I write extensively about The Walking Dead and The Walking Dead universe over on Uproxx, and if you’re an avid fan, I encourage you to follow my work there. However, every few months or so, I also like to keep the casual viewers, lookie-loos, and former viewers of our readership abreast of the current goings-on.
The Walking Dead — The parent series finally aired its season finale last month after a 6-month hiatus between the 15th episode and the 16th episode. They closed the book on the Whisperer War, the penultimate arc in Robert Kirkman’s comic series, and likely the second-to-last arc on the television series as it heads into its final 30 episodes.
In the meantime, the series has now added six episodes to this season, which will air in the Spring. Those episodes will catch us up on where Maggie has been (Lauren Cohan has returned to the series after a season and a half away), but also fill us in on the origins of Negan, adapting the “Negal Lives” stand-alone story from the comics. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s real-life wife, Hilarie Burton, will play Lucille, the wife of his character, on the episode. It’s a great bit of casting, plus it’s one less COVID concern for the production, which has been ongoing outside Atlanta for a few weeks now.
Fear the Walking Dead — I said this way back in season 4 — that Fear is finally a good series — and I know a few people who climbed aboard in particular because Garrett Dillahunt had joined the cast (I’m so sorry!). That lasted about 8 episodes, and then Fear cratered in a way that I haven’t seen since Dexter and Sons of Anarchy. It went to complete sh*t.
Uh, it’s good again. Like, really good. The first five episodes of this sixth season are one of the best stretches of episodes in the entire The Walking Dead universe. They’re telling fantastic stand-alone stories with a compelling running storyline and they now have the best villain this series has ever had in Virginia, played by Colby Minifie, who plays the publicist on The Boys. They have elevated Morgan (Lennie James) into a true, Rick-Grimes-like leader and, so far, maintained the focus on their best characters. They’re finally starting to take keen advantage of the talent they have in Dillahunt and Colman Domingo, Alycia Debnam-Carey, and Rubén Blades.
So, why is it suddenly good again? I have a theory that’s probably shared by others, which is that when Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss came over from Once Upon a Time in season four, they dramatically improved it for eight episodes and then Scott Gimple — the architect of The Walking Dead universe and the showrunner for the worst period of The Walking Dead (seasons 7 and 8) — got heavily involved, and the show went to shit. Now Gimple has turned his focus on the second spin-off, The World Beyond, and Goldberg and Chambliss can finally run the show themselves without Gimple mucking up the works. Consequently, Fear is the best it has ever been. If you are afraid to check back in because it’s burned you too many times, however, I wouldn’t blame you. If they manage to keep it this good all season long, however, I’ll let you know.
The World Beyond — Meanwhile, Scott Gimple’s distinctive writing style is all over The World Beyond, where Gimple is co-running it with Matthew Negrete. That’s not a compliment. There’s a lot of bad dialogue and a whole lot of Gimplelisms (like “you know what it is” or “The end is the beginning”). It’s just an all-around terrible series, exacerbated by a CW-friendly cast that looks completely out of place in a show about the zombie apocalypse. Annet Mahendru from The Americans is also in it, and she plays a character named Huck who has a New Jersey accent that sounds like it was run over by a dump truck and strangled by a garbage disposal (no, that doesn’t make sense, but neither does that accent).
The series improved slightly over its first six episodes, but it’s a nearly unwatchable show but for a small subplot involving a character played by Julia Ormond. She’s the head of the CRM, the military unit responsible for abducting Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. The whole point of The World Beyond — a 20-episode limited series — is to reveal more about the CRM, but that subplot usually only gets 2-3 minutes per episode, if that much, while the rest of the show is about watching four teenagers and two twenty-somethings literally walk from Nebraska to New York. It’s excruciating, but hardcore fans of TWD will continue to watch because we might get a tiny clue as to the whereabouts of Grimes before the movie centered on the Andrew Lincoln character premieres. Also, the CRM is experimenting on live people in an attempt to find a cure, so that’s kind of interesting, too. It’s not worth the rest of the show, however, although Scott Adsit from 30 Rock has been added to the cast (at least for now), and it’s fun to see him in a context so completely different that I actually had check IMDb to find out where I knew him from.