Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but everything in the post-apocalyptic zombie world is just terrible. You can’t trust cops, danger lurks around every corner in the suburbs, and prisons are just the worst. Even hospitals end up killing more people than they help! Okay, so the world of The Walking Dead isn’t all that different from our own world, except of course for the wild card that is the shambling, flesh-eating Walkers. Considering how strange life in this fictional world is on a weekly basis, I was amazed that the creative team managed to put together an hour that was even stranger than usual. More than once I was convinced that “Slabtown” was a fever dream or a drug-induced hallucination experienced by Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), right up until the last second. For fans of Beth/Kinney, I’d imagine this was a rather enjoyable episode, but judging by social media reactions, for most it was just torture.
Hit the jump for The Walking Dead recap.
On tonight’s episode, we finally find out what happened to Beth. She wakes up in a hospital room in the middle of ruined Atlanta. When she bangs on the door, a woman dressed as a cop (Christine Woods as Officer Dawn Lerner) and a man dressed as a doctor (Erik Jensen as Dr. Steven Edwards) tell her that everything’s going to be fine, but that they owe her for saving her life. These two don’t exactly strike me as the trustworthy sort.
They take her on a tour of Grady Hospital and introduce her to the other patients, one of whom Dr. Edwards lets die by turning off his ventilator, then stabs him through the temple for good measure. There are other cops, workers, and patients in the hospital whom Beth encounters as she walks the halls. The doc dumps the latest dead body down an elevator shaft, which attracts the Walkers who feed on the still-warm flesh.
Another cop (Ricky Wayne as Officer Gorman) talks to Beth; apparently he’s the one who found her, and he, too, says that she owes him for saving her from another assailant. She takes some food from the cafeteria for the doctor; tonight’s special is guinea pig! Beth’s happy to hear a record again and to share in some educated conversation with the artistically inclined doc. (Are you still interested in Beth’s solo episode at this point?)
A new body rolls in and Officer Dawn wants the doc to try his damndest to save him, which he does. But at what cost? The man will now be a drain on the hospital’s resources. Upset by the turn of events, Dawn slaps Beth and reopens the cut on her cheek. Dawn says that this is what she can expect. What is going on in this place?
After the doc patches Beth up and gets her a change of clothes from Noah (of the Lollipop Guild, and played by Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris fame), the cops haul in another patient. This one fights back, even rejecting anesthetic before the doc cuts the woman’s arm off. Beth is forced to hold the woman down against her will as the doc uses a razor wire to saw through the woman’s arm. This all feels like a fever dream. (For fans of Whale Rider, you may just recognize Keisha Castle-Hughes in a fun role here.)
Beth asks Noah if people can stay, work for a while, and then leave, but he says he hasn’t seen it work like that yet. He reveals that Dawn could have saved Noah and his Father, but since his father was big enough and strong enough to fight back, they left him behind. Noah’s confident in his (and Beth’s) abilities to escape this place. Is it just me, or does it feel like all of these interactions and conversations feel like internal dialogues constructed by Beth to deal with her own issues?
Later on, Beth sits down with Dawn, who’s trying to clear up the situation with her. Dawn believes it’s her job to keep up the status quo until someone puts the world back together. Beth gets back to work, humming (note: not singing!) to herself while she mops the bloody floor of their latest patient, Amber. She says something cryptic about Dawn being able to control the Walkers, but not doing so, and that it’s easy to make a deal with the devil when you’re not the one paying the price. (I honestly have no idea what’s going on at this point.)
Officer Gorman steals Beth’s lollipop like a weirdo and then makes a creepy pass at her by shoving the lollipop in her mouth. Something tells me that he’ll find his way to the bottom of the elevator shaft before long (and no, that’s not a euphemism). Judging from reactions on Twitter, this is one of the creepier things that’s happened in the entire series so far.
