This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
With every well-paced story there is a point where the momentum dips. This week’s The Walking Dead: Dead City episode “Stories We Tell Ourselves” has a few important developments but is not as gripping and exciting as the previous episodes. Being the penultimate episode of this series, I was expecting something like a full sprint, but what we ended up with was just a brisk walk into the finale.
The episode follows three plot lines. The main story follows Maggie, Ginny and the remaining NY survivors as they navigate the sewers after their retreat from the arena. While beginning to realize the effect of the methane in the sewers on the survivors, Tommaso conveniently finds oxygen tanks for the group to use to continue through the tunnels. Maggie points out this to the group and Tommaso confesses that during the chaos at the arena, The Croat cornered him and made him take a deal that would give the survivors a boat in exchange for giving the locations of their hideouts. Amaia is shocked and hurt, but this doesn’t last long as two walkers quickly kill the couple leaving only Maggie and Ginny.
Negan and an injured Armstrong hide out while trying to figure out if they can trust each other. Armstrong shares that he was tasked with banishing his brother due to his drug addiction. This action caused his brother to die alone, and this thought has haunted Armstrong ever since. While these two are still on different sides morally, this time together created a mutual understanding.
Elsewhere, The Croat arrives at an old theater and works his way through it until he reaches the office. An older woman known as “The Dama” is displeased with The Croat’s inability to capture Negan and explained the importance of his immediate capture. She sends The Croat on his way. Something tells me that we will be seeing her again.
The rest of the episode finds Maggie and Ginny struggling through the sewers. Maggie confessed that she knew Ginny had followed them because of her stuffed dinosaur and that she couldn’t allow Negan to find out because she needed his help. Suddenly, Maggie steps into a walker’s chest cavity and gets stuck. As she tells Ginny to run, the most vile and insane looking walker appears. It looks to be made up of several walkers that have fused together at various points in their bodies. It takes several blows by Maggie to take this beast down for good. Maggie looks for Ginny and sees only the word “Liar” written in blood on the wall. We then get a flashback to the night Hershel was taken by The Croat and we learn what Maggie’s actual task was — bring Negan to The Croat.
This series has done so much in regard to building up the characters of Maggie and Negan in this universe. Each episode has given us a new insight into them that both changes the way we viewed them from the original series and the way we see them now. Short of the big reveal in the literal last minute of the episode, there wasn’t really much development for either character. We got a quick and not very exciting conclusion to the NY survivors and the tension between Negan and Armstrong lasted about five minutes.
Compared to the well written and paced previous episodes, this one was just like they took their foot off the gas at the worst possible time. The one part of the episode I was genuinely impressed by was the walker designs. The fused together walker that Maggie fights in the sewer was by far one of the top three most creative walkers in any of the The Walking Dead shows. Utilizing the fact that Maggie was already exhausted and feeling the effects of the methane being down in the sewer for that long, seeing this abomination slowly raise up in front of her was something that will be burned into my memory for a while. Overall, the set design and visual/practical effects on this show have been a major upgrade from the previous shows in this universe.
With a lackluster plot and no real character growth to speak of, this was definitely the weakest episode of the series so far. While the walker design team deserves all the praise for their nightmare creation featured in this episode, it just wasn’t enough to save the rest of it. With only one episode left, here’s hoping we get a strong finish like I know this show is capable of.
Feature image courtesy of Peter Kramer/AMC
'The Walking Dead: Dead City' 1x05 - 6/10