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The Walking Dead was a series that once reigned supreme in the television landscape as a show that was appointment viewing for millions of people. The legion of fans that once catapulted it to one of the top shows on television has now dwindled to a fraction of the audience it once had. Despite this downward trajectory in popularity, that has not stopped AMC for trying to wring every last ounce of creativity out of the franchise. This is how we get the third and newest iteration of the franchise, the two-season limited series event The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Set ten years after the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, the series does not attempt to include any previously-established characters, instead choosing to head to Nebraska to follow a group of teenagers who are the first generation to rise out of this world-changing event with mostly no memory of the time before. The Walking Dead has always had issues with delivering teenage characters that you do not want to punch, so it is an interesting approach to base an entire show around them.?
The Walking Dead: World Beyond is everything you fear it would be – at least at the beginning. We first meet a community of survivors living a relatively normal life inside a protected space on a college campus. The city has an alliance with Portland and under the watchful eye of the Civic Republic, a heavily-armed mysterious group who preach a message of peace but seem too good to be true to some people. Sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour, Unfriended: Dark Web) represent both sides of this equation. Iris generally preaches order and good vibes as she prepares to welcome Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), a high-ranking member of the Civic Republic visiting for the first time. Hope meanwhile would rather just give this lady a middle finger, as she is upset that their genius scientist father has been away working on a cure for the zombie virus with no means of communication to them. These girls are presented as two-dimensional stock characters until circumstances eventually drive them outside their protective bubble to track down their father.?
These two are joined on their journey by two more archetypes; Silas (Hal Cumpston) is the silent giant trying to run away from his past, and Elton (Nicholas Cantu) is the quirky, talkative orphan who wants to see the world. The main cast is fleshed out with Felix (Nico Tortorella, Scream 4), and Huck (Annet Mahendru, The Americans), two colony security officers in pursuit of the gang in hopes of making sure they don’t get themselves killed. The first few episodes can be quite hard to get through, as it feels like The Walking Dead through a CW prism. Characters are very annoying and offer very little to get you invested in what is happening within the story. Surprisingly, the show starts to find its groove as it approaches the midpoint of the ten-episode season. As these characters trek through a dangerous world they have never been exposed to, we get glimpses of their past through flashbacks that help establish real stakes within the group. Certain characters such as Iris can still be a bit much, but others that previously seemed barren of personality become quite interesting. Those who want zombie carnage will never feel satisfied by this season, though.?
By the time you reach the finale of this season, you are more likely to look back upon the overall journey with some genuine fondness. As certain secrets are revealed and characters have to reckon with the consequences of their choices, the show begins to resemble something worthy of its namesake. A key area where this show excels where other entries have struggled in recent years is the ability to focus on a core group of characters. By not extending beyond these core six people – for the most part- the creative team is able to offer a tighter, more complex depiction of the interpersonal relationship between the group. The mystery of Civic Republic and what exactly they are up to likewise offers plenty of intrigue and surprises that will leave you wanting the concluding season to come sooner rather than later. This show does not necessarily offer audiences anything that would entice casual fans to rejoin this world, but those who are still psyched about the companion series should find something compelling here if you give it time to take root.?
The first season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond comes to Blu-Ray with an eye-popping 1080p presentation that pushes the format to its limit. The series is filled with intricately curated dilapidated sets and gorgeous cinematography that is presented with perfect clarity on this disc. From the many brightly lit scenes to the darker, shadowy sequences that conjure up dread, the skin tones and facial details are incredibly rendered in a way you could almost mistake this for a 4K disc. Subtle facial features are readily visible, such as the various cuts and scrapes that the characters collect throughout their journey. Colors from the blood and landscapes pop off the screen in a pleasant way. Black levels are very deep and never betray the objects on screen. No instances of compression artifacts crept up during the viewing. This is an immaculate presentation that perfectly showcases a beautifully shot series that deserves such treatment.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is quite lively. The series is primarily dialogue driven, but there are also fairly frequent moments of zombie action that kick this track into overdrive. There is some nice ambient activity in the rear channels, especially as you hear the sounds of zombie moaning approaching. The dialogue primarily stays in front center channels and is reproduced clearly. The track does a good job of making sure neither sound effects nor the score ever overpowers dialogue. The score and other music brings a richness to the series that fills up the room on this track. When the action kicks in, there is some heft to the low end that is appreciated in a series such as this one. This track has a substantial dynamic range that should please fans of the series.?
A Look At The Series: A four-minute piece in which the cast and crew discuss the basic plot and themes of the story. There is not too much to this, but there are some interesting general insights.?
Meet the Characters: A six-minute piece that goes through traits of the characters on the show and where they are on the start of their journey.?
The Making of Season One: A substantial 23-minute featurette that covers some of the material in the previous two supplements while expanding into a bit more noteworthy territory that is worth checking out if you are a fan of the show.?
The Walking Dead: World Beyond is not a series that feels in line with other entries in the franchise at first, but as the season progresses you connect more with the characters and situations get more serious. After a few episodes the show finds its groove and sets itself up as a worthy supplement to the main series. Those who abandoned the mothership long ago will not find anything enticing enough to try out here, but those still in love with the world will find rewarding aspects to this series if you stick with it. RLJE Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray set featuring an excellent A/V presentation and a couple of supplemental features. Recommended?
The Walking Dead – World Beyond: The Complete First Season is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.?
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: RLJE Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.