TV Review: “Just Beyond (Disney+)

Just Beyond is a fun filled series from the mind of R.L. Stine that is a must watch this Halloween season. With shades of The Twilight Zone, the new series debuting on Disney+ with all eight episodes offers kids a taste of fright without terrorizing them. While kids are always looking to expand the boundaries of their scary movies/tv, viewers will not only get the occasionally fright but will enjoy the restrained tales of the paranormal.

Each episode lasts less than thirty minutes, and since the show is comprised of eight separate stories, viewers who are new to the world of R.L. Stine will have a chance to sample eight unique narratives that exude the whimsy, wonder, and majesty of an R.L. Stine story. The season consists of “Leave Them Kids Alone”, “Parents Are From Mars, Kids Are From Venus”, “Which Witch”, “My Monster”, “Unfiltered”, “We’ve Got Spirits, Yes We Do”, “Standing Up For Yourself”, and “The Treehouse”, which are all independent and allow viewers to pick and choose where they want to start their journey without missing anything important by not watching the episodes in order.

Just Beyond is a refreshing change in the television landscape. Not only did I enjoy each episode, but when my children sat down to join me, I got to see how they viewed the show. My ten-year old and eight-year-old sat engrossed for the afternoon as we sailed through the series. In the season of ghosts and goblins, Just Beyond offers some spooks and scares without traumatizing the audience with excessive gore and violence. Instead of following a mass murderer, the audience is treated to great storytelling that will make you jump every now and then.

The first episode “Leave Them Kids Alone” allows viewers to dip their toes into the pool before jumping in for a swim. “Leave Them Kids Alone” tells the story of Veronica, a socially conscious teenager suspended from school and forced to attend Miss Genevieve’s School for Difficult Girls. The reform school is not to Veronica’s liking. The oppressive headmistress Miss Genevieve runs a strict school where the girls dress the same and all have the same haircut. Veronica learns that Miss Genevieve is brainwashing the students by giving them a special haircut. Not wanting to lose her independence, Veronica breaks the spell, freeing the girls and ending Miss Genevieve’s reign of terror.

“Which Witch” is a timely tale of a witch named Fiona who attends a human school and must learn to fit in with her peers by hiding her witch characteristics. Her friends and peers know that she is a witch, but the age-old rules of high school force Fiona to be anything but her true self.

“My Monster” sees another teenager named Olivia coming to terms with the mysterious monster that is plaguing her dreams and following her during the day. Living in her grandparent’s house with her mom, Olivia must contend with a new school, making friends, and accepting the loss of her father. While this episode may elicit the most fright throughout the series, the message of the episode rings true throughout the series. The greatest fear in the world is not some monster, but your own feelings.

The last episode in the series “The Treehouse” is one that will strike a chord with kids and their parents. Sam’s dad recently died, and while sitting in the treehouse that he and his father built reading his late father’s favorite comic book, the treehouse is destroyed in a storm with Sam waking up in an alternate reality. In this new world his mom and dad are alive but not his parents. Sam realizes he needs to convince his mom and dad to help him, and what results is a young boy who gets to build a treehouse with his dad one more time. The comic book nature of the story gives way to the emotional loss that Sam has experienced, and the desire of a son to have more time with his father.

Throughout the season the various tales focus on a variety of different themes that kids will relate and connect to immediately. What makes Just Beyond so enjoyable is that I was able to watch each episode and remember my days of reading R.L. Stine books in school. My favorite was his Indiana Jones choose your own adventure book. I wasn’t expecting Just Beyond to hit me in the emotional feels, but that is just one ingredient of the charm that this show exudes. Just Beyond will appeal to younger kids looking to push their boundaries into the world of scary stories, and adults will the see the eight tales of wonder as a chance to reconnect with their love of R.L. Stine books.

With R.L. Stine as a co-executive producer on the series, longtime fans will not be disappointed by the first of what will hopefully be several seasons of Just Beyond.

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