In some respects, The Walking Dead franchise is long in the tooth.
It's hard to imagine the worlds from The Walking Dead or Fear The Walking Dead will still feel fresh the more the current stories go around and around.
Tales of The Walking Dead, though, is downright refreshing. Apparently, I've been wrong in my franchise assessment.
The original and Fear have been tied to the idea that humanity will become apocalyptic gangs. Even trying to reignite society can bring mobs of unknowns trying to tear it down.
The lesson of the franchise certainly seems to be that the real monsters aren't the dead but our fellow man. Damn, if that isn't a dour and unpleasant theory to embrace for years on end between many franchises.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered, through four episodes shared with critics, that hope does exist in The Walking Dead universe.
Tales of The Walking Dead is an anthology series using various points in the timeline of the horror that befalls humanity to shine a light on how the average survivor has been getting along.
In the premiere episode, Terry Crews stars as Joe, a survivor who prepper who was prepared for everything well in advance of the apocalypse -- except for human comfort.
Olivia Munn is another survivor with a similar notion of putting her loneliness in the past, and how the two characters connect on a lonely road to find human contact.
The second episode stars Parker Posey as Blair. Blair owns a real estate firm, and even as things begin falling apart outside, she's determined to keep her staff on target, even as, unbeknownst to them, she plans her escape.
Jillian Bell stars as her receptionist, Gina, and the two have a relationship fraught with tension from unspoken issues. As the duo antagonizes each other, Blair and Gina realize they may be the key to one another's survival, even if it kills them.
Episode 3 will surely appeal to The Walking Dead fans as Alpha's origin story emerges, offering insight into the troubled and terrorizing character. We see Samantha Morton in an entirely different light as a single mother barely hanging on to a changing world.
It's been a year since Dee killed her husband in the industrial basement 43 days into the apocalypse, and her sister has taken on the mother's role in her daughter Lydia's life while Dee protects her from the background.
This is when we see the beginning of Alpha and the lengths she'll go to protect Lydia at the cost of all others.
Episode 4 follows Dr. Everett (Anthony Edwards), a naturalist who has spent the last decade in isolation, spending his days trying to understand the world as it has become, allowing his connection to humanity to falter as he grows ever closer to the creatures he's studying.
He's put to the test when a young woman named Amy (Poppy Liu) crosses into the hotbed of his hordes, forcing Dr. Everett to reconnect with his human side or perhaps disappear into himself forever.
These four stories showcase the triumphs and tragedies of post-apocalyptic humanity, using humor and unexpected warmth to address themes that are often untouched on the other series.
Even if you have long lost faith in the long-running series, you should find something to enjoy in the anthology.
The premiere episode is available on AMC+ now and launches on AMC this Sunday. A new episode drops every week.