The teens have to make their way through "the BOG" (the Blaze of Gory), a massive tire fire that's been attracting the dead for years.

By Nick Romano
October 11, 2020 at 11:25 PM EDT
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The Walking Dead: World Beyond

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So far, even though we're only two episodes in, the only thing The Walking Dead: World Beyond seems to have going for it is the fact that it's giving us some long-sought background information on the mysterious group that took Rick Grimes. When you take all of that out — as is the case with episode 2, which doesn't have anything new to tell us right now about the Civic Republic — the third spin-off of the Dead-verse proves to be dry and flavorless. World-building can't be the only intrigue, and yet that seems to be what we're left with.

It does, as showrunner Matt Negrete teased prior, have a Stand By Me feel to it. Only instead of searching for a dead body, the kids are surrounded at all times by animated dead bodies. But the characters of these teens are boring by comparison. There is something intriguing about the initial premise about a group of privileged kids — privileged in the sense that they've lived perhaps the best possible existence in the zombie apocalypse compared to everyone else across the other two shows — being thrust into the wilds to fend for themselves. And that, too, is sullied by bland writing and performances.

The only piece worth taking away this episode is Felix. He and Huck are following the kids' trail and catching up rather quickly, mainly because they've been going on 48 hours with no sleep. They find an empty stuck to a fallen tree, the same one Iris said she wanted to kill but had trouble doing so. Then they find a can from the college campus left behind by Hope as a clue, like a trail of breadcrumbs — all the while leading Felix back through the town in which he grew up, which triggers memories. Years earlier, he was kicked out of his home by his dad when he was outed as gay, even though Felix had been financially supporting his parents. During the night the sky fell, Felix, who was at the university at this point, ran for two days back to his house to see if his parents were all right. But even then, his dad wouldn't let him inside the house. As Felix and Huck are sheltering inside a garage one night, Felix, still unable to sleep, goes to his old house to kill the empties that used to be his mom and dad. There's a lot to unpack here, but the story, with a poor cut or two from editing, is used as ornamentation to break up the main arc. The show approaches something worth discussing, which is the idea of childhood trauma, but the story feels preoccupied elsewhere.

There's also this idea that the next generation of young adults are inheriting a world made awful by their parents and their parents before them. Hope and Elton continue to bond over their shared acceptance that they are probably the last generation of humans to live on the earth. "We were already killing ourselves directly and indirectly," Elton says. "Nature just took a shortcut." We'll see if that becomes something explored more.

For now, there's a trash fire to deal with. More specifically, a tire fire. The kids have to cross through something called the BOG (Blaze of Gory). Some think it's a Biblical, unquenchable fire to mark the end times. Others, like Elton, believe it's a tire fire, since a lot of tires on fire at once could burn for a decade. Like moths to a flame, empties have been lured toward the fires for years, making it treacherous terrain to traverse. Iris is all about this belief that she's ready to face the world even though she's not. She thought she could fight the walker and couldn't finish the job. She thinks they can make their way safely through the BOG, but Hope, who's been living with the memories of killing the woman who shot her mother, questions her motives. Still, as a group, they decide to proceed.

Along the way, they encounter an empty, who's more like an animated beehive. It opens its mouth and bees attack the kids. Silas has the opportunity to kill the walker while Elton is inching away on the ground, but instead, they all flee. Later that night, they take shelter in a tree fort — reminiscent of Stand By Me. But the beehive walker somehow follows them and remains at the base of the tree, taunting Silas for not dealing with it earlier. In the middle of the night, Hope wakes up and deals with the empty. Silas catches her as she goes back to bed and she tells him this doesn't mean the mistake "has to follow you around forever."

The kids reach the BOG the next day. The smoke is so thick it's hard to see through the fog with binoculars, but Iris notes there's an airbase towards the east with fences blocking out the dead. They just have to make it through the field of crashed buses. They decide to head out 30 minutes before dawn. While they remember all the lessons they learned in their classroom, applying those practices is another thing. The smoke blocks out their view of the sun, which disorients them. It also becomes impossible to see a few feet in front of them, so they must rely on their instincts. The group is able to make it through the buses and breathe a sigh of relief, but then the realization comes in that they hadn't even technically made it to the BOG yet. That was just the space surrounding it. They soon realize there are piles and piles of tires, all ablaze, that they must navigate.

Iris beats herself up for thinking she knew better to guide the group, while Elton spots a tornado alarm tower. He says that if someone is able to climb up and manually turn it on and then quickly make their way down safely, that they could distract the empties while they traverse the grounds to the other side. They decide to get some rest before tackling this next challenge, but Hope is unable to sleep yet again. She's still consumed with the day she killed that woman, rubbing the marble necklace she plucked off the body. So, she quietly ventures out on her own during the night, presumably towards the tornado tower, with everyone else still asleep.

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The Walking Dead: World Beyond

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