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The Walking Dead: Dead City - Old Acquaintences - Review

21 Jun 2023

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  The Walking Dead returned (sort of) with yet another spinoff: Dead City. Technically, Dead City is a sequel because it picks up the stories of Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). I was excited for this because unlike the other spinoffs, we actually already knew the main characters. Cohen is great even if Maggie has never been one of my favorite characters, but who doesn’t love – or at least love to hate – Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan? In addition, Željko Ivanek is also in the main cast as “The Croat,” and I’m a huge fan of his work (Damages, Heroes, 24, Madam Secretary, 12 Monkeys) – just to scratch the surface of his television work!). But – and this is a big BUT - Eli Jorné is the showrunner, and if you’re like me, you thought… who? He joined The Walking Dead in the final season and wrote 3 episodes – not exactly a deep connection with the franchise. The special effects are generally pretty lack lustre because Greg Nicotero is only a “consulting producer” on the show.

“Old Acquaintances” was written by Eli Jorné and was directed by Loren Yaconelli (FBI: International, The Cleaning Lady, The Walking Dead, and The Walking Dead: World Beyond), who at least has some experience in the Dead universe. The entire premise of the show is really Escape From New York without a young and very sexy Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken (not gonna lie, that’s the first time I’ve written out his name and just got the “Pliss” sounds like hiss…). Maggie has to sneak onto Manhattan to rescue Hershel (now played by Logan Kim) – just as Snake had to sneak in to rescue the President…

Right from the beginning scene this felt “off” to me. Maggie is alone scoping out Manhattan. She sees walkers and, apparently terrified, hides under the remnants of an overpass. As she’s watching them pass, another sneaks up on her and almost kills her. I suppose the whole story could have been told as a flashback, but pretty unlikely the star will be killed before the credits roll on the first episode… She fights him off, creating a bloody pulp of his face (an interesting parallel to the flashbacks of Glenn) – making a lot of noise that somehow doesn’t attract the other walkers back to her. 

Maggie is on a mission to find Negan to help get her son back from the Croat – who just happens to know Negan – who is holding Hershel for ransom to get grain out of Maggie’s community – which is no longer at Hilltop… Other than Negan knowing the Croat, I am still wondering why Maggie didn’t call on her old friends to help her.

Maggie traces Negan to a bar run by Michelle Hurd. She finds that he has befriended a traumatized girl – Ginny (Mahina Napoleon). Ginny gets dropped off at Maggie's new community even though Napoleon is listed as a regular. There is never any answer to what happened to Negan's son or wife – though there seems to have been some trouble with a “Magistrate.” They introduce a new community: New Babylon – not subtle – that is clearly mimicking the “old west” tropes. We even get Marshalls in duster coats - Gaius Charles plays Perlie Armstrong – the only Marshall still standing by the end of the episode. He gives Michelle Hurd’s unnamed character good old frontier justice by feeding her to walkers – which are referred to as “chompers.” 

The episode returns to the good/bad guy question that has been explored throughout the series. Maggie still hasn’t forgiven Negan for Glenn on any level, but Negan throws it back at her, asking her how many fathers she’s killed. That remark is likely responsible for her not killing Perlie after he tells her that he’s a father. 

An abandoned New York with walkers falling from the sky is a good backdrop – and of course Negan continues to get the best lines because he would have been friends with Snake Plissken… The Croat is clearly the big bad who enjoys torturing people. It’s unclear why he would need to torture Hershel other than being another psycho. It’s going to be hard to increase the tension with him starting out at 11 – villains like the Governor were always more effective because they seemed reasonable on the surface. I’m sure we all noticed that the Croat (and what the hell does that signify/mean?!?!?!) was missing an ear AND that it looked like it was likely burned off – more of Negan’s ironing handiwork? I can’t say that it was a particularly well done effect – but let’s remember that Nicotero isn’t doing this show.

Overall, I found this episode poorly paced and the plot very derivative. I’ll keep watching because of Ivanek and Morgan – I AM very excited for them to have scenes together! However, I think that The Walking Dead’s losing streak when it comes to spinoffs/sequels is continuing. I hope I’m wrong, but do you think I am? Convince me otherwise in the comments! Let me know what YOU thought of the episode.