From the show’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Tensions between Maggie and Negan come to a head; Ginny’s search continues; questions arise around Armstrong’s path forward.”
Folks, I waited more than a week to actually sit down and compose my thoughts on Dead City’s “Doma Smo,” and I did that specifically to allow some thoughts to simmer and percolate, hoping to attain greater meaning or, minimally, a bit more substance. Alas, I’ve kinda/sorta reached the point wherein I’m not entirely sure I’ll return to this incarnation when it returns to original broadcast run next season, mostly because I’ve found so much of it to be a jumbled, fractured affair, one that seemingly has no ‘throughline’ other than to continually pit its two central characters still at odds well into what remains of the Apocalypse.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with characters in conflict. I’ve said many, many, many times that the true nature of human drama is conflict. Despite what some of you suggest, it ain’t peace. Peace makes for very little nuance around which to build a story; it’s simply a state of being a society might achieve if and when all players come together and achieve a lasting understanding. But drama? That needs clashes. That requires disagreements. Its heart beats to the drum of war and quarrels whether that rhythm comes from individuals or groups … but Dead City is a prospect that up to this point – quite frankly – has little pulse.
As I’ve suggested in my reviews of previous installments, this show has committed an incredible number of exchanges to a relationship we’ve already experienced. While newcomers to the universe may’ve benefitted to some degree over so much re-discovery of just who Maggie and Negan are and how they got to this point, I can’t help but wonder if everyone else – those of us who’ve been on this ride for longer than we care to admit – are asking, “Have you nothing else?” Why, it even seems that the program’s soulless walkers aren’t all that interesting any longer!
And speaking of the Undead? When did they get so easy to kill? At least The Walking Dead – and the inferior Tales Of The Walking Dead – tinkered with the ideas of evolving the franchise’s central talent to make them scary after all these years, but Dead City has Maggie, Negan, and others merely smashing them against the wall in order to dispatch them with relative ease. It wasn’t all that long ago when an unfortunate cast member would find himself in a scuffle with a half-dozen of these things, and audiences knew this poor unfortunate soul’s time was short. Now? Heck, just give the guy a helmet, and he’ll find a way out in no time! That’s disappointing. Removing the property’s chief appeal might seem like a necessary and/or organic development – what with the show’s advanced age – but I miss those hungry walkers of old, I do.
Maggie got her son back – all well and good – in rather easy fashion, proving that perhaps she’s not so much the leader she’s destined to be as she is a really bad accomplice who’ll stop at nothing for selfish reasons. Mind you: Hershel ain’t no prize – it would seem that he practically loathes dear old mother – but I guess family is still important even in the face of mankind’s demise. In contrast, Negan was outplayed by Maggie – in rather brutally easy fashion, I might add – and pretty much resigned himself to whatever fate had in store for him. As for ‘The Croat?’ The big villain that the show had promised all season long? Well, it would seem that he stepped aside for someone else to fill those shoes – there was an even bigger villain lying in wait … some lady who likes fine things and speaking in dramatic nuance … so – cough cough – oh, yeah, I’m really looking forward to listening to her speeches next season! (not) In fact, I’m at a loss to even begin to understand how this chick got to be in charge in the first place; and that’s a huge, huge, huge miss for those of us who watch dramas closely.
Arguably, there’s an easiness to Dead City that I don’t think serves the program all that well. Yes, it’s great to have Negan and Maggie back in action after the kinda/sorta lackluster affair that was The Walking Dead’s series’ finale. Yes, it’s kinda/sorta thrilling to know that our social struggles with the dead themselves isn’t quite done. Still, Dead City has removed far too many threats to have the kind of spiritual tension – the dead versus the living – that fuels a good many zombie enterprises. These dead are more of a narrative inconvenience. Add to that that it seems like getting in and getting out of New York City proper was damn near so easy peasy that I couldn’t figure out why there was so much fuss placed on it in the early episodes. Hell, even Ginny – a kid – had no trouble, so why raise such a ruckus, peeps?
Now comes the real question, though: is there any reason to come back next season?
AMC renewed the program, and I guess that’s an indication that the ratings were strong enough to warrant continuing this ride. Minimally, Maggie got her thankless kid back, and there were obvious hints that she kinda/sorta lost her soul in the process. But did she? I could argue that she got revenge, sure, but on a spiritual level even the Bible condones ‘an eye for an eye,’ so I’m not all that dissuaded. And Negan? Erm … unless I missed something entirely, he doesn’t exactly seem to have found himself in any jeopardy whatsoever. This new lady villain seems perfectly smitten to have him around – they were even tossing back a few cold ones when we last saw them – so … ? How is this a bad development for him exactly?
The behind-the-scenes talent – i.e. the writers – are going to have to work a helluva lot harder next season to keep this viewer around. Dead City is aptly named … as it’s at least 50% dead and 50% city. Not sure that’s what AMC wanted, but that’s what they got.
In the interests of fairness, I’m thrilled to disclose that – like so many of you – I’ve simply recorded and watched The Walking Dead: Dead City’s “Stories We Tell Ourselves” (S01E05) as it aired on AMC, so I’m beholden to no one to provide a review other than myself.