Just when many were ready to count out The Walking Dead universe, The Walking Dead: Dead City promised a complete story charting Maggie and Negan's journey to New York City.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 6 marked the season's conclusion, and it's clear this new entry is setting up plots for the years to come.
We'll start with Negan because there's been such a push and pull with him as he's tried to contain this beast, so to speak, regarding the person he has to become when he's backed against a corner.
We witnessed it many times in The Walking Dead Season 7 and several more throughout the first five episodes of The Walking Dead: Dead City.
Negan doesn't like who he can become during these moments, and he doesn't need to tell the audience because you can see it in Jeffrey Dean Morgan's portrayal of this flawed man that he hates who he can become.
For several reasons, it was hard not to feel sorry for Negan during the finale. Yes, he's done some despicable things in his time, but he's tried to become a different person.
It's easy to say, "What more could you ask for?" but he's tried to be better in a world filled with literal evil, so it's a necessary question.
Negan: What are you doin' here? How the hell did you get here?
Maggie: Ginny! Ginny!
Negan: You know about this?
Maggie: No. She just turned up at the arena, right before the walkers came, and...
Negan: You can't be here.
Maggie: I think she just wanted to be with you. The flare.
Negan: We gotta go. You can't be here. You hear me? I can't protect you and help Maggie. There was a plan. Her and I, we come here, we get Hershel. You stay with her people, where you're safe! That was the whole goddamn point! That you stay safe. And you know that, Ginny. Shit!
Perlie: I can take her back. You finish what you started. I can take her where she needs to go.
Negan: Listen to me, you're gonna go with him. And he'll keep you safe. He is good people. Ginny, I can't go with you, and you can't stay with me. Hell, you do not want to stay with me. You don't know me, kid. I am not who you think I am.
Ginny: I... want you to...
Negan: No! All these months and now you want to chat? I killed your dad. I'm not wanted for robbing a wagon train. I killed five men. And your dad, he was one of them. It's why I tracked you down to the farm. Why I let you tag along, 'cause I knew you had no one. You? You're just a debt that I had to pay.
There had to be a reason why Negan was so interested in looking after Ginny following the death of her father, but nothing prepared me for the revelation that Negan was the person who carried out the brutal murder.
Obviously, we now know Ginny's dad was one of the men who attacked Annie, so now his decision to look after her makes all the more sense.
Negan had already taken Glen from Hershel, and now he's taken a father from Ginny, so in Negan's mind, there were probably some parallels.
Understandably, he lashed out at the men who attacked his wife because it was the only thing he thought he could do to ensure they couldn't attack anyone else.
Fast forward to the present, and Negan knew what was expected of him. He didn't ever want to tell Ginny about why their lives were intertwined, but he also wanted her to be safe.
Manhattan has proven to be a terrifying sandbox for the characters throughout The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1, so he knew he had to make Ginny hate him so that she would want to have water in between them.
Hearing Negan murdered her father had to hurt her, but I'm sure she'll change her mind when she learns the ins and outs of why he was forced to make such a rash decision.
Maggie: What you did back there, that couldn't have been easy. You think the plan's gonna work?
Negan: I'll say this, he was surprisingly glad to see my ass. Water under the bridge, he said. It's not like our reunion went off without a hitch, but, with all our history, that brotherly bullshit, I have a feelin' he and I may be able to work something out.
Maggie: For me, it wasn't the Statue of Liberty. It was Macy's. When I was little, after my mom got sick, I'd crawl into bed with her and she'd tell me stories. About Santa. The real Santa. Sometimes he'd come down from the North Pole to the Macy's store in Manhattan and visit all the kids. And I used to daydream that one day I'd go to New York, walk into that Macy's, become best friends with the real Santa. He'd take all my toys that I'd lost or that had been broken, and he'd find a way to replace them. And there it is.
The biggest surprise here was that Ginny returned to the Bricks, but with a second season ordered, she will serve as someone Hershel will have some things in common with.
Let's get back to Negan because he went through it all during "Doma Smo." Losing Ginny was bad enough, but putting the puzzle pieces together that Maggie had been playing him all along and planning on passing him over to the Croat had to hurt.
In his head, I imagine he was putting all of the red flags about Maggie together and only realized when it was too late.
