While AMC's The Walking Dead is set to end in 2022 with a super-sized Season 11, the franchise it spawned will lumber on. This week sees the premiere of the show's latest spinoff, titled The Walking Dead: World Beyond. How will this new series about humanity's struggle to survive a zombie apocalypse differ from the two existing shows already about that same thing? Here's what we know:
The franchise's second entry, Fear the Walking Dead, initially attempted to differentiate itself from the flagship program by framing its story as a prequel that showed the early days of the zombie apocalypse, just as human society began to collapse. That premise only lasted a couple seasons before the show made a big time-jump that saw characters from the main series migrate to take over the spinoff, which effectively turned Fear into The Walking Dead 2.0.
The newest installment, World Beyond, takes a different approach. The series is set a decade into the apocalypse (approximately in line with current seasons of the main Walking Dead) and focuses on the first generation to grow up in the new, zombie-filled world. Much as happened to our familiar heroes in Alexandria, Virginia, other regions of the country have also managed to claw their way back from the brink of human extinction and rebuild pockets of civilization. The community of Campus Colony in Omaha, Nebraska has not only established an uneasy détente with the undead, but has managed to restore some semblance of normalcy for its citizens, especially the children raised there.
The main protagonists of this story are teenage sisters Iris and Hope, whose comfortable, even privileged lives are disrupted when their father is forced to transfer out of town to secure an alliance with another community in Portland, Oregon. Their quest to find him will require the girls to leave home for the first time and venture out into the zombie wasteland, beyond the safety of the borders that have always protected them.
With its focus on younger characters, the cast of The Walking Dead: World Beyond is populated by mostly newish faces. Sensible, level-headed sister Iris is played by Aliyah Royale, who was last seen opposite Noah Wyle in CBS's short-lived 2019 police shooting drama The Red Line. Meanwhile, the role of rebellious sister Hope is portrayed by Alexa Mansour, one of the stars of horror sequel Unfriended: Dark Web. Mansour has also made brief appearances in several TV shows, including Madam Secretary and SEAL Team.
Joining the girls on their journey are friends Elton (Nicolas Cantu, primarily a voice actor from animated series like The Powerpuff Girls and Dragons: Rescue Riders) and Silas (newcomer Hal Cumpston). The main adults in their orbit are security experts Felix (Nico Tortorella from Younger) and Huck (Annet Mahendru, who had recurring roles on The Americans and Tyrant).
The most famous name in the cast is Julia Ormond, whom you may remember from Legends of the Fall, her Emmy-nominated supporting turn in Mad Men, or HBO's biopic telemovie Temple Grandin (for which she won an Emmy). Ormond plays the series' main antagonist, an officer from the Civil Republic Military.
The Civic Republic Military, better known as CRM, was previously featured on both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. Identified by its three-ring logo, CRM is the mysterious paramilitary organization that kidnapped Rick Grimes. One of its members, named Isabelle, had a brief but memorable fling with Althea on Fear.
To this point, we haven't learned many details about CRM. We know that they have working helicopters, that they occasionally kidnap people for reasons unknown, and that they allegedly have an agenda to restore order to the world. Isabelle implied that the organization was vast in scale and very dangerous. She left Althea and returned back to CRM in fear of her own safety in case her leaders might think she was defecting.
World Beyond promises to give CRM a bigger showcase and make the group central to the narrative. The show's producers hope that fans of the other Walking Dead series will tune into this one to find out more about them. To wit, the show is also expected to drop clues leading toward the planned Rick Grimes theatrical movie(s).
Additionally, co-creator and franchise chief content officer Scott M. Gimple has hinted that more crossovers are possible, but of course won't go into detail on that yet.
Notably, zombies are never actually called "zombies" in any part of the Walking Dead mythology. The group from Alexandria mainly call them Walkers, but the lurching undead have also been given a variety of cute nicknames including Biters, Creepers, Deadies, Roamers, Rotters, Lurkers, The Infected, Groaners, and Skin Bags.
On World Beyond, the primary term of endearment for the living dead will be "Empties." While somewhat evocative of their soulless nature, the name is arguably also a little mundane and not particularly frightening. Perhaps that's intentional?
Based on the advance previews and trailers, some fans (including this one) have wondered if the decision to make a Walking Dead series with a Young Adult focus may prove problematic for the franchise. Series co-creator Matthew Negrete has emphasized the story's coming-of-age aspects in interviews and stated that this show is influenced more by Stand by Me than by Night of the Living Dead.
On the one hand, the repetitive nature of the original Walking Dead has grown a little stale over time and any attempt to shake up that formula is probably a good thing. On the other hand, the YA audience seems too young for The Walking Dead, while the typical zombie horror audience has already aged out of any interest in 'tween or teen melodrama. Perhaps the show-runners want to go for something along the lines of The Vampire Diaries or The 100, but even those seem targeted at older teenagers and twentysomethings.
Exactly what is the target audience for The Walking Dead: World Beyond? We may not have a clear answer on that until the series gets underway. With luck, strong writing will alleviate these concerns. If the story is compelling enough, the characters' ages shouldn't matter.
Pushed back from its original scheduled premiere in April, The Walking Dead: World Beyond will officially launch Sunday, October 4 at 10:00 PM ET. Episodes will air weekly, and will be available for streaming on AMC Premiere or AMC+.
The show has been announced as a limited series event with a finite end date after twenty episodes, or two ten-episode seasons. If nothing else, this should alleviate concerns that the series will drag on endlessly past its expiration date as its predecessors have.
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Josh Zyber has written about TV, movies, and home theater for the past two decades. Most recently, he spent more than nine years managing a daily blog at High-Def Digest.