Annet Mahendru is no stranger to bringing resilient and empowering roles to life, but this one is chock full of trauma and horror.
Annet Mahendru. You know her as Nina from The American’s on FX, but now, you can be introduced to former Marine Jennifer Mallick AKA “Huck” on The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
There have been many butt-kicking female roles for over several horror decades that have continued to inspire unique ideas and girl-power across the globe. Some that come to mind are, Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise.), Nancy Thompson (Nightmare On Elm Street), Clarice Starling (Silence of The Lambs) among many, many others. But, quite frankly–I’ve never seen one as heart-wrenching as Jennifer Mallick.
As little girls, we all want someone to look up to. Someone brave. Someone outspoken. And this character is definitely all that and a bag of chips. (90’s kid here!) With an accent that is a cross between Queens, NY and Southern, Jenny walks around with that swagger you wanted to have in high school. Of course, it’s also the equivalent of an excited child with their new lunchbox. This character just radiates energy and personality, as well as a raspy voice and a look that could make you think it was Michelle Rodriguez’s adopted little sister. You just are drawn to her as both a character and a viewer.
There is a platonic soulmate of a connection with Felix Carlucci (Nico Tortorella), right down to calling him out on wearing his absent boyfriend Will’s (Jelani Alladin) leather jacket on his birthday. (“Happy birthday, b*****ch.”) These are two people who love each other unconditionally as comrades in arms. Unfortunately, these are also the two sad souls who got stuck with babysitting the lead teenagers on their journey into the beyond. World’s best babysitters? Heck yeah!
We found out Jennifer’s backstory in Episode 7: Truth or Dare, masterfully directed by The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz. In her early twenties, Jennifer became part of the Marines and served in Afghanistan. Somewhere along the way, she developed a crush on her spotting partner Drake (Gil Perez-Abraham) and it seemed like he just wasn’t up for the whole commitment thing.
In a magenta t-shirt, a dark-haired short wig and a flutter of excitement, we met the (Look, ma! No scar.) plucky Lance Corporeal Mallick throwing darts in a bar, blind-folded. Spoiler alert? With Drake’s directional expertise being whispered into her ear, she made all four bullseyes. Then there was the standard high-five, the bro-hug, the token dude fart jokes, which then led into more serious territory.
It’s then that you learned that something happened between herself and Drake at The Devil’s Pass, and he is clearly not into talking about it. Her smile dropped, and immediately you feel that insecurity and pain on Annet’s face as if it were your own. (Acting, kids!)
Of course, this scene was interrupted by an emergency broadcast on one of the bar’s televisions. Bummer. Later, they’re all armed to the teeth and ready to go. The orders were to go into the city tunnels and rescue the survivors. Jennifer was the first one to figure out that headshots were lethal. And thanks to Drake, she switched on the thermal scope to show that the undead had lower body temperatures. They successfully took them out, but not before she returned to the surface and inquired about her team casualties when a few familiar faces were MIA.
But that was the least of her problems. Their orders were to exterminate everyone they saved, for fear that they are infected. All you have to do is look at Mahendru’s expression, and you know it’s on like Donkey Kong. Jen kicked the generator switch with her boot and mowed down her team in the darkness. By the time she got to Drake, she hesitated. When he refused to lower his own aim, she had no choice but to shoot him. It can also be noted, that Drake had the very same scar we saw on Mallick in the present. A reminder. We’re shown her walking out solo with the survivors (babies, kids!), and years later carving a scar into her face.
This is a woman who knows war, but who clearly has a good heart. She’s tenacious but passionate. And you seldom see all of these different traits in one specific character, at least in one season of a television show. But then, as we started to get more and more into the episodes, it turned out that Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) The Civic Republic’s co-commander, is her mother. Her father left, and she resented both of her parents for it, which led to them being estranged for so long. Elizabeth pretty much saved her daughter’s butt, where the law would otherwise step in because of her past misdeed.
But with these things? There was always a price. The CRM is known for doing things by brute force, which is why Elizabeth trusted Jennifer enough to go through with the mission her own way. Without any casualties. And in one way, she succeeded. Child prodigy Hope Bennett (Alexa Mansour) needed to be reunited with her father in the CRM compound to help them bring back the world. However, Jennifer sees a lot of herself in Hope, and knows that it would be better to make her want to come, VS. forcing her to. She rigged a secret fax machine to send letters as Hope’s dad, making it appear as if he were in trouble. It worked.
Sadly, all of the kids decided to go, making them expendable to the CRM. You can see Jen having an inner war with herself, while still trying to save people and see the big picture. Ultimately, she had no choice but to kill two newcomers (who were a little too curious about the CRM and their maps, trucks, fuel sites, etc.), and pin it on the most obvious choice, the quick-tempered Silas Plaskett (Hal Cumpston). Luckily, the youngest of the group, Elton Ortiz (Nicolas Cantu) decided to go with the self-exiled Silas. With the group now split, Jen could now drive them where they needed to go (and purposely crash) to save the remaining two.
Eventually, she had no choice but to cut Felix’s foot, rendering him unable to travel with them. Her plan was to keep both him and Iris Bennett (Aliyah Royale) safe, while she and Hope went to meet the CRM in the field. It backfired when her lies began to slip, and eventually, the two sisters talked out their suspicions to each other. Hope stole Jen’s gun, as the two left in the night, while Iris and Felix figured it out too late. It was revealed that Hope cracked a code via maps and Mallick’s small notebook, making out that she was the asset. Jen’s whole fake backstory was that her mom died, she drifted along the river on a raft with a broken arm, until Omaha security found her.) In reality, she broke her own arm, drifted on that raft, and became someone new to get their trust.
The two end up talking it out, but not until they’re surrounded by empties. Eventually, they are forced to find shelter for the night, which ends up right back where all four of them started. Similar to the generator kick, she knocked the lantern and Felix down the stairs. They fight. Just when Jen was about to deliver the killing blow to her best friend (and hesitates!), Hope unscrewed the silencer from her gun, and fired a shot in the air. Holding it to her temple, there was no choice but to stop.
With an awkward goodbye, Jennifer told Felix that they would find safety five miles north. The CRM doesn’t know about it, and low and behold–Will is there, along with many other CRM defectors. The next morning, Elizabeth admitted that the Campus Colony was gone to her daughter’s shock (and we already heard her tell Elizabeth to tell the CRM to go to hell after it’s all over.) We learned that after she got Hope to them, she had every pure intention of taking the others back home. Unfortunately, that home was gone. Now, all of this has come full-circle, and I think we’re about to get served one heck of an everyone against the CRM season 2.
Thus proving, Jennifer Mallick is a good person, who would quite frankly, die for those kids, and the only trouble she was ever involved with–was for helping someone else. She is selfless, courageous, and layered. Well done to a wonderful actress (and my friend), Annet Mahendru.
What are you most excited about in the second season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond? What scene of Huck’s was your favorite? Do you like fly sunglasses and hate lettuce in your sandwich like her too? We want to know all about it in the comments section.