Like its monsters of the same name, The Walking Dead is the series that will not die. It goes on – it is revived, renewed, revived. The show’s first reprieve, The Walking Dead: Dead City brings back two favorite characters, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and sends them to Manhattan.
Set indefinitely after The Walking Dead ends (I’m guessing a few years), Maggie goes in search of Negan to help her with a difficult task. A man nicknamed “The Croat” (Željko Ivanek) came to The Hilltop (or rather to a new settlement since the original Hilltop had apparently burned to the ground), took all their grain and kidnapped Maggie’s son Hershel. He promised his men would return every few months for more grain and supplies. The Croat was once one of Negan’s strongmen – one who was known among Negan’s crew as a torturer. He was so bloodthirsty that Negan eventually had to release him. Maggie believes Negan will be of great help in finding the Croat and negotiating her son’s release.
When Maggie finds Negan, he is not accompanied by his wife Annie or their young child; Instead, he is dating a mute girl named Ginny. Negan is also being hunted by the Marshal of New Babylon (a community we learn virtually nothing about) for the murder of five men, one of whom was a judge. Negan agrees to help Maggie in exchange for Ginny finding safety in Maggie’s new community.
The Croatian is set on the island of Manhattan, which was one of the epicenters of the zombie apocalypse. The government blew all bridges in hopes of containing the outbreak; As we all know, that didn’t work and Manhattan became home to millions of zombies and a handful of human survivors. One of them is apparently the Croatian.
An unused Manhattan
I had some issues with the overall logic of the setting. Although Manhattan seems like a great, awful setting the showIn the opening episode, all of the characters make a point of actually getting to the island. Then it doesn’t seem to be very difficult. Heck, when Ginny runs away from her new home to get back to Negan, she makes it to Manhattan floating in a cooler and rowing a wooden plank. She also didn’t seem to have any trouble getting across the streets to Negan’s.
Manhattan is underused as a location. You get plenty of wide-angle shots of the crumbling cityscape, swarming with thousands of zombies roaming the streets, but you don’t really feel a sense of danger when you’re with Maggie, Negan, or any of the few other characters that appear in the series are presented. In fact, they encounter a small group of survivors almost immediately, and there are also mentions of other survivor groups and communities on the island, which makes all the talk of it being Ground Zero seem a bit over the top.
The Walking Dead: Dead City lacks the worldbuilding that the original series was so known for. It feels like the series takes its established characters for granted and gives them new problems with little backstory. We finally find out what happened to Negan’s wife and why he cares about Ginny, but we never find out what happened to Hilltop. Likewise, New Babylon is a major plot point, but we never learn anything about it. Are you a big community? are they corrupt
The new characters we meet are barely outlined. Alongside The Croat, we meet Tommaso (Jonathan Higginbotham) and Amaia (Karina Ortiz) – the two leaders of the barebones survival group that Maggie and Negan encounter early on. We don’t know anything about them other than the fact that they are native New Yorkers. Because there are only six episodes in this season (or series? It’s never clear if it’s a miniseries or if there will be more seasons), the series doesn’t spend much time with Tommaso and Amaia, so I never made a connection to them.
The other new character we meet is Marshal Armstrong (Gaius Charles) who feels like a better portrayed character. He encounters his brother’s corpse in Episode 2, but even then it’s to be expected that he feels compassion for his character, and his backstory isn’t revealed until a few episodes later. However, we spend a lot of time with Armstrong and he seems like a complicated, fully realized character by the end of the series. I want to see more of him.
Ultimately, The Walking Dead: Dead City brings nothing new to the table. It doesn’t introduce new mythology, communities with interesting characters, etc. If you were a big fan of The Walking Dead, you’ll probably watch this show. If you weren’t a fan, Dead City isn’t the place to start. It’s a perfectly average series, which might have been a little more impressive if I hadn’t been still plagued by The Walking Dead, which lasted about three seasons past its prime.
As explained in ComingSoon’s Rating Guidelines, a rating of 5 is Fair. The positives and negatives negate each other making it a wash.