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The Walking Dead: World Beyond 1.02 Review – ‘The Blaze of Gory’

October 12, 2020 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
Walking Dead: World Beyond - The Blaze of Glory
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The Walking Dead: World Beyond 1.02 Review – ‘The Blaze of Gory’  

Welcome to The Walking Dead: World Beyond! Thank you to Jeremy for covering the premiere of this last week for me. I’m curious what this seemingly Young Adult (YA) version of TWD is going to be like. I’m a fan of YA books, particularly of the paranormal variety, so the idea at work here is definitely my jam. But with the main series, and it’s first spin-off, being so very grounded, gritty, and harsh, it’s an unlikely combination to say the least. Not that YA can’t be gritty and harsh, we’re all familiar with The Hunger Games. Really, all that it takes for something to be included in the Young Adult genre is for its main character(s) to be in a roughly high school age range, maybe a little younger or older, and usually the narrative is centered around a coming of age of some kind.

So, what’s it like to come of age in the TWD universe? This show has certainly started off with a strong focus on exactly that, which will be different from TWD and FTWD. While those shows have characters growing up and coming of age, that’s not the main focus. This main cast is very much made up primarily of teenagers, and they’ve practically stated outright that they’re embarking on a coming of age journey. This could be off-putting to existing fans of the shows, but it’s not exactly for them. It’s not not not for them, of course, but it’s clear that TWD as a larger concept needs to bring in more viewers. FTWD ended up being too close to the main series to really vary the audience it was bringing in, but this one just might do the trick. At the same time, building it as a limited run series and centering its main plot on a mystery that’s been lingering on the main series for years now (and which is definitely connected to the fate of Rick Grimes!), are both smart moves. All-in-all, I’m intrigued by the concept, I enjoyed the first episode, and I’m curious to see where this is going.

Now let’s dive into Episode 2!

The plot: The 4 kids fumble their way through the suburban area around the Campus Colony, managing by luck and doing a lot of running away to survive. There are some flashbacks to a survival class Felix taught at the Colony and they manage to screw up just about every lesson he gave them. They twice face walkers and fail to actually kill them. Eventually, the reason for the lack of walkers becomes clear: not far off is a long-burning tire fire that’s known as the “Blaze of Gory” which has been sending smoke into the air and drawing walkers for as long as any of them can remember. They venture into it, thinking it’s dangerous but brief, and it turns out they were only looking at the vanguard section. However, Hope sneaks off into it to set off a tornado siren nearby that could save at least the other 3–we’ll see how that goes in the next episode. Meanwhile, Felix and Huck are close on their trail thanks to Felix not letting them stop to rest, and Hope leaving a trail for them to follow. Felix flashes back to before the apocalypse, to when his father kicked him out for being gay and to when he ran for 2 days to check on his parents after things went to hell, only to still be turned away. When Huck finally insists they rest, he sneaks off to kill his parents, now walkers locked in that same house, but it seems he still couldn’t bring himself to do it.

World Beyond is making a risky but, in my opinion, smart choice in making its four young leads very much NOT prepared for the world outside the walls they’ve grown up in. None of them, not even Hope who had been training with Huck to take out walkers (I’m not calling them empties, hard pass), are ready or able to get past the idea of ‘killing’ one of the monsters that surround them. Even by the end of the episode, none of them have managed to do it. Heck, only Iris has really even tried, and she largely only succeeded in falling and puking. The walker that Iris faced she merely lead into an empty pool, and I would argue that was always her intent. Silas and Elton actively flounder whne faced with the walkers. No, instead of killing walkers, they mess around with bowling balls and board games, Elton takes pictures with an old fashioned camera, they talk a lot about the end of the world and dub themselves the Endlings.

Simply put? These four are one hundred percent teenagers.

It could be incredibly annoying, but…it works? This is why it’s risky. Making your teenage characters in a harsh setting like this creates an immediate conundrum: how capable should they be? They’re the main characters, so they can’t be totally inept. Yet they also can’t be totally capable, given their youth and that they were brought up behind safe walls. I think the show has hit the right balance with these kids. We get the class flashbacks to reinforce that they have some idea of what to do, but the screw up literally every lesson! They even screw up in small ways, like missing the walker’s head with the bowling ball, making noise in the treehouse to draw it to them in the first place, losing direction in the smoky field and nearly getting surrounded and killed off. It’s kind of hilarious just how bad they are at this! They try, though, and they’re increasingly aware of just how out of their league they are. They’re not dumb, though–just inexperienced. Iris brought maps, she even accurately found the quickest through the field of buses and trucks ahead of time. They had a smart plan for avoiding notice as they crossed. Elton’s idea about the tornado siren is also a smart one, and well-spotted, given the bad situation they’ve found themselves in. Throughout their journey, they find safe spots to stay in as well. And they don’t try to make excuses to cover their failings, either, or claim bravado they clearly don’t have. They feel fairly realistic, if a bit conveniently lucky. They’re certainly lucky Huck and Felix are close by, though, there is no way they’ll be getting much further without them.

In this episode, we get more of a look at Elton, Felix, and Hope in particular. We learned Hope’s dark secret last week, that she shot and killed the woman who killed her mother when she was all of 7 or 8 years old. This rightly haunts her, and she doesn’t even know that it was Elton’s mother yet, as that’s a pretty messed up thing for a kid that age to have done. She’s also the only one who’s theoretically trained to kill walkers and armed with an appropriate weapon, but she’s not able to bring herself to use it. All her anti-establishment bluster, and now that doesn’t have the safety net, she’s scared. Hope, having been through a different kind of hell as a kid, is the first to realize just how out of their league they are, but she’s also not about to stop supporting her sister. She also might be a pessimist, but as we see from her talks with Elton, she’s not ready to or interested in dying, either. I think that deep down Hope is seeking punishment for what she did as a child and now she finally might be able to find it. She rejects the idea that she’s in any way brave, when Iris suggests it, claiming instead to only be “a shitty person who does shitty things.” And thus does she keep sneaking off to take risks to protect the others when they’re asleep and can’t stop her.

Felix’s drive to protect the girls, whom he seems to care about as deeply as though they were family, comes from a different place. I think that Felix has been a family friend for a long time, or maybe even that the girls’ dad took him as a sort of surrogate son? He was of age by that time, of course, but he still didn’t have any family when the world fell apart. Specifically, he was appointed the girls’ guardian of sorts when their dad went off with the CRM. But more than responsibility, there is clearly affection between them. Which must surely be a strong motivator for a man whose biological parents rejected him for being gay, and continued to do so even after the apocalypse hit. And may I say, what an asshole his dad was! Sheesh. I was glad at least to see young Felix stood up for himself, scared as he was to have his dad find out. He didn’t waver for an instant when confronted and then kicked out of his own house, the house he was helping his family to keep and live in, and I know that cannot have been easy. After that, no wonder he’s dedicated to finding these two girls, and their friends, and bringing them home safely. Not that any of them know they have no home to go back to anymore. But, Felix has been presented to us with layers–he’s a capable and practical soldier, a protector, a role that could easily be straightforward and unemotional. On the contrary, he’s very emotional, albeit in a controlled way. Even now, he can’t bring himself to go into his parents house and kill their reanimated corpses, but dammit, he sure won’t give up on these kids.

Finally, we learn more about Elton tonight as well. We already knew he was an intelligent kid, scientific, practical, and curious about the outside world. Turns out a big reason he is so curious is because he truly believes humanity will be extinct in about 15 years. If they’re to be the last generation, the ‘Endlings’, then he wants to make sure he does something with purpose. He’s sort of refreshingly without guile, and I’m very curious what will be his breaking point (because we all know they’ll all have one). Currently, it feels like learning Hope killed his mother wouldn’t necessarily be it? He talks about his mother and learning from her often, but he doesn’t strike me as one prone to emotional outbursts. And we’re talking about something that while still significant, also happened 10 years ago in a panicked moment when Hope had just seen this woman shoot her own mother. It’s not exactly first degree murder, you know?

I’m not loving the Endlings nickname, of note. It’s a little too cutesy.

Last but not least, I want to give some love to the “Blaze of Gory.” The smoke, the abandonned buses and trucks, and then the full-on field of burning tires? It’s a lot of cool, creepy visuals that I really enjoyed, and I’m glad we’re not done with it yet. Though I did feel that the kids should be coughing basically non-stop trying to walk through that much smoke and fire! (Also wouldn’t the air quality over the Campus Colony have been a lot worse?)

All-in-all, I enjoyed this episode. So far the show is striking a good balance for me between the Young Adult genre and the Walking Dead universe. What did you think of the episode? The characters? Who do you think is bound to die by season’s end?

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
So far the show is striking a good balance for me between the Young Adult genre and the Walking Dead universe. The characters are hitting the sweet spot of smart but still inexperienced, and just lucky enough to be managing without it feeling ingenuous. I'm gonna need them to get over the idea of killing walkers soon, but I'm okay with how they've handled it for now. I liked getting to know more about Felix's backstory, the moments of teens being teens were used just enough to work, and the Blaze of Gory setpiece is a cool, creepy one that I'm digging. That bee-hive walker was a good, gross touch too!
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