The Walking Dead: Dead City Ending, Explained

[This story contains spoilers about The Walking Dead: Dead City season 1 episode 6, “Doma Smo.”] “Maybe some part of you always wanted it to end this way.” With those words, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) animosity reaches its climax on The Walking Dead: Dead City. In Sunday’s “Doma Smo” season finale, the two end up at each other’s throats — literally! — after Negan figures out that Maggie brought him to New York under false pretenses. As it turns out, the Croat (?eljko Ivanek) kidnapped her son Hershel (Logan Kim) so Maggie would track down her former foe and bring him “home” to the new Sanctuary.

“We could have done it. We could have saved Hershel. Because you and I together, we made one hell of a badass team,” Negan tells Maggie when their truce ends in a fight. “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.”

Maggie can’t get over Negan killing her husband Glenn (Steven Yeun), but she hesitates to turn him over to be tortured to death. In the end, Negan goes through with the trade, and Maggie and Hershel are reunited. But the homecoming isn’t a happy one. Hershel confronts Maggie, blaming the rift between them on her obsessive desire for revenge on Negan.

“I felt like the world kept taking, and kept taking, and I think at some point, I thought that if I could just fight hard enough, I’d be able to get it back. A little piece of it, at least,” Maggie confesses. “But it doesn’t work that way, because you just end up losing what you got. And I don’t want to keep doing that anymore. I don’t know how, but this thing with Negan… I’m gonna finish it. So that I can just let it go.”

Back in Manhattan, the Croat doesn’t want to kill Negan. Instead, he turns his idolized “brother” over to the Dama (Lisa Emery), who wants Negan to lead the island in the inevitable “clash of civilizations” over its natural resources: the dead bodies that the Croat’s Sanctuary turns into methane. New York’s tribes will be at war with the New Babylon Federation, and she needs a showman to unite the settlements under one rule. “Someone with confidence, fearlessness, charisma. That special, shall we say, political talent. For what is politics if not performance?” Someone like Negan.

Deducing that Negan feels remorseful for destroying Hershel’s family, the Dama coerces Negan’s compliance — by presenting him with Hershel’s toe. If Negan doesn’t do as the Dama commands, she’ll harm Hershel and Maggie.

“I think it’s the fight we’ve all been waiting for,” series creator and showrunner Eli Jorn? says on AMC+’s The Walking Dead: Dead City Episode Insider. “When Negan has his knife to Maggie’s throat, and he drops it, and he steps back, I think that action itself is essentially starting to say to her, ‘This is as it should be.’ I think he knows that he has to take responsibility. And beyond that, I think there’s something in him that fears what he is.”

When Maggie exchanges Negan’s life for Hershel’s, she thinks she’s sending him to his death.

“Maggie has tricked Negan. The Croat demanded that Maggie bring Negan to her. Only then she would get her son back. And she has the knife to his throat, and I think there’s just a moment where she’s realizing, ‘Of course I want my son back, but also, how do I feel about turning over this person that I’ve come to see is maybe not exactly the person I thought he was?'” Jorn? explained. “He helps her put her family back together, and in turn, he will suffer for what he’s done.”

It’s Hershel who helps Maggie realize that her hate for Negan could cost her what she doesn’t want to lose: her son.

“Hershel kind of explodes at his mom and calls out the fact that, ‘Were you really here for me, or were you really here to punish Negan?’ And she’s realizing that things are not as black and white as she once thought they were,” Jorn? said. “And she has to wonder if what she’s done to Negan is right and if it’s gonna help any of them heal at all. That’s what’s going through her mind in that moment – she’s kind of wrestling with what she’s done to him.”

Dead City’s first season ends with a split-screen image of Maggie and Negan “sharing a face,” which is “the larger metaphor for what’s happened in this season,” Jorn? explained. “[Which] is these two people who started out so far apart, and in coming together, they’ve started to understand one another, and they’re starting to see that, there is this way out. It’s probably a long way off, but it has to be through each other.”

The Walking Dead: Dead City has been renewed and will return for a second season on AMC.

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