The Walking Dead: Dead City Recap: “Stories We Tell Ourselves”

The penultimate episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City opens in darkness. Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Ginny (Mahina Napoleon), and native New Yorkers Amaia (Karina Ortiz) and Tommaso (Jonathan Higginbotham) fled like rats into the tunnels beneath the new Sanctuary, where the Croat (?eljko Ivanek) makes fresh deposits to his methane bank: fresh corpses. This is the Croat “feeding the beast,” using the dead to power the arena. Amaia blames herself for leading the Tribe into the Burazi’s trap, but Tommaso says they should focus on getting out before they feel the effects of the methane: a pounding pulse, a jackhammer in the head, heavy eyes, and nausea.

Elsewhere, Marshal Perlie Armstrong (Gaius Charles) has the fugitive Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) at gunpoint. Negan reminds him that his boat has sunk by now, the Croat has the island on lockdown — oh, and Negan saved his ass back there. That doesn’t absolve Negan from killing a New Babylon magistrate and four other men, the marshal says, but Negan calls it vigilante justice for what those men did to his wife.

In the sewers, Maggie’s group comes across a wall of fat. The manholes are sealed, and they’re starting to cough from the methane. Maggie is angry that Ginny showed up on the island searching for Negan. “You do not know the monster that I know,” she tells the girl. “But if you stick around long enough, you will.”

Armstrong is strong-arming Negan to get to the Chelsea Piers. The marina has floating docks built on modular plastic pontoons molded from sturdy polyurethane foam, meaning they can float their asses off the island. Ducking for cover from walkers inside an old fridge-turned-secret entrance, Negan and Armstrong happen across baby doll body parts strung up on a bed spring. The mutilated dolls — a body with many limbs, another a decapitated head with limbs — might be the work of “an avant-garde artist from before,” Negan figures. “Or someone who lost their mind from after,” Armstrong counters.

Somewhere beneath Hell’s Kitchen, Tommaso breaks away from the group. He just so happens to find oxygen and gas masks, figuring they were left behind by the Burazi. But Maggie is suspicious. Amaia still can’t figure out how the Croat knew they were coming. Tommaso suggests Luther tipped him off. After all, he disappeared just before the ambush.

“It was him,” Maggie says. Not Luther. Tommaso. He knew exactly how to get out of the arena. He knew to go to the sewers. And he knew how to get inside. He says the methane is going to her head, but she points out he took off his backpack before finding the oxygen tanks. He had the tanks the whole time and was working with the Croat the whole time.

Tommaso cops to it. Taking back the island and reclaiming their home from the Croat and his Burazi was a fantasy. “Our home is gone, Amaia. It’s been gone. Everyone is dead. What I did, it was the only way. I did it for you.” Broken by the betrayal, Amaia walks off, leaving Tommaso to confront Maggie. A standoff diffuses itself and he walks off without a fight.

Back on the streets, Negan hurls a walker at Armstrong and makes a break for it. When he catches up, Negan explains why he saved him back at the arena: he doesn’t like leaving people behind to die. “Even huge assholes.” Negan offers to help the injured Armstrong if he gives up the chase, but the marshal refuses to budge.

In the tunnels, Maggie offers Amaia sanctuary at the Bricks just before collapsing from the methane. Through the fog of her mind, hazy memories become clear. She remembers racing after her son, Hershel (Logan Kim), who was ripped away by the Croat at the Bricks. She remembers Negan bashing Glenn’s brains in. She remembers Hershel screaming for help. And she remembers Glenn dying. Then she’s back.

Tommaso tries to explain himself. He gave up their hideouts to stay alive and get back to Amaia. If he brought their people to the Croat, he’d give them a boat and a way off the island. There’s a place on the mainland that has homes with kitchens, rooms for your things, a farm, and school for your children. A home. “That shit sounded safe,” he says, “because everything was made of brick.”

