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The Walking Dead: Dead City Review: An Unnecessary Show To Munch On

EDITORS' RATING : 4.5 / 10
  • Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan know how to hold a show together
  • Negan is sporadically entertaining
  • The show is based on the tired premise that Negan killed Maggie's husband and, therefore, owes her
  • The editing can make the show hard to follow
  • There's just no need for another "Walking Dead" show

When "The Walking Dead" ended, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) didn't part as allies, exactly, but they had at least come to a truce. While Maggie will never get over what Negan did to her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun), they had reached enough of an understanding that she wasn't going to go after him either. Negan felt remorseful about Glenn's death and was willing to live with that conclusion. It wasn't a happy ending exactly, but it was about as happy as could be expected from these two.

Fast forward to "The Walking Dead: Dead City." It's been several years since Maggie has seen Negan. They live in different places and, therefore, haven't crossed paths in quite a while, but Maggie's son Hershel (Logan Kim) has been taken and the person who took him had a very specific way of summoning his minions: with a whistle. Maggie knows this is the signal that Negan used with his group when he was in charge, so she's tracked Negan down to help her in the search, and so Negan can speak to the man who took her son when they find him in New York City, where he's holed up.

Negan has sent his wife and young child elsewhere in the years since "The Walking Dead," but he's picked up a troubled teen named Ginny (Mahina Napoleon) who's lost her father, and consequently, refuses to speak. After Maggie and Negan drop Ginny off at Maggie's new home, Negan is willing to do what Maggie asks. Of course, Negan has attracted the attention of a Marshall (Gaius Charles) who wants him for the murder of five men, including a magistrate, so they have that to contend with too. It looks like it's going to be a long, complicated search made more challenging by the fact that Maggie has trouble even looking at Negan.

The fact that "Dead City" takes place in New York is no accident, as it gives the production an excuse to take on a totally different environment than "The Walking Dead." In the lore of the show, the military blew up all of the city's bridges and tunnels in an effort to rein in the dead. It didn't work, but it did make it impossible to get to the city except by boat. So Maggie and Negan float across the river and find themselves in a sea of huge buildings. It should be exciting, but honestly, we already have enough "Dead" shows. One more is still more than we need, even if it does star Maggie and Negan and take place in New York City

A tasty snack, in flashes

Whether it's necessary or not, it's true that if they were going to make another "Walking Dead" show, there are worse ideas than a show about Maggie and Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in particular, shows flashes of that old spark that first made him stand out on "The Walking Dead," especially during a scene in a bank in the second episode. Negan's a changed man and he does feel bad about what he did to Maggie, but he can still throw down with the best of them when the need arises, not to mention talk a great game. He uses both of those skills many times here, and it's a joy to see.

Lauren Cohan has the less showy role, but Maggie's still the most competent one in the room. She also does great work in mother-son scenes with Logan Kim's Hershel, who as a teenager seems to hate her. Maggie's in a tough spot, determined to get her son back while also hiding a lot of secrets. She's doing her best, but of course, her best may not be good enough when it comes to her son.

Together these two have more than enough charisma to hold the center of a TV series and it shows. Though others, including Gaius Charles as Marshall Armstrong and Željko Ivanek as the man who took Hershel, the Croat, are in the mix, it all comes back to these two. It's a talented ensemble, but Morgan and Cohan are undoubtedly the leaders of this series. As a result, there are some scenes that manage to rise above the ho-hum nature of another "Walking Dead" series, like Negan and Maggie ziplining from one side of the road to the other or the pair finally coming to an emotional confrontation.

Incoherent and confused

The problem with "Dead City" is that none of those great moments last long enough. We know what the ultimate goal of the story is, but the reasoning is tired. Negan killed Glenn years ago by our count, and according to the timeline of this show, it's even longer. And yet, it's still a major plot point. While what happened to Glenn will always be between Maggie and Negan, it would be nice if these two were brought together by something other than that.

Then there are things like the way the show is shot. While "Dead City" is nicely desaturated in keeping with its city setting, that makes some of the night or low light shots very hard to see. Plus, much of the story becomes confused by the terrible way the shots match up in editing. I understand it's hard to keep things coherent in a story that partially takes place on the New York City streets, but this is a shame. Also a shame is the way things happen before there's an explanation for them because the individuals who are affected don't register shock the way they should.

Taken together, these things drag the story down and make it confusing. While Negan and Maggie elevate the show, there are many elements working against them. Plus, while "The Walking Dead" could be graphic, "Dead City" takes that to another level, including replaying parts of Glenn's death, the most graphic part of "The Walking Dead," repeatedly. As a result, "Dead City" has its moments, but simply doesn't feel like a necessary watch. "The Walking Dead" had its time, and this show may capture some of that magic, but it's not enough to recommend it.

"The Walking Dead: Dead City" premieres on Sunday, June 18 on AMC and AMC+.