Dead City: Self-Preservation and Methane Madness…

As Maggie and Negan (and The Croat) make and break plans, there's new revelations about the paths that led them here....

As Negan and Maggie try to work out their next move, it turns out they may be wearing out their welcome. And across Manhattan, The Croat is about to test his own new visitor.

Stories will be told about the past, but it’s new secrets are going to cause problems…



This episode gives us the first real insight and coverage of The Croat, so far mostly a legend wrapped in a concept inside a narrative necessity. He’s one of those larger-than-life bad guys familiar to grand series and features, prone to grand shows of power, irrefutable discipline and sequences that show his unforgiving nature. The character, to be honest, isn’t that interesting – we’ve been here so many before in one variation or another and the only things that differentiate it all from past touchstones are the size of the arena in which the production has pitched up and the fact that Zeljko Ivanek has a history of despicable characters that always makes him watchable. Throwing Gaius Charles’ Marshall Perlie Armstrong into a cage-fight with zombies to test his prisoner’s resources and resourcefulness makes a good action sequence (with added methane madness to make the lensing of it askew) and shows both the captor’s sadistic nature and Gaius not going down easy without a fight, but it’s all very Escape from New York meets Thunderdome and  – again – territory we’ve seen time and time again in post-apocalyptic fare.

The point of including him, especially his grand guignol Barnum-esque showmanship is likely to draw a line between he and Negan and how they control the masses to ‘protect the things that matter’ and in People are a Resource we get moments where both Negan and The Croat confide glimpses of their past – though their meeting (and The Croat’s awareness of Negan’s presence) don’t come until the end. The Croat explains what happened to his family and why he turned his fuel experiments to the more macabre side in their absence…  (people as fuel – take that Soylent Green!). Negan tells Maggie about why he’s alone now which gives some depth to why he’s wanted by the law. It seems his wife Annie was on a trip to town in the Babylon community when she was beaten up and worse by some local thugs. Negan avenged the attack in his own inimitable way and they all went on the run, until Negan packed Annie and their son off to Missouri to keep them safe. He promised to follow, but knowing he wouldn’t if that was the only way to keep them from harm. It was later when he found the young Ginny and acted as her guardian.

Truthfully, the inclusion of Ginny (Mahina Napoleon) only feels there to first draw parallels and then help crowbar in that division between Maggie and Negan. The genre is currently awash with poppets that need to be saved by benevolent older father-figures (and mute kids within that genre have a trope all to themselves) but while it’s interesting to see how Negan reacts differently and more benevolently around children than he does adults, Ginny is also the kind of character that has been given permeant ownership of the ‘idiot box’ (with which a character is bestowed the position of continually making stupid decisions that push the plot forward). We know she has a history of running off and we see the separate results of that – nearly dying – twice in this episode. Even taking away the head-scratching geography of where Maggie’s friends are supposed to be based (surely not the compounds and enclaves from The Walking Dead that would be hundreds of miles away from New York) and where Ginny was staying, the character is a distraction that logic says wouldn’t have survived an hour in Manhattan even before the apocalypse and the chances of the girl finding Negan and Maggie in that vast cityscape are surely far more remote than it appears.

The episode also leaves us with two secrets that could (and likely will on inevitable revelation) drive our two main characters apart. Negan, whom we saw resorting to his old ways for dramatic effect against enemies last week, now follows through by killing one of their supposed allies. It’s not that Negan probably couldn’t make a case for defending himself against Luther (Michael Anthony), a guy who would probably have killed him (for the same reason of preserving himself and his friends from Negan’s perceived threat), but that he so coldly follows through without apology. Would Negan have finished Luther off, if the latter hadn’t already earned a likely mortal-injury from his head wound in his fall… we could conveniently shrug and abstain from opinion, but it’s likely that it wouldn’t have affected the outcome. Negan was challenged, saw it was a fight-or-flight danger and dealt with it… and in doing so, barely blinks and secures the situation until he has to work out what he must do to hide the death from Maggie and the others. You can both understand his inner logic and still see it as a primal fault-line… but at least we’re seeing a Negan as dangerous as he was in earlier seasons of The Walking Dead rather than the neutered version of later years.  But Maggie too walks a thin, highly-debatable moral line. One can argue that her recognising the stuffed dinosaur toy as belonging to Ginny is a bit of a leap given the other things that must be on her mind and given higher priority, but going with the idea that she does remember the toy and understands the implications (that Ginny must have followed them and is likely dead or in trouble herself) and then decides to burn it, shows her asserting her own priorities above others. She knows Negan would insist on looking for Ginny and that would imperil the mission to find Herschel and so she appears (as we finish the episode) to make the decision to stop that choice from becoming a reality… watched by Ginny from a distance. In short, both the characters are now morally compromised by hiding the decisions they’ve had to make that show way different imperatives.

Dead City remains watchable entertainment, but it’s ultimately a talented cast playing their best hits against a familiar genre backdrop simply painted in a darker hue. Halfway into the mini-series run, there are certainly moments to enjoy and it’s certainly better than the last season of the mothership, but amid the carnage there’s still a feeling of treading waters that threaten to run deep but somehow ebb and flow as expected.



'Dead City  S01 EP03  - People are a Resource'  (AMC review)
'Dead City S01 EP03 - People are a Resource' (AMC review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX