This The Walking Dead: World Beyond review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond Episodes 9 and 10
Huck (Annet Mahendru) is a woman with a mission, and it’s not to make sure everyone gets to the Civic Republic Militia research facility safely. From the very opening of The Walking Dead: World Beyond‘s ninth episode, “The Deepest Cut,” as Huck stares into the darkness while everyone sleeps, it’s clear she’s facing a choice between the people that she has come to know and love as friends in Felix and the kids, and her loyalty to the CRM, her mother, and the CRM’s idea of the greater good. Throughout the series, when prompted, Huck has cautioned Hope in particular to make the choice that benefits everyone, not the choice that simply benefits her, and that encouragement to push hope towards that concept of the greater good makes much more sense after an opening flashback to her mother, Elizabeth (Julia Ormond), telling her to stick to the plan and get rid of the excess baggage.
Excess baggage named Felix and Iris.
Huck has already successfully run off Elton, Silas, Percy, and Tony, as is revealed later on in the episode. Her whole goal, all along, has been to recover the most valuable asset at Campus Colony: Hope. That’s right, the non-valedictorian troublemaker has been the truly valuable member of the expedition all along, and not because she makes good pruno. However, before we find out why she’s so important, there is a lot of episode to get through, most of which takes place in the form of flashbacks, hallucinations, or memories of other times.
Huck’s relationship with her mother Elizabeth is fleshed out in flashbacks. The material isn’t great, but the show immediately improves the moment Julia Ormond is on screen, because she’s a pretty clearly defined villain on a show that doesn’t have one. Even people like Huck, who betrayed friends, and Dr. Lyla Belshaw (Natalie Gold), who is studying her former associates turned walkers, aren’t quite despicable. Lyla is closer than Huck, but they both confess to be doing what they’re doing in service of, you guessed it, the greater good that Elizabeth has drilled into Huck’s brain as the end-all, be-all of the CRM’s mission.
To the credit of the actors and director Sydney Freeland, they’re working hard with their material. Annet Mahendru, in particular, is doing her best to sell Huck’s desperation to offload her friends without having them all killed. She might be the only member of the CRM to have that moral quandary, given their many efforts to kill Will (Jelani Alladin) in the post-credit sequence of “The Deepest Cut.” Mahendru shines particularly well not when paired with Hope (Alexa Mansour), who she has a relationship with already, but with Iris (Aliyah Royale), because it feels so wrong for the two of them to attempt to be friends, and Huck’s patter with Iris, particularly in Matthew Negrete, Maya Goldsmith and Ben Sokolowski’s scripts, falls so deliberately flat. It’s strained and awkward, and intentionally so, because Iris is too smart to fall for Huck’s lines and too determined to keep the group together at any cost to leave Felix (Nico Tortorella) behind no matter how badly he’s hurt.
Felix’s hurt only increases during “In This Life,” as all of Huck’s talking gives way to violence as she and Felix engage in a knock-down, drag-out fight that renders the bulk of a safe house to shattered plaster and crumpled furniture. While Sydney Freeland handled most of the character-driven work and intrigue, Magnus Martens gets the cool action sequence during “In This Life,” and while the character stuff worked well, there’s nothing quite like a multi-stage, multi-part brawl to get the blood pumping, particularly when a toppled lantern kicks off a house fire. Martens and company do a great job of staging the battle, and while it ends in a stalemate, it doesn’t feel like an unrealistic one. Huck would be the fitter of the two characters, thanks in small part to the fact her mother brings food to their meetings, and Felix is still dealing with a nasty cut on his ankle from Huck’s switchblade spear. A good fight is always appreciated, particularly one with as many stages, stops, and starts as this one.
Percy (Ted Sutherland, who does good work in Elton’s hallucinations), Elton (Nicolas Cantu, who remains the strongest young actor on the show), and Silas (Hal Cumpston) have a pretty nice reunion moment, where Huck’s betrayal goes from hinted at by special effects bullet wounds to outright explained by Percy, and the tension of their escape, and their fence-side conversation with one after Silas decides to play hero, is solid enough. It tracks with what we know about the character, which is that he’s constantly full of guilt and that he’s not as aggressive as his outbursts would make us believe. He’d be willing to let the CRM take him into custody for the greater good (without having those lessons from Huck). Percy and Elton believe that the fire drew CRM attention, but the truth, which is revealed at the hand-over of Hope, is much more interesting. Armed goon squads don’t go out to investigate building fires, even in the Walking Dead universe. They’re looking for Huck’s loose ends with an eye to clipping them off.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond‘s season-ending event isn’t so much a season finale as it is warming up for the final season. The success of Huck’s mission, ironically, will sow the seeds of the downfall of the Civic Republic Militia. The mysterious hooded resistance fighters have added new skilled fighters in Will, Felix, and Iris. Percy has revenge on his mind. Elton has a friend to rescue. Hope and Huck are on the inside, and are about to be given about 9,000 reasons to want revenge on the CRM when they’re finally given the news about Campus Colony being destroyed. With or without Leo Bennett—I’m not certain he’s still among the living at this point—there are a lot of people on the inside of the CRM who have beef with the CRM.
That’s exploitable assets. Not for Elizabeth, but for someone like, I don’t know, Rick Grimes, who will be forced to take drastic measures to keep Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside from becoming the next Campus Colony? Thus far, the tie-in with the Rick Grimes movies seems limited to setting up the CRM as a villain; that said, I can’t imagine having the brilliant Julia Ormond of all people in your TV show and not have her appear in your movie. The second season’s general plot is firmly in place, all that remains is to see how it all pieces together as part of the larger Walking Dead universe.