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'The Walking Dead: World Beyond' Has Finally Arrived
October 4, 2020  | By David Hinckley

With its newest spinoff, World Beyond, it feels like the Walking Dead franchise has decided to open a YA (young adult) division.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET, after the Season 10 finale of The Walking Dead itself. Like the finale, World Beyond was originally scheduled to air last spring before COVID-19 inserted its own mini-apocalypse.

World Beyond, which does not start out overlapping the universe of the two previous Walking Dead shows, has been designed all along to focus on characters who grew up after the zombie apocalypse and thus don't remember much of the world before. Their frame of reference is the transfigured communities that the survivors cobbled together and now struggle to maintain and, perhaps, one day expand.

Iris Bennett (Aliyah Royale) and her sister, Hope (Alexa Mansour), are teenage students in a community that is walled in but otherwise slowly making its way back toward what their parents might consider normal. Vehicles drive along the roads. We see running water, electricity, and comfortable homes. The schools have decently modern technology, and students like Iris are studying things like biology, in hopes of one day resolving the mystery of how the zombie apocalypse began and what can be done to end it, that is, stop the ongoing cycle of more people continually getting infected.

Iris sort of buys into this optimistic vision of a potential future for humanity. Hope, name notwithstanding, does not.

Both, we gradually realize, have been traumatized by the flashpoint of their childhood, "the night the sky fell," and their family fell apart. More recently, their father was sent far away, nominally to join the scientific task force that, like Iris' school class, is working to unlock the zombie mystery.

This leads viewers into the structure of the contemporary world, which seems to be divided into at least three separate groups, vaguely referred to as Portland, Omaha, and The Civic Republic.

The Civic Republic, seemingly the largest of these entities, is shrouded in mystery. It does not reveal its personnel, location, policies, or other details.

It does send a representative, Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), to help Iris and Hope's community celebrate Monument Day.

Monument Day is for remembering all those who did not survive the night the sky fell. This is the 10thanniversary of that occasion, and Elizabeth assures everyone that the Civic Republic is working to rebuild the world. By doing things like enlisting Iris and Hope's father.

Elizabeth's visit reinforces Hope's suspicion and awakens Iris' that something just doesn't feel right here. So they join forces with two boys from the town, the super-bright Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and the good-hearted Silas (Hal Cumpston), and launch a quest that will take them to the truth.

This decision sets in motion the 20-episode course of World Beyond, and while we can certainly expect they will encounter Walking Dead and ZA elements along their way, the larger idea of their mission feels remarkably familiar. Brave teens have been boldly undertaking impossible quests for centuries in novels, in Disney movies and on recent television on young-adult networks like Freeform.

We like Iris, Hope, Elton, and Silas. We will be rooting for them as they face the inevitable challenges, the heroes, and villains.

We may, however, already know this trip better than they do. So about all that we need to say now is good luck to Iris and Hope.

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