The thing about zombies is they’re evergreen. Better than that, they’re adaptable. You can put the undead in pretty much any time period, story setting, or genre and they’ll have the potential to thrive as an added narrative layer. Zombie western? Sure why not. Zombies in medieval Korea? That works. Zombie love story? Yeah, go for it. Naturally, that means Tales of The Walking Dead, a zombie anthology series spinning off from the AMC’s long-running tentpole drama, is at the very least a good idea on paper. After watching three of the series’ first four episodes of its forthcoming debut season it’s a decent idea in practice too, though it already shows signs of wildly varying quality from story to story.
The first episode that debuts August 14, “Evie/Joe,” is by far the worst of the trio AMC provided for review–episode three, which looks to be Alpha’s origin story and features Samantha Morton’s return to the franchise, was not available in time for review. Starring Terry Crews as an ex-running back turned doomsday prepper and Olivia Munn as an earthy New Ager, the odd couple plot of the premiere is a mess. It seems designed to shock the system of any longtime Walking Dead fan with a tonal departure so fierce that it may give viewers whiplash. On one hand, it’s admirable–perhaps even necessary–to start so far away from what TWD fans are used to. It tells viewers, “Look, this is going to be different.” But while it may get an A for that concept, the debut episode gets an F for execution.
It’s joke-y, but never sincerely funny. Taking place one year after the fall of civilization, the characters feel like they exist in a totally different story universe. Both Munn and Crews feel unfit for what the episode requires of them, and sadly have no chemistry together. It might be a tightrope-walk to successfully tell a comedy story in this usually grim and gloomy world, but that just means the writers need to be careful. Here, they aren’t, and as a result, the first episode is tough to finish.