The Walking Dead: World Beyond takes place a decade after the zombie apocalypse. The show follows a group of teenagers as the first generation to grow up in a decimated society. The series premiere, "Brave", introduces sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) Bennett. They live in the "Campus Colony" at Nebraska State University near Omaha. It's part of three surviving communities in Omaha, Portland, and the Civil Republic in between. They are symbolized by three interconnecting circles. As seen previously in episodes of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

World Beyond begins with a nightmare sequence. Walkers lumber as animation is rotoscoped over their bodies. Iris wakes up in a huff. That morning, she approaches Silas (Hal Cumpston) as he works in the courtyard. She invites the new student to a "rager" her sister is throwing the following night. Iris walks stridently as the student body president. Her VP has prepared a welcome banner for a distinguished guest.

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Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru) prepare weapons for the trip outside the walls. Iris loads the student welcome party on the bus. Her sister, Hope, sneaks into the luggage compartment with a small bouquet of flowers. The gates open. Felix and Huck lead the bus in an armored Jeep. They smash an "empty" in the road. Its wiggling upper torso latches onto the undercarriage and tries to grab Hope. She successfully pushes it away.

The convoy arrives at an open field. Hope absconds into the woods and comes to a cemetery. She places the bouquet on her mother's grave. Hope looks up to see five black helicopters, some carrying containers, circle above. The students unfurl the welcome banner. It reads, "The Civil Republic Sucks." Iris realizes this is her sister's work. She quickly cuts off the sign.

Felix waits as a chopper lands. Three interlocking white circles are emblazoned on the side. Black armored stormtroopers escort a woman in a coat. She introduces herself as Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) of the Civil Republic Military (CRM). Felix introduces himself and Huck as Senior Security Force Officers, Campus Colony of Omaha. They also have the three ring insignia on their jackets. Felix expected to see government officials. Elizabeth tells him, "Major General Beale wasn't comfortable sending civilians." He could only spare one helicopter for their "Monument Day" holiday.

Hope, still hiding behind the bus, gives Elizabeth the finger. Elizabeth sees her, but says nothing of the offense. Walkers approach the chopper. The CRM soldiers blow their heads off with three-pronged rifles. The welcome sign now says, "The Civil Republic Us." Iris eloquently states, "That's what the Alliance of the Three is about."

The convoy returns to the campus. Silas watches Hope sneaking off the bus. She asks him not to tell her sister. She also invites him to her "rager" in storage room C-12. Hope goes back to their dorm-style apartment. Iris chastises her for the sign. Hope replies, "We don't know where they are or what they do." Iris reminds her that their father left to join them. He wanted to share "knowledge" and work towards a "cure." Iris asks her to sign a birthday card for Felix. Hope wonders why her sister gave up art for "science, AP classes, and volunteering." She also asks if Iris "checked the cabinet today." Iris did, "nothing" was there "again."

Iris awakens from the same nightmare. She goes to her desk and works on her speech. Her notebook becomes animated in pencil. It explains "Monument Day." They survived, but the rest of the world didn't. A plane crash is followed by a map of America. It shows Portland on the west coast, the Civil Republic in between, and their school near Omaha. The remaining country is in question marks.

Iris walks through the campus quad the following morning. Her voice over continues, "I live for my mom, who died that night, ten years ago today. And for my father, doing important work that will one day benefit us all." She goes to her father, Leopold Bennett's office, and opens a cabinet. Inside a beeper is attached to a printer. It reads "no messages." She opens a book with messages taped inside. Her father has been communicating with them. He apologizes for missing Monument Day. He warns that sending the messages is risky.

Iris attends a lecture. She flashes back to "the night the sky fell." The teacher asks Elton (Nicolas Cantu) what his wishes are for Monument Day. He doesn't want to be afraid again. He wants to see what the world is now. Another student drops a note on Iris' desk. Felix found her sister's booze cache. He's holding her in the jail in his office.

Felix is exasperated by Hope's behavior. We learn that he worked for her father and was made their guardian when he left. Hope wants this lesson to be over. Iris arrives and Felix releases Hope. They are approached by Elizabeth. She thanks them for their sacrifice, being "away from their father can't be easy." His work is critical for the planet's future. Iris is genial, but Hope cannot hold back her scorn. They walk away, but Hope confronts Iris about her nightmares. She tells her that "b*tch is the reason why we'll never see our father again." In their father's office, the beeper flashes and prints a message.

Iris visits her therapist, Dr. K, whose office is behind a steel door. She's dying and needs breathing tubes from an oxygen tank. Iris remembers the night the planes fell. Her father was leading her mother, sister, and her through the streets to the campus. A pregnant woman begged for help in the chaos, but they had to leave her behind. Iris and her father were separated from her sister and mother. Their mother died, but not from the plane crash. Iris blames the "empties." Her sister saw it happen. The therapist tells her to not worry about the future. She must learn to live for today.

Hope trains to fight with Huck in the gym. They watch as Elton, a black belt, teaches other teens. Hope laments the loss of her alcohol. She asks Huck about life in Omaha. Huck warns her to not even think about leaving. There's "a hundred miles of crap" to the city. Hope thinks building everything back is a waste of time. The world is going to end regardless.

Hope remembers fleeing through the plane crash debris with her mother. She saw walkers for the first time. Hope holds her necklace. It's a string through a red marble. Iris finds the message in the cabinet. It says, " MY !2SAFETY NOT ASSURE$." Silas and Elton open the office door. They see Iris reading the secret note. They were bringing her a cake Elton made in an Easy-Bake Oven. Hope comes into the office. She's stunned Iris would have the cabinet open with others in the room.

