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'The Walking Dead: Dead City': Great characters struggle to elevate a mediocre story

Television

‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’: Great characters struggle to elevate a mediocre story

Despite superb individual performances and movie-quality production values, Dead City still suffers from the same narrative pitfalls that the main series did.

This weekend, AMC will release the first episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City, a miniseries that follows Negan and Maggie as they travel to a zombie-infested Manhattan island.

Based on the trailer released last month, we know that Maggie’s son Hershel (now a teenager) was taken by a man nicknamed the Croat, who has a history with Negan. This familiarity with her son’s kidnapper leads Maggie to seek out Negan’s help in getting him back. Unfortunately, the already fraught situation becomes even more complicated when a relentless marshal named Perlie Armstrong follows them on a mission to bring Negan to justice for…something. We don’t know what that is yet, but it’s no surprise that even a reformed Negan still found a way to get himself into trouble.

We’ll be giving detailed recaps of each episode as they air beginning on Sunday, June 18 at 9:00 PM. In the meantime, we’ve gotten to see all six installments of The Walking Dead: Dead City, which we’ll discuss in the spoiler-free overview/review below.

What Works

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

As expected, the interactions between Maggie and Negan are deliciously tense.

Lauren Cohen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan take their characters’ turbulent history and squeeze it for every ounce it’s worth and then some. It should also be noted that while Maggie’s reason for seeking out Negan feels like a stretch, it totally works within the confines of the story.

Dead City uses its narrative to further explore both characters’ psyches — something you’d think is well-worn territory, but ends up being fertile ground for some of its best scenes. We also get to see how life has treated them in the years since the fall of the Commonwealth.

There’s one big plot point that audiences will think has been forgotten, but rest assured that it’ll be addressed.

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

Meanwhile, Gauis Charles is phenomenal as Marshal Armstrong. Despite his role following some painfully predictable beats, he infuses the character with so much depth that it’s impossible not to enjoy his performance.

The Croat ends up being another in a long line of cardboard psychos littered throughout The Walking Dead franchise. Thankfully, his part of the story retains a large degree of intrigue due to the fallout of his actions. He even manages to throw a couple of surprises our way that are still in line with his depraved motivations.

We can’t really discuss the rest of the characters without giving too much away. If you’re wondering why Hershel isn’t a bigger part of all this, then we’re right there with you.

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The cinematography, sound design, and musical score on The Walking Dead: Dead City are absolutely fantastic.

Part of this is no doubt due to the unique setting, but the production team deserves a ton of praise for making the Walking Dead franchise look better than it ever has. Even during the portions of the story I didn’t enjoy (which we’ll be diving headfirst into here in a bit), I couldn’t help but admire how good everything looked and sounded.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to hide the script’s shortcomings.

What Doesn’t Work

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The most frustrating thing about Dead City is the mountain of missed opportunities. We end up spending literally hours of precious screen time on barely likable characters while ignoring others who are far more interesting — both in general and in service to the story.

Despite being a six-episode series, the narrative drags on before accelerating to an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. By the end, many of the series’ untold stories (especially the ones relegated to soliloquies of exposition) sound significantly more interesting than what’s transpired on screen.

Meanwhile, Dead City is plagued by many of the same technical issues that have affected the Walking Dead franchise over the last several years:

  • Ninja zombies that stay quiet until the perfect moment to attack.
  • Zombies with selective hearing and/or taste depending on if a character is an extra or main cast member.
  • Characters who’ve survived for years despite showing a proclivity for being stupid, impulsive, or both.

None of this is enough to make Dead City bad, but it keeps it from being as good as it should be.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

The Walking Dead: Dead City (AMC)

If you stopped watching The Walking Dead a while back or declared yourself done with the franchise after season 11, then this isn’t going to be what draws you back in. Despite superb individual performances and movie-quality production values, Dead City still suffers from the same narrative pitfalls that the main series did.

If you still have a passing interest in the franchise, however, then you could do a lot worse with your viewing time.

Even when Dead City‘s story twists itself in a way that’s sure to annoy most Walking Dead fans, the moments between the main characters are some of the best we’ve ever seen. Dead City‘s action sequences are good, but they don’t hold a candle to any of the one-on-one dialogue scenes.

In other words, make sure to put down your phone any time Lauren Cohen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are the only ones on screen.

'The Walking Dead: Dead City': Great characters struggle to elevate a mediocre story
‘The Walking Dead: Dead City’: Great characters struggle to elevate a mediocre story
The Walking Dead: Dead City
Despite superb individual performances and movie-quality production values, Dead City still suffers from the same narrative pitfalls that the main series did.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
As expected, the scenes between Maggie and Negan are superb. Marshal Armstrong also ends up being a fantastic character despite the script's limitations.
The Croat may be a cardboard cutout of a villain, but his actions result in an intriguing set for the narrative.
The production values are the best we've ever seen from the franchise.
The series is plagued by many of the same technical issues that affected the main series over the last several years.
The most interesting plotlines are relegated to offscreen incidents and soliloquies of exposition.
The plot drags on (burdened by unlikable new characters) before accelerating to an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion.
6
Average

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