It's hard to be mad at Maggie. If the first five episodes and final seasons of The Walking Dead taught us anything, she'll never truly be over Negan's actions.
In her mind, handing him over to the Croat was the only path forward to give her the gratification she needed for him ruining her life.
Deep down, she knew she could be leading him to his death, but what other hope did she have to save her son?
Hershel comes first, and Negan's the last person she ever thought she'd want to save, so there's that.
The Dama wanting Negan because of his street smart, cunningness, and leadership skills were not on my bingo card, but it does give us a launching pad for a compelling next chapter.
Negan: You were inside the sewers with Ginny. What do you think she was trying to tell me?
Maggie: I don't know, maybe she knew that you'd be mad at her for coming and just wanted to explain herself.
The Dama has been developed quite well across two episodes because we now know what she's afraid of and what she's willing to do to make people stay away from the resources that New York City has to offer to neighboring areas.
She's scared that the world will regain some semblance of normalcy because she knows there's a good chance people will careen through New York City and take what she's built for herself.
She's done a great job of keeping herself in hiding and making it seem like the Croat is the face of the operation.
The sad part of her manipulation is that she's forced Negan to take the keys to the kingdom by threatening to steal more parts of Hershel's body.
That's just plain wicked, but she doesn't know who she's messing with here. You could tell from the look on Maggie's face when she realized what had happened that she's going to be heading back to Manhattan to take down these people.
It's hard to tell whether she wants to help Negan or if she's just consumed by the rage that this woman got close to her son and tore off one of his limbs as a bargaining chip.
For now, it looks like Negan will be forced to revert to his villainous ways with the hope he can keep Hershel safe. He won't expect Maggie to return to the island, but she'll have to have plenty of allies by her side when she does return.
Then again, maybe she'll join forces with Perlie and the residents of New Babylon. Truthfully, I wasn't as impressed with the fleshing-out of New Babylon this late in the game, clearly in anticipation of The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 2.
Here's what I'm thinking. The Croat never took your grain, just your kid. For collateral, sure, but he was never coming back for no harvest. He wanted me. And for what? Who the hell knows. But whatever that crazy son of a b¡tch wants with me, I sure as sh¡t ain't gonna like it. You and I both know that much. The shit thing is, Maggie, we could have done it. We could have saved Hershel. Because you and I together, we made one hell of a badass team. But you know that, don't you? Maybe some part of you always wanted it to end this way. The fact is, Maggie, it doesn't matter what excuses I give you or how many apologies I offer, you can't get over it. And you shouldn't.Negan
I know the series wanted to lay the groundwork and introduce us to that side of things through Perlie, but the scenes with his boss wanting to hear about the methane fell very flat.
Yes, the show is attempting to world-build, but knowing that New Babylon would want the methane should have happened sooner.
Perlie's clearly followed the way of New Babylon too closely and is slowly realizing they're just as corrupt as the other communities he's probably encountered in his travels.
The saddest part of the finale was that despite getting her son home, Maggie was still thinking about Negan.
Hershel's whole life has been defined by what Negan did to his father. Obviously, Glen hasn't been in Hershel's life, and to an extent, Hershel feels like his mother has been absent because she's been so driven by her pursuit of vengeance.
My former guest and I had a lot of talks. He told me this story of a man who murdered his father not just in front of his mother, but him, the unborn baby in her belly. And I could sense in the rest of this story what he himself couldn't. That his father's killer might feel remorseful, responsible for the boy whose family he destroyed. Well, of course, he only told me this once he felt safe with me. And here you are, come all this way to save him. As you know, I eventually let him go in exchange for you. But I kept a little piece of him. And I can always go back for more. Make it last. We have a lot to discuss. A lot to plan for.Dama
There's no way Maggie will be able to put this to bed until Negan is in the ground or very far away from her and her son.
But I doubt their teaming up is over. He still has to escape the Dama, The Croat, and the city.
Who knows, maybe Negan will relish in the power that comes with being associated with the Dama.
"Doma Smo" was the weakest entry of this latest spinoff. We had the potential to end the series on a high note, but it almost feels like the writers realized they wanted another season.
What are your thoughts on Negan working with the Dama?
Do you think Maggie wants to help Negan?
Hit the comments.
Paul Dailly was an Associate Editor for TV Fanatic.Follow him on X.