"What do you live for?" The question that Indira (Anna Khaja) asked of Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Felix (Nico Tortorella) as new arrivals of The Perimeter hangs over Season 2 Episode 2 of The Walking Dead: World Beyond. In "Foothold," CRM Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) tries to tie up loose ends by hunting a fugitive Will (Jelani Alladin). He escaped from the Civic Republic research facility where Dr. Leo Bennett (Joe Holt) recently reunited with his gifted daughter, Hope (Alexa Mansour), the newest recruited asset of the New York State facility. It's there that Dr. Lyla Belshaw (Natalie Gold) works with Leo to eliminate empties from the planet.
What You Get
Iris breathes heavily over a slain CRM soldier. She withdraws her knife from his chest with a grunt and goes to stab it into his head -- Felix stops her. He followed her trail from The Perimeter.
"He was going to find me." In the distance, flashlights from more CRM patrols. Iris and Felix hide the body and take cover behind logs. A bolt from her crossbow takes out an approaching walker.The CRM combs the woods.
Inside the Civic Republic research center, Hope notices two toothbrushes in her father's bathroom. A cozy Leo and Lyla discuss whether or not to talk to Hope about her journey to the facility and what happened out on the road. Leo wants his family to know about them when the time is "something close to right."
Hope blows out a candle staked in her 17th birthday breakfast. Dad asks if Hope was ever in any danger. She doesn't want to talk about it. "The hardest part about being out there was worrying about you," she says. "Not knowing if you were hurt. But seeing you okay, it makes it all worth it."
Leo hopes the same for Felix and Iris. Hope says Iris has gotten good at killing -- empties, she means.prevnext
No More Trouble
Elsewhere, Iris, Felix, and Will size up empties. Iris freezes up as a walker tears off its face, revealing the helmet of a CRM soldier. Felix steps in and puts it down. She doesn't think the dead wiped out Omaha and the Campus Colony. It was the living.
"The CRM, they killed Romano. They tried to kill Will. They were willing to kill all of us. So why not everybody back home? Or Omaha?"
"You think that the CRM was behind all this?"
"Why else would they cover it up?"
"I don't know," admits Felix, "but we're talking a hundred thousand people here. You're saying, what, they wanted all of us just dead? Why? We weren't a threat."
"Maybe we had something they wanted," says Iris. "They wanted Hope. You saw how far they went to take her."
The Allman Brother's Band's "No More Trouble" is the soundtrack for a hooded Silas' (Hal Cumpston) car ride with Dennis (Maximillian Osinski). He warns against attacking and escaping, or Silas goes away to prison for a long, long time.prevnext
At the CR facility, Leo meets with Lt. Col. Kublek. He says his daughter won't "settle in" until her sister and Felix are found -- and bringing them in is Kublek's "top priority." Kublek denies his request to join the search, saying an extraction team has already left.
"You've manipulated them into traveling over a thousand miles, completely unprotected," says Leo of the cross-country trek secretly shepherded by Staff Sergeant Mallick (Annet Mahendru) -- her daughter -- who is "more than capable of dealing with any threat."
She means "Huck." Her mole. "That's how much my daughter's safety meant to you. You sent one soldier."
"That one soldier means more to me than one million." She reveals the family connection. Leo wants his family here, too. Tonight. "Or I'm done working for you."
"You don't work for me, Dr. Bennett. Your efforts are for the Civic Republic, as are mine. We protect the CR, and we secure resources. Your daughter is one such resource. When we opted to deliver her here to you, it was on condition that she change. We knew that you'd discover that, and we knew that she would, too. She was raised behind walls. I needed her to experience and see the world as it is in order for her to see the stakes and see her role, and we were willing to do that -- even if it meant you forgetting yours."
They ran a full psychological profile on Leo and Hope, revealing the betrayed Bennett would "still keeping working towards what was most important: building an apparatus of knowledge and research to save humanity."
"Nothing's more important to me than my family," says Leo. To that, Kublek says, "But you left them, didn't you?" The CRM chose to overlook his covert -- and illegal -- transmissions back home that they chose to overlook. An "error in judgment." Kublek gives a word of advice: don't make any more.prevnext
All eyes are on Hope as she explores the CR facility campus. People around her age, some older, pass her by. She takes notes of the facility security -- cameras, guards, patrols -- hiding her notebook when Lyla introduces herself.