The Doc shows Beth to the ground floor of Grady, to show her there’s no way out. There are quite a few Walkers crowding the only exit, which is barricaded. (Though they’re lined up just like Walkers at the prison fence, so why not just make with the stabby stab?) Doc tells a story about the time the world fell apart and the jets began bombing the city. He came up to the roof and realized the city was lost, and that everyone they had helped evacuate were gone. His story is similar to that of other survivors: running out of food, going on supply runs and helping out where they could for as long as they could. He reveals the deal: that the Doc would heal people and they, in turn, would provide them with services. Beth doesn’t think this is living, but the fact that they’re alive and relatively safe in the hospital is proof enough for me.
Beth does a terrible job at prepping Trevitt’s medicine. So bad in fact that the man seizes and dies soon after her injection. Noah takes the blame for it and Dawn takes him to her office to reprimand him. It was Beth’s fault for giving the man clozapine rather than clonazepam. Dawn apparently beat Noah because he chose to sacrifice himself for Beth, who Dawn doesn’t think is worth the cost.
Beth and Noah plan their escape from this loony bin, but before they put their plan into action, Beth snoops around Dawn’s office, snags a hospital ID card and a key, and finds that Amber has opened her own wounds to bleed out to death. Gorman finds Beth and attempts to rape her. (Okay, now this is the creepiest moment so far.) She bides her time just long enough for Amber to turn and rip out the sick cop’s throat.
Beth gets a two-fer when she sends Dawn to the office as well, where there are likely now two Walkers (if anything’s left of Gorman). Noah helps to lower Beth down the elevator shaft, which is completely full of splattered corpses. A Walker nearly gets Noah as he’s climbing down, and he falls into the elevator car among the dead. (I thought their plan hinged upon keeping quiet?)
Beth fires indiscriminately into the darkness, but manages to get head shots on a half dozen or so Walkers. They run out into the sunlight where a parking lot is full of cars with white crosses in their rear windows, and is also full of Walkers. Beth head stomps another one and headshots more as they shamble forward. Noah escapes and leaves her behind, where a cop tackles her amidst the Walker horde and handcuffs her. Beth smiles as she sees Noah get to safety.
Back in the hospital, Beth is giving Dawn (so, she’s not dead then…) grief for letting Gorman attack the girls they bring in. She breaks the news to her that no one is coming and that all of this has happened for no reason. Dawn cracks Beth in the head again. The Doc stitches her up once more. Beth, too smart for this crew, knows that the Doc had her “accidentally” kill Trevitt, an oncologist at St. Ignatius; if the man would have lived, then Doc would be expendable. He somehow compares himself to Peter denying Christ when the latter was arrested. Beth takes a pair of scissors and walks ominously toward the Doc, but stops short when she sees them wheel Carol in.
Okay…so, this was one of the weirder episodes in The Walking Dead canon. I don’t know how close it hews to the comics (if at all), but it was so strangely plotted/acted/spoken that I honestly expected Beth to wake up from some dream or hallucination at the episode’s end. Although Carol’s appearance in the final scene doesn’t rule this out, it certainly makes it extremely unlikely. Also, the mystery surrounding Beth’s disappearance was compelling, but never seemed to possess viewers to any worthwhile level. With that being the case, devoting an entire episode (and more) to answering this question may have been a misstep. I’ll give them an A for ambition, and a C for execution, giving them an overall…
Odds & Entrails:
- Atlanta nods to Grady Memorial, the High Museum, and the 1840s red-light district of Slab Town (on the present site of Grady Memorial)
- Doc: “It may not be the most dignified disposal system, but it’s all we have.”
- Beth: “You’re lucky. Feeling safe enough to be bored? You’re lucky!” I think most viewers were bored during this episode…
- Beth: “Use everything you can use.”
- So we’re pretty sure that Noah is the stranger who accompanied Daryl back to base camp, yes?
- Do we think Carol honestly needed medical attention, or is it a ruse to attempt to rescue Beth?
- More importantly, will Beth soon toughen up to become a younger version of Carol? They’ve both got the hots for Daryl, so that’s something else they’d have in common.