The Walking Dead: World Beyond stages a resurrection in superior second episode

Alexa Mansour as Hope, Aliyah Royale as Iris, Hal Cumpston as Silas, Nicolas Cantu as Elton - The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden/AMC
Alexa Mansour as Hope, Aliyah Royale as Iris, Hal Cumpston as Silas, Nicolas Cantu as Elton - The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden/AMC /

The Walking Dead: World Beyond overcomes much of what held it back in its pilot, making “The Blaze of Gory” a more engaging installment.

The Walking Dead produced four and a half great seasons before it started meandering in and out mediocrity. Fear The Walking Dead danced with brilliance before an incredible third season finally saw the spin-off achieve the heights it desired (only for a reboot in season 4 to render it truly unwatchable). The Walking Dead: World Beyond wasn’t as lucky as either of those, for its TV debut missed the mark in almost every way that mattered.

There was definitely potential in this new installment in what we’re now calling the TWD Universe but the premiere wasn’t able to capitalize on that, instead giving us a watered-down teen drama that felt more CW than AMC without any of the conventions needed to make those kinds of shows the successes that they are. It lagged, relying on characters that failed to present themselves as anything outside of YA genre tropes. And yet, there was still some semblance of potential.

Its sophomore outing did a much better job of highlighting that, exchanging the clichéd caricatures for some nice character moments and the muted visuals with the gritty roadsides and smoke-filled landscapes that The Walking Dead is associated with.

Familiar in all the ways that count

The reason that the premiere of World Beyond just didn’t work can be chalked up to the fact that it was just too different. Granted, no spin-off is supposed to be the same as their founding series but this one felt like it was trying too hard to appeal to a whole new demographic and it ended up alienating much of its core audience as a result. Different is good but not when it means losing sight of what built the franchise in the first place.

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“The Blaze of Gory” is a course-correction of sorts as it begins to feel more in-line with what we’ve come to expect from a show set within The Walking Dead universe. It accomplishes that in two ways: First, through a series of quiet character moments that delve into the psyches of its multiple protagonists. And second, through the greater visual emphasis on the apocalypse itself – something the premiere was sorely lacking in.

Of the characters we’ve been introduced to thus far, it’s Felix who gets the most attention this week as the writers decide to give us a glimpse into his backstory so that we can see for ourselves how he became the determined-but-lovable soldier that he is today. It’s sudden (and perhaps unnecessary so early on when it hasn’t fully figured out how to make us care for its primary foursome yet) but it’s typical Walking Dead in that it’s effective in character building. Yes, it’s also typically shoehorned in out of nowhere but it’s ultimately successful as it makes for an incredibly poignant character arc.

Strength of character (or not)

“Poignant” is a word that could be used to sum up the second half of this episode – which is admittedly rather strong – as it delves into the notion of whether or not our next generation of zombie-fighters could very well be the last generation. That existentialism lends itself nicely to a particularly poignant conversation between Hope and Elton – which is quickly becoming the most interesting dynamic on the show. And considering one the major twists of the pilot hinges on that relationship, that’s a good thing.

These three characters – Hope, Elton and Felix – are quickly emerging as the show’s most interesting and that could be a problem if World Beyond wants us to believe that Iris is the primary character. She’s not quite at the forefront this week and “The Blaze of Gory” works better because it’s an ensemble piece, but that doesn’t lend itself nicely to her character arc. Yes, she does what she needs to but her actions don’t always feel warranted and it’s rather hard to take her overnight badassery seriously when there are literally life or death stakes at hand – the same can be said for Hope’s equally-unexpected 180 when she suddenly stops being reckless.

Nonetheless, the episode does build towards a conclusion that is invasive and unnerving, finally giving The Walking Dead: World Beyond the tension that the pilot was completely devoid of. And that, coupled with the grittier character stories and larger-than-life imagery was enough to resurrect a show that once seemed D.O.A.

Believe it or not, there’s life in World Beyond yet. The question is: Can it continue to bring it out?

<em>The Walking Dead: World Beyond</em> finds the beginnings of a footing in a much stronger second installment, full of intense character moments and haunting visuals that feel more in-line with a TWD property.. The Walking Dead: World Beyond. S1E2. The Blaze of Gory. B

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Did you enjoy The Walking Dead: World Beyond season 1, episode 2? Will you be sticking with the show? Let us know in the comments below!