Hard Knocks, Who’s There? Dead City’s storey-telling makes it rain…

The story and the storeys continue as Negan and Maggie traverse the rooftops over Manhattan...

Maggie and Negan continue to work their way across Manhattan in search of Hershel, with an unlikely new guide and a high-wire act that could lead them into danger. But it also turns out that their new ‘friends’ may have a common enemy and the only way to out-run them could be for Negan to revert to some of his old ways…

Knock, knock…



A considerable improvement over the workmanlike pilot, The Walking Dead: Dead City‘s second episode, Who’s There? – also directed by Loren Yaconelli  – may only advance the plot a little geographically (and vertically) but gives us a reduction in the more obvious CGI composites – used overtly as scene-setters last episode – and the show certainly benefits from using more subtly-tweaked establishing shots (digitally adding overgrowth and damage to actual buildings and skyscapes rather than fake framing from the ground-up) and it then keeping the action more up-close and personal in tenement rooms, hallways and warehouses.

Actual zombie-threats are kept at a literal arms-length as the action shifts to keeping up the momentum of navigating the urban environment. The zip-lines which allow the locals to glide from one rooftop to another are a nice conceit, but only when they work properly. Negan and Maggie’s initial escape quite obviously defies the law of physics as you can only glide downhill on such a device and ‘Pigeon Lady’ casually sending the grip back across with so little effort simply wouldn’t work. Equally, while Maggie’s point-of-view (as she’s left momentarily dangling storeys above the sidewalk) might induce vertigo in the viewer, but it’s once again post-production that doesn’t entirely convince as anything other than green-screen.

The episode begins to expand the supporting cast and while many feel like they’ll be disposable before we’re done, it’s a shame to lose the Pigeon Lady / Esther (Eleanor Reissa) quite so quickly, even if it ignites the events that follow. Jonathan Higginbotham plays tough-guy Tommaso with Karina Ortiz as Amaia, having to decide quickly whether to trust Negan and Maggie and then having no real choice in the matter. The look of the Croats troops, the braće or braжa (from the Serbian meaning ‘brothers’) is interesting – their spikey helmets may evoke a Mad Max or Temu cosplay, but there’s no denying the spikes and padding are effective on a practical and visual level. This ain’t your daddy’s Commonwealth.

More bloody violence ensues and definitely more graphic than most of the original series’ carnage. The highlight of the episode is, of course, the return of old-style Negan and clearly Jeffrey Dean Morgan relishes the opportunity to regain that epic swagger and shits-and-giggles demeanour that has been somewhat diluted during later seasons of The Walking Dead. The grand-guignol ‘intimidation scene’ (as he waxes lyrical and then cuts a prisoner’s throat and uses the resulting blood-splatter to scare away their pursuers) comes after a conversation between he and Maggie that is supposed to address some uncomfortable home truths yet also feels like some almost-apologetic retrofitting of the character, painting Negan as someone who was a nicer guy at heart except when he had to appear brutish and theatrical to survive. There’s no denying that, baseball-bat swinging aside, Negan’s larger-than-life persona was indeed one that the gang-leader used pragmatically and to instill fear and that beneath all that bluster was a complex, broken man with serious issues and his own set of tragedies… but it would be wrong to negate Negan’s genuine killer impulses as just strategic showmanship (useful though that is here in Manhattan). In the ‘present’ he may well be genuinely sorry for some of his past actions and he’s earned something of a reprieve, but he’s still willing to bring out the very convincing sociopathic tendencies as and when it suits and follow through on them without flinching. Basically put: even as that showman, he’s never bluffing. So, one has to wonder which persona actually fits him more comfortably. When he realises Maggie has witnessed it all there’s a genuine look of horror and disappointment on his face, but you have to wonder if that persona question is one that both of the characters are considering.

As for ‘The Croat’, once again he’s mainly used as cackling book-ending punctuation, largely kept off-screen with his reputation being built-up in hushed tones to such an extent that one wonders whether even screen veteran bad-guy Zeljko Ivanek will actually be able to deliver a character that was supposedly too violent for Negan himself to keep around.

A distinct improvement, then, but this mini-series only has four episodes to go and will have to keep up the pace as more than a travelogue around the post-apocalyptic NYC…

'Dead City  S01 EP02  - Who's There?'  (AMC review)
'Dead City S01 EP02 - Who's There?' (AMC review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX