The Walking Dead: Dead City Pilot Shows Promise

Image courtesy of AMC

The fifth series in The Walking Dead Universe is here, ready or not. For some, The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot will feel welcomed, being able to spend time with beloved characters again, this time in a new and exciting setting. For others, it will feel like retreading old ground with just some minor changes. Both positions are equally valid, really. The pilot is fun and shows promise for what’s to come over the course of the next 5 episodes though, and for many viewers and fans of this franchise, that’s exactly what they’re looking for. We’re about to get into heavy spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot yet, proceed with caution.

New York, New York

The setup for this new series is established quickly: Maggie’s son has been taken from her and she’s on her way to Manhattan to get him back. The episode opens with Maggie rattled, which is a departure from her normal demeanor. She struggles to fight off a walker and as a viewer we immediately ask ourselves what has happened to her since we last saw her in the series finale of the flagship show.

Maggie moves her way into a small town, which again, was surprising to see. The world is growing and expanding. People are rebuilding and not just in authoritarian setups like the Commonwealth. Within the first 5 minutes of The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot, this series did feel different, like time had passed and what was left of society was evolving.

Maggie’s plan was made clear quickly: she knew Negan was in this town. She knew that the local government there considered him a wanted man and she knew that the man who took her son once worked for Negan. She would later say that she could tell because he whistled the same way Negan did the night he killed Glenn.

Maggie at a bar in The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot
Image courtesy of AMC

Negan doesn’t want to go with Maggie. He has a teenage girl with him who doesn’t speak. He later tells Maggie that a year ago he met her on a farm and that she had quit talking after discovering her father after he had turned. Maggie and Negan struck a deal that he would help her find her son in exchange for Maggie sending the girl to Hilltop to be looked after. Maggie would later admit that Hilltop was no longer in the same location but was made up of the same people and operating the same way.

In many ways, this exchange was my favorite part of the episode, trying to figure out exactly how much time had passed since we last saw these characters and what exactly had happened. Negan dodged the questions about his wife and son, which isn’t promising. It seems safe to conclude that there’s been at least a 2 year time jump but beyond that, we’re left to guess.

The Good & Not as Good

I enjoy this universe and seeing how all of the series connect and build upon its shared mythology. Besides the questions about what’s happened in the time between the flagship series and The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot, there doesn’t appear to be much mythology building yet, or really any teases of that to come. My assumption is that the Daryl Dixon lead series and the Rick and Michonne lead series will be the ones to push the shared narrative forward and this series will be more about exploring new locations and more time with Negan and Maggie.

I think most long-time fans of this universe wondered how well Negan and Maggie could possibly get along in their own spin-off series. The immediate bickering between the two felt old. I don’t think anyone wants to see them play out their troubled dynamic more than they already have, which is why Negan standing up to Maggie, asking her how many husbands and fathers she’s killed, felt like a necessary argument. Too much revisiting their old wounds would drag this new series down and my hope is that The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot put it to bed.

Negan walks into a bar in The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot
Image courtesy of AMC

Visually, this episode had a lot of wins. The scene where Maggie and Negan, along with their prisoner, took a boat into Manhattan was tremendous. The zombie bodies floating in the water, the bridge destroyed with only fragments left standing, the tall buildings hiding behind the fog. It did echo Land of the Dead at times but in a good way. Prior to leaving for NYC, the one horse town Maggie found Negan in was sleazy and neon, like a town straight out of a low budget 80’s horror film. Little things like this go a long way for genre fans; excellent touches that make this spinoff stand out.

The action scenes once they reached NYC felt familiar. I can’t say I was overly grabbed by the new villain, although the casting of Željko Ivanek was brilliant and I have no doubt that the character will become of more interest to me soon with an actor of that caliber playing the role.

Future of the Dead

The Walking Dead: Dead City pilot has set up what should be a fun story in a unique setting that should appeal to both genre fans and long-time fans of the universe. Will it be the series to move the mythology forward? Probably not. If you’re looking to spend more time with Maggie and Negan and see what the Big Apple looks like in the apocalypse, you’ll probably enjoy this show.

My hope is that I’m wrong about this series not being mythology-heavy. I hope that saving Maggie’s son leads to a big reveal. As much fun as all of these spin-offs are going to be, we have to bring everyone back together at some point right? Either way, six episodes with Negan and Maggie should be a blast, especially with a backdrop as vast and compelling as New York.

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Written by Andrew Grevas

25YL Media Founder

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