Hope is alarmed by the message. Elton and Silas swear they won't tell anyone. Elton admits that he sneaks out regularly. That's how he found the oven and his "TuffyStitch" bite-proof suit. He ventures outside to find something he lost. Now they all know each other's secrets. Iris doesn't want to read anything into the note. Then Hope tells her there were five helicopters. Elizabeth came in just one of them. She knows the CRM is bad and their father is in danger.

Outside the walls, Huck and Felix spray paint walkers to track their movements. It's revealed that Felix's boyfriend left to protect the girls' father. His radio blares to life. Hope Bennett needs to see him immediately. They show him the message in their apartment. Felix is worried what the CRM would do if they found he's been communicating with them. Felix promised to keep them safe. His boyfriend, Will, is the best fighter they have. He will protect their father.

Hope storms into the night courtyard. Iris follows her enraged sister. How can she not see that bad people have their father? Iris responds that the message has numbers and letters. It may not be a distress call. Elizabeth appears out of nowhere. She overheard their conversation. Iris confronts her about the Civil Republic's secrecy. Elizabeth admits her daughter was also sent away. She's also doing secret work for the Alliance of Three. Elizabeth beckons them to be "brave." She confides their father is at a research facility. She gives the girls a coded map of New York. Elizabeth would be in serious trouble if her superiors knew. She hopes to have gained their trust. And might be a little tipsy from Hope's confiscated booze.

The girls get drunk in their father's office. A new message arrived overnight, "IT'S GONE BAD. KEEPING MY HEAD DOWN. DON'T TELL THE COUNCIL, DON'T TELL FELIX. I LOVE YOU GIRLS." Iris has her Monument Day speech in thirty minutes. She goes to her therapist's office, but is attacked by a walker through the security door. Dr. K died and turned. A distraught Iris watches as the body is taken away.

Elizabeth speaks to the campus residents on Monument Day. The Civil Republic will always support Portland, Omaha, and the Campus Colony. She thanks them for "loaning Dr. Leo Bennett." Iris pulls no punches in her speech. She scraps her prepared remarks and speaks truthfully. She has dreams where they are dead. She hasn't been really living since the sky fell. She wants the truth. She doesn't know Elizabeth, trust her, or have any idea what the Civil Republic actually is. Elizabeth watches solemnly.

After the event, Iris tells Hope they need to leave and find their father. She admits to hating that Hope saw their mother die. Hope holds the necklace. She flashes back to what really happened. They saw a truck with an open door through the plane fire. But the pregnant woman got there first. She had a gun to hold them off, but accidentally shot Hope's mother. The pregnant woman was mortified. She dropped the gun in anguish. The young Hope picked it up and killed her. The woman was holding the marble necklace.

Iris and Hope tell Elton and Silas of their plan to leave. They have the map. They know he's somewhere in New York. It's eleven hundred miles on foot. Elton and Silas volunteer to go as well. Elton knows karate, and he's looking for something. Silas wants a chance to be different. The next scene has the teens with backpacks and weapon staffs leaving behind the campus.

Felix reads his birthday card in alarm. Hucks tells him that Silas and Elton are also missing. The teens walk by the plane crash. Walkers still trapped in their chairs are covered in moss. That night on the highway, Elton finds what he was searching for. It was the horn from his triceratops toy. It was supposed to be a gift for his unborn sister. He got separated from his mother when the sky fell. He never saw her again. He looks at her picture. She was the pregnant woman that Hope killed.

Felix and Huck leave the campus in the morning. The girls know Felix will come to find them. They need to get moving. Elton attaches the horn to his staff. Iris didn't have a nightmare the previous night. They come upon a walker. Iris takes Elton's weapon. She needs to learn to fight them. The scene then cuts to a massacre at the campus. The CRM has killed everyone in the colony. Elizabeth takes a three pronged rifle and kills a painted walker. A blood splattered soldier approaches her. They've searched the buildings and surrounding areas. They cannot find "the girl." Elizabeth calmly surveys the carnage and replies with one word, "good."

We finally get confirmation of the Civil Republic, Alliance of the Three, and first hint of the overarching villain. The CRM took the injured Rick from the bridge explosion in season nine of The Walking Dead. Anne, aka Jadis, told them that Rick was a "B" not an "A." She had been supplying the CRM with "strong" people. In Fear the Walking Dead, Althea falls for Isabelle, a CRM soldier. I'd bet that Isabelle is the daughter that Elizabeth refers to. We'll have to wait and see how the timelines converge, but the threads between the shows are now apparent.

"Brave" is a disappointing start to the World Beyond series. The premiere plays out like a bad CW episode. Poorly written teen characters bumble about while complaint rock blares in the background. The characters appear out of nowhere to propel the plot. The Campus Colony's crack security somehow misses a fleet of helicopters sent to destroy them. Something that a scrappy protagonist girl notices in the first five minutes. The subplot between Elton and Hope is laughably stupid. The pilot is loaded with ridiculous contrivances, meant to spoon-feed important details in The Walking Dead universe. World Beyond is slated for twenty episodes over two seasons. I pray it gets better. The Walking Dead: World Beyond returns next Sunday night on AMC.

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Julian Roman at TVweb
Julian Roman