We’re only a few months out from the first of the post-Walking Dead Walking Dead spin-offs: Dead City, in which Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) search the zombie-filled ruins of New York City looking for Maggie’s kidnapped son Hershel. Given how low The Walking Dead finale’s ratings were, your desire to watch Dead City may be contingent on how interested you are in zombies falling out of skyscrapers... because I’m not sure what else Dead City has to offer.
My qualms, other than that I watched the entirety of TWD, stem from a series of quotes about the series from showrunner Eli Jorne. Here’s Jorne, speaking at a WonderCon panel, on the crux of Dead City: “This is the next chapter in this story about Maggie and Negan. Another piece of it for me was what’s at the core of Maggie and Negan’s relationship—the grief, and loss, and trauma. How do you navigate something like that? To me, that was always the center of the show. That’s at the core here.”
ComicBook reports that Jorne also said the original show did “an amazing job” exploring Maggie and Negan’s complex relationship, but that the new show will “really zero in and peel away all these layers and go deeper and deeper and challenge the characters.”
Uh-huh. I won’t dig into whether TWD did “an amazing job” exploring their relationship, but I will say the original series spent plenty of time exploring it. Maggie and Negan spent almost the entirety of their screentime during seasons 9-11 with each other; over the years, Negan grew increasingly penitent, and Maggie stayed uniformly furious and distrustful of him no matter how often he saved Maggie or Hershel. It occasionally would seem like they’d reach some kind of truce or understanding, but then Maggie would revert back by the next episode.
And that’s okay. No matter how many brutally honest heart-to-hearts you have with someone, if that someone beat your husband to death with a baseball bat in front of you seven years ago, you’d tend to hold a grudge! Besides, the second AMC announced that Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be reprising their roles for the spin-off, it was obvious that the two would continue their conflict because that’s how TV shows work.
But what I will take umbrage with is Jorne’s assertion that there are any layers left to peel away. The only thing The Walking Dead would do with these characters is to peel back a layer and discover another layer exactly like the first underneath. TWD exhaustively explored their relationship to repeatedly reveal there was nothing under the layers but more of the same. It was not great.
So when I hear Jorne say “We get to really zero in and peel away all these layers and go deeper and deeper,” I suspect what he means is that Maggie’s going to be furious at Negan for killing her husband and Negan is going to continually try to prove he’s a changed man, which is to say a rehash of TWD seasons 9, 10, and 11. I could just be pessimistic after watching the main series, and I don’t have any schadenfreude here; if Dead City ends up being good, then good for it. But if it comes down to watching Maggie and Negan’s relationship not evolving, then I’d rather have more zombies falling from the skies.
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