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The Walking Dead Season 504 Review: Slabtown

So based on the previews from the end of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, we all go in knowing that we are finally going to learn what has happened to Beth since Darryl lost her during last season.  And we know that they are headed for a reunion at some point because Darryl and Carol charged after the black car with the white cross.

***Spoilers abound.***

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So when the episode begins, we get a Lost-like close-up on Beth’s eye.  (And let me stop here for a minute.  There is a growing group of people that want to make the argument that all of this is happening in Rick’s head while he is in a coma or whatever.  And if that happens, my nerd rage will know no boundaries.  And the little head nod to Lost this week makes me very potentially angry.  Note to self: Do a Lost Team versus Walking Dead Team character versus character breakdown.)

As Beth awakens, she discovers that she is in a locked hospital room, with a clock.  In a rage of time induced paranoia, she rips out the IV to defend herself, only to meet two of the central characters of this week’s episode, Doctor Steven Edwards and Police woman Dawn Lerner.  They explain that she is at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.  She asks about Darryl but is told she was brought in by herself.  After a talk about how they have helped heal her, she is ominously told “So you owe us.

So Beth is put to work as a nurse, and on her very first case, she is present when they quickly pull the plug on a patient who shows no signs of improvement, which gets his warm body a plummeting fall into the hospital’s elevator shaft, where we learn that the bottom level is overrun with walkers, who come running because of the sound and the warm body.

Beth then shows up in the cafeteria, where she learns nothing is free and the newly introduced police officer Gorman says some weirdo things.  (People who write the Walking Dead seem certain that a greater percentage of creepers and weirdos are going to survive versus the rest of humanity.  That or they think the world is way, way more messed up then I do.)  I think we know for sure Gorman is bad because two major factors: 1) He is immaculately groomed.  2) He talks about hospitality.

To make sure that we all understand, he ends it with “Everyone costs something, right?” and he doesn’t mean good things.

Beth is then shown having a conversation with the Doctor, where he talks about how he saved an important painting from Atlanta’s High Museum of Art; it along with the record player are a couple of perks he gets for being Team Grady’s medical help.  He talks about how bored he is, which Beth rightly points out that if the post-apocalyptic world leaves you bored, you ain’t doing too bad.

Beth makes sure that she understands the economics of the system that the more she takes (care, food, etc.) the more she will owe over time.  But the doctor convinces her to try the guinea pig dinner he is having, which she seems, I guess amused is the right word.  (This is one of those details that I love about the Walking Dead.  The writers spend the time to make a plausible backstory.  In Grady Hospital, you can’t have cattle.  But you could farm guinea pigs, to go along with the rooftop garden they show as well.  They show and tell a plausible, “This is how these people are surviving” scenario.)walking-dead-slabtown-emily-kinney-beth-atlanta-600x300

In enters another rescued person, who suffered from a massive fall.  The Doctor says that he can’t save this one and that they shouldn’t waste resources.  Instead, Dawn pushes him to heal him.  A quick needle to the lung and the requisite amount of blood, and the Doctor then points out that that why he may be okay right now, he has nowhere near the necessary gear needed to diagnosis and heal his injuries and they should just end him.  At which point, Dawn says “Consider the stakes” and slaps…BETH?!?!

Beth is later shown asking the Doctor if she is always like that.  He says only on the bad days, but that are the only kind she has.  The next scene leads to the introduction of Joan, who I think we are all initially lead to believe had been bitten, only in the course of the scene, we discover that Team Grady knows her already and that this wound is likely self inflicted.  They try and reason with her before making Beth hold her down as they saw off half of her arm.

Which leads Beth to meet Noah, who calls himself the lollipop guild.  (Beth earlier had found a lollipop in her clean shirt the Doctor had given her to put on.)  Noah is a bit of exposition dump in this scene and we quickly learn that 1) He has never seen anyone work off their debt and leave.  2) He and his dad were found at the same time but that he was the only one saved; and he is smart enough to realize it is because he was not a threat to the power structure, where his strong dad might have been and 3) that he is from Richmond, where they were surviving and had walls.  Beth and he bond over the idea that the power structure of Team Grady has no idea who they are and how strong they are.  They plot to break out together.

Dawn then comes to meet with Beth, bringing food.  Beth quickly establishes that she understands the system but that she wants to earn her keep and be on her way as quickly as possible.  Dawn’s whole belief system is that she will do whatever is necessary to sustain what little bit of structure they have because eventually rescue will come and everything will be put back together in the way it should be. Of course, Beth has been on the outside and she knows the world has crumbled.  And as nice and as pressed as your police suits are, they don’t change that civilization, even inside Team Grady is falling and has fallen apart.slabtown_the_walking_dead

The next scene shows Beth taking a break from mopping up blood to talk to Joan, who basically says she was trying to end it because Gorman (and others?) had assaulted her and that Dawn looked the other way.  As Joan says “It is easy to make a deal with the devil when you aren’t the one paying the price.

