[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead: World Beyond Season 1, Episode 1, “Brave.”]
The end was just the beginning for the latest group to get its own story in the Walking Dead universe — but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a story connected to the main show in a myriad of ways.
“Brave,” the first installment in Walking Dead: World Beyond, was supposed to air in April, but COVID-related delays pushed it to October. The episode serves as fans’ introduction to a new corner of the walker-infested (or rather, as they call the dead, “empties”-infested) world. Although the episode suffers from the curse of all pilots — it’s heavy on the exposition and feels like a setup to the interesting stuff that’ll come later — it poses enough questions about the shadowy CRM to merit seeing what the rest of its limited, two-season run has in store.
Meet Hope and Iris
The episode opens with an introduction to sisters Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale), by way of what they do. Iris is the president of the student body, so she leads a welcoming party for the Civic Republic Military — yes, that CRM, that took Rick (Andrew Lincoln) — beyond the walls of their community. She’s the classic overachiever, so focused on her future that she’s blinded herself to the present. Hope, on the other hand, sneaks onto her sibling’s welcome-party bus and flips off the leader of the CRM party. She’s the rebel, the one who’s ready with an eye-roll and a sarcastic comment for any and every authority figure. Oh, and Hope is no fan of CRM, considering she modified Iris’ welcome banner to say, “Civic Republic Military sucks ass.”
As the welcoming brigade watches, CRM lands in one of its eerie helicopters, and out steps a few soldiers and a leader named Lt. Col Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond). She’s there for Monument Day, which is apparently a holiday for the community—a day when they remember who they’ve lost and look forward to the future, which seems hopeful, thanks to the group’s scientific alliance with CRM. This Monument Day is super-special, though, because it marks the 10-year anniversary of the group’s founding. And what a community they have. Their group, based on a college campus, has a school, cars, its own security detail, doctors and therapists, and more than 9,000 people.
Safety Not Assured
The majority of the episode revolves around the sisters’ attitudes toward CRM. Hope’s main issue with ‘em is that her and Iris’ scientist father is with the shadowy organization, working on developing a cure, and they haven’t heard from him in months. When they were hearing from him, he was using a fax machine to send messages — a breach of CRM’s rigid privacy protocols that would put him very firmly on CRM’s bad side if they found out. Except for one day, out of the blue, the system springs to life and they get a mysterious message: “My safety not assured.”
They check in with their guardian, security-officer Felix Carlucci (Nico Tortorella) about this, but the consensus is that there’s nothing they can or should do right now. Hope storms out of this family gathering and Iris follows her, and the ensuing argument between them draws the attention of Lt. Col Kublek. She hands them a coded map that explains their father’s in New York and tells them that if anyone knew she gave that to them, she’d suffer serious consequences.
It’s Gone Bad
The next day, the girls get a message that’s a little more distressing: “It’s gone bad. Keeping my head down. Don’t tell the council, don’t tell Felix. I love you girls.” Iris asks what they should do, but Hope counters by saying there’s nothing they can do. On that note, and after finding her therapist zombified, Iris has to go give her Monument Day speech… which she briefly turns into an accusation against CRM. “I don’t know who you are,” she says. “I don’t trust you. I don’t know what you’re doing.” But she then pivots, saying she’ll use her scientific abilities to find answers now, instead of being so focused on her future.
After the speech, Iris insists to her sister that they have to go after their dad. Still consumed by guilt over her inability to save their mother (she was shot by a woman over a truck she suggested they all share back when the apocalypse hit), she’s determined to make sure their dad is safe. “I froze that night,” she says of the day they lost their mother, “but I’m not freezing anymore.” They make their plans to leave and involve a couple of friends: Silas (Hal Cumpston), the “new kid” with a dark past, and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) a sharp-dressed bookworm who’s already been sneaking out of the community to see the world.
We’re Going On An Adventure!
Thus, they set out on their journey… and a few revelations follow. First, Elton’s mom was the woman who killed Iris and Hope’s mom, which undoubtedly won’t go over well when that all comes out. Second, Felix and Huck (Annet Mahendru), another security officer, are in pursuit of the teens since Felix is pretty darn sure he knows where they’re going. And third — it seems the campus community is in smithereens behind them, maybe thanks to CRM, maybe thanks to a herd. Either way, the walls are down and the place is on fire. As the Lt. Col puts down walkers, one of her soldiers comes up to her and says they checked every building, but “she” wasn’t there. “Good,” she says.
- I’d be willing to bet money Lt. Col Kublek’s daughter is Isabelle, from that one crossover episode in Fear The Walking Dead. They look alike enough for a mother-daughter connection to be plausible, and that would draw a through-line between all three shows; World Beyond connects to Rick and thus to the main show, while Isabelle connects World Beyond to Fear.
- I appreciated that plot twist with Elton’s mom, although I did predict it as soon as he said she’d been pregnant when she died. Also, who gives a horn to a baby? And how did Elton just know it was out there after 10 years had passed?
- As far as pilot episodes go, this wasn’t the worst I’ve seen. I expected some clunky exposition and extremely on-the-nose dialogue, with the whole conversation between Iris and her therapist as a prime example. I’m not a fan of the pseudo-deep teenager-speak (“We could die.” “We could live.” “I don’t want to be who everyone thinks I am.”), nor am I in love with Huck’s whole “edgy, tough-girl” persona (“That’s my blow line,” REALLY?!), but I’m hoping that goes by the wayside once s**t really hits the fan.
- Am I the only one who’s a little confused as to what happened there at the end with CRM and the college community? Was the implication that CRM burned it to the ground, or did it get surrounded by walkers and CRM helped? I’m thinking the former, but it all happened so quickly, that I don’t want to jump to conclusions.
- This is the first time I’ve felt a Walking Dead show is worth watching more for the setting and overall ambiance than the characters. While I don’t feel totally connected to the main group, I very much do want to know more about CRM, and unlike Fear, which teased it and then never offered answers, I think World Beyond might delve into what the helicopter people do. If that means putting up with some teenage angst and corny quotes along the way, so be it.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Sundays, 10/9c, AMC