A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 5, Episode 4: “Slabtown”

Last time we saw Beth, she and Daryl had to fight their way out of a funeral home. Both managed to escape, but Beth had been whisked away in a mysterious car. Now it’s time to see what she’s been up to.

Slabtown- Beth awakens, briefed by Dr. Steven Edwards, played by Erik Jensen, and Officer Dawn Lerner, played by Christine Woods

The episode begins with Beth’s eyes. Eye, eye, eye, her eyes hypnotize. She awakens in Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Right, you forget how little ground Rick and company have actually made in five seasons. Unaware of her surroundings, Beth bangs on the door and demands to be let out.

After a few moments, the door opens and we’re introduced to Dr. Steven Edwards, played by Erik Jensen, and Officer Dawn Lerner, played by Christine Woods. We learn that some officers found Beth on the road and she sustained a major head wound. When Beth asks about Daryl, it’s revealed that she had been found alone. For now, Beth owes them. With what? Not like she’s got extra Moonshine or Peach Schnapps.

Slabtown- Dr. Edwards about to push body down shaft

Beth explores the hospital. The patients aren’t in the best of conditions and the hospital is run by mostly law enforcement. The hospital has just enough supplies to keep them going and no one leaves if they don’t need to. And if someone dies, they get dumped down the elevator shaft, like one unfortunate guy. The man didn’t even have someone speak on his behalf.

Slabtown- Beth meets Officer Gorman, played by Ricky Wayne

In the cafeteria, we’re introduced to Officer Gorman, played by Ricky Wayne, one of the officers who found Beth. Beth remains silent and tries to go on her way, but Gorman lets her know that there’s a cost for everything she takes.

Slabtown- Beth and Dr. Edwards talk art and boredom while eating guinea pig

Beth then heads to Dr. Edwards’ office. Steven is bored, but in this zombie apocalypse, Beth calls Edwards lucky for even feeling safe enough to be bored. As Beth takes a seat, Steven offers her a chance to eat some guinea pig. Guinea Pig? Sure, why not? We’ve eaten human flesh, so guinea pig shouldn’t be so bad.

Beth’s attention is drawn to the painting, which Steven found on a highway. Unlike how it used to be interpreted, Steven figures art is now just about transcendence. Beth believes that people can still rise above their circumstances, though.

Slabtown- Dr. Edwards unable to properly operate on Gavin Trevitt, played by Timothy Scott

Dr. Edwards is called to work when Officer Lerner brings in a new patient, Gavin Trevitt, played by Timothy Scott, who fell from a first story window. Steven is unsure about the extent of his injuries and wants to be methodical with his approach, but Dawn doesn’t have time for that. She wants Steven to work on the patient anyway. He does manage to stabilize his heart beat, but that’s all he can do for now. He does not have the tools to save his life. How does Dawn respond to this? She smacks Beth. The hell?

Slabtown- Beth asks Dr. Edwards if Dawn always has an attitude

Later, Beth asks if Dawn is always like that. Steven responds that Dawn only acts like that on a bad day, which is very often. She likes things neat. But never fear. Steven has a sucker for Beth.

Slabtown- Operating on Joan, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes

And now for more work. Officers bring in another victim- this one, a woman who tried to escape, but has been bitten in the process. This is Joan, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes. Dawn gives her two options: they can cut off her arm or she can do it herself. Joan isn’t keen to either, so Dawn makes the choice for her. Beth tries to leave, but Dawn makes her stay and hold Joan down. Steven soon goes to work at hacking off Joan’s arm.

Slabtown- Beth meets Noah, played by Tyler James Williams

Beth takes the bloody clothes to a closet and we then meet Noah, played by Chris from Everybody Hates Chris, also known as Tyler James Williams. Noah is also the true supplier of the lollipop. Beth asks why Joan would try to leave. After all, if she stayed and worked for awhile, she could just leave, right? Noah hasn’t seen it work that way yet, and he’s been there for about a year. The folks at the hospital found Noah and his father in pretty bad shape, but they could only save one.

Noah believed that for the longest time, but now he understands. His father was stronger and would have fought back. They left him alone on purpose and Dawn looked the other way. Dawn is in charge, but just barely holds onto control. Her rule isn’t getting any better, which is why Noah is on his way out when the time is right. He came looking for his uncle and has to get back to his mother in Richmond, Virginia. Folks look at Noah and think he’s weak, but in reality, they don’t know shit about who he is or who Beth is.

Slabtown- Dawn is optimistic about the future based on the good everyone is doing

Beth lets Dawn know that she doesn’t plan to stay long. Dawn disagrees. In fact, Beth has been given food and protection. Plus, she helped save Joan’s life. She’s essential. Dawn tells Beth not to see her being there as some sort of sentence. She should look at the good they’re doing. It’s taken a lot of effort to get them where they are so far and Dawn believes that the world people had before the apocalypse hit isn’t over. Once they’re rescued, people will need to rebuild. Until then, everyone has to contribute. If we take, we give back, it’s only fair, Dawn says.

Slabtown- Beth cleans Joan's blood

Beth’s next task: cleaning up Joan’s blood. She goes to get Dr. Edwards, but Joan doesn’t want him around yet. She tells Beth that Dawn can’t control the officers, but she doesn’t because it’s easier and she’s a coward. She’s more of a jerk-ass, in my opinion, but sure, let’s go with coward. Beth asks what happened to Joan, but she doesn’t say. In her mind, it’s easier to make a deal with the devil when you’re not the one paying the price. Everyone’s already in Hell, lady, so you’re all pretty much paying the price.

Slabtown- Gorman feeds Beth her sucker

Now Beth wants her sucker. She searches her bed, but doesn’t find it. Gorman has it: sour apple. But no worry. He offers Beth a taste as he slides it down her a throat in a not so subtle way of implying something else.

Steven puts a stop to this. Gorman lets him know that he plans to get Joan back and Dawn isn’t going to stop him, either. Steven will, though. After all, if Gorman gets sick, who will be there for him? Someone who isn’t him, Gorman responds. Dawn arrives and calls him away. Beth asks Steven why he stays when he could leave whenever he wants.

Slabtown- Dr. Edwards takes Beth to the ground floor of the hospital

He responds by first taking her to the ground floor of Grady Memorial Hospital. It’s not a way out, but he brought her for one reason: to give her a face full of walkers! Steven makes some noise to attract nearby roamers. When Steven started thinking about it too much, he would come down to look at this display. Time for a story.

Slabtown- Dr. Edwards takes Beth to the roof

Steven then takes Beth outside- he could have started with this- and tells her that when everything started, Dawn reported to a man named Hansen. They had orders to clear the hospital and move everyone to Butler Park. Around midnight, they heard the screams. Steven was on the hospital’s third floor while Dawn and Hansen’s teams performed one final sweep. They knew things were bad, but no idea how bad until they came to the roof. The city had fallen and everyone who had been evacuated just left.

They kept to themselves at first until the food ran out. Then they began going on runs, a few at a time, and saw people barely clinging to life. Steven couldn’t look away anymore. He found a kid with napalm burns on his clothes and skin, but Dawn said they couldn’t spare the resources. Prick. Steven struck a deal: he’d use what he could use to save the kid’s life, and the kid would repay that through his service. Beth tells Steven that he’s not the problem, but as long as people were lost, Steven still sees a problem. Soon, Hansen cracked and made calls that got people killed. Dawn managed to take care of him and everyone else. She kept everyone alive. Beth doesn’t call this living, though. Beth, you’re more than welcome to go back to the funeral home. As bad as it gets, Steven says, it’s better than being out in the world, alone. He assigns Beth to take one more look at Mr. Trevitt, whose stable and due for another 75 milligrams of Clozapine. Why is the name of the drug important? Well, keep reading.

Slabtown- Mr. Trevitt begins seizing

Beth administers the dosage, but Mr. Trevitt begins convulsing. Whoops.

Slabtown- Noah takes the fall for Beth

Dawn later delivers the finishing blow and demands to know what the hell happened. Noah takes the blame, saying that he unplugged the ventilator while mopping. Dawn has Noah taken to her office. When Dawn leaves, Beth tells Steven that it was her fault. Steven also apparently didn’t say Clozapine. Easy mistake, really. I doubt Beth picked up much medical knowledge while on the farm. For now, though, Everybody Hates Noah.

