[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Tales of the Walking Dead Season 1 episode 1, “Evie/ Joe.”]
Why did the dog have to die?!
It’s perhaps not a great sign that what stuck with me most about Tales of the Walking Dead’s series premiere isn’t any of the human characters or their struggles, but the fact that The Walking Dead’s universe is a crappy place for cute animals. (I mean, look at all the horses that have died.)
The dog’s name was Gilligan, and she belonged to Joe, played by Terry Crews. When the apocalypse happens, they’re living in Joe’s bunker. Like the Otto family in Fear’s early days, Joe is a doomsday prepper. He seems content to live out the rest of his days in his well-stocked bunker, watching old football games with his dog. But one night, he takes Gilligan outside to “do her business,” and a small horde of walkers shows up. You know where this is going. I knew where this was going.
After Joe buries his best friend, the plot kicks off in earnest. Before the end of the world, Joe had been talking online to another doomsday prepper in Michigan who he had a “thing” for, but they never met in person. He makes it his mission to go to her. When this journey sends him dangling from a tree in a rope net, he meets Evie, played by Olivia Munn. Again, you know where this is going. I knew where this was going. Evie and Joe wind up having to reluctantly trust each other in order to make it to Michigan, where, surprise, they both want to go to reunite with people they love. Evie wants to find her ex-husband in hopes they can fix their relationship. If you’ve ever seen an hour of The Walking Dead or its spinoffs, you know something’s going to go sideways. In fact, you might’ve already guessed the twist at the end of the episode.
Unsurprisingly, Evie and Joe find common ground on the journey and become friends. But more jokes miss than land, mostly all related to Evie’s hipster persona. And about that twist? Joe and Evie get into an argument and they separate. Joe winds up at his gal-pal’s bunker, where all is fine at first, but it turns out she’s—surprise!—gone crazy. She drugs him and nearly kills him, but Evie shows up just in the nick of time to save his life. Her husband wasn’t at the cabin and it’s not clear what happened to him, so neither love story worked out.
In the end, Evie saves Joe, they kill his prepper pal, and they decide to start over and find the beauty in the new world together as friends. Fine. That’s probably the best descriptor for Tales’ premiere: it’s fine. It’s an hour-long shrug. The main twist is something we saw done with Terminus, unlikely survivor friendships better tackled with memorable team-ups like Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney) or Madison (Kim Dickens) and Strand (Colman Domingo). Doomsday preppers were covered on Fear, and even the goat Evie finds mimics Season 6’s ill-fated Tabitha. Nothing here breaks new ground for the franchise.
The great thing about this show’s format, though, is that all episodes are all one-offs. If “Evie; Joe” left you cold, next week’s focus will be different (having seen next week’s episode, I can say I liked it much better). And Episode 3 revolves around Samantha Morton’s Alpha, a concept that has plenty of promise. There’s still hope for Tales… but “Evie/Joe” fumbled the first pass.
Tales of The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC