This THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond Episode 3
The Campus Colony in The Walking Dead: World Beyond is less like a hard-scrabble camp and more like a small town protected by stone walls. There might have been thousands of people who lived and worked behind those walls, but that clearly wasn’t enough to allow someone like Silas to join the community without making a few waves. In a small town, nothing moves as fast as the rumor mill, and when the hulking new arrival comes from Omaha with whispers of violence in his wake, it’s only natural that people talk while he tries desperately to sink into the background to be left alone. Of course, when you’re his size and don’t talk to people, that only makes people more interested in figuring out what makes you tick.
In the first two episodes of World Beyond, the focus has been on the two main characters, Hope and Iris, and how their shared and separate traumas inform how they’ve developed as young adults. Certainly, at some point in his life, Silas has been through some kind of trauma, but it seems a more recent development is what has pushed Silas into inaction when it comes to dealing with empties. As we’ve seen, any excuse he can make to avoid taking violent action, he’ll seize on. That’s no different in this episode, as he chooses to carry gear rather than kill walkers, and put himself at risk to keep his friends safe without picking up a weapon by putting his great strength on display. What got Silas to move to Campus Colony from Omaha isn’t revealed, at least not explicitly, but it’s implied, and it’s a serious enough incident to make anyone hesitant to take up arms against another humanoid shape, be it living or undead.
Like the others introduced so far, Silas is dealing with significant trauma. Unlike the others, he’s not in a place where he’s willing or able to share that with the group. Hope and Iris have one another to confide in, as Hope does this episode as she details her killing of Elton’s mother in the confusing hours after the Night the Sky Fell. Silas, while he seems to be forging a solid relationship with Hope and has an existing relationship with Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Iris, is slower to warm up, possibly because his incident is much more recent in nature and he’s still dealing with it himself.
One of the positives to Hal Cumpston as a performer is his blank slate face. He’s a big kid, towering over the rest of the cast, but he carries himself with that big kid tendency to shrink back into himself, his face guarded and impassive, headphones on constantly (either with music or listening to a tape his grandparents made for his sixth birthday), and shrinking into the background of every scene with the other characters. He slumps, keeps his head down, and hides in himself in a very natural fashion, and his eyes seem hollow with some fear and pain. That face is used to great effect by Sharhat Raju’s sharp direction, with a shot of a twitching, uncomfortable Silas getting grilled by Nico Tortorella’s Felix is matched to a shot of a twitching, uncomfortable Silas about to march into a zombie-filled no-man’s-land on a fool’s errand with his only friends in the world.
Raju leans heavily on match cuts when transitioning between scenes, or on Hal Cumpston’s ability to look like he’s zoned out in thought enough to be caught by surprise by anyone coming up beside him. There’s a solid jump scare when Iris (Aliyah Royale) catches Silas staring at a walker who tried to attack him despite having its jaw held shut by a melted gas mask, and lots of good match cuts, particularly one solid one of two zombies fused together by melting tar matched by a shot of Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris emerging from the smoke side by side, supporting one another in a way that’s a little more wholesome than the melty walker but still echoes that particular scene well.
That the two sisters had to come together to battle the two-headed walker makes it all the more meaningful, as they spend most of the episode not on the same page with one another. The script from writing team The Farahanis emphasizes the disagreements between the two when not digging into the back story of Silas and his stunted, stilted relationships with the others in his party who are the closest thing he has to friends outside of Omaha. The creative team is still finding its way with the characters, but the dialog between the two sisters feels natural, given that even in a life-or-death situation they’ll still try to antagonize one another as a way of showing love. Silas gets a little more development here, as well; Elton will undoubtedly have his moment in the sun next week, unless Huck jumps in front of him on the back story train.
Or, as seen in the ending moments of this episode, Elizabeth (Julia Ormond) takes precedence. The episode’s main plot ends at a pretty good point, but then there’s the coda, which feels like a snippet of the next episode taken out of context. In one moment, the teens are walking away together, bonding, and in the next, Elizabeth is in her quarters in the Civic Republic, looking over a map as one of her underling NCOs comes to see her for counseling. This ends pretty much how you’d expect in an organization as secretive and dangerous as the Civic Republic, but Elizabeth shows she’s not without some pity as she invites the younger man in for soup and a soul-baring sessions before having him taken to the health and wellness complex until he’s ready to rejoin the military doing hard labor.
Perhaps it ties back to the show’s ongoing theme of dealing with trauma and the rough things these characters do for survival. Some can’t cope, and others—with the aid of a lot of white noise and some Mr. Wizard reruns—can. Even if coping means drinking alone in an empty loft with every possible noise-making device running at top volume while crying onto a map of your next peaceful settlement to put to the torch.