At least, that’s what they promised …
Honestly, it didn’t take all that long before FTWD started to feel like TWD’s little brother, one that didn’t quite have a level of originality to feel all that different. Its early seasons were punctuated by moments wherein it occasionally felt like all involved wanted to the program to be distinct in some way, shape, or form; and perhaps it just lacked the managerial wherewithal (behind-the-scenes) to really break out and be something other than … well … TWD’s little brother. In fact, after only a few seasons in, showrunners opted to bring in an audience favorite from TWD – Morgan (as played by the great Lennie James) – to both bolster the show’s ratings as well as give fans a proven commodity worth following.
Then – based on some logic that honestly escapes me – the powerbrokers at AMC and TWD decided The Walking Dead: Worlds Beyond was needed. This incarnation’s hook was that the show was structured to be a ‘limited run’ outing (though I recall hearing it would be expanded if audience demand was there), limited to only two seasons and would creatively focus on the youth of the Apocalypse. Why? Well, as I understood the argument, the creators felt that young people who’d only known a world with zombies might open up doors for stories they hadn’t yet explored … but then the show spent a fair amount of time with characters who knew an Earth without the Dead, and it ended after two mostly uninteresting seasons.
Now with Tales Of The Walking Dead, AMC is hoping to find a use to keep the Dead alive, it would seem, as stories have ranged from the comedically experimental to a dark and grim re-exploration of another fan favorite’s unseen origins. While I have very little good to say about the first two episodes, the adventure titled “Dee” was quite good, though I’ll admit it ended about the time it was truly getting interesting. With their latest entry – “Amy / Dr. Everett” – the creators have kinda/sorta bridged the gap between the old and the new, introducing an all-new scientist who might be engaging in research which shows that, in fact, these zombies are evolving …
Somewhere, I’d read in the entertainment trades that TWD wanted to investigate the idea of how the walkers might be evolving. The Apocalypse has certainly worn out its welcome; and – if there were some changes coming to this particular ‘species’ of man, might it be worth pointing out and expanding upon it? Depending upon what might be in store for the future, I would hope that these reveals could be spaced out realistically but equally compellingly for audiences who might still be watching. If you have these cards up your sleeve, showrunners, then it might be time to start playing them, instead of keeping it all so close to your chest.
Again, I think the strength of any Walking Dead spin-off lies in that properties ability to not so much re-invent the franchise but to find a means with which to tell some stories with a measure of freshness. Audiences have been claiming for some time now – not unironically, in fact – that the televised universe is just damn near dead. Every stone has been unturned. Every corner has had a bit of light shone upon it. The characters – while new – don’t resonate because they’re only mild variations of things that have come before. But in the hands of a proven talent like Anthony Edwards, even some of the more mundane moments of “Amy / Dr. Everett” had enough spark to propel the hour, though perhaps not enough juice for a repeat engagement. Sadly, the hour’s closing moments resorted to a predictable reveal, and I think Edwards deserved better … unless there’s more in the pipeline for his character should this show return for another season.
Were I you – and I’m not – I’d find some way to make the science angle work. It just might save all of our lives.