Tales of the Walking Dead

4 out of 5

Created by: Scott M. Gimple and Channing Powell

covers season 1

A strange thing happened while watching Tales of the Walking Dead: I looked forward to every episode. That, more than the content – which was very mixed bag – is responsible for my rating, as the 6-episode season really hit on a balance between anthology and predictability that allowed for episodes to go way far afield… yes, to their detriment, but being held in check by needing to be about zombies somehow made that tolerable. So we get 6 standalone eps that take place in the zombie-infested world of The Walking Dead, at various points in the timeline, and they can / can be: comedic; noir; deadly serious; science fiction; make connections to the actual series; and hopefully anything else under the sun in series to come.

Now, sure, there have been plenty of anthologies with varied tones, but it really is that wrinkle of a shared world / plot device that helps: most such anthologies are just, like, Tales From the Crypt or somesuch, where the linking element of genre isn’t quite enough to keep things grounded, and while TWD has – to me – become a joke in its longevity, that same familiarity lends these “Tales” with an understanding of how its mindless shamblers should behave, and, well, that they have to play some role in things. It gives the episodes borders, which can be healthy.

Not that I wouldn’t agree that those episodes are incredibly uneven: the sci-fi one (episode 2, starring Parker Posey and Jillian Bell) hardly makes sense; the noir one (episode 5, starring Jessie T. Usher) is a mess of pacing and poor acting; and the one that had direct links to the series (episode 3, with Samantha Morton’s Alpha) was maybe too directly linked to really land with viewers outside of the pool; but still… the truly unexpected nature of each ep, as mentioned, had me looking forward to every one, and this is not a series (or world) I’ve much looked forward to past the first season.

I liked World Beyond; I did not like Fear. In both cases, though, I kind of wondered what the point was, beyond extending the franchise. Tales… I never had to ask myself that question, and I’d go in for this one getting renewal after renewal, if it can retain the same sense of excitement as this first season.