The end of The Walking Dead felt inevitable by the time the series was wrapping up. The once popular series had run out of gas, and long seasons of television, split into several parts, were leaving audiences exhausted. The phenomenon had seemingly puttered out. Yet with so much talent associated with The Walking Dead, potential still existed. With the promise of spin-offs and movies, The Walking Dead: Dead City brings back two fan-favorite characters. While The Walking Dead problems still rear their head at times, the focus on our core characters opens some interesting possibilities.

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Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

With Escape from New York serving as a soft inspiration, The Walking Dead: Dead City follows Maggie (Lauren Cohen) on her quest to save her son. When she discovers the man who kidnapped her son, named the Croat (Željko Ivanek), has ties to Neegan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), she searches for her former nemesis.

Dead City thrives when one of its three core characters dominates the screen. Cohen brings out her Southern drawl and adds considerable emotional stakes to the series. Her efforts to save her son become integral in our enjoyment of the series, and it’s clear her alliance with Neegan remains an uneasy truce. Given their history and the violent horrors that Neegan committed against Glenn, it’s not an easy alliance. Her fiery anger can still be read in her performance.

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

Meanwhile, Morgan brings out each element of his layered performance as Neegan. He pulls out the darker elements when needed and legitimately terrifies. However, he also shows a surprising warmth, especially when paired with Mahina Napoleon. The young actress delivers a primarily silent performance but, unfortunately, opens the door for some Last of Us comparisons. This may not be beneficial to The Walking Dead: Dead City. However, it’s not the central relationship of the series either.

Ivanek shines from his first moments on screen. The Emmy-winning actor brings his impeccable talent into the series and immediately scares the hell out of us. His vitriol’s a more personal edge, making him an incredibly refreshing villain for the series. Ivanek is both violent and terrifying. The way he watches his victims feels serpent-like. His showdowns with Neegan are emotionally charged. It’s a perspective and anger that the franchise had been missing, making his introduction a welcomed sight.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Charlie Solis as Bartender – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

Newcomers help bring new lifeblood to the franchise as well. Gaius Charles brings a determined focus to his mission but shifts his perspective for survival when he must. He’s excellent in his screen time and feels primed for future opportunities. Napoleon expertly communicates with her limited dialogue and provides a new perspective of survival at the edge of the apocalypse.

With only six episodes, the money towards production design and artistry can take a step forward. The makeup on the walkers is better than it’s been in years. The use of non-traditional walkers, including one that scared the hell out of me, brings out more unique walker designs. Combined with using New York as the centerpiece, the visuals take a step up from the series we grew to love. The cinematography is gorgeous, especially at night. While we were used to the Southern set The Walking Dead, returning to urban cityscape makes for more inventive moments.

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 – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

Showrunner and writer Eli Jorne helps The Walking Dead: Dead City find its footing. The emotional moments they develop in this limited series recall the power of The Walking Dead at its peak. It’s been so long since the show demanded attention. Yet this limited series, and whatever others they choose to build out in the future, suddenly earn a place in geek culture. Fans of The Walking Dead will be rewarded with the best work in years.

Alan’s Rating: 8/10

What do you think of The Walking Dead: Dead City? Let us know in the comments below! The series begins on June 18th, 2023 on AMC.

Check out our reviews and pieces from the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival here!

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