Slabtown- Dawn knows that Noah covered for Beth

But Beth isn’t out the woods yet. Dawn comes to her room and closes the door behind her. Dawn knows that Noah covered for her. Dawn didn’t want to punish, Noah, she had to. Um, no you didn’t. A good man’s mistakes almost ended everything and she won’t let that happen. Every sacrifice needs to be for the greater good. When they lose sight of that, everything is over. Dawn doesn’t see Beth as the greater good, even going as far as asking how many people had to risk their necks to save them.

In the hospital, everyone is part of a system. The wards keep the officers happy. The happier the officers, the harder they work to everyone going. This hasn’t been easy for Dawn. There have been compromises, but it’s working. When everyone is rescued, they will help put the world back together.

This is part of what makes Beth useful in Dawn’s system. Out there, in the real world, Beth is nothing except dead or somebody’s burden. Beth calls that bullshit, but Dawn illustrates her point by pointing to the mark on Beth’s wrist. Dawn understands that some people just aren’t meant for this life. That’s fine. They just shouldn’t take advantage of the ones who are.

Slabtown- Noah and Beth plan their escape

So Noah is sporting fresh bruises, but he barely feels anything due to the painkillers. He’s endured worst, trust me. Turns out that Dawn needed Trevor for something. Beth still plans to leave with Noah. The basement is the fastest way out. Noah can keep an eye on Dawn, but Beth needs to retrieve a spare key that Dawn keeps in her office.

So Beth heads to Dawn’s office and eventually finds the key, a card for Saint Ignatius Hospital, and Joan’s body. Well, that’s a shame.

Slabtown- Gorman advances on Beth

Then Gorman enters. Beth tells Gorman that Dawn just asked about her key, but Gorman was just with Dawn and he doesn’t remember that coming up. Luckily, Dawn doesn’t need to know about what’s going to happen now. He slips a hand up Beth’s shirt just as Joan begins to reanimate.

Beth clocks Gorman over the head with a vase and he falls to the ground. At least Joan has a meal right in front of her. Before leaving, Beth swipes Gorman’s gun.

As Beth leaves, she tells Dawn that Gorman and Joan were just headed to her office.

Slabtown- Escaping from the hospital

Following this, Beth and Noah arrive at the elevator shaft. Beth makes her way down no problem, but when Noah makes his way, a walker emerges from an elevator door and tries to grab him. He falls toward the bottom with Beth jumping after. As the two make their way forward, Beth shoots past as many walkers as she can with considerably better aim than she had last time she held a gun.

Slabtown- Beth and Noah arrive outside

The two head outside, but Noah’s limp slows him down. He manages to make his way through the cage, but officers swarm in and subdue Beth. And despite the horribleness of the situation, despite getting so close to escaping, Beth smiles as Noah escapes.

Slabtown- Beth faces Dawn

Now Beth must answer to Dawn, but she doesn’t back down on letting Gorman die after he put his hands on her and Joan, not to mention Dawn allowing it to happen in the name of making it. Beth tells her flat out that no one is coming for them. Everyone is going to die and Dawn let all these horrible things happen for nothing. The two eye a picture frame containing a photo of Dawn and another officer. It’s such a nice picture. And such a nice frame that Dawn uses to clock Beth in the head. Seriously, Beth must have one of the most durable heads of any character in the series.

Slabtown- Beth knows that Dr. Edwards had her give Gavin Trevitt the wrong dosage so it would kill him

Dr. Edwards examines Beth one more time. Beth asks how he knew that Gavin Trevitt was a doctor. After all, that’s why he had her give him the wrong dosage so it would kill him. That way, Dawn would still need and protect him. Trevitt was an oncologist at Saint Ignatius. Steven would have been kicked out. Maybe even killed. Use everything you can use, just like he said. Steven remembers how Peter denied Christ after being arrested. He didn’t have a choice. He would have been crucified, too. Not really the best comparison, Steven.

Slabtown- Hi, Carol

As Beth prepares to go to work once again, she spots a familiar face being brought in.