Hope notices the Three Circle symbol tattoo on the outstretched hand of dad's "colleague." Lyla, wearing a security badge, offers a tour that Hope happily accepts. "Show me everything."
Dennis hands Silas a worker's jacket and leads him into a warehouse stocked with barrels and other stashes marked with the Three Circle symbol of the CRM. A growling empty is locked in a cage, wearing some kind of blinking device strapped to its back.
Outside, Silas eyeballs his surroundings: workers around his age use catch poles with bladed ends to impale the heads of empties stacked in smoldering piles. Webb reports to Dennis of a B-Oh-Four, dead battery they put in Two. They're finishing up with stage-sixers and then it's clean-up and load-up. Right on schedule.
Dennis introduces the decontamination team who will train Silas: Webb (Jesse Gallegos), Tiga (Ry Chase), and Grady (Kellen Joseph Quinn). Dennis hands Silas a catch pole -- a kill stick -- with an order and instructions: kill an empty with a stab and a twist. Silas performs the task without hesitation.prevnext
Foundation for a Future
Lyla shows Hope around the CR facility, a government-funded educational research lab before the fall. It housed experiments in dark matter and neutrino physics, but now, the Civic Republic uses the place for its own purposes.
"Down here, we're laying the foundation to one day find out why the world turned," explains Lyla.
"So you're trying to find a cure."
"Pinpointing what inside us makes us turn -- whether it be fungal, bacterial, viral, or something else entirely -- sure, that's one part of it," says Lyla, touring past windowed labs at work. "But it's also about finding a way to get rid of the ones who have already turned. By investigating and hopefully discovering what keeps the dead animated, what inside them slows their decomposition rates and feeds their appetite, we hope to one day turn off those triggers, eliminate the dead as a threat, and eradicate them from the earth."
Hope says it sounds "a little far-fetched." Lyla admits they take a big-picture approach, but as Hope researches and investigates, she will pass on that knowledge to the next generation. And so on.
Hope spots a door: authorized military personnel only. She sneaks away to the bathroom -- wink, wink -- as Lyla heads towards Leo's office through a door leading to production labs, specimen processing, the bio-nano lab, and a microscopy suite.
A young guy, Mason, shows Hope inside the door: a supply closet with nothing special.prevnext
Worth the Risk
At The Perimeter, Brody (Lee Spencer) tells Indira that their three new refugees can't be trusted: Iris killed a CRM soldier with one of their weapons, and Will is wanted by the CRM. They've put everyone at risk.
Iris wants a chance to make things right, but Brody hands over the CRM code book filled with notes on CRM supply drops, fuel depots… information the military will kill to keep secret. Will says they have a plan that will take the heat off of him -- and help protect everyone else.
A CRM convoy sends everyone into a panic. Indira tells the three fugitives to hide. NOW.
Brody hurriedly covers up Iris' code book. "If we don't hand them over," he reminds Indira, "you know what we could lose."
"That's not what we're about. Not a word."
Kublek steps in and apologizes for stopping by unannounced. They're investigating a security issue: a soldier who went missing not far from here the night before. She can't imagine anyone from The Perimeter would endanger their agreement. No, it's suspected someone at the facility is causing trouble.
They've seen no new faces, Indira lies. Kublek points out a damaged wall -- reason to have her soldiers search the village to make sure no one slipped in unnoticed. The CRM searches the house. Kublek goes to peek behind a curtain hiding the trio -- Iris reaches for her knife -- radio static interrupts. They have eyes on their missing soldier. A sigh of relief as Kublek apologizes for the intrusion and departs.prevnext
Lyla explains to Hope that her dad is working hard for her and her sister. For their future. Other people are counting on him, too. Lyla plays a pre-recorded video from Leo to their partners in the Civic Republic.
"Last spring, we took the biorecorder we've been developing and fused it to the brain stem of a dead one," says Leo over footage of himself, Lyla, and their colleagues. After some glitches, the biorecorder has "given us the ability to record and transmit the dead's biological response to environmental stimuli," providing valuable tracking data to help approximate and predict behavior.
