The Negan Obsession - The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X06, Doma Smo Review

The Walking Dead: Dead City“Doma Smo,” the title of The Walking Dead: Dead City’s final episode, means “We are home” in Croatian, and the episode finds all the characters back home, either literally or figuratively. Hershel (Logan Kim) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) return to the Bricks, Perlie Armstrong (Gaius Charles) goes back to New Babylon, and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) becomes, for the second time in his life, the leader of a group of survivors. The Croat (Željko Ivanek), introducing the Dama (Lisa Emery) and Negan to each other, says it is like “mommy and daddy coming together,” and thus he, too, finds himself “home.”

At San Diego Comic Con on July 21, a second season of Dead City was announced, and when I watched the finale some weeks ago, there was no mistaking the creator’s intention that the series continue. The episode is a collection of open ends, the season itself revealed as a kind of prologue to a show in which Negan becomes the swaggering, sarcastic king of New York, giving Morgan the opportunity to do what he does best in the role. But the character’s redemption, systematically and at times clumsily reinforced during Dead City’s first season, remains intact. Negan is visibly repelled by the Croat’s recollections of their days together in the Saviors, and he responds uncooperatively to the Dama when they meet…until she gives him the keys to a box containing one of Hershel’s toes, sliced off by the Croat on her command. The boy grew close to her during his captivity, it seems, and he told her about Negan killing his father. “I could sense in the rest of this story,” she informs Negan, “what he himself couldn’t: that his father’s killer might feel remorseful, responsible, for the boy whose family he destroyed.” If Negan will not work for her running New York, she indicates, she will further harm the boy. She has read him correctly: unable to tolerate that idea, he appears to concede to her demand.

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Repeating Histories - The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X05, Stories We Tell Ourselves Review

The Walking Dead: Dead City“Let’s face it, the ending is all that matters.” Taken at face value, this line from the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City, “Stories We Tell Ourselves,” might suggest a certain cynicism on the part of creator Eli Jorné for his own genre. And indeed, given the pacing of this episode, and the lack of narrative energy in the show thus far, one hopes that the finale next week might go some way to salvaging an otherwise frustratingly stodgy series.

For much of “Stories We Tell Ourselves,” nothing really happens. People walk around - limping, tiptoeing, lurching - and they also run. Two characters we’ve had no reason to care about are lost. Another character we don’t care about tells, unprompted, a personal story to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), because, one assumes, Jorné couldn’t be bothered to find a more organic way to make the character sympathetic. Regrettably, this unexpected overshare still fails to make us care about him.

The episode deals, at a thematic level, with the “stories we tell ourselves to sleep easier,” as Perlie Armstrong (Gaius Charles) describes them. Those stories, he implies, are essentially falsehoods, and we are prompted to consider the ways in which each character lies to themselves. The Croat (Željko Ivanek)’s lie - to us and to himself - is that he is a villainous mastermind, when in fact he is a fawning, subservient lackey to the Dama (Lisa Emery). Maggie (Lauren Cohan)’s lie appears to be that Negan is a monster who deserves to have his life traded to the Croat for Hershel (Logan Kim)’s, as her real plan is revealed in the closing moments of the episode. Armstrong’s lie is that his work for the Babylon Federation is noble and just: “tranquility and order” are worth achieving at any cost. Tommaso (Jonathan Higginbotham) deceives himself with the belief that betraying his people to the Croat was for their own good. And the lie Negan tells himself? There doesn’t seem to be one, because Negan 2.0 is intended to be a self-aware and emotionally intelligent man who is unafraid to confront his weaknesses. Dead City should try to emulate those qualities if it gets a second season.

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Erasing the Lines - The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X04, Everybody Wins a Prize Review

The Walking Dead: Dead CityNobody wins anything in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) tries and fails to locate Hershel (Logan Kim), Amaia (Karina Ortiz) and Tommaso (Jonathan Higginbotham) lose a number of their people to walkers because they don’t use an obvious means of escape, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) saves Perlie Armstrong (Gaius Charles) only to be arrested by him moments later, and the Croat (Željko Ivanek) - like the viewers - finds his old mentor a bewilderingly changed man. The episode positions everyone for how the season will ultimately play out, and there is a lot of movement, including a dramatic fight scene in an arena filling rapidly with walkers. There are explosions and haunting choral numbers, lots of jaw clenching and many charged stares. Children, and parenthood, are central to the episode’s themes.

“Kids,” Simon (Steven Ogg) barks at the Croat during the opening flashback, “is a line we do not cross. We all know that.” I sighed, while also wincing at his grammar. Kids are a line the Saviors crossed at Hillside when they beat a sixteen-year-old to death, a line Simon himself crossed, slaughtering the boys at Oceanside without repercussion, and a line Negan crossed when he tried to crush Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs)’ skull like an eggshell in the season 7 finale of The Walking Dead. The opening scene of “Everybody Wins a Prize” is vigorously, determinedly revisionist. To be fair, the franchise has worked hard at Negan’s redemption for years and thrown unfortunates such as his now-abandoned wife Annie (Medhina Senghore) into the mix, purely in the interests of softening his character. Annie’s brutal beating and gang rape were written to allow Negan a sorrowful sigh, a flicker of the lashes that might imply tears as he told Maggie the fate of his wife. If nothing else, The Walking Dead’s sheer doggedness in their quest for his redemption should be acknowledged.

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What We Have Besides Hope - The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X03, People Are a Resource Review

The Walking Dead: Dead CityIn the Dead City premiere, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) tells Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that, for her, there is no moving on from Glenn (Steven Yeun)’s death - the horror, one gathers, as well as the loss. The psychological realism of this is, on the one hand, self-evident. Grief and bereavement are not transient states, but permanent ones. There is no “getting over it” for anyone who has lost someone close to them. Neither, however, is grief static: it evolves, becomes familiar and more manageable. The Walking Dead gave one of Dead City’s main characters a remarkable redemption arc, a development from one of the flagship show’s worst villains to a repentant family man. But it trapped Dead City’s other protagonist in a state of unchanging rage and trauma - as difficult to watch as it is, in some moments, to believe - of which her reaction to Hershel (Logan Kim)’s kidnapping is just the most recent iteration. 

For that reason, among others, Dead City is indubitably, by its halfway point, The Negan Show. Maggie, struggling to cope with misery and fear over her missing son, is so tightly wound as to be robotic at times, even during her most vulnerable moments. By contrast, Negan continues to be sentimental and self-aware - finding a gift for the kidnapped teenager, offering a listening ear to Maggie, and sharing a scene with Ginny (Mahina Napoleon) that will make your teeth ache with its sweetness. 

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The Necessary Monster - The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X02, Who's There? Review

The Walking Dead: Dead CityArguably the strongest characters in The Walking Dead universe are women: among them, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), Michonne Grimes (Danai Gurira), Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos), and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan). The franchise makes its women suffer, but it allows them to transform that suffering into courage and grit and cunning. By the end of the flagship series, countless battles under her belt, Maggie is heading up the community at Hilltop, which thrived under her governance years before. She is a seasoned fighter and leader - smart, accomplished, and brave.

And yet, in “Who’s There?,” the second episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City, she displays virtually none of these skills. Instead, the dynamic in her uneasy partnership with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) becomes that of the veteran warrior (him) and the young hothead (her), with Negan lecturing her on how and why to negotiate and cautioning her against unnecessary violence. Maggie is on a knife-edge in this episode - as in all of them - while Negan is wearily tolerant of her aggression and rash decision-making.

