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For a long time, the cozy little TV universe of The Walking Dead managed to have the vibe of an intimate, if highly dystopian, family gathering. It’s been the kind of place where longtime fans — both of the main The Walking Dead series and Robert Kirkman’s eponymous graphic novel — could almost feel, as much as a zombie-ridden post-apocalypse permits, at home.
With some notable late-series exceptions, the comics have always been there to help fans get their bearings, while the single early spinoff — Fear the Walking Dead — smartly explored the early days of TWD’s apocalypse, then spun off TWD fan favorite Morgan Jones (Lennie James) into the ensemble the past few years. Add in a fun fan sit-around in the form of AMC’s Talking Dead aftershow, and you had a core trio of TWD series that had long made the franchise appointment viewing for sci-fi fans.
A transformation toward something much bigger began when TWD mainstay and fan favorite Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) departed the series in a big cliffhanger exit from Season 9. Rick’s enduring popularity meant it wasn’t truly the end for Lincoln’s long-running time in The Walking Dead mythos, and AMC revealed ambitious plans for a major franchise expansion that handed Rick his very own upcoming movie trilogy.
Those same plans also signaled AMC’s intent to make more TV spinoffs that greatly broaden The Walking Dead universe — and that brings us to the matter at hand. The Walking Dead: World Beyond debuted last year as a two-season event series marking an entirely original foray outside the lore confines of the Kirkman comics; a fresh story setup that zeroed in on a new generation of young characters…every one of whom is far too young to remember much about the pre-plague world.
The second and final season of World Beyond is inching our way on Oct. 3 (premium AMC+ subscribers, in fact, have already had a chance to peek the first episode.) So as the days tick down, let’s take a moment to get our bearings before the Season 2 premiere kicks off at AMC.
Who’s in it?
The Walking Dead: World Beyond takes aim at the next generation of survivors, especially its four main characters: teenage sisters Hope and Iris (Alexa Mansour and Aliyah Royale, respectively), along with the earnestly geeky Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and the burly but quiet Silas (Hal Cumpston). The world fell apart not long after they first learned to walk, and most of their pre-apocalyptic memories revolve around the grown-ups in their families — for better and for worse.
Also playing key roles in Season 1 are slightly older (and therefore more responsible) young adults Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru), each part of the local security team — or so it seems — that protects Campus Colony, the prosperous enclave (all things considered) founded in the ruins of the fictitious Nebraska State University where Season 1 begins.
Every story needs a MacGuffin to drive the action, and World Beyond’s comes in the form of Leo (Joe Holt). The widowed dad of Hope and Iris, Leo’s a brilliant and idealistic researcher who left his kids back in Nebraska to join the society-rebuilding efforts of the shady, yet powerful, CRM (Civic Republic Military). It’s not just Hope and Iris who love Leo, either: Everyone in Campus Colony misses one of their community’s kindest and brightest minds.
No one knows where the CRM’s headquarters are located, and security there is so tight that no unofficial communication is allowed to sneak in or out. But when Hope and Iris begin to decode distressing messages from their dad (via some seriously old-school computer tech), they decide to set off on a cross-country journey to find him — with Elton and Silas tagging along for reasons of their own. It’s not long before Felix and Huck pick up the chase for the missing kids… but by the time they catch up, a deeper mystery behind the CRM begins to emerge that propels all six of them onward.
In other words, none of these folks are heading back to Nebraska anytime soon.
What’s this show about?
Season 2 may have plenty more to say on this topic, but in the critically-praised Season 1, The Walking Dead: World Beyond was about three big things: The hidden secrets behind the CRM, the four kids’ personal backstories (and how they overlap in surprising ways), and Hope’s emerging importance as a brilliant mind who can help Leo, her scientist dad, illuminate the future of civilization herself… if, that is, she decides to ditch her rebellious streak and get on board with the CRM’s authoritarian methods.
Whatever we learn about the CRM in World Beyond, it’s likely to have crossover implications for the wider TWD universe. Though we don’t know how it’ll factor into the action in Season 2, AMC teased the crossover appearance of CRM true believer Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) in a recent World Beyond trailer. Jadis (aka Anne), of course, was last seen swooping down from the skies to save Rick Grimes in his infamous helicopter departure from the main Walking Dead series back in Season 9.
In a distinct break from the main series’ emphasis on action (and zombies), World Beyond moved at a patient but steady pace through Season 1, saving its moments of action (and, yes, zombies) mostly for set pieces that accompany big character epiphanies. There have been plenty of those, too: each episode moves back and forth between the group’s present-day life on the run and memories from their early lives.
Though they may be young, each of these kids comes with some serious baggage. Whether it’s Silas’ self doubt about the role he might’ve played in his abusive father’s death, or the sinister fateful secret that links Elton with Hope, the epic trek across the country forces each of these characters to grow beyond their pasts…even if it means burning bridges.
As Season 1 draws to a close, Hope makes the final leg of the journey alone, pushing forward solo to finally meet her dad. The CRM, meanwhile, has infiltrated the tight-knit group with a mole who’s been secretly stalking and even guiding Hope’s every move.
Those who remain behind begin to piece together a handful of facts that Hope already knows, figuring out her dad’s likely location in upstate New York and realizing one of their traveling companions has actually been a CRM-enabled agent of sabotage all along. The big Season 1 finale found Hope on the verge of one whopper of a family reunion — and the rest of the group on the verge of learning an even darker truth about what the lengths the CRM will go to to enforce its world-shaping agenda.
How to Watch
Like all the TV series set in Kirkman’s zombie-verse, Season 2 of The Walking Dead: World Beyond will premiere each of its 10 weekly episodes at AMC. Subscribers to the AMC+ premium platform will be treated to each episode a week early.
Season 2’s first episode, “Konsekans,” has already let AMC+ viewers in on some pretty big secrets left dangling at the end of Season 1. We’re staying quiet on those spoilers until everyone else has had a chance to watch — and that time’s approaching fast. Catch the Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead: World Beyond at AMC on Oct. 3.