Maggie and Negan take in/on the Big Apple in the first of The Walking Dead’s last gasps.
Maggie and Negan travel into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland; the crumbling city is filled with the dead and denizens who have made New York City their own world full of anarchy, danger, beauty and terror.
Predecessor: The Walking Dead
First episode date: June 18, 2023 (USA)
Genres: Serial, Zombie apocalypse, Horror fiction
Program creator: Eli Jorne
The Walking Dead: Dead City’s first season premieres on AMC on June 18.
The walking Dead: Dead City Trailer
The Walking Dead: Dead City – Season 1 Review
With The Walking Dead wrapped up and Fear the Walking Dead closing up shop, the franchise continues with Dead City, featuring strange bedfellows Maggie and Negan. They team up for a six-episode mission in Manhattan, which one can imagine, now 15(ish?) years into the saga’s zompocalypse, is in less-than-ideal shape. Dead City offers up better material than both previous shows have given us in a couple years, but it also stumbles off the blocks by undoing much of the key emotional work these two characters did over the course of Walking Dead’s final season.
Dead City is a soft recommendation. Walking Dead superfans? All yours. Completionists? Have at it. Maggie and Negan fans, specifically? This was designed for you. More casual viewers? Maybe. Folks who feel the franchise’s best years are behind it, and that the latter half of The Walking Dead’s tenure was a massive space-waster? Proceed with caution. Not much new ground is covered here; there are newer, better zombie shows on the block now, and they fill their episodes with denser, more effective material.
One can speculate if Dead City’s step backwards in Maggie and Negan’s relationship is designed to appease lapsed fans who may have skipped Walking Dead’s eleventh season, or because it’s presumed that the only interesting dynamic for these two characters is for them to be at each other’s’ throats until all is forgiven again. Whatever the reason, it’s Dead City’s method for not wasting time and space with flat, thin characters. Remember, we left these two at an “okay” place when Maggie offered Negan, along with his wife and unborn child, a place at Hilltop. They weren’t buds but they could coexist, in close proximity… but then Dead City picks up a couple years later and just trashes that so it can run us through a repeat of this redemption arc.
On the upside, despite Dead City insisting that Maggie and Negan still have s*** to sort out – and, to the story’s credit, there are explanations here and there as to why Maggie’s gone back to her old “End of Season 10” stance regarding him – the adventures ahead offer up a new Escape from New York-style sandbox and a vile new villain in Željko Ivanek’s Croat. A city teeming with zombies isn’t new to the genre, but it is sort of new to The Walking Dead (Atlanta was a long time ago, at least) so there are moments here that liven things up. Stars Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan still work wonderfully together, despite their characters’ hostile relationship being a retread.
A city teeming with zombies isn’t new to the genre, but it is sort of new to The Walking Dead.
You’ll get zombie cage fights, harrowing zip-lines across buildings, new weapons, fresh armor, and a peek inside an altogether different realm. A lot of it takes place in darkness and shadows, sometimes to a frustrating degree (be ready to turn up the brightness on your TV), but it’s still a decent contrast to the vast, bland, outdoorsy aspect of the main series over the past couple seasons. This is the most dystopian The Walking Dead has ever felt, given that our characters are sneaking through a ruined metropolis (midtown Manhattan, specifically). It’s a chance to see fallen landmarks and a toppled civilization.
Also…Maggie and Negan got their own spinoff for a reason, right? The Walking Dead carried the burden, for years, of having a large and mostly underserved ensemble. An ensemble the show became way too precious with compared to how little they did with these folks. Maggie and Negan are top-tier, though. And Maggie learning to live with Negan – and not just let him live, which she already did back in Season 8 when she spared his life – was a huge arc on a show with very few emotional changes (the character journeys were usually innocent-to-dangerous or menacing-to-kind). Dead City indulging in a relapse, and bubbling up their previous hate vibes, also undoes Negan’s Walking Dead endpoint as a budding family man. Again, reasons are provided but they don’t make the torching of previous heavy lifting more palatable.
Dead City indulging in a relapse also undoes Negan’s Walking Dead endpoint as a budding family man.
Dead City draws upon Maggie’s trauma and Negan’s position as the founder/leader of the Saviors to explore a new, niche corner of ravaged America. Manhattan is now a truly cut-off island due to the military blowing up bridges and tunnels and as a crowded skyscraper graveyard it’s now ruled by someone from Negan’s past. Someone whose methods echo the Saviors playbook – even going so far as to torment Maggie again by swiping her teenage son Hershel (now played by Logan Kim) and hiding him away in the concrete jungle. Thematically, this near-impossible rescue mission totally works to bring Maggie and Negan back into each other’s orbit years after the events of The Walking Dead finale, but it misses the opportunity to build on what’s already been created between these two beloved characters.
The most eye-rolling new aspect here is the inclusion of Mahina Napoleon as young Ginny, a mute girl who Negan is protecting. It’s an almost too-obvious attempt to get in on the “surrogate apocalypse dad” trend. Making Ginny mute also feels like a shortcut, in that little attention is given to her having any layers as a character, but not as much of a cheat as how little payoff there is to this pairing. The Walking Dead not only gave Negan a soft, nurturing relationship with Judith but they gave him his own kid. Instead of exploring any of this further though, it wipes it all clean and introduces a stranger who can barely advocate for herself (but sure is capable of doing dumb things when the plot demands, of course).