The Walking Dead: World Beyond series finale mid-credits scene sets up major franchise twist
Warning: This article contains spoilers about "The Last Light," the series finale of The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
Everything comes full circle. At least it did for viewers of The Walking Dead: World Beyond on Sunday's series finale, "The Last Light." The episode began and ended much as the series did, with Elton (Nicolas Cantu) opening the door to the outside world as he, Silas (Hal Crumpston), Hope (Alexa Mansour), and Iris (Aliyah Royale) began their journey into the unknown.
And the unknown is where the characters were left. A series-ending montage showed us Hope working with dad Leo (Joe Holt) to come up with a cure for the zombie plague, Iris and Elton arriving in Portland to warn them of the nefarious Civic Republic Military, and Silas becoming a (possibly undercover?) soldier for the CRM. Not everyone made it that far. Huck (Annet Mahendru) lost her duel with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), but was able to blow up all of the CRM's dangerous Portland-destroying gas before dying — making the ultimate sacrifice in a life that was filled with them.
But the biggest reverberations in the Walking Dead universe were still to come. A mid-credits scene took viewers inside an abandoned French lab — the same lab Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) referenced back in season 1 of The Walking Dead. Not only that, but we saw actual video journals from Jenner, taken from the CDC lab he blew up at the end of season 1, to the French scientists. An intrigued Jenner discussed research involving the use of cardiac plaques as a host medium to jump start the circulatory system. He also expressed a desire to see more of the "variant cohorts."
We may have seen one of these variants in action, as the woman watching Jenner's videos was shot after explaining that she was part of the Violet team and not the Primrose team that was at a conference in Toldeo, Ohio, "when it happened." Considering that there was graffiti in the lab reading "LES MORTS SONT NES ICI" (translation: "The dead are born here"), and that the man who shot the French scientist did so after proclaiming that it was all her fault, one can't help but wonder if the zombie virus (or at least a new version of it) was actually started in this lab. Not only that, but when the woman reanimated as a walker, she definitely appeared to be moving faster and striking harder than your average zombie.
Was this the lab where the zombie plague began? Are faster, stronger zombies on the horizon in the Walking Dead universe? Will we be meeting the rest of the Violet and Primrose teams on other TWD shows? We spoke to World Beyond creators Scott M. Gimple and Matt Negrete to get the scoop on both the series finale and the major franchise twist to come.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start with the tag scene. Where did this idea come from, to show the French lab that Jenner talked about way back in season 1 of The Walking Dead, and bring Jenner back via video reports?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: He was making those video reports back in season 1, so what we saw was a peek into a story that we've been working on for a long time. It has more of a relationship to the greater Walking Dead universe than it does directly to World Beyond. But it's a peek into a story that we will tell. And I'm actually talking definitively.
Where are you going to tell that story?
GIMPLE: I'm definitely not telling you.
Okay, let's try this: Are these French scientists responsible for starting the plague?
GIMPLE: Geez. I know the answer, but I don't want to... Yeah, I'm not going to tell you that either. But I'm tempted to tell you.
Come on! Just tell me.
GIMPLE: I think it's like a better story than me telling you right now. So now I'm not going to tell. But I guess I would say, don't just flatly believe everything you read scrolled in paint. That might be true, but I wouldn't say it's true because it's painted.
Is the scientist we see killed here at the end an example of the new variant that Jenner talks about, and are these variants faster and more aggressive than ones we've seen before?
GIMPLE: There's more to what Jenner is talking about. And what we saw is, first of all, not super-powered in any way. That's a thin door, and not the end state of that walker necessarily. But Jenner was super intrigued about things he was hearing, about differences in things, and that's a big portion of the story or the environment that we will potentially tell a story in.
And so just to be super clear: Are these new walkers going to make their way onto other Walking Dead shows?
GIMPLE: The differences he's talking about, the iterations he's talking about, whatever, there's something going on and we're going to see more of it. Is it a total redoing of everything we're doing? No, it is not. And it's specific to a story we're telling in a place we're telling it. Who knows after that, but right now we're telling a story about things going on in a very specific place.
