The Walking Dead: World Beyond gives characters the spotlight they need in a real thriller

Hal Cumpston as Silas, Nicolas Cantu as Elton - The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Macall Polay/AMC
Hal Cumpston as Silas, Nicolas Cantu as Elton - The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Macall Polay/AMC /

The Walking Dead: World Beyond slows things down with a thrilling character-driven episode that finally takes the show into the darker territory its avoided for too long.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond has been a regular presence on our TV screens for around a month now. The Walking Dead spin-off had something of a lukewarm response following its divisive pilot episode but it has somewhat managed to turn things around with much stronger subsequent offerings.

To its credit, it has continued that with its latest installment, “The Wrong End of the Telescope”, which not only carries on some of the narrative breadcrumbs dropped in the previous episode but improves upon its shortcomings.

Like we’ve come to expect from the show, it’s still a little back-and-forth in the tonal department – which isn’t aided by jarring flashbacks and overly cliché dialogue – but that isn’t as much of an issue this time around as a short stay in an abandoned high school finally plunges World Beyond into the darker territory it has only toyed with before, making way for a more coherent and appropriately atmospheric installment.

A character-driven affair

You don’t need this writer to remind you that characters are the lifeblood of any piece of drama. That’s one of the reasons why World Beyond struggled to make an impact in the beginning, because it spent too much time on one character without really giving her anything that allowed Iris to, for lack of a better term, jump off the page. And then you had the quirky supporting characters who weren’t given anything at all in terms of story depth.

“The Wrong End of the Telescope” continues the show’s attempts to rectify that as it is very much a character-driven affair and this is ultimately aided by the group’s separation in the high school setting – which strips back the focus and gives us a chance to spend some time with each of the pairs.

The Walking Dead has struggled to produce solid separation episodes in some time but World Beyond pulls it off, as the intriguing dynamic between Iris and Silas continues to benefit them both as characters, Hope and Huck attempt to reconnect and Felix makes an offer to Elton that could have drastic implications for the rest of the group going forward.

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Of them all, it’s Silas and Iris that shine the most here – perhaps unexpectedly so – as the latter’s high school experience makes her realize all that she’s missed out on in her focused life while Silas’ newfound self-worth after saving the gang in the previous episode allows him to drop the shields he’s had up since the beginning. And, in a way, it’s made it clear that these two characters work best when they’re together.

It isn’t all successful and one can’t help but feel there are a few too many clichés in the dialogue, which occasionally undermines the importance of the narrative, and in spite of success with shorter ones, the lengthy flashbacks to Hope and her father feel unnecessary at times. Moreover, Silas’ refreshing character journey takes a predictable turn in the final quarter that leaves us feeling like we’re back where we started with him instead of moving forward.

That being said, the episode works as an ensemble character-driven piece that allows us to understand these characters better, while also leaving us asking questions about the others (Elton, for example).

Atmospheric delight

One of the reasons that “The Wrong End of a Telescope” ultimately works is the environment in which it is set. From the moment the arriving storm took the gang to the abandoned high school nearby, it was clear that we were in for a more thrilling outing – and that’s exactly what we get.

The show’s many critics have made reference to the fact that the spin-off is nothing like The Walking Dead and they weren’t entirely wrong. Though each episode does begin to borrow more from the parent show in terms of visual presentation, episode structure and thematic storytelling, it’s this latest offering in which it finally manages to put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly.

The first episode of World Beyond was a character study, but it didn’t work because of the bland environment. Few of the characters had little to fight for because of the safety of the Campus Colony, leaving us with an hour of TV in which there weren’t any real stakes. “The Wrong End of a Telescope” is the very antithesis of that, forcing these same characters into a life-or-death situation and giving them some downtime to think about it too. The high school setting both made them realize the dreams they missed out on and the nightmares awaiting them – and it also allowed them to prove who they are when they have to fight.

The long, dark and dilapidated hallways, the bloodsoaked floors and the sense that something out there is hunting even the walking dead itself go a long in way in making us feel unnerved. It’s a thrilling watch – perhaps a first for World Beyond – and the show would do well to make us feel on the edges of our seats more often.

Nevertheless, this worked incredibly well both as a standalone and a status quo-changer, allowing World Beyond to continue its upward trajectory.

<em>The Walking Dead: World Beyond</em>‘s fourth episode succeeds where the pilot failed, producing stronger character journeys by forcing the quartet into a claustrophobic environment with the very thing they’re all running from: Death.. The Walking Dead: World Beyond. S1E4. The Wrong End of a Telescope. B

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What did you think of The Walking Dead: World Beyond season 1, episode 4? Were you a fan? Let us know in the comments below!