So, after learning that people are being assaulted in Team Grady while the leader looks the other way, Beth does what we all do: she wants to stress eat.  Only her lollipop isn’t where she has been storing it.  And for course, Gorman has it.  And after a weird, creepy scene with Gorman, the Doctor shows up to defend Beth.  After some back and forth, where Gorman reveals his plan is that one day, he will be in charge, he departs, leading Beth to ask the Doctor why he stays.

Then he becomes an exposition dump revealing 1) First floor is overrun with walkers. 2) Dawn and Team Grady came together during the apocalypse.  They were order to evacuate the hospital to a park.  They were slow, didn’t make it but they did hear the jets and see the bombs dropped on the park  (This makes me think that the arrival in Washington DC might not be the best thing eventually.)  3) A guy Hansen used to be in charge, he cracked and Dawn took over to handle things, and she gives Gorman and others some leeway if they help keep her sense of structure.

The Doctor then gives Beth her last order for the night, which as she does causes the “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” patient to seize and die.

Dawn shows up furious.   Noah shows up and says it is his bad.  Noah is drug outside and beaten as Beth explains what happened and the Doctor says she used the wrong medicine.

Dawn and Beth then have another conversation, in which Beth is basically told that she is not worth much in the grand scheme of things.  As she defends herself, Dawn points out her wrist wounds from when Beth tried to take her own life.  Beth seems unnerved.

Beth is then with Noah and the two of them concoct a plan of escape.  While Noah distracts Dawn, Beth gets in her office, gets the key to the elevator, which we learn for some reason is carefully color coded.  But as Beth is in the office, she finds Joan, who used her one good hand to remove an eyeball and die.  But Beth powers through and gets the key, when Gorman shows up and basically is in the midst of sexually assaulting Beth when Zombie Joan gets him.  He is quickly neck eaten and Beth heads out.  When Dawn asks her a question, Beth points her towards Joan in her office.

Beth and Noah then make a break for it, using a prison laundry style rope down the shaft.  Naoh proves to be less agile and falls on the pile of dead bodies, hurting his leg.  Beth then guides them out of the hospital. And man, she proves she knows her stuff, as she is curbstomping and headshoting zombies all over.  Noah, who seems to suddenly completely unprepared for the walkers, is following her.  The scene ends with Beth shooting Noah a path to freedom before she is overrun by Team Grady.  But the smile on her face as she sees Noah run away seems to make us think she thinks it is worth it.

And so Dawn and Beth have another discussion, where Beth tries to break Dawn on her idea of what the world is like, about how no one is coming for rescue.  It ends with Dawn smacking Beth again.  (Prediction: at some point Dawn is going to go smack Beth, and either Beth or someone like Carol is punching this lady’s lights out!)

Beth reveals to the Doctor that she is on to him, that he had her give “I’ve Fallen” the wrong medicine because the Doctor knew that he was also a doctor.  And the Doctor admits to as much, saying that he did it to protect his spot on Team Grady and that he needed to do it.  This seems to motivate Beth to take up a needle later and end him but he is saved at the last minute as the new patient being rolled in is Carol!

Next week’s previews show us that our focus will shift again to Team Abraham and the march on Washington.

5 out of 8 nerds

 

 

 

So this episode…a 5 out of 8.  There are some things it did well and some things that I didn’t much care for.  One of the dangers of this kind of intense focus on one storyline for an hour is that when it doesn’t work, you don’t have a quick scene change, new characters to focus on to reset.  That hurts this episode.

Some thoughts:

  • Team Grady is an interesting construct.  One of the things that the show is doing over the long haul is introducing what the different survival tactics of humanity wind up being.  Rick and crew fall into a “whatever it takes to survive as a family” mindset  The Governor and Woodbury were a “we can protect each other if we band together and focus externally” type of mindset.  Terminus was a “Well, if the world is all going to hell, let’s at least see what barbequed people taste like” mindset.  In Team Grady, you see a group that is outwardly focused (rescuing others, trying to maintain a world order) but also focused on maintaining power.  It is a subtle difference from the Governor but a significant one.  I wonder what other ideas are out there as you’d try and create a new world order out of the apocalypse.
  • They did introduce some new, interesting characters.  I like Noah but I doubt his ability to survive.  He is not the war tested sort that Rick and company have become. The Doctor is an interesting character. And though Beth was ready to end him, a story of redemption for him would be great. And I have no idea what to do with Dawn. One of the follies of Lost was the introduction of the other people on the other side of the island.  If they aren’t careful, you’ll wind up with too many stories pulling in too many directions.
  • I like Beth.  Like a lot of the characters, she has gone from frail and scared to strong and confident.  I have no doubts had she made it out the way Noah did, that she could have kept him and her alive.  She has become a fighter, even bearing the scars (literally) of when she wanted to give up.

I am curious what happens next week with Team Abraham.  That is a hodgepodge, interesting mix of characters and there is no telling how that could play out storyline wise.