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The Walking Dead: World
Credit: Macall Polay/AMC

The Walking Dead: World Beyond

High school can be a painful experience… especially when you are being hunted by a wolf and a pack of flesh-eating zombies. The Walking Dead: World Beyond gang found that out on Sunday’s episode when they holed up in a former high school to seek both shelter and supplies. They found both, along with a few less pleasant surprises.

We also saw glimpses of the former pre-apocalypse high-school, at least envisioned by Iris, who got he hands on a yearbook and seemed to forge a connection with a purple-haired free-spirit student named Sabina James who was voted “most likely to march to her own drum.” (Unfortunately, the sight of a purple-haired zombie at the end of the episode leads one to assume things did not end well for Sabina.)

We got World Beyond showrunner Matt Negrete on the line to discuss the latest installment and we peppered him with questions about whether Silas killed his dad, what Leo wanted to talk to Iris about, and that tantalizing post-credits scene.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, I want to know everything about purple-haired high schooler turned zombie Sabina James. What can you tell me about her, Matt?

MATT NEGRETE: Yeah, there's a bit of a backstory we laid in there for episode four about the high school and a lot of the student body that was there when things went bad. And we see the yearbook that Iris has, and she has a little bit of envy towards what seemed like maybe a secular life that she never got to experience, this high school life, and so that starts off the story.

So we know that there was this artsy girl named Sabina, and there are some characteristics that she shares with Iris, and one of them is, she's very artsy and that's something that Iris has always been attracted to. And it's just that Iris made some choices in her life and made some life decisions based on what she thought went down that night. So she's regretting the fact that she didn't do some things. It's almost like Sabina was living a version of Iris' life.

But obviously things did go down there that were pretty dark. There are a lot of clues that we laid in terms of telling that story. I don't know if I want to give the whole thing away, but we know that some of the students from the high school end up holing up in this fallout shelter that was in the basement and that things went bad.

Obviously, someone went around pulling the signs off of the walls to indicate that there was a shelter there; they didn't want to be found, which begs the question of why? There are a lot of canned goods that are still present when Hope and Huck come across the shelter towards the end of the episode, but it looked like maybe the person with the backpack who had some issues and was missing a leg didn't quite make it out, so maybe that was the person that had a plan to maybe take things and run.

And everyone else was sequestered and put into lockers in the other room. And over time, those lockers rusted away and now we see them trying to get out once Iris and Silas have locked themselves in that part of the bunker.

Now, when you say that you don't want to give away everything that you guys wrote, does that mean that this may come back into play even though it seems like our characters have moved on away from the school — that this bomb shelter mystery may unfold a little more?

I won't necessarily say that, but what I will say is that we wanted to plant enough clues that maybe the audience could fill in some of those blanks themselves, if there's still some outstanding questions. And so I'll say that you never know. That's my big answer.

Well, I feel like we need a Sabina James episode of Tales of the Walking Dead. I'm putting that out there. I just feel like it needs to happen.

Yeah, she had her friend, the photographer. There was obviously some guy she was digging on at the beginning; we saw that fantasy, and yeah, you never know. So there's grist for the mill, as they say.

This episode is essentially a cool little horror movie with a bunch of kids stuck in a high school with a wolf and zombies closing in. Was it envisioned that way, as sort of a callback to classic horror like that?

Yeah, we were looking at episode 3 as this big spectacle episode that had a lot of scope. And episode 4 was designed to be a little bit more of an intimate episode where we were really focusing on the characters, but almost in the context of this "haunted house." So it really was about them holing up in this spooky environment that's fairly contained, in which they'd have to break up and they each have their own missions and they each come across different things.

We do have a wolf, we do have some empties. And even Iris in a way, it's almost like she's haunted by this past she never had. So in that sense, I would say there's even some ghosts lingering. So ultimately, this is my long way of saying, it is our haunted house episode.

Speaking of ghosts, tell me about having some of these old high school scenes come to life, one right at the beginning and one later as iris and Silas are dancing.

As we broke this story, it came down to telling the story from Iris' point of view. It's not necessarily Iris getting a flashback episode, like we've seen in the past. This really is more of a Hope flashback story. But for Iris, it's about seeing things through her specific lens.

And we started the pilot with a dream sequence in which it was partially animated, so there's a world in which that's how she sees things through this lens that's very artistic, and that's ultimately the thing we wanted to capture, especially in an episode in which she's thinking about all the things that she's given up to live for the future, to try to be everything for everyone, and one of those things is her art. So using that watercolor brush effect something we intentionally wanted to capture in this.

Silas asks Iris, “Do you think I killed my dad,” to which I ask you: Should we think Silas killed his dad?

That's a good question.  I would say based on what we know in episode 3, there was an attack. His hands are very bruised and we see glimpses of him pounding away on someone. I guess we can assume that that's his dad, and it feels like the pieces are starting to be put together. But I guess what we really don't know is, are we seeing his dad in that moment that he was killed? Are there other aspects to the story that we don't know yet?

And I will say we will be filling out some more of the blanks of that story in an upcoming episode in which all the answers to Silas' past will pretty much be answered, and it's a great episode. I can't wait for people to see that. So something big went down, it was pretty violent, and I think ultimately for Silas, it's about how others see him, but also how he sees himself based on what he may or may not have done.

So here's another question that you, not unlike Silas, can dance around. We finally get out first long look at Hope & Iris’ dad Leo. He tells Hope in flashbacks he has big stuff, but not bad stuff, that he wants to talk about when he gets back. What is that big stuff, Matt?

I cannot say, but I can say that that question will be answered before the end of the season. Leo was someone who was very much into his work and he has tunnel vision in that way. So I will say that now that so much has changed and he lost his wife and the sky fell, he's a single dad raising two teenage girls — there's nothing harder than that I think. And on top of that, he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. He's trying to help lay the foundation of what might be a cure someday.

And so maybe he's seeing some things that he wished he could have been more honest with his family about, and the time has just been ticking away and he has some regrets. And it's just a matter of, you don't want to necessarily have an important talk and then say goodbye. So his takeaway at the end of that episode is that, "We will see each other again and we will talk about it."

So that's pretty much all I have to say for that on that right now, but answers will be coming.

Now that they've gotten out of the school, what's coming up next for this group?

Well, the episode really tees up something interesting for Elton. We got some glimpses of him. We revealed that he is claustrophobic and we see some flashes of a little boy hunkering down, looking very scared, and that's a little hint of what's to come in episode 5. So episode 5, I'll say, is a big Elton episode in which we learn a lot more about what went down with him in his past that has formed who he's become. So it's really a great emotional episode and I'm looking forward to everybody checking that out.

And what about that post-credits scene in which some zombie experimentation seems to be going on — and on a doctor from Portland?

What we're seeing in the coda is a glimpse at a new environment. We don't know where we are, but it's a new character, this woman who seems to be doing something very interesting with some empties, that seems very scientific based. We also see a glimpse of a photo of some people that include the scientists and the girls' father and they seem rather close. We also see that the empty that she seems to be studying is also alive as a person in this photo. So that implies that a lot of s---'s gone down, and it raises a lot more questions that we'll also be answering later on this season and into next season. A little bit of a tease of things to come.

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