I’m going to warn you, I loved this episode. In fact, this season has reminded me about why I fell in love with The Walking Dead in season one. “Slabtown” was definitely a slower pace, and felt odd without Rick, but unlike season three, this episode actually had character development, and was just as badass without our regular team.
We finally got to see a taste of whatever happened to Beth. She was saved, but really kidnapped to be an indentured servant, by two “officers” Dawn Lerner and her subordinate Gorman. She wakes up in a hospital to find that she is there without Daryl, and that because she was saved, she now owes the group at Grady Memorial Hospital her “services” in return for food, clothing, and safety. Because this episode centered around only one of “our” group and introduced a lot of new characters, it felt like a short film. There was no time to waste in telling everyone’s story. The writers (Matt Negrete and Channing Powell) did an extraordinary job of showing each new character’s essential qualities rather than telling us.
Dawn Lerner is a wonderful parallel to The Governor. In fact, the majority of the episode felt like what Woodbury was supposed to be; in the comics Woodbury was a place where everyone had a job in order to keep the place going, but in never seemed quite “right.” It was also striking that Officer Lerner is of the law, under the same practice as Rick Grimes, but in a totally different moral realm. Lerner believes there is still someone out there, and that her idea that forcing people to stay and work off their debt is for the greater good. Everyone seems to think they are right in the apocalypse. What struck me as odd is that Lerner killed her partner Hanson for letting their people die, but she allows Gorman to do something worse, believing that it is all part of rebuilding.
So what did Gorman do? Well he definitely raped Beth’s fellow patient, Joan, and attempted the same with Beth. The scene with Gorman coming into Beth’s room and forcing her own lollipop in her mouth was one of the most uncomfortable television moments I have seen in a very long time. It was reminiscent of what The Governor was like in the comic books combined with “Buck” from Kill Bill; totally and utterly creepy. I was waiting with baited breathe to find out what would happen to Gorman. However, I kept wondering why Lerner thought that allowing Gorman to rape the young women of the hospital would be a good part of rebuilding society once they were found.
Dr. Steven Edwards was one of two new characters to care for in the hospital. The only doctor there, and part of the team from the beginning, Dr. Edwards cares for Beth and seems genuine from the beginning. From letting her listen to his music (we know how much Beth loves music), to feeding her, and standing up for her to the rapey Gorman, Dr. Edwards actually was doing something to try to rebuild society. His love of music and art was a rare glimpse into the old world that we don’t really get to see from anyone anymore. However, Dr. Edwards showed that he is just surviving just like everyone else, and by any means possible. In his office, he tells Beth that “Art isn’t about survival it’s about transcendence.” But when another Doctor is brought in as a patient, Dr. Edwards forces Beth to kill him when she injects him with the wrong medicine. The correlation between Dr. Edwards killing the other Doctor so insure his own life and the paining he keeps in his office, “The Denial of Saint Peter” was a beautiful comparison and one of the better moments of writing in the show.
The other character to root for was the patient Noah. Come on, it’s hard not to root for the kid from Everybody Hates Chris. Noah is the best person in the hospital. He gives Beth the lollipop, gives her confidence in her own strength, and gives them both a way out. He tells her that the hospital only keeps weak people because weak people can never leave, hence why his father was killed, because his father was too strong to stay. When Noah and Beth begin their escape, it was easy to think, “Damn, they are gonna kill him already, huh?” The bad towel rope, the disgusting fall into the pile of rotting bodies, and the walkers coming out for the dark just for him seemed so obvious. When he was able to get out the fences, I found myself cheering and disappointed at the same time. I was happy that a black man on the show was able to survive what seemed like certain doom, but by the same token, he left Beth behind! It goes to show, that in this world, they are all just surviving, and there isn’t much room for transcendence anymore.
The most impressive element to the episode was Beth herself. My God the character development! I squealed as I wrote that sentence, too. Even from the beginning of the episode to the end, it seemed like Beth had in fact, transcended, but not necessarily in the past sense of the word. She went from looking for her lollipop to flat out murder in 45 minutes, and I loved every bit of it. Beth is not to be under estimated. When we met Beth, she is a scared little girl who cuts herself; something Dawn Lerner is sure to remind her, and us, of by pointing out the scar on her wrist. But Beth is not that little girl anymore. As The Talking Dead pointed out, she was raised by Hershel, and trained by Daryl. But most importantly, Beth has realized her own strength beyond the men who helped her out on the way. She may have had help from Noah in the hospital, but she alone killed Gorman by using her smarts, put together the clues that the man she accidentally killed was a doctor, and was a dead shot in the hospital parking lot. When Noah got out, and Beth was arrested, her half smile was unexpected, but at the same time let the audience know right away that Beth is nothing like these other people. Her final scene of walking in the hallway with the stolen pair of scissors after learning her sentence would be longer was absolutely chilling and a reminder that this world can change who our heroes are. I am absolutely LOVING this Beth. She has quickly become one of my favorite characters on the show, and I really hope that they keep this whole crazy killer with a sweet face thing going with her.
- Did Beth really try to pull an IV needle on Lerner and Edwards when she first meets them? Ha ha.
- Eating Guinea Pig is good enough for Peru, but not for Beth. Because ew.
- The song played in Dr. Edwards room was by Junior Kimbrough and titled, “You Better Run.” Ain’t that the truth?
- How does the hospital group get out to do runs if the hospital is surrounded by walkers?
- How did Beth NOT run out of bullets in the parking lot?
- They said “shit” a lot. Just sayin’.
- Beth has always had “a job” to do. I’m guessing this isn’t the one she was asking for.
- Um that ending. That ending! I think I could hear my neighbors shrieking, it was that shocking. But bravo to the writers. It has been a LONG time since I have felt The Walking Dead was planning out a season so carefully. Ok… SPOILER… The appearance of Carol in the hospital proves that there is a lot going on this season. There are a lot story lines going on, and they are woven together incredibly well. Because this is totally separate from the comic story, it is new and exciting to see what is happening and try to guess what happens next.
- With that being said, Tumblr was on fire after this episode. They gave us THIS theory, and THIS meme to go along with said theory. Only click the links if you have seen the episode. I applaud you, internet, I really do.
Hush Comics gives “Slabtown” an A, for solid character development, an interwoven story line, proving that the “weak” ones are never weak as they seem, and that Emily Kinney was able to carry the episode on her own.
3 thoughts on “The Walking Dead Review – “Slabtown” S5E4”
Sort of disagree here. I wouldn’t say A quality. Maybe B at best. This episode was a step above “Still” as far as Beth’s development goes, but I still find the writing and characterization lacking. Not every female is to be Michonne or Carol or Maggie or Andrea, but Beth just irritated me in “Still” with how much she depended on Daryl. She grew up a bit here, but not to the point where I’m solidly invested in what happens to her. Though I did like the smile at the end when Noah escapes. Beth knows she is in a horrible situation, but at least someone got out. Kinney does the best with the material she’s given, but it’s not too compelling.
Maybe it’s a perspective difference here, but I thought this was a noticeable drop in quality to the previous three episodes this season. I pointed out in my review a TON of inconsistencies as the episode unfolded, and I think that escape scene was very poorly done. Dawns leadership seems quite implausible to me. Why do what she says? And to think she would allow her male officers to take weak women as sex slaves to keep them happy is asking a lot of the audience.
Having said that, while I wasn’t entirely sold in some scenes, Beth did okay in carrying this episode. I wonder how opinions of the episode might change had Carol not shown up at the end.