They'd tried for years, Lyla says, but Dr. Leo Bennett cracked it in two months. The program is in its infancy, but has allowed CR researchers to collect "troves of information -- small variations in brain chemistry, variations in speed, implying pursuit behaviors, the effect of weather on movement and awareness -- massive amounts of data that will open the doors to further avenues of research," explains Leo in the video.
Leo reveals his research: infecting the dead with strains of fungi that grow on necrotic flesh. "It's conceivable if we can modify an existing fungus, then we can one day accelerate the dead's rate of decay, virtually neutralizing them as an active, mobile threat."prevnext
The Age of the Unknown
At a gully, Kublek looks down on what appears to be the missing Will -- actually the hand-picked empty from earlier wearing Will's jacket. Kublek orders the information limited to CRM personnel -- Dr. Bennett doesn't need the bad news that the body of his missing security detail is about to wash away.
Hope thumbs through her father's research: "Advanced Immunology: What to Know in the Age of the Unknown." Inside, a dedication to Hope and Iris: "May the future forever shine brightly in your eyes, and everything you do."
They're in his personal quarters. She's figured out Lyla is his girlfriend. There are more pressing matters: the CRM still hasn't found Iris and Felix. "You sure there isn't something you're leaving out?" He asks her to be honest. "Hope… what the hell's going on?"prevnext
Fixing What's Broke
At the decontamination center, Silas and the crew clear corpses. He doesn't understand what's happening here. Grady explains: "A few times a week, we lure the dead in with lights and music. We blow them up, then we clean them up." Where do the parts go? "We take them off-site, we've got trucks."
Silas asks Dennis if the CRM always sends strays here. The answer is no. The others signed on because they want to be a part of something bigger. "This?" Silas asks, incredulous.
"You know, this place was the first of its kind? Now there are six others spread across the state, only bigger. Stadiums, arenas, all operated by trained military personnel," Dennis says, "all playing a role in an experiment in mass culling. And if the modeling's right… we can clear out the state while the measures keep more from coming in, we can gain a foothold. We can start to bring back what this place had in energy, agriculture, commerce. This? This is a training ground for that. That's what we're doing here. Starting over."
"And is that what you're doing here?" asks Silas.
"I'm a mechanic," answers Dennis. "Trucks, choppers… Train the others, I fix what's broke."
Dennis leaves in his truck. Webb says he's headed to RF to drop off a dead one. RF? The CR's research facility. Grady has ambitions to get there as a guard one day. The group asks if Silas knows anyone there -- a secret lady friend, maybe?
"Maybe him and Dennis got that in common," says Tiga. Silas watches a CRM helicopter fly overhead.
In his truck, Dennis pulls down his visor. On it: a photo of himself, smiling, arms wrapped around Huck. The ex-soldier studies the polaroid for a moment and puts the photo away.prevnext
Felix asks Iris how she's feeling. Their plan worked. They took some heat off Will, and Indira is letting them stay. But she was scared she wouldn't get a chance to hit back at the CRM.
"You sure you're ready for this?" asks Felix.
"Killing that soldier," she says, "I thought I was numb. I wasn't. I was angry. This is war. Even if they don't know it yet."
Deep inside the RF, zombified Test Subject A 4.0.2. -- once Lyla and Leo's colleague, Dr. Samuel Abbott of Portland -- is muzzled and strapped to a gurney.
"Yes, Hope seems to be coming around," Lyla says to someone. "Which is good, because we might need her help to bring her father around."
"He will," says her visitor: Kublek. "He's anxious about his other daughter, but we'll find her."
"It's not just that. The whole manipulation to get Hope here… it's eroded some of his enthusiasm towards the CRM, towards all the very promising work he's doing. I think we'll need her to keep him motivated."
"I thought that's what you were for," Kublek shoots back.
"I'm doing my best."
"I just hope it's good enough. For his sake. And yours."
Lyla asks when she'll receive her next test subject. "It's been a while since my last premortem, and I'm assuming Major General Beale's plans are moving ahead as scheduled?"
Kublek confirms that they are. "I think you'll have what you need in time."
Lyla looks out at her empty experiment.
End of episode.
New episodes of TWD: World Beyond Season 2 premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD and stay tuned to ComicBook for coverage all season long.prev