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[This story contains spoilers for the season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond.]
There’s hope for the future, and then there’s Hope for the future. Both things are alive and well in the realm of the dead, as The Walking Dead: World Beyond closes out its first season and starts looking ahead toward its second (and final) batch of episodes.
In the two part finale, “The Deepest Cut” and “In This Life,” the road trip reaches an abrupt and violent end as a traitor stands revealed: Huck, played by The Americans veteran Annet Mahendru, who turns out to be the daughter of Julia Ormand’s Civic Republic Military leader Elizabeth Kublek. The finale explains Huck’s reason for infiltrating the group, and indeed, pushing them onto the open road in the first place: it’s all an effort to show the world to Hope (Alexa Mansour), firmly on the CRM’s radar thanks to her brilliant mind. Huck aimed to show Hope the ropes and get her to learn about the apocalypse with firsthand experience; she didn’t mean for Hope’s sister Iris (Aliyah Royale) and the rest of their companions to come along for the ride, and she certainly didn’t intend to get into a fight-for-her-life opposite former best friend and colleague Felix (Nico Tortorella).
The finale ends with the full party scattered in various directions: Huck and Hope on their way toward connecting with the greater CRM, Iris and Felix reuniting with Felix’s boyfriend Will (Jelani Alladin) and a bunch of mysterious forest-dwelling survivors, Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and a wounded Percy (Ted Sutherland) both on the run, and Silas (Hal Cumpston) fully in CRM custody. It’s the Huck and Hope situation that sounds the loudest alarm, as their one-way ticket to the heart of a greater empire is bound to illuminate the larger Walking Dead mythology weaving throughout not just the various different shows, but also Andrew Lincoln’s still developing Rick Grimes movies.
Following the finale, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunner Matthew Negrete for more on the two-part closer and how it sets up the future of The Walking Dead: World Beyond and … well, beyond.
What went into the calculus to have the season end with Hope on her way to the CRM? How does that open up the show moving into the endgame?
It was about exploring the relationship between Hope and Huck. There’s a whole back story we had in our head originally when we created the series. Hope is super smart. We saw her exhibiting her intellect in an interesting way at the beginning, brewing alcohol. She learned how to do that on her own. There were other hints we laid out along the way about how Huck and the CRM in general have plans for people with above average minds. We established that her father Leo (Joe Holt) is at this research facility, laying groundwork for a cure. It’s something that’s going to take generations to do. What better person to work alongside him than Hope? It was really about the generational plan that the CRM has, and it’s something we’ll delve into more in season two.
As far as Huck goes, was the character conceived with this heel turn in mind?
Yeah, that was one of the first things we came up with when [co-creator and Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple] and I talked about in creating these characters. Our first conversations were about who are these people? One thing that appealed to us was the idea of having someone part of the CRM also be part of this group, only they don’t know it and the audience doesn’t know it. There are definitely clues along the way, and a couple of things she did throughout the season that might have had people wondering if they can trust her or not, but we wanted to lay the groundwork for the reveal, and also have fun with the idea that we’re meeting characters for the first time and one or more of them might not be who we think they are. It was a prime opportunity for us to play with that concept in a limited series.
In the sisters’ final scene together, Hope tells Iris that she’s not the only special one; it’s the two of them together that makes them the real “asset.” How will that play out in the future?
They are both so different. They both have huge strengths. The one on the CRM’s radar is Hope. But at the same time, in one sense, the sisters are greater together than the sum of their parts. A thing that Iris has is this hope in her sister to be able to pull something off. With the CRM so laser focused on Hope and what they can use her for, they’re not giving enough credit to Iris as another person who may not be able to save just Hope and their father, but may also be able to save the world from the CRM.
Entering the second and final season, what does Hope’s journey to the CRM open up to us about both this specific story and also the greater Walking Dead universe?
The group is divided. They’re splintered into different subgroups. It’s going to give us an opportunity to explore a couple of different worlds. We have Silas, captured by the CRM, which opens up a few avenues for us. We also have Hope on her way to see her dad and where her dad is. We also have Iris and Felix meeting with Will and this interesting group of woods folk, which is another world we’re going to explore. Throughout the season, we’ll potentially see these worlds come together in some really interesting ways.
Mentioning Will, can you talk about the development of that character and his love story with Felix, which we first see here in the two-part finale?
We talked about it a lot in the writers’ room. We talked a lot about the idea of reunions, and how with the [twist of Huck’s true intentions for Hope], we felt the audience deserved a happier reunion. That’s one of the things that Will and Felix gave us. Will is a grounding force. He’s very rational. He can check Felix. I thought they played it so well in episode nine and I’m so excited to see where it takes us going forward. Felix has been betrayed by his best friend, who just tried to kill him. We established early on in the season that Felix is emotionally distanced, and he doesn’t warm up to people easily. For him to be betrayed by Huck, it’s going to have a big effect on him. The combination of that and reuniting with Will is going to have a big effect on Felix in some interesting ways.
With the first season under the belt, what’s surprised you most about what fans have taken away from World Beyond, and what lessons are you taking with you into the final season?
What the actors bring to the role… that’s what always surprises me. As writers, we’re always trying to see what the actors are bringing to the characters, and write to that. I haven’t spent a lot of time online. I appreciate the fans for being engaged and having strong opinions about the universe. I think that’s what all engaged fans should have. But I’ll say this: the show was always designed to evolve. It was always going to start with simpler stories and have the stakes grow and grow. Going into season two, it’s really about continuing that evolution and amping up the stakes, providing answers to some questions still lingering at the end of season one, and going forth from there.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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