This week’s episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City had a little something for everyone. We got a cameo from a fan favorite character that we haven’t seen in many years. We got a crazy battle inside Madison Square Garden between the survivors and the dead. And we got the inevitable reunion between Negan and The Croat. Like the episode title says, everybody wins a prize.
We start in a flashback sequence at The Sanctuary. Negan is sitting and eating like a king with Lucille by his side when a familiar face enters the room. Simon, Negan’s right hand man played by the great Steven Ogg, tells him that they have a problem. Briefly discussed by Negan in a previous episode, this flashback deals with Negan realizing The Croat’s methods of interrogation have gotten so out of hand that he has become a monster that Negan can’t have around anymore. And because of how far gone he has become, The Croat looks to Negan as almost a father/older brother figure and sees his actions as a means to make Negan proud.
We return to the present where Maggie and Negan are preparing for the attack on the arena. Maggie finds the small container of beeswax belonging to the survivor that Negan killed at the end of the last episode. When she attempts to confront Negan about this discovery he essentially says that she can’t judge him for this as she also has dark secrets of things she needed to do to survive. This moment creates a strange truce between them and almost a baseline understanding of each other going into this battle. The plan for the attack seems simple enough—Negan breaks off and gets The Croat to come after him while Maggie and the rest of the group storm the arena and find Hershel.
As most attacks go in the The Walking Dead universe, it doesn’t go well. When Negan begins his wild goose chase with The Croat, the rest of the survivors quickly realize their arrival was expected. Within minutes, walkers flood the arena and Maggie realizes that they now have to fight to escape. And if the mass of walkers wasn’t enough, Ginny managed to find her way inside the arena with them. Maggie gathers Ginny and whoever else is still alive and traps them in the fighting ring to regroup.
Meanwhile, Negan and The Croat finally cross paths and their interaction doesn’t go as Negan planned. The Croat tries to show Negan that he has made his own sanctuary, but all Negan sees is a man too far gone. Negan demands that he let Hershel go, but instead the Croat throw Armstrong at Negan (literally) and Negan chooses to save him. This allows the two to escape the arena, but puts the bounty hunter and his target in the same room for the first time. As the two square off, Maggie and what’s left of the survivor group retreat into the sewers.
This episode’s exploration of the early days of Negan and The Saviors was a nice surprise. Getting to see Simon again and seeing Negan as the man with the bat was nostalgic. The Walking Dead: Dead City is continuing to do the character work that the main series either didn’t have the time to do or chose not to. Maggie and Negan are two characters that fans love for very different reasons and this story is doing its best to not sway interpretations.
Even with these small glimpses of peace between Maggie and Negan, I still think at any moment Maggie could turn on him and with good reason. The invasion of the arena was also a fantastic set piece and was just as claustrophobic and tense as I was expecting. The Croat’s trap was reminiscent of a Batman villain’s and made the stakes feel even bigger than usual.
With the arena now being overrun with the dead and both The Croat and the NY survivors retreating into the city, the next few episodes are sure to have some exciting and dark moments. “Everybody Wins a Prize” served as a great character story as well as a classic zombie action movie. Negan and Maggie are both in for fight of their lives!
Feature image courtesy of Peter Kramer/AMC
'The Walking Dead: Dead City' 1x04 - 7/10