World Beyond’ Finale Doesn’t Feel Like a Finale.
- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “TWD: World Beyond” series finale.
- The show’s end feels like more a season cliffhanger than a finale.
- Bogged down by a slow-paced first season, this would have been a stronger made-for-TV film.
In 2015, before “Fear TWD” launched on AMC, creator Robert Kirkman said in the show’s press notes, “If we were to do a companion to ‘The Walking Dead’ and it was about a bunch of scientists that were working to find the cure and finding out the origins, that would bore me to tears.”
Fast-forward five years later, and that’s partially what AMC did with spin-off, “The Walking Dead: World Beyond.”
The limited series wrapped its 20-episode run Sunday night and by the end we were left with a group of scientists going into hiding to continue their work to save the world. Though they weren’t necessarily trying to find a cure to turn people back into humans, they were (and are still) trying to find a way to eradicate the dead.
Like many “TWD” fans, I had a really tough time getting through the first season of “TWDWB.” It was painfully slow paced with uninteresting teens who were apocalypse noobs. After a decade of “TWD,” fans didn’t want to see what they had seen twice before with a new cohort. But I stuck it through because I was given the impression I needed to watch this show as a pre-requisite to whatever Rick Grimes movie was eventually coming.
By the end of season two, it wasn’t as boring as Kirkman predicted, but the answers weren’t as interesting or as mind-blowing as fans may have hoped for as the show honed in on the science of it all instead of exploring some of its more obvious and interesting plot points.
One of the biggest revelations by the show’s end? Yeast is tested as a possible way to accelerate the dead’s decomposition. Riveting.
Table of Contents
- ‘World Beyond’ largely felt like a bait and switch at times in its first season, never fully exploring some of its most interesting characters and the Civic Republic.
- The finale didn’t feel like a series finale and it’s unclear where it’s going from here. Could these characters be back in a ‘TWD’ movie? Maybe. Do we want them there? Not really.
- ‘World Beyond’ always felt like a placeholder for ‘TWD’ movie. But this could have been delivered in a tighter special or made-for-TV movie.
‘World Beyond’ largely felt like a bait and switch at times in its first season, never fully exploring some of its most interesting characters and the Civic Republic.
Originally presented as a series following the first generation of kids who grew up in the zombie apocalypse (Hope, Iris, Silas, and Elton), ruled over by the mysterious Civic Republic Military (CRM) who took Rick from “TWD” in 2018, the show set up certain expectations.
Fans likely thought we’d finally learn more about “the three rings” group, what happened to Rick, and the difference between getting labeled an “A” or a “B” by the CRM (a resolution which eventually came in a frustratingly tedious way, placing the impetus on viewers to draw their own conclusions).
You should never feel like you’re doing homework watching a show, but that’s often how you felt watching the series’ first 10 episodes for any teases and hints about the CRM and Rick. The show doled these out in small doses or end-credits scenes.
As a result, most fans were likely more interested in a Sparknotes version of “World Beyond” than watching it all the way through, something that simply told them what they needed to know from this show in order to understand everything else moving forward in the “TWD” universe. (I painstakingly obliged for the show’s first season.)
When the show was following the shady CRM, it was at its best. The organized group, which includes a group of 200,000 survivors and apparently the country’s only operating helicopters, is much larger than the Commonwealth’s 50,000 strong who were introduced on “The Walking Dead.” That reveal doesn’t seem good for the survivors of the flagship show.
Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), one of the leaders of the CRM, came across as a cold unfeeling murderer who could easily off thousands without as much as blinking an eye. But, in a small moment in season one, we saw that while she was someone deeply committed to the CRM’s mission as “the last light of the world,” it secretly took a toll on her as she silently cried unattended.
Not only did she deal with the weight of choosing who lived and died in this world, but, as the show progressed, we learned she sacrificed a relationship with her daughter Jennifer/Huck (Annet Mahendru) by forcing her to carry out difficult missions as a spy.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of Elizabeth, especially on the final season. She disappeared for much of season two when, the very good, Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) returned to the world of “TWD” to relieve Elizabeth of her duties.
Instead, the series was often bogged down by a search and rescue mission and mystery science experiments that were going on with the dead.
“World Beyond” tried (and mostly failed) to make us care about a new group of kids in its very slow-moving first season as they tried to find the CRM facility where Hope and Iris’ father, Dr. Bennett, was being held (not against his will) to help with work on the zombie virus.
The majority of the second season involved some of the group still maneuvering their way to the CRM compound before figuring a way to escape with Dr. Bennett and a group of scientists because they realized the CRM was killing masses of people.
In turn, “World Beyond” focused on side quests and adding more ancillary characters (a love interest for Iris and another potential one for Elton) while failing to dive deeper into some of its most interesting aspects.
Give us an episode from Elizabeth’s point of view or the mystery Major General Beale who we never once saw, but apparently is in charge of the CRM. Who are these other people who live in the Civic Republic? Are they happily there or do they feel like prisoners? For a show about the Civic Republic, it only scratched the surface on who and what they are.
One of the most fascinating discoveries was learning how large the CRM was because it hinted at a possible impending showdown between “World Beyond” and “TWD” casts. How do you have two groups that large on the East coast unaware of each other’s existence, especially when helicopters are involved?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it would be brilliant to see the CRM and Commonwealth go to war over Rick. The two opposing sides already wear juxtaposing white and black suits, a detail I’ve long been convinced is on purpose.
The finale didn’t feel like a series finale and it’s unclear where it’s going from here. Could these characters be back in a ‘TWD’ movie? Maybe. Do we want them there? Not really.
“World Beyond”‘s second season picked up with some stakes worth caring about. The CRM is casually killing thousands of people, supposedly for the good of the world and the small rag-tag team we’ve been following wants to put a stop to it, even though the majority of them are not the most equipped for the job. (They’re no Carol and Daryl tag team. They’re not even the B team on “TWD.” But they have moxie.)
In some ways, the show suddenly felt like a heroic “Star Wars: Rogue One”-like story. There, all of the heroes sacrifice themselves in order to steal the Death Star plans. Here, the kids were trying to sabotage a different evil empire and they were willing to give their lives for humanity and science.
When Jadis started ruthlessly killing off some main characters as if she was the Darth Vader of the show, and started going after the kids, it was like a switch flipped on the series as she brought a life onto “World Beyond” that was desperately missing. She didn’t force choke Dr. Belshaw, but the way Jadis tossed her into a room with a walker to die felt like something out of a Sith playbook.
Once I viewed the show like that, personally, I found myself wanting to watch the screeners for this season each week ahead of new ones of “Fear TWD,” which has been airing its seventh season simultaneously. Surely, these kids were going to mess up, get caught by Jadis, and be killed and I needed to know when and if it was happening. (Spoiler: By some miracle they didn’t! How disappointing.)
Despite the series delivering a far superior season than the first — It was kind of difficult to go anywhere but up. The first season is objectively bad. — Sunday’s episode felt like more of a season ender than a series finale. That was a bummer.
It failed to give answers to many lingering questions and culminated with so many unresolved stories that it was as if the show was canceled before it could get a third season renewal.
- Will Jadis and the CRM army find the Bennetts?
- What happens to Elizabeth now that she’s been stripped of her duties and sent to the mysterious health and welfare complex. Is that where Rick was sent years ago?
- More importantly, where is Rick now?
- Who is this mysterious General Beale who, apparently, is the real leader of the CRM?
- Will Iris and Elton successfully warn the Portland crew about the CRM? (They seemingly arrive by the episode’s end.)
- Was this show supposed to set up an impending showdown between the CRM and Commonwealth?
Additionally, “World Beyond” delivered a five-minute coda, which I discuss at length here, which opens up another world of possibilities.
To be clear, “World Beyond” was always meant as a two-season show so it’s a bit weird that it just ends abruptly.
It very much feels like many of these stories should continue in a “Walking Dead” movie or maybe next summer’s “Tales of the Walking Dead” anthology spin-off. Do I want them all to continue? No. At the least, Jadis feels like she could be a secondary antagonist in a Rick Grimes’ film if she doesn’t appear again on “TWD.” Elizabeth and Felix are other strong characters who are worth revisiting.
“World Beyond” showrunner Matt Negrete and “TWD” universe chief Scott M. Gimple didn’t really budge when asked what the series’ finale means for the character’s futures.
Negrete told me a point of “TWDWB” was being able to see these teens leave the nest and fly off in different directions. Gimple simply told Insider he’d love for these characters to have a future, adding that there are some stories that “need to be told, specific to the movie.”
That tells me that they either aren’t completely sure when and where characters may return or they’re holding things very close to the chest. For those who have been waiting for real answers for years, that’s exhausting. And a bit worrisome.
‘World Beyond’ always felt like a placeholder for ‘TWD’ movie. But this could have been delivered in a tighter special or made-for-TV movie.
Unfortunately, “World Beyond’s” main purpose seemed to serve as a filler until work could be done on the first “TWD” movie.
However, it’s been three years and we still have nothing — no release date, production start date, not even a title — from AMC and its studio partner, Universal. (Of course, the pandemic didn’t help there.)
Star Nico Tortorella, a stand-out actor on the series who played the Bennett’s close ally, Felix, was one of the few to give a straight answer when asked about how this show fits into the larger “TWD” universe. They previously told Insider in 2019 that “World Beyond” served as a bridge to the first “Walking Dead” movie, something Gimple smiled at when I brought it up this past week.
It would have been perfect to have this show end and roll right into a film. Because that’s not happening, it almost diminishes the value of “World Beyond” and its finale, which would be more exciting if we knew where we’d see these characters next.
When we look back at “World Beyond,” was it worth the watch? Eh.
Outside of a few interesting characters (Felix, his boyfriend Will, Jennifer, Jadis, and Elizabeth), I hate to say it, but, not really, not when we have more than 500-scripted TV shows to choose from in the age of peak TV.
“World Beyond” could have been a few episodes, a special, or some “TWD” movie released on AMC+. But I guess you’re not going to get as much advertisement play around one movie as you would around 20 episodes.
As AMC moves forward with more spin-offs in the next year, including an untitled “Carol and Daryl” series and “Tales of the Walking Dead” next summer, let’s hope the shows will feel more thoughtful in their execution to give fans topics and characters people really care about in this world.
If Sunday’s announcement about Kim Dickens’ return to “Fear TWD” is any indication, I think AMC is starting to pay attention to what fans want to see more of on screen. That’s a good sign. Otherwise, in the way Disney pushed out too many “Star Wars” films back-to-back until the company finally dialed back, I fear AMC may drive interest in “TWD” into the ground by producing too many spin-offs before we even see a Rick Grimes’ movie.
They may have already started to do that.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage here.
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