But we're not crazy for watching that scene and thinking to ourselves, this walker seems to be moving a little faster, is maybe a little more active and stronger in their movements. That's a fair takeaway from that scene, correct?
GIMPLE: I mean, it's a fair takeaway of the scene. But it's not the end state of the walker. And I'm not saying that death is the end state of a walker.
Okay, let's get to the rest of the episode. When did you all come up with the full circle ending here, with the flashback to the kids leaving the campus colony and opening the door on their journey as our journey on this show ends?
MATT NEGRETE: There was a point where when we started talking about the finale it just felt right to have some sort of bookend flashback. One of the challenges is that Nicolas, who plays Elton, is like two feet taller than he was when we shot the pilot, so that was a challenge. We wanted something that wasn't too hard to film, but at the same time really kind of showed the evolution and change of the characters. And so the more we thought about it, it's just there's something about pushing through that door as they're about to take that first step into the unknown that that felt like the right moment to go back to and then to go back to at the end to bring everything full circle.
You bookend the journey with the flashback, but as far as the characters moving forward, with the exception of Huck, which we'll get to in a minute, you left things for the characters very open-ended and unresolved. The group is getting to Portland, but we don't know how that will go. Silas is undercover in CRM gear — no idea how that will work out. Kublek is in prison, what happens ultimately with that? Tell me about the decision to give us some closure, but not too much.
GIMPLE: It's a big world and there's a lot going on. And these are people that are parts of that world, but they aren't running the world, although Elizabeth certainly came close. But you see Jadis ascendant moving into a position of power. You see Elizabeth leaving that position of power. And then everybody in their own way trying to affect the world, but they aren't running the world. The folks on Fear and the folks on Walking Dead are in sort of the same positions. There are big things going on all around them, and granted, most of it is the apocalypse. But they're not necessarily running the apocalypse. It's sort of in line with that way of thinking. This is all a very, very big story and each one of these people, each one of these characters are little pieces of that story. But the story continues, and we hope to have that continue.
Okay, so when you say you hope to have that continue, what does that mean for these specific characters? Are there specific plans for these people to be showing up on other Walking Dead shows?
GIMPLE: It's more about hopes and dreams and wishes because we're not this giant organization. We make plans and we pivot. We want to continue this story in different ways. We want to see these characters in different ways, but it's not going to be Walking Dead: World Beyond, it's going to be the world continuing on and you seeing these people pop up in different ways with different arcs.
And about Silas, is he undercover? Might be undercover, might have just found some purpose. And Jadis is a pretty good salesperson. So the greater Walking Dead story, the meta story, the whole story, it continues on and on. And thus, I imagine these other characters will pop up in those stories. Will every single one of them pop up like clockwork in the very next thing we do? I doubt it, but we're doing a lot of things. And then there is this greater spine that we're seeing with the CRM story as it touches Fear, as it touches Walking Dead even, and now in World Beyond. That story will have to have a reckoning.
And with the CRM being the one thing that has obviously touched all the shows and with Jadis now obviously in a very clear position of power, I mean she seems to be the one character that we should definitely expect to see again, right?
GIMPLE: I would just say yes. I mean, the great thing about Pollyanna and World Beyond is we were talking about her before we started, and things weren't going to work out. And then other opportunities came up and so much work that we had sort of sitting on a shelf was ready and sort of fit in in a beautiful way. To me that's showrunning. You have all these different pieces and you have this story that you want to tell, but there's all sorts of things that are not in your control, about availabilities, about locations, about whatever, and you have to pivot a lot to get to that greater story that you want to tell. But then you wonderfully have these opportunities to do it. So yeah, there's three to five different ways that Jadis could be showing up next.
What about making Jadis go full villain here as your main antagonist? You reformed her on The Walking Dead and then took her all the way back and then some here.
GIMPLE: Villain? I mean, clear-cut villain?
Well, clear cut antagonist at the very least.
