Review: The Walking Dead: Dead City effectively reboots & resets the franchise back to the mainstream Negan golden era of TWD Season 7.
Overall, Dead City is better than Fear, World Beyond, and TWD Seasons 9 (post-Rick) through 11. Lead villain Željko Ivanek and Ozark’s Lisa Emery are fantastic standout new additions, superb acting by both.
This TWD: Dead City review contains minor spoilers for Season 1. They do not impact the overall viewing experience and are described minimally only for the purposes of reviewing.
Pros and Cons of The Walking Dead: Dead City
• Jeffrey Dean Morgan turns back the dial on Negan. Classic Negan is about 70% back. Full on uncensored cursing, dangerous horror villain, murderous side seeping through.
For example, Spencer Monroe-like stomach gutting from a balcony with one-liner, ‘Get your umbrellas out! I see any of you again, it’ll rain on you like a hurricane!’
• Essentially, a Negan / nu-Sanctuary reboot with a much better understanding of what made Negan a popular character to begin with. ‘Apologizing’ post-prison Negan greatly reduced.
• The scenery of New York City instead of the green-on-green forests we’ve become accustomed to in Georgia freshen up the whole TWD universe massively. Zip-lining across skyscrapers looks visually impressive.
Hybrid hook / grapple guns are a video game friendly expansion to the TWD universe.
• Speaking of aesthetics, later episodes have Maggie Rhee looking straight up like Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft… Also, visually impressive! 😉
• Action scenes are abundant and entertaining, cinematography is on a very high level. Large amount of picturesque film shots. Great directing and visual eye behind the camera.
Standouts include the Croat on a catwalk giving a greeting to someone (won’t name) below.
A fight featuring Negan kicking someone else (won’t name) off a raised platform with walkers surrounding below.
• Željko Ivanek as The Croat is an excellent, unpredictable lead villain. One of the franchise’s best. Terrific acting. He’ll win you over as an unstable force from the end of the opening episode.
• Though you don’t see her till much later in the series, Ozark’s Lisa Emery shows exactly why Darlene Snell was an iconic TV series character. One of her major scenes as ‘The Dama’ brings back vivid memories of Darlene Snell in fact, right down to the smile.
• Simon citing! A flashback cameo by the multi-talented Steven Ogg, who looks exactly the same as he did back then. Almost like the scene was filmed years ago.
• Lean cast. Dead City is focused. You don’t go ‘one episode you see Rick in Alexandria, then a side character in Oceanside, then the Kingdom’ and so forth.
You see Negan and Maggie’s journey every episode, there’s no ‘delayed gratification’ of the story that later seasons of TWD suffered from. Where by the time you returned to the lead (Rick) you need a recap of what you’re watching.
• Mutated walkers show the series is going out of its expected elements. No longer has the walkers in a predictable box, behavior wise for the audience.
• Use of Madison Square Garden, the world’s greatest arena, enough said. UFC style octagon scenes reminiscent of The Governor’s Daryl & Merle fight in Woodbury and Rick’s challenge with the scavengers. Grand spectacle throughout in Dead City. Amazing filming location choice.
Local New Yorkers will really get a kick out of seeing MSG and familiar locations like Macy’s (even if it is ultimately kind of a product placement).
• High quality soundtrack by composer Ian Hultquist. Dark electronic ambience style. Those who loved Fear The Walking Dead’s original intro music by Atticus Ross will enjoy the tracks here.
• Negan and Ginny’s relationship is clearly Negan and Lydia redux. It’s not subtle in the least even, but somehow doesn’t matter. Déjà vu or not, it just works…
Mostly, because of actress Mahina Napoleon’s natural on-screen father / daughter chemistry with Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Usually, I’d get on a series for borrowing so obviously from itself. But even if Ginny is basically Lydia without Lydia, it’s effective as Ginny is likable.
Mahina Napoleon’s Ginny is also largely a silent character which presents a new dynamic. Ginny has multiple great scenes with Negan throughout but one particular chat (which I won’t name where it happens) is one of Dead City’s best scenes.
• Perlie Armstrong has a strong introduction, a shades of gray ‘good guy’. Actor Gaius Charles plays the character well.
All that said, seems they attach a bit of a sob story to Perlie to force you to feel sorry for him. Perlie’s direct explanation of his backstory feels inorganic. ‘Character Lore’ for the audience at home. Breaks immersion.
Perlie is much more interesting as a character outside of Maggie’s bar at a fence interrogation where he gets information early on. Sticking to the law to the dot. No inhibitions or feelings about it all.
• Uneven writing. Character specific writing introducing The Croat is strong. While the lead Negan / Maggie storyline has logical gaps you consciously ignore on this rollercoaster ride.