There is weariness, too, in one of the episode’s pivotal moments, when Negan enacts a performance reminiscent of his days leading the Saviors. Ambushed by a team of the Croat (Željko Ivanek)’s people, Negan captures one, drives his head through multiple panes of glass, and then slits his throat and guts him over the edge of balcony, allowing the man’s blood and gore to splatter onto his companions below (mysteriously, they do not move out of the way). His sarcastic patter to the attackers is tired, a half-hearted summoning of his former persona that borders dangerously on self-satire, and when he turns to a clearly triggered Maggie afterwards, he looks worn, chagrined, and perhaps regretful.

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The Bad Guy – The Walking Dead: Dead City 1X01, Old Acquaintances Review

The Walking Dead: Dead City“[The Dead City] universe is going to tell the story of what happens when you lose someone [to murder]. Not just for the person who lost him, but the person who did it.”

--Eli Jorné, interview with SFX, June 2023

Just before the title sequence for The Walking Dead: Dead City plays for the first time, Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) pulverizes the head of a walker using a telescope. She brings the makeshift weapon down repeatedly as she screams in rage, blood and brain matter splattering her face. The visual reference is obvious to anyone who has watched The Walking Dead’s flagship show. But just in case it isn’t, “Old Acquaintances” later provides a flashback to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) crushing Glenn Rhee (Steven Yuen)’s head with a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat, while Glenn’s pregnant wife Maggie watches. 

From the outset, Dead City suggests that its main protagonists, Maggie and Negan, are two sides of the same coin. The show’s premiere is not shy about this intention, and neither is its creator, Eli Jorné. The widow and her husband’s killer are inextricably linked, the opening scene reminds us, separated only by a flip, a flick of the fingers, a choice. Not a choice made by the characters, but one made by the viewers.

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The Last of Us Pulls on Our Heartstrings Again

“Endure and Survive” - 1.05 - Recap & Review

The Last of UsLast night, the fifth episode of The Last of Us premiered on HBO. The episode, through flashbacks of the Kansas City QZ, shows how Fedra fell, taken over by Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her group, and how they killed any collaborators. Ten days later, the timeline meets backup with the cliffhanger from last week with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) being held at gunpoint by eight-year-old Sam (Keivonn Woodard), who it’s revealed is deaf, and his older brother Henry (Lamar Johnson). It’s eventually revealed that Kathleen is after the two because Henry turned the leader of the resistance, Kathleen’s brother, into Fedra in order to get life-saving medicine for Sam.

Henry knows a way out but needs Joel’s help in getting them out of the city. Eventually Ellie convinces Joel to help and they join forces. Henry has reason to believe that Fedra secretly cleared the tunnels beneath the city of the infected, unbeknownst to Kathleen, making it unlikely the militia would go down there after them.

The four emerge from the tunnel only to be shot at by a sniper. Joel leaves them to hide while he takes care of the sniper. Revealing that the sniper was a lookout, Kathleen and her people arrive and she tries to flush them out. However, before Kathleen can get her revenge, we find out where the infected had relocated, as a truck is pulled into a big hole, and all the infected come crawling out, attacking everyone. 

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We are the Strongest Thing Together - The Walking Dead 11x24, Rest in Peace - Review

The Walking Dead“[Despite the upcoming spin-offs] it ends with a really definitive conclusion for both the series and then each individual character.”
--(Scott Gimple on the series finale, interview with Entertainment Weekly, 25 October 2022)

The first stories most Western children hear end with happily ever after, and that phrase settles into their subconscious as the model for what an ending should look like—an ending in life as much as in fiction. With maturity comes the understanding that happily ever after is as fantastic an element of those stories as are the dragons and fairies. Nonetheless, fiction, for adults as well as children, exists not only to reflect reality, but also to redress it. Stories hold up a mirror, and are, too, a window into somewhere else: a place not subject to the whims of fate, but controlled by storytellers.

