The Walking Dead: Dead City – What is New Babylon?

Tranquillitas Ordinis. New Babylon presents a different kind of authoritarian regime on The Walking Dead.

Pallavi Sastry as Nina and Mahina Anne Marie Napoleon as Ginny
Photo: Peter Kramer | AMC

This article contains light spoilers for The Walking Dead: Dead City through episode 2.

In The Walking Dead: Dead City‘s first episode, Marshal Perlie Armstrong (Gaius Charles) introduces himself. He’s a family man who doesn’t drink or smoke, and whose only vice is a good hog stew. In his black cowboy hat, he’s the picture of justice, and that little glimpse into Perlie’s life explains a whole lot about just why Ginny decides to sneak out of New Babylon to find her way to the Big Apple. Thankfully for her, Manhattan is only a short scooter ride and canoe trip away from New Jersey’s New Babylon. 

Perlie is aggressive when he needs to be, and clearly, he’s a very straight-laced character who fits right in with the picture of post-apocalyptic lawmen like Rick Grimes. He’s got right and wrong, and the power to tell the difference between the two. What he doesn’t seem to have much in the way of is oversight. Perlie has his team, he’s the guy in charge, and that’s that. The only possible oversight would be the magistrates; Negan has killed four marshals and a magistrate of the New Babylon Federation, which is why he faces the death penalty. But, as Negan explains in the second episode, there seems to be nothing to reign in marshals and magistrates if they go bad, and no higher authorities to appeal to. Or if there is, Negan wasn’t going to put much trust in that institution.

So the law in New Babylon seems to serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Perlie shows up to the hotel, shakes down the bartender for information, then puts her to death for her crimes by throwing her to the walkers hanging around nearby. After all, she’d broken multiple laws, all of which earned the death penalty. Throwing the person to walkers is apparently one method. Another method, as Maggie sees on her drive to drop Ginny off with New Babylon’s resident babysitter, is hanging; two people are dangling from gallows just outside the town welcome sign, and it’s a professional-looking execution. And Negan? Well, he’s on the run for the law from killing marshals; he faces a slow bisection from groin to head with a saw, and a slow, dull saw at that. No wonder he doesn’t protest too hard when Maggie tells him that she needs him to go to an island full of hungry dead people.

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That absolute authority in the hands of the government might sound pretty familiar to people who remember the Alexandria Ricktatorship or the leadership of The Commonwealth. The law is the law, and the only people who can break the law are the guys that uphold the law. Be it using people to hunt for fiat currency in the ruins of the suburbs or robbing and beating an innocent woman on her way to trade with your community. 

The brutality of the punishment is another blast from the past. Dwight, formerly of Negan’s Saviors, faced some pretty severe punishment for breaking some of Negan’s rules. New Babylon doesn’t seem to have such a stark class divide, but the punishments would be a bit much even for Sanctuary. And unlike Sanctuary, where people like Eugene could enjoy a post-work bottle of wine, New Babylon is entirely for tee-totalers. No drinking, no drugs, and no prostitution, according to Perlie, and the punishment for any of these three activities is death. No jury trials, no appeals, no extenuating circumstances. At least The Commonwealth would go through a show-trial for Eugene when it made sense to mollify the community.

That’s one good thing about New Babylon. They live up to their motto “Tranquillitas Ordinis,” or “tranquility of order.” Aside from the construction where the walls were being repaired post-breech by the Croat’s army, things were together as Ginny was introduced into the community. The crops were in neat rows and well-tended, the buildings were in good repair, nobody was being roasted on spits like at Terminus, and there was a functional community working towards bigger goals. There were even schools! Unlike the schools of The Commonwealth, the schools in New Babylon didn’t bother with much of the education of the old world; instead, these kids were learning about using weapons and foraging for food, skills that mean something more than trigonometry or history. 

On the surface, everything looks great in New Babylon. People are safe and there’s order and peace. The methods used to maintain that peace, however, might be a problem. In a world where intoxication can lead to the death of an entire community, sobriety is a virtue. However, the punishment doesn’t exactly fit the crime, especially if it’s at a speakeasy outside of the city limits. New Babylon might be a great place to live, but it’s definitely not a place you want to get into trouble. Some dictatorships have had more liberal justice systems than the New Babylon Federation.