So we’re back to Beth. After her disappearance, we find out what she’s been up to and don’t get that much of a payoff. I appreciate the storyline never straying from Beth, but it’s not until the very end of the episode that we get a sense of how her plight connects to what the rest of the group is up to.

This is minor and inconsequential, but we’re also never given a frame of reference for how much time has passed between the events of “Alone” and this episode. Does this take place a few days after or much longer? I assume it takes place around the same time as the rest of the group’s situation, given how Carol shows up after she and Daryl went looking for Beth, but I’m just speculating. I just wanted more information.

Beth is as much a fish out of water with these people as we are. As such, I expected her to ask more questions than she did. For most of the episode, she reacts. She’s proactive, yes, but I wish she’d made a greater effort to escape. Part of that comes through her characterization, but I’ll get to that later.

Because we kept with one storyline, the episode, I feel, was well paced. While we aren’t told everything about these survivors yet, nothing ever moved too fast and each scene had a purpose that revealed just a bit more about the hospital and its inhabitants. As for the hospital itself, I wish we got to just see more of it so we could watch it all through Beth’s eyes. Most of what we learn is through expository dialogue that feels like it’s there more to explain the hospital to the audience as opposed to Beth.

Slabtown- Working on Joan

As for the hospital itself, much like Rick’s group or the folks from Terminus, there’s a hierarchy system in place where the strong carry out the more responsible tasks while making sure that the weak don’t just ride along without pulling their own weight. Dawn tells Beth that the weak shouldn’t take advantage of those who want to survive

Everyone in the hospital has their own responsibility and if one person steps out of line, they risk throwing off the perfect balance that Dawn wants to maintain. We all want to feel like very useful engines and I find it interesting that a hospital, a place where people come to receive care, is being used as the setting where there’s a caste system in place. A bit morbid, but I like it.

Slabtown- Dawn holds up Beth's wound

The people in the hospital are also interesting when you put their individual personalities together. Dawn is mixed to me. From the way she talks to Beth, I got the sense that she’s very passionate about maintaining order. She believes that help is on the way and that society can be rebuilt. But we don’t know why she thinks this. She’s not a cheery or optimistic person, based on first impressions.

Was she Hansen’s second in command and she just assumed responsibility, or did people just look to her for leadership, similar to the Governor’s situation? We don’t dig much into her past to find out why she’s so hard. More than that, she’s willing to look the other way when officers abuse patients. This doesn’t seem like something an officer would do if they’re trying to make sacrifices for a greater good. Is civility a sacrifice? It seems to be, and this cannot be the first time officers have taken advantage of patients.

Much like Terminus, there may have been a time when Dawn once had control and stability, but things just ran amok. Noah tells Beth that Dawn is just barely holding onto control and I very much agree. She seems to just want to keep everyone there at the hospital. They don’t necessarily have to be happy, they just need to get their assignments and work, even if that means she’ll turn a blind eye to abuses of authority.

Dawn seems to know that she’s losing control. There’s a slight hint of desperation in her voice when she tells Beth about rebuilding the world. I’m guessing the desperation has also made her irrational and prone to violence. Other than that, I can’t explain why she’d be so quick to attack Beth, who she barely knows, particularly after Steven first deals with Dr. Trevitt. I’m sure Dawn wants to do the right thing, but right now, she comes off like a jerk-ass who hasn’t realized yet that some things are beyond her control.

A constant I found with this episode was characters making due with what they have. Steven may not have all of the tools needed to save lives, but he does what he can to save lives and make sure he’s needed. Gorman may have been abusive and creepy, but he was an officer of the law. In Dawn’s eyes, he could be trusted with power. Even if we’re not best suited to handle something, we do what we’re called to do.

I always enjoy when The Walking Dead shows us people who have been surviving on their own because it reminds us that this world is much bigger than Rick and pals. Like the folks who wanted Rick’s bag of guns and kidnapped Glenn in Season One, these people have few medical supplies at their disposal and should not last very long, but they keep on living in the hopes that someone will help solve this zombie problem. In addition, showing other survivors opens up the universe this series has created and introduces new storylines and characters to engage us.

