by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for Dead City Season 1.
Dead City‘s season finale has revealed the real reason behind everything: energy. Confused? So was I. I am not used to the Walking Dead universe embodying such a direct allegory, but just as nations in our world are fighting over energy resources, so too are the new city-states emerging in this dystopian world, approximately 16 years post-zombie apocalypse.
The season began with Maggie coming to find Negan. My favorite ‘villain’ was on the run, having killed men who brutalized his wife Annie, as well as the magistrate who refused to convict them. One of these dead men had a daughter, Ginny, and Negan, realizing that Ginny was an innocent victim, took her under his wing. Meanwhile, Negan sent Annie (and their son) to Missouri for safety, because Negan was being hunted by New Babylon Marshalls who wanted to punish him for these murders. Of course, these Marshalls were not above murder themselves when it came to hunting Negan down.
Maggie told Negan that a former Savior, the Croat, had come to Hilltop and stolen all of her grain. Then he kidnapped Herschel, as a guarantee that Hilltop would continue to produce grain. This story sounded strange to me when I first heard it; why would someone from Manhattan go all of the way to Virginia for grain? Yet Negan immediately agreed to help rescue Herschel, as long as Ginny could stay at Hilltop.
While at Hilltop, Ginny looked into the silo, and realized that Hilltop had plenty of grain, correctly deducing that Maggie had been lying to Negan and that Negan was being led into a trap. She went to find Negan in Manhattan, where he and Maggie had unsuccessfully been attempting to get at the Croat.
Ginny arrived just in time to get trapped with Maggie (and some forgettable other citizens of Manhattan) in the sewers, where dead had been piling up, decomposing, for well over a decade. These dead bodies were now emitting massive amounts of methane, which made it difficult to breathe. At the time I first saw this, I had thought that the methane was a plot device to make Maggie woozy as she fought the ‘Sewer King’ (a truly awesome walker fused together from 4 different bodies). Yet as it turns out, it was the secret to the whole affair. The methane produced by these decomposing bodies was powering all of the Croat’s operations: a new energy source for the new rise of civilization.
And then it was revealed that the Croat isn’t really the ‘big boss’. That title belongs to the Dama, a woman living inside an elaborate theatre dressing room. She is the one who has a vision of ‘uniting’ Manhattan into one community… under her leadership, naturally. But the Croat isn’t good enough to help her spearhead this operation. For that, she needs Negan, whose reputation is apparently legendary enough for the Dama to invest resources into finding him.
The Dama, hearing the story of how Negan killed Glenn, understood that Negan might feel some responsibility for Herschel (just as he did for Ginny). She and the Croat had Herschel kidnapped and used that to convince Maggie to bring Negan to Manhattan. Negan, finally knowing the truth, agreed to be turned over, allowing Herschel to be free. Yet to guarantee his compliance, the Dama threatened to hurt Herschel again by showing Negan the teenager’s toe (which she had removed during his imprisonment).
Meanwhile, Perlie Armstrong, the New Babylon Marshall with questionable methods, found Negan. Upon witnessing Negan’s actual behavior and character, Perlie began to second-guess his own take on life. At the end of the season, Perlie lied about Negan, stating that he was dead, and only then learned that the leader of New Babylon was actually more interested in the methane/new energy source. Apparently, manufacturing her cigars is important enough to wage war on Manhattan for methane. But aren’t there dead walkers everywhere? Can’t New Babylon simply create its own source of methane? Regardless, Perlie is likely in real trouble, as the other Marshalls will quickly realize that Negan is alive if they go to Manhattan.
After 15-ish years, Maggie finally came to realize that her hatred of Negan and need for revenge was poisoning not only herself, but her relationship with her son. Maggie decided to turn over a new leaf, and return to Manhattan to rescue Negan.
All of this leads up to Season 2, which was officially announced at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) last week. Viewers will likely see Maggie, Negan and the New Babylon Marshalls all working for different ends as everyone attempts to claim the methane in Manhattan’s subway tunnels.
Overall, this season was mixed for me. I was very confused when it began, with so many questions that it was difficult to focus on the story actually presented. Now that everyone’s motivations finally make sense, I am more interested in the storyline, yet I’m still waiting for that breakout moment when it will all gel for me. Regardless, the best part of this season was the return of Negan. He was always one of the most enjoyable characters on The Walking Dead, and I loved seeing him again, as well as the continuation of his story arc as a man who simply cannot escape the mistakes of his past. It is primarily for Negan that I will be tuning in to Dead City, Season 2.
What did you think of Dead City? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!