The third episode of the newest The Walking Dead spin-off, The World Beyond, was really not much better than the second episode, which ended with the four main characters going to sleep under a toxic cloud of smoke from a literal tire fire.
The third episode picked up in the middle of that tire fire, and most of the episode entailed our foursome continuing on through to the other side of that fire. They were joined here by the older kids, Felix and Huck, and to be honest, none of the six should have survived. Not because of the zombies, but because they spend a full day inhaling smoke from a tire fire, which may have been one of the most ridiculous storylines in the history of The Walking Dead universe (and that includes the ocean zombies in Fear the Walking Dead). It is tantamount to a shark movie where teenagers survive a shark attack by swimming through battery acid and surfacing unscathed.
It’s not just the bad story, either. The acting continues to suffer, the writing is painful (there’s a scene, for instance, where Elton cannot even discern the meaning of “haul ass” even within the obvious context), and the pacing is sluggish. Three episodes into a 20-episode limited series with a pre-planned arc, and The World Beyond still doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The most incongruous thing about it, however, seems to be its attempt to appeal to The CW crowd with young actors and angsty teen storylines in the flashbacks, while the show’s other storyline is squarely aimed at longtime fans of The Walking Dead, most of whom are probably not terribly interested in watching Riverdale meets the zombie apocalypse.
What’s interesting, however, is how much better, and how much more grown-up the CRM storyline is on The World Beyond. It’s almost as though it exists on a different show aimed at a completely different demographic. Many fans of The Walking Dead are watching The World Beyond for one reason only: To learn more about the CRM and the whereabouts of Rick Grimes. Showrunners Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrete are (slowly) delivering on that storyline, but it still requires that we sit through 55 minutes to get to that final five minutes concerning the CRM.
Here’s what we learned: The CRM did, indeed, kill all 9,000 or so members of the Campus Colony. We don’t really know why, except that to Elizabeth, the Campus Colony posed a threat to the CRM. One of the CRM soldiers disagreed with Elizabeth about whether the Campus Colony was actually a threat, and he was stripped of his position, imprisoned, and possibly killed.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that Elizabeth is also feeling conflicted about murdering 9,000 people for the greater good, but she remains steadfast in her mission. “We have energy, water, medicine, transport, the council, the school, currency, economy, the council, agriculture, manufacturing, law. We are the last light of the world, the last hope.” Elizabeth seems to believe that the 200,000 people in the CRM represent the future of mankind and that it is incumbent upon her to snuff out any present or future threats to the CRM. How the Campus Colony falls into that category remains a mystery, as does Elizabeth’s decision to orchestrate Iris and Hope’s journey away from the Campus Colony before she had its citizens exterminated.
In either respect, the last five minutes of The World Beyond with Julia Ormond — who is so far ahead of everyone else on this show — almost make bearable sitting through emo teenagers kill zombies in a tire fire. Almost. Ninety percent of The World Beyond is bad, but like any self-respecting longtime fan of TWD, I’m going to stick with it for clues about the whereabouts of Rick Grimes, because the CRM is every bit as menacing as Isabel (possibly Elizabeth’s daughter) promised over on Fear the Walking Dead.