The Walking Dead: Dead City episode 1 recap —welcome to New York

Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Walking Dead: Dead City
Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Walking Dead: Dead City (Image credit: Peter Kramer/AMC)

NOTE: this episode contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: Dead City episode 1, "Old Acquaintances."

The newest spinoff in the TWD Universe begins with a nightmare. Only Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) isn't sleeping. She has a map and she's looking out across the Hudson toward New York City. Whatever she's after there means she'll have to go through an infestation of walkers. She's interrupted by a few walkers who pass by. One of them manages to sneak up on her and she fights it off, unleashing some of her pent-up frustration, smashing its head in. She caps it off with a primal scream of absolute rage. 

The next time we see Maggie, she pulls up at a motor lodge and bar. Yes, this is still the apocalypse, but it looks like these folks have brought a bit of civilization back to life. She has a story about her cabin being overrun by "growlers" and the bartender helpfully offers that there's a guy at the motel who can clear them out. His boss sends him on an errand, giving Maggie a chance to sneak out to the rooms and see if she can find who she's actually looking for. 


She's intercepted by the bar owner (Michelle Hurd), who thinks Maggie has been sent there to snoop. Maggie manages to free herself and fight them off, and that's when Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) walks in. She trips and he flees with a young girl, Ginny (Mahina Anne Marie Napoleon) in tow. She chases them in her truck and cuts them off.

Negan reads the notice she has. He's wanted by the New Babylon Marshalls for murder. And yet, he’s upbeat, happy with the artistic rendering of himself. Classic Negan. 

He has Ginny help him bandage his wounded leg and he explains how he knows her. Maggie reveals she was raided and her son, Herschel (Logan Kim) was taken hostage. Negan asks how he's part of this. Maggie says the man who took her son is the Croat. Though Negan pretends not to know him, she says he did Negan's infamous whistle. Negan admits the Croat was the worst of the worst in his old crew. Maggie says since she found him, the marshals will, too, so he might as well help. In return, he wants Ginny put up at the Hilltop settlement.

But since Negan helped burned Hilltop down, Maggie explains she has to take him to a new location. While Ginny sleeps, Negan reveals he picked her up after working on a farm a year prior. Her dad became a walker and she hadn’t talked since.

Gaius Charles in The Walking Dead: Dead City

Gaius Charles in The Walking Dead: Dead City (Image credit: Peter Kramer/AMC)

Marshals arrive at the bar, led by Armstrong (Gaius Charles). Armstrong tells his men to check the rooms. He has Negan's wanted poster and asks if anyone has seen him. He's wanted for the murder of five people, which is punishable by death. Armstrong explains how he'll be killed: slowly. Armstrong even knows the stories from Sanctuary, and the lineup that led to Glenn and Abraham being killed back in season 7 of The Walking Dead

When the bar owner still doesn't give up information, Armstrong takes her outside and says she's already in trouble for running a bar. After she admits she saw Negan with a woman, Armstrong pushes her into a group of walkers. Armstrong tells his man he did what had to be done. As they walk away, he finds a road map on the ground with a page missing. He looks in the index and sees that the missing page had a map of Manhattan on it.

Ginny is going with Maggie's friend from the new Hilltop colony while they continue on their mission, but Negan promises he'll come back

In a flashback, we see Negan killing Glenn and Abraham. Maggie jolts awake. Negan is already awake in the back of the truck. He tells her a story about his father, who went to New York City on a business trip and brought him a mini Statue of Liberty and promised to take Negan to see it, but then something came up and they never went. Until now. He wants to know how this is supposed to work, but Maggie is reluctant to share it with him.

Across the Hudson, Negan spots smoke. Maggie says she’s been scouting it for days. It could be smoke from breakfast and dinner, meaning people are there.

Armstrong and his people show up at the Hudson. He explains New York City was the epicenter of the outbreak. The military closed the bridges and tunnels to keep people from leaving, so it's a nightmare of the undead there.

Maggie manages to capture one of Armstrong's men and they use him as a shield to cross the river. Negan wants to throw him into the river because he's a liability. He knows Maggie is upset about Hershel but thinks it has stirred up too many emotions from the past. He presses her about how many husbands and fathers she’s killed over the years, because at this point who is innocent anymore. But she remains steadfast, that you never put to bed what he's done.

As they walk through the deserted Manhattan streets, they discover they're peppered with bodies. Smoke is rising from the building they’d spotted, so they set out in that direction. Suddenly, walkers start falling from the sky, awakened by the noise and are jumping off the buildings. They're getting a glimpse of the hellish landscape and how different it is from where they're from. Here, there's danger everywhere, including from the sky.

Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Trey Santiago-Hudson in The Walking Dead: Dead City

Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Trey Santiago-Hudson in The Walking Dead: Dead City (Image credit: Peter Kramer/AMC)

They hear music playing from a vehicle driving through the streets, a massive herd of walkers behind it. They hide behind a pile of garbage when they're attacked by a swarm of roaches. "Nope!" Negan exclaims, making a run for it. When gunshots ring out, the kidnapped marshal calls out to his friends.

They duck into a dry cleaner and split up. Armstrong finds them inside and tries to reason with Maggie to give up. Armstrong mistakenly kills the man Negan and Maggie kidnapped. Maggie sneaks up on Armstrong, but he fights her off. She tells him she needs Negan to save her son. Once he's out cold, they run. A woman catches up with them.

The Croat (Željko Ivanek) sits in front of Hershel and asks the boy what he knows about the man who killed his father. Herschel won't talk. The Croat taunts him with weapons of torture, telling him he might like it there. One of the Croat's men comes in and says "he" escaped. We watch as a man tries to flee the rooftops as the Croat and his men watch. The man uses a zipline to escape and it almost works, but not before the Croat cuts the line.

The Walking Dead: Dead City airs Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on AMC. Watch episodes on demand on AMC Plus.

Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer


Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.  

When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.