Arguably the strongest characters in The Walking Dead
universe are women: among them, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), Michonne Grimes (Danai Gurira), Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos), and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan). The franchise makes its women suffer, but it allows them to transform that suffering into courage and grit and cunning. By the end of the flagship series, countless battles under her belt, Maggie is heading up the community at Hilltop, which thrived under her governance years before. She is a seasoned fighter and leader - smart, accomplished, and brave.
And yet, in “Who’s There?,” the second episode of The Walking Dead: Dead City
, she displays virtually none of these skills. Instead, the dynamic in her uneasy partnership with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) becomes that of the veteran warrior (him) and the young hothead (her), with Negan lecturing her on how and why to negotiate and cautioning her against unnecessary violence. Maggie is on a knife-edge in this episode - as in all of them - while Negan is wearily tolerant of her aggression and rash decision-making.
There is weariness, too, in one of the episode’s pivotal moments, when Negan enacts a performance reminiscent of his days leading the Saviors. Ambushed by a team of the Croat (Željko Ivanek)’s people, Negan captures one, drives his head through multiple panes of glass, and then slits his throat and guts him over the edge of balcony, allowing the man’s blood and gore to splatter onto his companions below (mysteriously, they do not move out of the way). His sarcastic patter to the attackers is tired, a half-hearted summoning of his former persona that borders dangerously on self-satire, and when he turns to a clearly triggered Maggie afterwards, he looks worn, chagrined, and perhaps regretful.