Tales of the Walking Dead review: Some highlights but few surprises

Tales of the Walking Dead offers an eclectic mix of standalone stories, but a talented cast and a few wild storytelling experiments don’t quite breathe new life into the franchise. The six-episode anthology series, which premieres August 14, is the third season of The Walking Dead,‘ after ‘Fear the Walking Dead,‘, which recently concluded its seventh season, and ‘Walking Dead: World Beyond,’ a two-season series that concluded last year.

Where this show differs from its predecessors is in the scope of its storytelling: while there are occasional nods to the larger universe in all six of these self-contained stories, no prior knowledge of the universe is necessarily required, and each story is small enough within to be solved completely within the allotted 45 minutes. It would be an unorthodox introduction to the franchise, but it would work.

And indeed, if the prospect of a return to either of the two long-running Walking Dead series is too daunting, Tales offers a chance for lapsed viewers to take a quick detour into this universe without having to commit .

However, for fans who have never taken a break from the franchise, most of the episodes may not make as much impression. At its least effective, “Tales” is simply a bunch of well-known actors who got into zombie-esque situations that could have arisen as storylines cut from the existing series. They march through the forest. They stab zombies in the head. They invent new slang terms for the zombies (“toe-tags”, “chompers”) while, by the rules of the universe, never actually use the word “zombie”.

In other words, the further the stories go, the more successful they are as entertainment. For example, an absolutely insane nod to “Groundhog Day” sees Jillian Bell and Parker Posey as opposing officemates who steal a tanker truck and repeatedly face off against an attacking horde of undead. Is it premium prestige television? Sometime around the third or fourth massive explosion, the answer to that question becomes clear. But is it fun? Certainly.

While not every episode of the series rises to the same level of experimentation, each at least delves into a different genre: there’s zombie apocalypse noir, there’s zombie apocalypse gothic horror. In “Evie; Joe,” Terry Crews and Olivia Munn play polar opposites thrown together on a buddy comedy road trip that takes a sharp turn into slasher movie territory; Anthony Edwards, an ecologist studying the habits of hikers in an artificial nature reserve, narrates the opening of “Amy; dr Everett,” as if he were in an Attenborough documentary.

Unfortunately, for all the different programming directions, many of the plots themselves seem stuck in the same thematic ruts that often plague both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.After all, more than 250 hours of television have been broadcast in this universe, which should be more than enough time for anyone to reflect sufficiently on the difficulty of maintaining their basic humanity when the collapse of civilization has brought humanity’s darkest impulses to light.

Viewers of Walking Dead objects have known since about Season 2 of the flagship that in a world ruled by the undead, the living humans pose the real threat. And regardless of the tone of the story, when Tales is so well received, the results feel less like exploring a new corner of the universe and more like an excuse to have a bunch of big-name actors do a zombie-fighting cosplay . (This is not Completely terrible thing; Crews and Posey, in particular, spend their respective episodes munching landscapes like their zombie foes munch brains — and having a blast.)

However, Dee represents the opposite: a point in time when there are still shreds of compassion and heart left in one of the franchise’s most heartless villains. The episode serves as sort of an origin story for Samantha Morton’s alpha, who terrorized the cast in seasons 9 and 10 of The Walking Dead,‘, but who was once just a mother doing everything to protect her child.

“Tales of the Walking Dead’s only overt nod to already established characters plays with canon a bit fast and loose, but it’s a sharp, well-told mystery set in one of the series’ more creative survival scenarios. (Who wouldn’t love to celebrate the fall of civilization on a riverboat?) Perhaps the fan base’s familiarity with Alpha and the lived-in quality of Morton’s portrayal contribute to its effectiveness, but it’s easily the most compelling and memorable episode of the whole thing.

Each anthology series is bound to vary in quality, but an anthology series within an established franchise has to work twice as hard to differentiate itself from its parent company. Tales of the Walking Dead only occasionally achieves this, but its achievements show a way forward for future spin-offs. With two more Walking Dead spinoff series on the horizon, Tales suggests that the key to telling more stories in this universe in general is to make bigger swings.

Tales of the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, August 14 on AMC and AMC+, with new episodes arriving weekly. Four out of six episodes were viewed for review.

https://variety.com/2022/tv/reviews/tales-of-the-walking-dead-tv-review-1235338076/ Tales of the Walking Dead review: Some highlights but few surprises

Charles Jones

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