Slabtown- Beth

So, what about Beth? Let it be known that Beth is not one of my favorite characters. I don’t hate her, but I’ve found her to be way too dependable on others. “Still” really highlighted how needy she can be and Dawn even calls out the fact that Beth is one of those people who needs to be rescued. She’s grown a bit since then. She doesn’t have Daryl by her side and I do think she’s starting to develop. I still don’t think she’d last very long on her own, but she showed more of a spine this week than I think she ever has before.

Slabtown- Beth shoots

Emily Kinney works the best with what she has and I just wish the writing and Beth’s characterization were stronger so I can be convinced that I should actually care about this character. Having said that, this is still a big step forward from “Still.” Beth is still reliant on others for help and doesn’t have the backbone that women like Andrea, Maggie, Michonne and Carol have, but these are baby steps.

Beth needs a serious reality check, something to snap her out of apathy. She accepts that everyone is going to die, but she doesn’t do a good job of pulling her weight and proving why the hospital folks should keep her around. Dawn certainly doesn’t seem to think much of her, so just let the girl leave.

Despite that, there are several moments where Beth impressed me. Leading Gorman into his death proved she’s not as much of a pushover as people would think. Her shooting is a lot better than before and while that could just be convenient for the writers to improve her accuracy so she and Noah could get out, she at least put up a better fight against walkers.

Slabtown- Beth smiles as Noah escapes

Finally, there’s the moment where she smiles as Noah escapes. It was brief, but I really liked that. It showed that Beth still has a lot of good in her. She barely knows Noah and may have little reason to trust him, but they want the same thing: escape. She was the one with the gun and didn’t have a limp, but it was her who ended up captured.

She could show resentment or anger at Noah for not rescuing her, but chances are she would have done the same thing. And despite killing an officer in order to pave a way out, despite being captured, she smiles. She knows that she’ll have to answer to Dawn, but if one of them could escape, then her efforts were not in vain.

Slabtown- Noah

Briefly on Noah, by the way: I think Tyler James Williams does a good job and he was my favorite of the hospital workers. Noah has been at the hospital for almost a year and it shows. There’s exhaustion in his voice and he’s no fool to how Dawn and others will kill people perceived as a threat, even if they prove willing to be useful.

Call me paranoid and I could be looking way to deep into this as a fan of the comic books, but Noah is from Richmond, Virginia. You know what else is in Virginia? Alexandria. Could this possibly have been a hint at something to come later? I dunno. Again, I’m trying to find something that’s not there, but it’s interesting to think about.

“Slabtown” was good, but not great. We finally saw what happened to Beth, but it didn’t have much bearing on the overall storyline and didn’t even connect until Carol showed up at the end. Her arrival raises all sorts of questions that I’m sure we’ll find out later. Also, something to think about: we’re told that officers found Beth.

If that’s true, who kidnapped her from the funeral home? That same car could be seen sitting in the hospital parking lot when Beth and Noah made their move. The folks at the hospital are interesting, but I just wanted to learn more about them, given how we know as little about Beth’s current predicament as she does.

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One thought on “A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 5, Episode 4: “Slabtown”

  1. I agree with your assessment of Beth’s performance. She showed much more strength this episode than previously. It’s interesting that her common line from season 4, “we’ve all got a job to do”, was quite similar to what Dawn was putting into practice at the hospital, but on a more sadistic level of course. Great analogy too pointing out that a hospital is the setting of a caste system.

    As for Dawn smacking Beth, I think that was as a threat to Dr. Edwards. It’s n ever said outright, but I think Beth is meant to be Steven’s servant. She brings him dinner, Gorman says of her, to Steven, “she should’ve been mine”, and Dawn doesn’t smack her until Steven is refusing to help the man that fell. Sort of a statement of power. She gave Beth to him, she can take her away. She even says “realize what’s at stake here” after she smacks her.

    I have this episode a C in my review. There were too many head-scratching moments for me, and that escape sequence was quite poorly done in my opinion. That supposedly the only way of escape, but how do the officers leave to go on runs? She’s shooting walkers accurately in the head in pitch dark. And a limping Noah can run around 8-10 walkers but a heathy Beth, with a gun, can’t get away from them. Dawn’s leadership of this group as well just seems highly implausible to me. Good commentary. I’ll have to check in with you weekly now 🙂

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