I've watched four of the first six episodes of "Tales of the Walking Dead," the latest "TWD" spin-off.
Episodes starring Terry Crews and Samantha Morton reprising her "TWD" villain are worth watching.
The series misses huge opportunities to more directly connect to the larger "TWD" universe.
The latest "The Walking Dead" spin-off, "Tales of the Walking Dead," is definitely steps above the difficult-at-times-to-watch "TWD: World Beyond" (a low bar), but nothing in the show's first month's worth of episodes makes it mandatory viewing.
I've watched the first four episodes of the six-episode season and only two of them are truly worth your time.
The concept for the anthology series is intriguing. Each episode explores different individuals or duos and their responses to the zombie apocalypse during different points in time.
The first episode takes place over a year after the fall of mankind. Another is set several years into the apocalypse.
Yet another occurs right as the world is starting to fall apart in Atlanta, Georgia, the starting point of the flagship series. Personally, I would've watched six episodes on how various characters reacted to learning that citizens were reanimating into members of the living dead. Part of the appeal of this genre is seeing how people would respond to a real-life zombie apocalypse.
The best episodes are the premiere, featuring Terry Crews, and episode three, starring Samantha Morton
Of the four screeners sent to press, Samantha Morton's episode, titled "Dee," which kicks off with Alpha saying, "Let me tell you how I died," is easily the standout and a must-watch for any "TWD" fans. Morton reprises her scene-stealing season 10 villain in an origin story set to air on August 28 that will reveal how she wound up with the Whisperers.
The clunker of the four screeners is "Amy / Dr. Everett," airing September 4, which starts out as a nature documentary about the dead and follows a scientist who has devoted his post-apocalyptic life to studying the dead.
If you think you're about to learn something new about walkers or maybe about those faster walkers that keep being teased, hold your breath. While the show suggests one tiny thing about the dead, we don't learn anything mind-blowing. Quite frankly, it's a waste of time.
Parker Posey's episode, "Blair / Gina," gets creativity points for doing something no other "TWD" episode has ever done before by having the same day play on loop in different ways. It's a big swing concept that's been done over and over again in film and TV, and after watching the episode, it's unclear what the major takeaway is supposed to be.
It feels like someone said: What if we took the film "Groundhog's Day" and did our own "TWD" spin on that?
If I had to rank the four episodes I screened from best to worst, the order would easily be: "Dee," Terry Crews and Olivia Munn's premiere episode "Evie / Joe," Posey and Jillian Bell's "Blair / Gina," and then "Amy/Dr. Everett."
Since it's an anthology series, there's no thread connecting the random episodes together. It almost seems like each episode exists to serve as a potential pilot for any other future spin-offs AMC may be considering down the road for its seemingly never-ending "TWD" universe.
During the show's San Diego Comic-Con panel, which Insider attended, Morton expressed interest in reprising her role in a "TWD" prequel series, saying how much this character has meant to her to play.
If these four episodes are competing for their own spin-off, Morton wins.
Aside from Morton, Crews gives the most convincing, committed, and passionate performance as a Doberman-loving doomsday planner, Joe, who — after a devastating loss — gains the courage to seek out a friend for the end of the world.
On his journey, he unexpectedly runs into Olivia Munn's Evie. Their story is the only other one I'd want to see continue to play out in the future.
I will compliment the show's opening credits. Split into six frames, depending on what episode you're watching, the rest of the panels shift to one and expand to reveal the full teaser image that represents that episode.
But that shouldn't be one of the coolest things about a show.
'Tales of TWD' missed some big opportunities in connecting the series' large universe
The spin-off's biggest missed opportunity is that none of these episodes (outside of Alpha's prequel episode) try to connect to other characters or stories in the already established "TWD" universe.
There's no shocking revelation that will change your understanding of any other show. No one appears to be a relative of the show's vast casts.
On the series premiere, if you're keeping track of the road locations, there's a missed opportunity to highlight that the protagonists are traveling by an area close to the Commonwealth (the current outpost where everyone's held up on the final season of "TWD.")
For a concept as cool as an anthology series, that's why it's frustrating that some of the execution wasn't smarter.
When the idea for "Tales" was first pitched, it sounded like the series would provide an opportunity to tell more stories with former "TWD" characters. Maybe we'd get another episode with Michael Cudlitz's beloved favorite, Abraham, who was brutally killed off by Negan in the season seven premiere.
If not a prequel episode, since the anthology series plays with time in an episode, it could've given us a "what if" scenario where Abraham wasn't killed by Negan.
I really do believe the crew wanted to be able to tell more interconnected stories or bring back more recognizable talent. Sonequa Martin-Green, who played Sasha, had previously expressed interest in reprising her character. In November 2020, Gimple told me he was "determined" to work with Corey Hawkins again to tell more of Heath's story, a character who disappeared in season six to never be heard from again.
I was also surprised that it was Morton and not Ryan Hurst who received a prequel episode on "Tales." In October 2020, Hurst told me he could "neither confirm nor deny" whether he had a long dinner with Gimple about reprising his role as Alpha's former second-in-command, Beta, pre-pandemic.
Maybe there are still plans for Hurst to revisit his character in the future.
It's as if the "TWD" team attempted to possibly get bigger names or returning stars and either no one wanted to be a part of the show or the pandemic presented challenges for bringing back more familiar faces.
Most former "TWD" actors have moved on to bigger projects and, quite frankly, probably have far more interesting things to do than join the third spin-off of a more than decade-old franchise. "Nope" star Steven Yeun recently told Conan O'Brien he'd feel like "a hack" if he ever returned to the world of the dead.
"Tales" has its moments, but it feels tough to justify why this exists other than to possibly serve as fodder for other potential spin-offs.
"Tales of the Walking Dead" premieres on AMC on Sunday at 9 p.m. The first episode is currently available to stream on AMC+. You can follow along with our "TWD" universe coverage here.
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