Before Maggie can respond, Amaia screams. One of the many bodies piled up in the belly of the beast has her in its grip. As Maggie protects Ginny, Tommaso is too late to pull Amaia from the mass of bodies dragging her into the pile. Walkers tear Amaia’s stomach open and sink their teeth into Tommaso’s neck. Through a mouth of blood, he manages to get out his last words: “It’s all my fault. I messed it all up.” Maggie stabs his brain.

At the King Francis Theater, the Croat steps into a luxurious back room and reports that his informant delivered. The threat of the Tribe has been neutralized, and Negan is on the island. A woman with an air of elegance and elitism closes her book. Kerwin Lee Klein’s “Frontiers of Historical Imagination – Narrating the European Conquest of Native America, 1890-1990.” She is the Dama (Lisa Emery).

Sitting like a scolded child, the Croat sheepishly presents a New Babylon marshal’s badge. “It’s just as you said. There will be those who try to bring it all back, the old laws and prisons, to protect and serve,” the Croat recites. “But really, like before, just to punish and steal and feed their fat bellies. Now they’ve come for what we’ve built. What’s ours. So we have to be ready.”

“Which is why we need him,” the Dama says. “Which is why you f—ed up so royally.” The Croat, kneeling at her side, promises to find him. “There is absolutely no way Negan will be getting off this island.” As the Dama extends her hand, the Croat seals his promise with a kiss to her open palm like a good dog.

Back in the tunnels, Maggie is nearly overwhelmed by the methane. Ginny, making use of a gas mask, leads the way. Maggie hands her a water tank and tells her to get to the Bricks. Then she explains why she didn’t tell Negan that Ginny was on the island. If she lets him know she’s here, “It all falls apart. He’ll leave. He’ll take you back.”

As Maggie tells it, a very bad man took all their grain and all the food that took months to produce. And he’s going to keep taking it, every single harvest, until they starve to death. Worse than that, that bad man has her son. Negan is the key to getting him back. Ginny nods.

On the surface, Negan and Armstrong hole up in a school bus. Even Negan doesn’t know why he’s helping the cop. “My luck, they pin your death on me, and I’m wanted twice as bad. The next guy on my ass way worse than you. I guarantee it.” Armstrong tells Negan about his brother, Joel, a good man with substance abuse issues who once got so high he broke into their parents’ house and attacked their mothher. Armstrong never talked to his brother again. Three years after that, the city fell apart. “He was left to die all alone, in the worst possible place on the planet,” Armstrong says through gritted teeth. “Is that what he deserved? Is it really so black and white? You’d asked me back then, I would’ve said yes. But now? I don’t know. Is it gray? Is it something else? Tranquillitas ordinis.” The tranquility of order. “What if it’s just stories we tell ourselves to sleep easier?”

Under the city, Maggie and Ginny’s exit is blocked by another pile of bodies “feeding the beast.” Maggie’s foot is entrenched in the squishing throng of corpses at her feet. The heat and methane has fused decaying bodies into a mass of limbs like a twisted art project. The six-armed walker crawls after Maggie and shambles to its feet, revealing another half-body mass joined to its side. It’s a hulking Frankenstein’s monster of rotting flesh with teeth. And it’s hungry.

Maggie struggles to escape the monster that’s toppled her. Two heads bite at her and six arms claw at her when a third head bursts free from its chest cavity like in Alien. Then another head rips through. Maggie tries not to succumb to the methane as she fights it off, stabbing the heads. All three of them. The six-armed walker collapses. A fourth head pops up, so Maggie stabs that too. She climbs up a ladder after Ginny. Written in blood is a message for Maggie: LIAR.

As Ginny crawls through sewer tunnels, we learn what really happened at the Bricks. Before she ran away, Ginny climbed atop the grain silo… and found it filled with grain. As Maggie weakly crawls after Ginny, she remembers what happened the night the Croat took Hershel. As the Burazi ripped Hershel from Maggie, the Croat handed Maggie a piece of paper. But not just any piece of paper. Negan’s wanted poster.

New episodes of The Walking Dead: Dead City premiere Thursdays on AMC+ and Sundays on AMC.

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