As Rick Grimes entered Atlanta astride his horse, The Walking Dead pilot gave viewers a glimpse of the city's skyline that's become iconic. But it's the two newest spin-offs in The Walking Dead Universe that have taken cityscapes to the next level, presenting our heroes with two of the greatest metropolises in the world as the grand backdrops for their adventures.
The Walking Dead's 11 seasons mainly took place in the rural sections of Georgia and Virginia, but everyone's left the woods now and everything's more epic. Maggie and Negan search for Hershel in New York City in The Walking Dead: Dead City and now Paris is the latest stop for Daryl on his journey with Laurent in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. Dead City's first episode underscores the importance of its location by transporting the audience straight into Manhattan. Before any of the show's characters are even introduced, the series opens on a shot of a degraded apocalyptic skyline, with the Empire State Building as the centerpiece. Only then does Maggie appear on screen, and she helps orient the viewer by pulling out a map of lower Manhattan.
In fact, New York City is as much a character on the series as any human being. As Jeffrey Dean Morgan told AMC Talk (before the SAG-AFTRA strike), "It's called Dead City. It's not the Maggie and Negan Show. It's Dead City and it's New York City at its finest in the worst possible way." New York City's vertical structure and the shadows cast by its skyscrapers open up Maggie and Negan's world in a cinematic way that didn't exist in the original show, with camera angles that look way up to where the buildings meet the heavens and that look way down to the streets and walkers below. There are moody shots of the skyline at night, plus concrete, scaffolding, and millions and millions of the dead.
The Empire State Building is only one of several recognizable sights that Maggie and Negan encounter. There's the historic Delmonico's restaurant, where Maggie, Negan, and a marshal hide out from walkers raining down from the sky in Episode 1; the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade turkey float, which herds walkers in Episode 3; Madison Square Garden, revealed in Episode 3 to be the Croat's headquarters and which becomes the site of a battle between Maggie and the Croat's Burazi in Episode 4; a subway entrance near Penn Station that Maggie enters in Episode 4; and the flagship Macy's department store in Episode 6, where Maggie tells Negan she wanted to visit the "real" Santa Claus when she was little.
In Daryl Dixon, Daryl also gets a new locale, as well as a new country and a new language to contend with – a change of scenery that expands the scale and scope of the world of motorcycle-riding, animal-tracking Daryl. The series starts with stunning shots of the south of France and then moves to Paris when Episode 2 opens on a flashback of Isabelle gazing at a glittering skyline anchored by the Eiffel Tower. A little later, there's another shot of the Eiffel Tower in all its nighttime glory, although there's something discordant about seeing this celebrated landmark while screaming voices and screeching car tires signal the start of the zombie apocalypse.
It isn't until the next episode that Daryl gets his first view of the City of Light – a significant moment for someone who told Beth in Season 4 of The Walking Dead that he had never left Georgia. Laurent runs to a railing and surveys a vista of the rooftops of Paris, highlighted again by the Eiffel Tower, and is joined by Daryl, who tells Isabelle, "Welcome home." As they walk, they pass more monuments. They pass what once was a beautiful church in the 8th arrondissement, where Les Affamés (the hungry ones) wander nearby. Then, when they're crossing the Seine, Sylvie points out the Gothic style Notre-Dame in the distance on the Île de la Cité. The group's first stop is the well-known Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Daryl, who isn't impressed by much, is intrigued to see the grave of The Doors' Jim Morrison. Later in Episode 3, the group makes its way through the Catacombs, passing by the skulls and bones of Parisians who died of the black death in the 14th century.
There's something thrilling about watching Daryl, Maggie, and Negan navigate these unfamiliar urban surroundings. As their exploits continue – in Dead City Season 2 for Maggie and Negan and in Daryl Dixon Season 2 and the rest of Season 1 for Daryl – these distinct visual palettes will only widen The Walking Dead Universe and our enjoyment of it.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Episodes are available to stream on amc.com (with a cable provider login), and the AMC apps for mobile and devices. You can also watch episodes via AMC+ at amcplus.com or through the new AMC+ app available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku plus Samsung and Vizio smart TVs. AMC+ can also be streamed through a variety of providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity. Sign up for AMC+ now.