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There's Always a Cost - The Walking Dead 11x23, Family - Review

The Walking Dead“There's a lot of shock in it. There's a lot of tension in it. I think [the audience] might feel angry on behalf of our characters. It's a frigging intense finale. It just goes, goes, goes.”
--Scott Gimple on the finale of The Walking Dead, interview with Entertainment Weekly, 9 November 2022The Walking Dead, interview with Entertainment Weekly, 9 November 2022

The Walking Dead has been about family since the pilot episode, in which Rick Grimes wakes up alone in hospital and begins to search for his wife and son. It is a show about the families we lose, we find, and we choose; it is a show about what it means to be a family. “We don’t leave them,” Lydia sobs at one point this week. “They need us.” That has always been the philosophy of this group of survivors, and it is starkly contrasted, in 11x23, with that of Pamela Milton, who is willing to sacrifice thousands of her people to a horde of walkers in order to save a privileged few.

While we see our heroes put this belief into practice during the episode, the same cannot be said of the writers for season 11. In “Family”, Connie tries to save a fellow citizen at her own risk while trapped in a shoot-out at Union Station. Lydia gets bitten and ultimately loses an arm trying to help Elijah to safety. And Judith, of course, saves Maggie and takes Pamela’s bullet herself. Being a family, this episode reminds us, means sticking together, making sacrifices, and never abandoning one another. But in its service to the plot, the universe, and the multitude of characters in the show at this point, The Walking Dead itself has left too much out, and too many people behind.

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The World is Dark and Broken - The Walking Dead 11x22, Faith - Review

The Walking Dead“[The Walking Dead] ends with a really definitive conclusion for both the series and then each individual character.”
--Scott Gimple, interview with Entertainment Weekly, 25 October 2022

With only two episodes to go before the end of the series, it feels like The Walking Dead is somersaulting so unevenly through the convoluted Commonwealth plot that the show has little chance of sticking the landing. The season as a whole has been, at times, bewildering in its narrative choices, with dead ends (Leah’s arc) and sudden drop-offs (Oceanside) that frustrate any viewer who has been tuned in for more than one season.

“Faith” has as its focus Negan’s redemption arc. Ostensibly, the episode deals with questions around our faith in each other, our faith in the world, and our faith in ourselves. Maggie doubts her decision to bring Hershel Jnr into the world; Pamela fights to retain the support of the disillusioned Commonwealth citizens; and Mercer reveals a realignment of his loyalties. But, undoubtedly, the primary purpose of 11x22 is to move Negan’s story forward, towards his upcoming spinoff with Maggie.

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Welcome! This is a place for those inspired by the strange, fantastic, and unknown. It is dedicated to those who share their talents with us and shine, whether it be on our televisions or on the silver screen. Here you will find interviews with celebrities, reviews from multiple genres, and other pop culture news and multimedia. While we originally started with a love for science fiction and fantasy, this site is no longer just for any one genre.Something you want to see featured here? Have your own site you'd like to see here? Don't hesitate to let us know!
Welcome! This is a place for those inspired by the strange, fantastic, and unknown. It is dedicated to those who share their talents with us and shine, whether it be on our televisions or on the silver screen. Here you will find interviews with celebrities, reviews from multiple genres, and other pop culture news and multimedia. While we originally started with a love for science fiction and fantasy, this site is no longer just for any one genre.Something you want to see featured here? Have your own site you'd like to see here? Don't hesitate to let us know!
Welcome! This is a place for those inspired by the strange, fantastic, and unknown. It is dedicated to those who share their talents with us and shine, whether it be on our televisions or on the silver screen. Here you will find interviews with celebrities, reviews from multiple genres, and other pop culture news and multimedia. While we originally started with a love for science fiction and fantasy, this site is no longer just for any one genre.Something you want to see featured here? Have your own site you'd like to see here? Don't hesitate to let us know!
Welcome! This is a place for those inspired by the strange, fantastic, and unknown. It is dedicated to those who share their talents with us and shine, whether it be on our televisions or on the silver screen. Here you will find interviews with celebrities, reviews from multiple genres, and other pop culture news and multimedia. While we originally started with a love for science fiction and fantasy, this site is no longer just for any one genre.Something you want to see featured here? Have your own site you'd like to see here? Don't hesitate to let us know!

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