Even Negan early on tells Maggie he can just take her out, she’d have no leverage over him. So why doesn’t he? For the sake of the TV audience?
* Similar to when The Governor took out Hershel Sr. (someone he’d barely met) instead of Michonne (who took his eye, eliminated zombie Penny for good, and brought about the end of his control on Woodbury). It doesn’t really make sense but the audience is expected to just not think about it too much.
Tomasso giving a backstory about the ‘bad guys’ at one point is so all over the place, you’re kind of left just wanting to move on to the next action scene.
However, there has been a lot of emphasis on rebuilding Negan to his former glory so fans only remember the S7 premiere and forget the jailed ‘good guy’ rehab of later seasons. Very important to mainstream fans who tuned out after Season 7.
• Character past told in tedious one-on-one ‘talkies’ instead of shown for the audience.
This is an on-going pandemic across The Walking Dead franchise as a whole. Somber music playing as each character relays their own sad ‘woe is me’ story.
Organic conversations lived in the present are superior in every way. For example, a devastating line Negan delivers in a later episode about ‘a debt he has to pay’ has 5,000 times the impact of any of the sedating lore convos.
If it was a PlayStation 5 game you’d click ‘skip cutscene’ every time. Perhaps, the ‘talkies’ are cost effective, starting largely with the ‘Beth and Daryl speaking in the cabin’ episode (“Still”) eons ago. But it’s annoying now as a plot tool.
Would rather the episodes just be shorter, so only the great stuff remains. No padding.
• Lots of implausible scenarios that require major suspension of disbelief like mainstream Hollywood blockbusters.
For example, characters making it to New York across the river with ease paddling scene-to-scene. First aid for a major leg wound administered in about 10 seconds. Flash forward maybe assumed?
One character roaming undetected on their own as an unofficial ‘detective’ while the real one struggles.
• Still a bit too much of one-dimensional ‘Angry’ Maggie instead of the character the fanbase fell in love with in the early seasons. It considerably improves in the last episode when another character actually comments on it.
• Feel of forced plot elements in Episode 1 “Old Acquaintances” to make the series come together with a reason to go to New York City. Negan and Ginny agreeing to separate temporarily too easily so Negan can go with Maggie solo. Despite Ginny being spoken of as ‘sticking like glue’ to Negan.
The show should have just started in New York instead of the outskirts of ‘New Babylon’. Maggie’s action scene at the bar is fun to watch and it would have been better off presented as a New York bar.
However, there are positives like walkers falling out of the sky the first time Negan and Maggie arrive in NYC. Turns the tables on your expectations.
• ‘Bricks’ name for the community because there’s literally bricks is kind of silly. Sure Hilltop and Oceanside weren’t glamorous but Alexandria, Sanctuary and the Kingdom had a special feel to them.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Review Score
Overall Review Score: 8.2
Back to basics. Negan, nu-Sanctuary (nu-Saviors), Walkers being fearsome foes instead of easily dispatched without a thought. New York City’s aesthetics and skyscrapers provide fresh possibilities.
Open surroundings that can turn claustrophobic on a dime, a feel of high stakes action. No true safe haven from the walkers.
Main Cast of The Walking Dead: Dead City (Characters)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan Smith
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene
Željko Ivanek as The Croat
Lisa Emery as The Dama
Steven Ogg as Simon (Cameo Only)
Mahina Napoleon as Ginny
Logan Kim as Hershel Rhee
Gaius Charles as Perlie Armstrong
Eleanor Reissa as Esther
Jonathan Higginbotham as Tommaso
Karina Ortiz as Amaia
Michael Anthony as Luther
Trey Santiago-Hudson as Jano
Aixa Kendrick as Scavenger
Caleb Reese Paul as Wesley
Charlie Solis as ‘The Bartender’
The Walking Dead: Dead City cast is led by series creator Eli Jorné. Dead City primarily takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York City. Maggie and Negan are its two lead protagonist characters. The show is based on the work of Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
Note: Rick Grimes is not mentioned by name on Dead City Season 1. Although Rick is partially alluded to when Negan retells the tale of Sanctuary in a kind of recap.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Release Date
When does The Walking Dead: Dead City come out you ask? Dead City will premiere on Sunday, June 18 at 9:00 pm ET on AMC and AMC+.
Where to watch ‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’ early?
* You can watch Dead City early on June 15th with AMC+, which is AMC’s exclusive streaming platform.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Trailer
– Watch the official Dead City TV series trailer above.
Walking Dead Exclusive Interviews
Be sure to read and watch:
It’s great to see New York City officially added to The Walking Dead’s filming locations. It was time to step out of Senoia, Georgia for a while and give the franchise a brand new look.
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