Monday, June 26, 2023

The Walking Dead: Dead City Review Episode 2 Surprises with the Return of Brutal Negan

Our journey into apocalyptic New York City continues with “The Walking Dead: Dead City” Episode 2, titled  “Who’s There?” Continuing right where Episode 1 left off, Maggie and Negan are chasing a strange, long haired woman (Eleanor Reissa) who has swiped their bags. During the pursuit, the duo encounter ziplines that allow for traversal between buildings. A particularly impressive shot shows Maggie desperately nudging herself to the end of the zipline, as she risks getting stuck hanging above the walker-infested streets of Manhattan. After catching the thief, they realize she meant no harm and simply wants to trade. 

The entire chase sequence is a bit jarringly paced, and the opening moments of the episode lack the cinematic urgency of a sequence where Maggie and Negan are being robbed. In the end, the long-haired woman leads Maggie and Negan to a survivor community (including Jonathan Higginbotham’s Tommaso and Karina Ortiz’ Amaia) nestled inside a building, who quickly lock up the duo after assuming they have bad intentions. 

While temporarily imprisoned, Negan opens up about his history with young Hershel’s captor, The Croat (Željko Ivanek), showcasing Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s endlessly captivating acting skills as he retells a particularly grim story. The Croat was once the Saviors’ torturer (a fact that doesn’t bode well for kidnapped Hershel), and when Negan realized he was taking things too far he tried to shoot him, but only managed to hit his ear before he escaped. “So he wants to kill you,” Maggie exclaims. Could this be setting up a scenario where Maggie trades Negan’s life to The Croat in return for her son? What better way to show his true guilt for killing Glenn than by Negan exchanging his own life for Glenn’s son.

Meanwhile, Ginny (Mahina Napoleon) has trouble adjusting to life within one of Maggie’s communities. Thus far, aside from Negan caring for her, the inclusion of Ginny’s storyline lacks much intrigue and feels irrelevant to the pacing of the New York City plot. Hopefully by Episode 3, Ginny’s involvement in the scope of things becomes more of an intriguing element in the series. 

Although, having a character in one of Maggie’s communities does allow for “Dead CIty” to explore the more familiar setting of the original series; small farming communities surrounded by greenery and nature – a sharp contrast to the dark blues of New York City. One sequence in the community features a flashback of Maggie trying to parent a teenage Hershel (Logan Kim), offering insight into how their relationship has evolved since we last left the mother and son in the main series. 

Mahina Anne Marie Napoleon as Ginny – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

Much like Episode 1, “Who’s There?” has a few ghoulish surprise sequences up its sleeve that will surely make fans of the series grin with delight. The opening shot of the episode pulls back from walker hands trying to push open metallic doors, evoking the famous “DON’T OPEN DEAD INSIDE” shot from the original series pilot. This episode introduces viewers to a brand new group of villains dubbed “The Barazi,” which is Croatian slang for “brother.” The pesky enemies all sport motorcycle helmets that have saw blades jammed into them on all sides. While certainly looking quite goofy at first, the true wildness of these goons is revealed when they start literally headbutting walkers with their spiked helmets. In a franchise that only seems to continually one-up itself on how insane its antagonists can get, this group most definitely fits at home in “The Walking Dead” canon. After 11+ years of the series, the different ways to kill walkers never seem to diminish. 

Another stellar moment comes when the Barazi attack the survivor community Negan and Maggie are held captive within. The defending survivors are equipped with some sort of nail gun/projectile weapon that shoots a wired clamp onto an enemy and then aggressively pulls backwards. One survivor deploys this weapon on a Barazi, gruesomely ripping out a chunk of their upper chest. 

The true crown jewel of the episode, and reason for its title, comes from a sequence where Negan takes a wounded Barazi to use as an example in front of the ones that are currently pursuing the survivor community. Knowing their numbers are unmatched in the face of this deadly attack, Negan sees no choice but to revert to his classic tactics of putting on a damn good show. “I was only a monster when I absolutely had to be. When I had to put on a show to protect my people,” Negan remarks to Maggie earlier in the episode. 

As the Barazi look up at Negan looming down on them from the second floor, he begins smashing the hostage Barazi through three windows in a row, shouting “Knock knock!” at the goons below. When the masked mercenaries stare in silence, Negan takes it upon himself to finish the joke stating, “Who’s there? Butter. Butter who? Well you better get out your umbrellas cause it is about to God damn rain!” And then, in an all-timer Negan moment, the former antagonist slices open the Barazi’s neck, showering blood all over the other goons on the floor below. 

– The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

It’s an extremely grisly and gory sequence complete with an almost comical amount of practical fake blood. (Long-time fans might feel some deja-vu to Spencer’s death in Season 7 of the flagship series, “You got no guts.”) Maggie watches on in horror as the man who killed her husband once again uses those chilling performative tactics on a common enemy. In the post-episode behind the scenes segment, showrunner Eli Jorné points out that in a twisted reversal of fate, Maggie is actually being protected by the same type of excessive brutality that took her husband away.  This shocking moment truly feels like a return to form to the brutality of the series, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see Negan back to his old tricks again. Jeffrey Dean Morgan effortlessly slides back into this version of the character, and it’s simply a joy to witness. 

Within this episode viewers also get more exploration into Gaius Charles’ Marshal Perlie Armstrong. Recovering from his brief run-in with Maggie and Negan in Episode 1, Perlie heads to an address that’s written on a slip of paper. Inside the apartment, Perlie encounters the body of his brother, who has clearly committed suicide. He covers the corpse in a bedroom sheet and lays a cross necklace on top, showing a softer more faith-centered side to a character originally set up as an antagonist villain in the pilot. 

Dead City Negan episode 2

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee – The Walking Dead: Dead City _ Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/AMC

In the end, Perlie stumbles into a trap set up by The Croat, who steps out and reveals himself to be the leader of the Barazi. From a narrative perspective, it’s interesting to see multiple characters get wrapped up in The Croat’s scheme and offer more exploration into Perlie.

As Maggie, Negan, and the remaining survivors from the Barazi attack set their sights on The Croat’s base of operations (an abandoned Madison Square Garden), the future of “Dead City” is shaping up to be quite grisly, exciting, and whole-heartedly “Walking Dead.” 

3.5 out of 5

The post “The Walking Dead: Dead City” Review – Episode 2 Surprises with the Return of Brutal Negan appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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