The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – Who is the Croat?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 19, 2023 (Last updated: February 28, 2024)
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The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1 Recap


There’s a lot to like about Dead City in its premiere, which introduces an even darker post-apocalypse grounded in the relationship of two long-time fan-favourites.

This recap of the 2023 AMC original The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1, “Old Acquaintances”, contains spoilers.

The Walking Dead, somewhat ironically, may never die. It has had spin-offs for years; Fear the Walking Dead has run the gamut from serviceable to brilliant to terrible to totally unrecognizable, The World Beyond was a torpid YA endeavor, and Tales of the Walking Dead was a semi-decent anthology that you could ultimately take or leave.

The Walking Dead: Dead City, which spins off directly from the flagship show’s series finale and centers on the delicate relationship between two longstanding fan-favorite characters in Maggie and Negan, is the first of these secondary shows to feel both intimately connected to the events of the main storyline and somewhat worthwhile on its own terms.

The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

You can definitely make the case that this relationship hadn’t really run its course. Most of Negan’s growth from Big Bad to sympathetic ally to wise-cracking hero occurred while Maggie was nowhere to be seen. They only got a chance to work through their issues in the final season, and even then, it felt a little truncated with everything else going on. The essential hook of their dynamic – can Maggie ever forgive and trust the man who murdered her husband – is what Dead City burns for fuel.

In “Old Acquaintances” it isn’t immediately clear how much time has elapsed since these two last saw each other. Specific events are kept deliberately mysterious. However, we can certainly infer a few things from the setup of this episode, which plays out a bit like a taut, post-apocalyptic neo-Western.

Who is the Croat?

Negan, for instance, is a wanted man. He’s being pursued by the Marshalls of New Babylon for some offense or another, and Maggie needs his help to track down the Croat, a former member of Negan’s Saviours who is currently holed up in Manhattan. The Croat has kidnapped Maggie’s son, Hershel, and whistled while he did so, suggesting that there was a personal element to the attack that Maggie is keen to avenge.

Negan doesn’t have much reason to help Maggie aside from lingering guilt over his past and his desire to protect Ginny, a young girl muted by trauma whom Maggie can protect at Hilltop.

What happened to Manhattan?

Dead City immediately has an intriguing sense of place. We learn that Manhattan, the titular dead city, was essentially cut off and left to become an isolated city-wide horde, so there’s certainly some novelty to that setting. And there’s also an obvious tonal darkness that is worth highlighting. The New Babylon Marshalls seemingly have no compunction about torturing and killing their way to the information they need, and the Croat is exactly the kind of villain you’d expect in this sort of material.

But the most compelling idea is that Maggie is not really much different from Negan, and is beginning to realize it. Negan even points it out himself – “How many husbands and fathers have you killed?” – when he gets frustrated by her feigned moral superiority. Maggie has been able to flourish more than most in a world that has only been survived by bad guys. What does that make her?

The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1 Ending Explained

After Maggie and Negan creep their way towards what they believe to be the Croat’s lair, we finally meet the man himself and a recast Hershel.

There’s little to be gleaned about the Croat’s personality or motivations at this point except the obvious – he’s deranged. This is proven when he cuts the zipline an escaping hostage is using just to watch him plummet to the streets below. Even Negan describes him as a psychopath, and that’s saying something.

Whether the Croat will become the Big Bad of the season or be quickly despatched as a way to further Maggie and Negan’s relationship is anyone’s guess at this point, but either way, “Old Acquaintances” is a decent start to a new-ish direction for a flailing franchise. Hopefully, it can capitalize on its potential.

You can stream The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1 Episode 1, “Old Acquaintances”, exclusively on AMC and AMC+.

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