The Big Picture
The Season 1 finale of The Walking Dead: Dead City fell short of delivering an emotional climax between Maggie and Negan. The character of the Croat was a great villain with a compelling backstory, but was ultimately overshadowed by the introduction of a new antagonist, the Dama. Side characters like Perlie Armstrong started out strong but ended up feeling irrelevant to the plot, detracting from the show’s focus on Maggie and Negan.
The Walking Dead: Dead City reunited the unlikely dynamic duo of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), providing fans with a twisted and clever premise. Gone were the days of drawn-out storylines, cheap visuals, and hollow characters. Instead, The Walking Dead spin-off introduced a series more focused on tight character work that was explored on a journey with a clear end in sight. In the show, Maggie recruited her husband’s killer, Negan, on a rescue mission to save her son Hershel (Logan Kim) from Negan’s old ally, Željko Ivanek’s villainous the Croat.
Dead City’s first few episodes didn’t stray too far from that, exploring the pair’s complex team-up and building the Croat up to be one of The Walking Dead’s best-ever villains. However, as the show progressed, it fell into the trap of its mother show’s downfall and became more about setting up the show for the future, rather than closing out the story that it committed to telling in the first place. Suddenly, things are more complex than the show’s original premise, and just like The Walking Dead, it felt it could end up going on forever.
Maggie and Negan’s Reunion Was Underwhelming in ‘Dead City’s Finale
After Dead City’s penultimate episode revealed the truth behind Maggie’s plan (that it was more of a trade than a rescue mission) Dead City’s finale promised an emotional climax that would put the character’s growth all season to the test. It’s a reunion that the entirety of Dead City had been leading towards… but it didn’t quite stick to the landing.
The frenemies reunion and the following fallout take place around halfway through the finale. It successfully showcases Negan’s growth, with him not resorting to needless violence, as well as highlighting Maggie’s obsession with getting revenge for her husband’s death. After the massive set piece in Episode 4, this conflict felt a little tame in comparison, but it did allow us to focus more on the leading characters, which is definitely more important. This is especially true for a series that has largely put character work before spectacle.
However, after a surprise appearance from the Croat, we hardly see anything more from Negan and Maggie. What should have been the series’ emotional climax felt more like a quick mid-episode skirmish that was ultimately incredibly underwhelming. The remainder of the episode was less focused on Maggie and Negan’s relationship, and more focused on setting up Dead City for its secured Season 2. Yes, it’s great to leave room for more stories to tell, but it sacrificed a pivotal moment in the process. The Walking Dead dragged storylines on for far too long, and Dead City runs the risk of doing the same.
‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’s Croat Got Overshadowed
Image via AMC
Watching the Croat terrorize Dead City’s characters has been yet another highlight of the show. His unpredictable and erratic nature, combined with the torturer’s past connection with Negan made for a great villain and a worthy adversary for the Saviors’ ex-leader, who has long since left his brutal habits behind him. Having worked with the Croat in the past, Negan understands how much danger Maggie’s son Hershel is in. It’s the setup of what could have been The Walking Dead’s best villain yet.
Well, unfortunately, the Croat turned out to be just a pawn in a larger scheme, an unnecessary plot twist that properly introduced Lisa Emery’s the Dama. While we’re yet to see enough to fully understand her character, the Dama is set up to be pretty similar to many The Walking Dead villains of the past. Her plan to unite New York’s communities to take down the New Babylon Federation is a great plot point, but beyond that, so far she just seems like another run-of-the-mill villain.
The Croat had a past connection to Negan and a backstory far more interesting than what we’ve seen so far from the Dama. The fact that Negan was scared of the Croat in his days when he himself was at his most dangerous set the Croat up to be a genuine threat and worthy adversary for Dead City’s dynamic duo. But the season finale made a point to shoo the Croat away like he was nothing. After such a strong start featuring a crazy, walker-filled plot to capture our heroes and a terrifying performance by Željko Ivanek, the Croat has been tossed aside in favor of the Dama. Dead City did its most interesting new character dirty.
What Was the Point of ‘Dead City’s Perlie Armstrong?
Image via AMC
Gaius Charles first barged onto our screens in Dead City’s premiere as Marshal Perlie Armstrong of the New Babylon Federation. He was another refreshing character that served as another great threat early in the show. But as Dead City progressed, his relevancy to the plot became less and less, and along with the late Tommaso (Jonathan Higginbotham) and Amaia (Karina Ortiz), Dead City’s side characters began to feel more and more like a way to stretch plot out, rather than actually add something to the story. The show has been consistently at its best when focused on Maggie and Negan, and the penultimate episode’s sudden lackluster character deaths couldn’t have solidified that anymore.
Alas, Perlie survived Dead City Season 1, but he left us wondering what exactly the point of him was other than just helping Ginny (Mahina Napoleon) get out of New York. He delivered a pretty lengthy monologue but added nothing more to Negan and Maggie’s story beyond that. With a civil war between the New Babylon Federation and the Burazi beginning to form, we can be pretty sure that Perlie will serve more of a purpose in Dead City Season 2, but in Season 1, he held the show back from being a true character study and ultimately survived the finale with very little accomplished.
Dead City Season 1 showed a lot of potential and featured some genuinely great moments. That boxing ring set piece must be one of the best in the entire franchise, right? Unfortunately, as the show went on, cracks began to form in an all-too-familiar way as they had in The Walking Dead, with the finale being the culmination of that. It’s not a bad finale, but it decided to spend more time setting things up rather than giving its viewers the emotional climax to the well-written character journey that it had committed to telling in the first place.
The Walking Dead: Dead City is available to stream on AMC+.
Watch on AMC+
The Walking Dead: Dead City
Maggie and Negan travel into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland. The city is filled with the dead and denizens who have made New York City their own world.
Release Date June 1, 2023
Cast Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Michael Anthony, Gaius Charles
Main Genre Horror
Genres Adventure, Horror, Thriller