by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
If you’ve been wondering what happened to Beth (Emily Kinney) since we last saw her in season four of The Walking Dead, you finally find out in this week’s episode “Slabtown.” Judging from some of the reaction to this episode I’ve seen around the web, a Beth-based episode wasn’t exactly at the top of a lot of people’s list. I’ll admit I’ve been pretty hard on Beth in the past. For a long time she seemed like deadweight, adding very little to the story lines. Even her episode last season where she was alone with Daryl (Norman Reedus) felt slow, and her whining was slightly annoying. So I can’t say I was excited for an episode that didn’t feature any other main cast except her.
However, I found this episode to be quite entertaining. It was tense and scary without resorting to anything extreme like the Governor or Terminus. I like getting a glimpse of what other people are doing in the post-apocalyptic world and this episode provided that.
New location, new characters: The last we saw of Atlanta it was pretty much in shambles. There were a few people still around, but they were barely getting by. That’s not quite the case on the upper floors of Grady Memorial Hospital where Beth wakes up. There Beth finds she is in what appears to be a functional medical center with IVs, scrubs, and even a real doctor, Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen). She also learns there’s a price to pay for such luxurious amenities – indentured servitude. Grady Memorial is run by a bunch of cops and their tyrannical leader Dawn (Christine Woods). Not knowing who to trust, Beth pretty much keeps her mouth shut about where she’s been, though she forges an uneasy friendship with Dr. Edwards and another indentured servant, Noah (Tyler James Wiliams).
Are they good or are they bad?: It might be silly to suggest that these cops are good, but I can’t say that Dawn is necessarily bad. In a kind of ode to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Dawn believes fascism is what will save them. As long as everyone does their job and keeps things just so, they will eventually be saved and life will go back to normal. Dawn seems to truly believe this and discounts Beth’s warnings that no one is coming. For the most part everyone seems to go along with Dawn’s tyranny because it’s the easiest thing to so. Even Dr. Edwards, who should hold some power due to his skills, cowers at Dawn’s constant threats of beatings. Of course there are a few bad apples in the bunch. Her henchman Gorman (Cullen Moss) is more interested in using his power to force the women into sex than preserving a real society.
Carol shows up: Just as Beth was contemplating her revenge over her thwarted escape attempt, where Noah got away and she was captured, Carol (Melissa McBride) is wheeled in on a gurney. That was certainly an unexpected jolt. Is she there to save Beth or was she “rescued” by the cops on brought in? That all depends on whether it’s Noah who was hiding out in the woods with Daryl.
The Not So Cool:
Individual character stand-alone episodes: While this episode was entertaining, I’m not totally down with episodes that focus on just one character. This episode likely goes back in time a little bit, so what might have been cool is to have a few scenes showing what the others were doing at the exact same time. That would have provided a little extra context to this episode.
This episode doesn’t answer where Beth was the entire time: Beth was grabbed by the people in the car. Who were they? These cops or someone else? It didn’t seem like Beth was at the hospital long enough to cover from the time she disappeared to Carol showing up unless she was out of it longer than her injuries would suggest. I might be wrong, but it still seems like there is some missing time.
Images: Gene Page/AMC