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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

There's one big surprise at the end of another Silas-centric Walking Dead: World Beyond

Hal Cumpston as Silas on The Walking Dead: World Beyond
Hal Cumpston as Silas on The Walking Dead: World Beyond
Photo: Zach Dilgard/AMC
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Yup, Silas killed his dad in self-defense. Surely, not a single viewer was startled by this development. That wouldn’t be a problem at all, if the entire episode—and season preceding it—wasn’t set up for it to be some big, dramatic reveal. The poor lug spends all episode tied to a swing set (or pretending to be tied to one, at least), reminiscing on the guilt he still feels for what happened. Has no one told him it’s not his fault? Did his uncle seriously never send him to counseling? Did Felix honestly know this whole time that it was self-defense, and just let everyone else suspect their new friend was a murderer? Why hasn’t he mentioned that to Hope? There are plenty of questions raised by the narrative, but unfortunately, they’re nearly all set aside. Tell me again why this couldn’t have been covered in Silas’ flashbacks way back in episode three.

Credit where credit’s due: If nothing else, Hal Cumpston turns in some fine work this week. Silas, even back when he was fishing Iris’ artwork out of the trash, never really scanned as much of a presence; he was the kind of non-entity that was more likely a shrinking violet than repressed rage machine, so seeing characters treat him as the latter just felt weird, no matter how many times we were told the rumors about him. This week, at long last, we see the full range of his past—from the absolute high points of emotional connection with his abusive father to the darkest points of violence visited upon him and his mother. And Cumpston nails the fragile instability of a kid haunted by the brutality of his home life, a mix of vulnerability and fear that scans as all too plausible on his face, whether basking in the warmth of his father’s rock-music education or waiting for the other shoe to drop during moments of volatility. It’s easy to see why Silas would carry the guilt of his actions around, despite this being literally the most clear-cut case of self-defense ever. (Seriously, did no one ever try and get him counseling? What is wrong with the adults in this universe?)

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Unfortunately, the actor brings his A-game to an episode that doesn’t do it justice (aside from the flashbacks, which are quite good). Yep, it’s another round of “everyone sit around and talk about stuff,” though at least there are genuine consequences at the end of “The Sky Is A Graveyard.” First, Silas leaves the group, this new evidence of his violent tendencies leading him to no longer trust himself around the people he cares for. (We’ll come back to the murder of Tony—I have questions.) Then, Elton decides to go after him, the best member of the group unwilling to give up on his friend, even if everybody else seems all too willing to throw in the towel. Though not before Hope spills the beans to Elton about the death of his mother—a development I predicted would happen here, since this show can’t seem to help walking back anything smart a character might do.

Illustration for article titled Theres one big surprise at the end of another Silas-centric iWalking Dead: World Beyond/i
Photo: Zach Dilgard/AMC

The conversations between Elton and the others are distressingly one-sided, to the point that it sometimes feels like Elton’s the only adult in the room, including Felix. (Especially Felix.) Huck claims all evidence points to Silas killing Tony, which, fair enough, but only if you ignore some pretty obvious lingering mysteries, such as where the hell Percy went. Did Silas magically spirit away the younger guy’s body to the river after killing him, too? Again, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it felt like the show was smartly addressing these issues, but it sure hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt. (Unlike Silas, I might add.) Some commenters last week predicted that Tony, set up as a whiz illusionist, wasn’t actually dead, and this was someone else’s body. It’s a twist that could’ve worked, were it revealed here (and if you ignored the whole “we’re bonding with you because Iris convinced us to be better people” narrative we spent two full episodes developing); now, after dealing intimately with the body, either Tony’s really dead, or we have to face the fact that our heroes are even dumber than we suspected.

Unless, of course, this is all Huck’s doing. Let’s talk about the big reveal: Huck is Lt. Colonel Kublick’s daughter, the one she talked about in such wistful tones to Hope and Iris back in the pilot. She’s been keeping tabs on the group for the Civic Republic, delivering reports on their movements—which creates an even stronger impression that Hope’s blood has the key to virus immunity. The is one of those potentially very cool twists that the show will nevertheless have to do a lot of narrative legwork to justify. How long ago was she sent into the university compound as a mole? It’s seemingly been at least a few years. Does she really have no idea of her mother’s homicidal tendencies, or if she does, how does she square them with a moral code that saw her take down her entire squad rather than hurt innocent people? It didn’t seem like Kublick was planning on either Hope and Iris or her daughter not being in the compound when the CRM stormed it, making this whole expedition one massive improvisation on their part, which doesn’t seem in keeping with the Civic Republic’s modus operandi. Again, there could be perfectly good answers to these questions—I hope there are!—but this show needs to show it’s capable of more sophisticated storytelling.

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“A Sky In The Graveyard” keeps setting up characters to assume points of view based on conflict the show wants to engineer, rather than perspectives in keeping with their evolution over the season. Hope gets the worst of it, leading team anti-Silas with a malice wholly out of character. “Silas didn’t just make one mistake. How many chances does he get, now?” she tells Iris, which not only doesn’t make sense, it’s not in keeping with her own growth or the “we all learn from our mistakes” mentality that’s been the watchword of the series from day one. Hopefully, this is all leading somewhere rewarding—but for the first time since I started World Beyond, much like Silas, I’m starting to lose hope.

Stray observations

  • Parents that take the side of their abusers against their own children are just...it’s tough to watch.
  • I have no idea how Silas’ hearing isn’t completely shot by now.
  • Silas standing up to reveal to Iris that he had freed himself during the night, and was leaving, is maybe the best performance Cumpston has delivered all season, and his flashback scenes were excellent, too.
  • Did you see that water park behind Iris when she was going into the building they’re staying in? Where did that come from? The show hasn’t done a very good job of establishing the layout of this place.
  • Silas sadly says he doesn’t want to be like his dad, and Felix basically just walks away. They’re doing a great job of making it easy to dislike that guy.
  • Predictions: Elton and Silas are either back in the fold next week or captured by the CRM. It will turn out Huck engineered the deaths of Tony and Percy when they caught her doing...whatever she was doing that gave away her status as a double agent. And with any luck, Hope will return to being herself.
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Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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