Maggie and Negan travel to post-apocalyptic Manhattan – long ago cut off from the mainland. The crumbling city is filled with the dead and denizens who have made it a world full of anarchy, danger, beauty, and terror.
However, like so many before him, the universe simply refuses to die. As the main series ended, many smaller spin-offs emerged looking to give more bodies (and audience attention) to some fan-favorite characters. “Dead City” was the first of these films, and thus a test to see how these explosive stories would play out. And the future looks a bit bleak.
Set after the original series finale “Dead City”, reunites Maggie (Lauren Cohan), last seen as the leader of the Hilltop, and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the former big bad turned into a semi-repentant hero whose introduction saw him beaten over the head by Maggie’s husband Glenn with his barbed-wire baseball bat, Lucille. (She is nowhere to be found in “Dead City” with no explanation.) Now the two become reluctant partners on a most dangerous mission:
enters zombie-infested Manhattan, which was cut off from the rest of the world at the beginning of the outbreak in a futile attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
As Maggie explains to Negan, a new group of villains has attacked Hilltop, stealing all of their grain and, more importantly, Maggie’s son, Herschel (Logan Kim). Plus, she has a sneaking suspicion that their leader, “The Croat” (Željko Ivanek), has a history with Negan. So they leave for Manhattan, confront the Croats, and get Maggie’s baby back.
The next one is “The Walking Dead,” sort of, but with a healthy dose of “Escape from New York” thrown in like a lot of organs. Ian Hultquist’s synth score evokes John Carpenter’s patented electronic pulses, with Negan and Maggie as our split Snake Plissken wandering the empty streets of New York. They encounter gangs both hostile (Croat henchmen) and friendly (a group of New Yorkers still hoping to retake the island), all wearing leather jackets and armed with improvised weapons. Previous “The Walking Dead” shows were ensemble dramas whose stories were often woven through dozens of central characters; The story of this six-episode season is more focused and better.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows; If you’re tired of the “Walking Dead” formula, “Dead City’s” modest tweaks won’t be enough to save you. Creator/showrunner Eli Jorné (co-creator with “Walking Dead” showrunner Scott M. Gimple) still relies on these proven TWD patterns:
dark flashbacks, horrific bouts of zombie violence from the band KNB EFX interspersed with one weepy monologue after another. Even though Maggie and Negan are stronger than ever (though Negan’s witty one-liners have devolved into dad jokes), the show still keeps them apart for long periods of time. Furthermore, the main supporting characters leave much to be desired:
There’s a small-town marshal (Gaius Charles), whose Javert-like quest to bring Negan to justice doesn’t yield much, and a mute teenager named Ginny (Mahina Napoleon), who’s expected to offer an emotional anchor for Negan, but instead we waste time with pointless subplots.