GIMPLE: I'll go with that.
NEGRETE: When we last saw her on Walking Dead, she was still an ally to Rick, but people had turned on her. She was trying to go straight. She was involved in some manipulations of her own as Jadis with the Scavengers. She tried to fold into this group of Alexandria and they kind of turned on her. And so I think there's always a part of her that has been this ambitious survivor "going straight" on Walking Dead didn't turn out for her so well with that community. So I think that she is someone who sees opportunities, but also is someone who looks for ways to survive. And that is what the CRM meant to her. And it wasn't just survival just for herself, but she found this greater purpose, which is what their goal was, which is the survival of humanity in a way, despite some pretty horrible things that they're willing to do to get there.
I kept waiting for us to meet Major General Beale. That never happened. Why not, and is he someone that might be showing up elsewhere?
NEGRETE: On World Beyond, he was mentioned specifically as to how things were run. He was obviously the guy making a lot of the decisions for the military, but it just wasn't his story to tell. That wasn't what World Beyond was about. I don't want to speak for you, Scott, but he's a very important figure obviously for the CRM. So I would venture to say that at some point we may see a story with him.
GIMPLE: We have all this stuff built up, it's just which ones we get to do first and emphasize what and who's available when.
Someone big often has to die in a series finale. So why Huck?
NEGRETE: It just felt like the right end of her story to us. Something Scott and I talked about from the beginning is that there's going to be this character that kind of feels very supporting in a lot of ways. In season 1, a friend of Felix, we don't know that much about her. And then the plan was always to reveal her to be this sort of closet antagonist at the end of season 1. And she's very stealth, she was not who she said she was, and she's actually working for the organization that has the girl's father.
So as we got into breaking her story for season 2, it really was about, for Huck at least, who is she? Is she Jennifer or is she Huck? And where does she come down at the end of the day? Where are her loyalties? And when push came to shove, when she had to make a choice, she had realized that for all the bad that the CRM does, it doesn't outweigh the good. You don't need to do those things. She doesn't support the decisions her mother has made, or that Jadis has made for that matter.
And so there is this big revelation that's also dropped in that final fight that she has with Jadis, which is that she had been a spy for the CRM spying on Omaha, and she'd inadvertently give them the information they needed to destroy the city. And just knowing that she was a part of that unwittingly, there was this need for her to undo some of the stuff that she'd done or the next best thing, which is stop them from doing that again to another city, which was Portland. And so it just felt right emotionally in terms of her greater redemption for this series.
So where would the show have gone had it lasted longer than two seasons? What didn't we get to see?
GIMPLE: The basic start of everything was about growing up. And so we knew it was close-ended. We weren't sure how close-ended. Is it three years? Is it five years? I guess how we're talking about Silas right now, we would've gone deeper into that and definitively shown a change. I think we saw the beginnings of the new identities of all these characters, we would've gone into those new identities. And they would've been, even if it was three years, that much more unrecognizable to the people that they had been before.
NEGRETE: Yeah. I'll say two seasons afforded us the opportunity to show that the characters we met back in the pilot are now set on a very sort of specific path. We know sort of where they're going for the most part. I will say, Silas is maybe the larger question mark in that equation. But we saw Iris sort of become set as a leader. We saw Hope set on the science path, and she's someone who hated being in the classroom, was acting out, was this rebel. And now she's, of everyone, kind of in a lot of ways the more buttoned down of the two sisters.
GIMPLE: And believing in the future where she didn't believe in the next day. She's sitting there every day rolling her sleeves up to work towards the future.
NEGRETE: And I think that for Elton, his goal was to see the world. Everything that he knew about the world was very intellectual, he hadn't experienced it. And I love the fact that he learned a lot about the good of the world, about the bad of the world. And he still sort of maintained who he was, even though I think that he still has a lot more to learn, but there's a wisdom there. So having more seasons would've allowed us perhaps to see them go further down the path that we saw them go down at the end of the finale.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.
This Walking Dead spin-off focuses on the first generation to come of age in the apocalypse.