This week’s fifth episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, “Madman Across the. Water,” was marginally better than the first four episodes of the series, although it did not have the benefit if a terrific CRM-specific post-credits scene, as last week’s episode did.
The issues that have plagued the series all along, unfortunately, continue to persist, namely bad writing, a series of laughably implausible turn of events, and characters that neither appeal well to the existing The Walking Dead fanbase or to a newer, younger set of fans. The World Beyond is not bringing in a new audience, and it’s mostly only annoying the existing one, which tunes in each week to find answers pertaining to Rick Grimes and the parent series but is more often left with mundane episodes that echo some of the adventures in the opening seasons of The Walking Dead, only with a less developed teenage cast.
In this week’s episode, sisters Hope and Iris continue on their journey to New York, having arrived at the Mississippi River (by my estimate, they have now walked around 400 miles from their starting point in Nebraska). Felix and Huck continue to try and convince the four teenagers to turn around and return to the Campus Colony (unaware that it has been destroyed by the CRM), and they find, in Elton, someone who will at least listen. Felix and Huck both figure that, if they don’t talk them into returning before they cross the Mississippi River that they’ll be unable to do so.
Meanwhile, to cross the river, the sixsome have to get an old boat running. That task somehow entails getting a fire in the engine hot enough to get it going, and they cleverly (?) surmise that throwing buckets of nail-polish into the burner will do the trick. That requires returning to a nearby factory and retrieving the nail polish, as well as fending off a number of zombies that are unleashed by a very bad CGI-lightning strike. The fending off involves the use of some fishing line, which is apparently strong enough to keep a horde of zombies at bay long enough to get the engine going and everyone into the boat before they are swarmed by the walkers. Once they finally arrive to the other side of the Mississippi, no more thought is given to returning to the Campus Colony. In fact, Huck travels ahead to act as a lookout for the rest of the group, which should at least break up the storylines a little.
The juicy part of the episode, however, comes in a conversation between Elton and Hope when Elton opens up his book and Hope spies a picture inside.
For those who have been watching all along, the significance of the photo should be fairly obvious. However, I have seen some understandable confusion on message boards because the woman in the photo — Elton’s Mom — looks slightly different than how we have seen her in another context earlier in the series. Recall that on Monument Day (the day the world went to hell), Hope and her mother found a truck and we’re about to take it to escape. However, another woman — who we know to be Elton’s mom — entered the scene holding a gun, insisting that she would take the truck. In a moment of panic, Elton’s mom accidentally shot and killed Hope’s mom. In turn, Hope picked up the gun and she accidentally shot and killed Elton’s mom.
In other words, when Hope saw that photo in Elton’s book, she realized for the first time that the woman she killed was Elton’s mom. A couple of episodes ago, Hope confessed to her sister Iris that she was inadvertently responsible for their mother’s death, but now she has another secret: That she was also responsible for the death of Elton’s mom, the only family Elton had remaining after his father died in a zombie attack.
As character drama goes, it’s not exactly thrilling, but it will probably pay off when Hope confesses to Elton, and Elton will have to decide whether to forgive Hope for killing his mother or go to war with her.
Unfortunately, that storyline is far less interesting than the CRM subplot, which never figured into this episode. Meanwhile, the episode ends with the introduction (in silhouette) of a new character, who could be either friend or foe.
‘The World Beyond’ returns with its sixth episode next week.