‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’ Review: A Bloody Good Time In The Big Apple
— Updated on 28 June 2023

‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’ Review: A Bloody Good Time In The Big Apple

— Updated on 28 June 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Fair warning, this is a mostly spoiler-free The Walking Dead: Dead City review but some discussion about the mainline The Walking Dead series is unavoidable. If you don’t want to know about one of the major developments in The Walking Dead, then stop reading.

Nothing more needs to be said about The Walking Dead’s spectacular fall from grace sometime after season 7 and a certain character’s brutal death. AMC’s once reigning ratings king took a tumble a few years ago and never really recovered, only slightly upping the quality for the last few seasons and ending with more of a whimper than a bang with season 11 finale ‘Rest In Peace.’

That whimper was purposeful. Instead of going all out like an overlong series usually would for its swan song, AMC decided to split The Walking Dead into three spin-offs, in addition to the three that already exist. This ensured some of the core cast would split off onto their own paths, some teamed up, and others going it alone.

RELATED: ‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’ Trailer Promises A Return To Form For The Franchise

The so-so quality of Fear the Walking Dead, which is finally wrapping its last season this year, the offensively bad The Walking Dead: World Beyond and Tales of the Walking Dead clearly wasn’t enough for the network, which still sees a lot of commercial viability in what Robert Kirkman created in 2003.

So before we dive into this The Walking Dead: Dead City review, let’s take stock of what this beast has become:

  • The Walking Dead
  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • The Walking Dead: World Beyond
  • Tales of the Walking Dead
  • The Walking Dead: Dead City
  • The Walking Dead: Rick & Michonne (working title)
  • The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon (working title)

Overshooting has never been in AMC’s vocabulary when it comes to what is now an unstoppable, yet slow-moving, force in pop culture. But the network must be aware by now that, even for a fan like me, this is jumping the shark on a whole new level.

The Walking Dead: Dead City then represents a crucial moment for this specific television universe. If it flops, cynicism will overwhelm AMC’s big plans and only the most loyal of viewers would bother tuning into subsequent The Walking Dead spin-offs. However, if it’s somehow good, then AMC may have very well atoned for its many missteps with this franchise and started a fresh chapter.

The reality lies somewhere in the middle. I’ve been sitting with advanced screeners of The Walking Dead: Dead City for a few days now and am happy to report that, after a shaky start, this aggressive, violet, and atmospheric jolt is more or less what this franchise needed.

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the walking dead dead city review

Maggie (Lauren Cohen) has tracked Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to a crumbling Manhattan, hollowed out by factions and overrun with walkers — both mutated and stock-standard. That’s the long-short of Dead City’s premise, which quickly reveals that Maggie’s son, Hershel, has been kidnapped by one of Negan’s former allies played by a menacing Zeljko Ivanek.

And Negan has a “daughter.” Or, more like a young travel companion.

I realise giving characters children to care for during the apocalypse is the fastest way to add a sense of dynamism and risk, but as we’ve seen before with TWD, kids can be incredibly annoying in a show like this. Suddenly revealing that Negan has a young girl to care for helps humanise the character and further his long-trodden redemption arc, although there are points throughout the show where you’d wish Morgan’s anti-hero had nothing and no one holding him back.

What continues to hold interest throughout this miniseries — there are only six episodes — is what has made Maggie and Negan teaming up such an exciting prospect in the first place. Ever since Negan brutally murdered Maggie’s husband, Glenn (Steven Yuen), in front of her in the main series, the two have shared an outrageously tense and complicated relationship flecked with themes of forgiveness, guilt, shame, and revenge.

The unlikely duo has worked well in the past. Hell, I’d go so far as to say without the delicate interplay between Maggie and Negan, the last two seasons of The Walking Dead would have been worst than seasons 7 and 8. Watching Maggie adopt some of Negan’s brutalism has given Cohen a great vehicle for her career.

The Walking Dead has never done a time jump well but has used the risky storytelling technique plenty of times. Dead City is set two years after the events of TWD, which has the writers doing plenty of clumsy exposition work in the first episode. This largely ruins the vibe until about halfway in, when Ivanek’s big bad, known as The Croat, is introduced.

the walking dead dead city review

As such, Dead City doesn’t put its best foot forward immediately, and director Eli Jorne takes his time showing off Manhattan. Rather, the script relies on the implied history between Maggie and Negan to drive much of the interest until the two explore more of the city. As with much of the show thus far, the more interesting and engaging bits always have to do with the writers using walkers in creative and violent ways.

The various character deaths hold next to no weight but make-up and special effects do most of the heavy lifting to make sure they are at least entertaining. Needless to say, there’s plenty of crimson, muffled screams and guts set against a post-apocalyptic New York City, the setting of which helps the franchise reinvent itself.

Urban decay makes for much more interesting set pieces than The Walking Dead’s usual rural settings. And a hellish New York City is certainly maximised to great effect for the show. Much like it did for Scream VI, the Big Apple’s familiar beats give Dead City a better sense of tension, providing these incredibly dark nooks and corners that help add suspense to scenes that would otherwise have been mundane and toothless.

I daresay New York is as important a character as anyone else on the show. In fact, aside from Negan and Maggie, just about everyone else in Dead City feels boring and inauthentic, getting a lot of unearned screen time and lazily chewing through it.

the walking dead dead city review

The Walking Dead has shed the burden of purpose. The show was always designed to not only tell the story of survivors in a post-apocalypse but examine ways in which society can be rebuilt after mass destruction and how human nature complicates the process. Dead City doesn’t try to tell that story, which is what ironically gives the script a bit more focus.

I found myself wishing there were more than six episodes, and there likely will be eventually. Because of the truncated format, there’s certainly a sense of urgency towards the end that messes things up, but a pivotal action scene at Madison Square Garden and a few genuinely impressive twists help make up for the rushed pace.

As such, I’d consider Dead City to be a nice win for AMC and a strong statement that there’s still a lot that the writers can still do with these characters and the history behind them that has been steadily built for more than a decade now.

The Walking Dead: Dead City streams on Stan from Monday, June 19th.

The Walking Dead: Dead City

Rotten Tomatoes Score
Genre: Horror survival
Actors: Lauren Cohen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Logan Kim, Zeljko Ivanek
Showrunner: Eli Jorne

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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