here, we see Kublek condemn Barca to a labor camp after he expresses some understandable reservations about mass population culling. After that typically villainous decision, though, she cries. Fancy that. In a show stocked entirely with cardboard archetypes, here’s a character we genuinely don’t know how to feel about. I’ll cling to that if nothing else.
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