Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to “Slabtown.” It has nothing to do with Beth, played very ably by the sweet Emily Kinney. It had more to do with the fact that I knew the bulk of our group wasn’t going to be in the episode, and I didn’t know if Beth could make me care enough about her predicament.
I was wrong! She can and she did! And this is why, once again, AMC’s The Walking Dead beat Sunday Night Football in the ratings!
Last season, we got a Beth and Daryl episode (Season 4 Episode 12, “Still”), and I loved it for one simple reason – it showed a lot of humanity. Our favorite archer showed a softer side, and Beth showed a lot of spunk. After she was taken in Season 4 Episode 13, “Alone,” we saw Daryl break down a bit for the simple fact that he just didn’t want to fail. All we knew was that Daryl and Beth had holed up in a shack, it got overrun with walkers, and Daryl had her run outside. By the time he was able to get out, she was gone – assumed to be taken in a dark car with a white cross emblem on the back.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the show. Hurry!
In “Slabtown,” I’m guessing not more than a week or so has passed since Beth was “rescued.” Right before the credits, Officer Dawn Lerner basically tells Beth that she now owes Dawn for saving her. See, apparently Beth got knocked out when fleeing the shack and was soon to be dead meat (See what I did there? Dead meat? Meat for the dead!). So Dawn’s kind deputies saved her and sped off.
We find out Beth is in a hospital in Atlanta, GA, that has basically been walled off. She’s now protected by Lerner and the men she (barely) controls. Actress Christine Woods pulls off Lerner’s fear, anger, and power with a deft hand. Unfortunately, there was a void in this episode. There was no clear cut bad guys. If a walker shows up, you know what to do. On the other hand, one thing this show has taught us is the walkers aren’t always the ones to fear, and sometimes you have to step up and do what has to be done.
Beth is assigned to work with what I assumed to be a decent guy – Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen). It would seem he’s the sole doctor in the facility, and, as such, he gets more leeway than the others.
Noah (the so sweet Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris fame; is this kid a clone of Orlando Jones or what?), the laundry guy, lays down the score for Beth. He explains how things really work. He and his father came to ATL in search of his uncle when they were found by Lerner’s cronies. Apparently, the cronies could only save one of them, so Noah’s father sacrificed himself. Unfortunately, Noah soon learns why – his father was bigger, stronger, and could/would have fought back.
In this sanctuary (a.k.a. prison) we see a system, a hierarchy, that was created based on Lerner’s brand of fear and hope. She fears losing control, because she hopes they are going to be saved. And when they are saved, they need to be ready to put the world back in order. Who she expects to save them was never made clear. And that leads us to two of the most chilling acts in the show’s life. Yep I said it – the show’s life!
- The lollipop scene. If you saw the show, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, I bet you’ve already heard about it. Lerner has a group of men under her command, and it becomes blatantly obvious that she turns a blind eye to their actions – rape, control, beatings – because it gives her the allusion of still being in control. Gorman, played with a creepy intensity by Cullen Moss, is the worst of the worst, and he has his eye on Beth. Laundry Noah gave Beth a lollipop earlier in the episode as a way to comfort her, and during a tough time, Beth searches for it. Unfortunately, Gorman found her hiding place and strolls into her room with the treat. He opens it and starts eating it, but then he proceeds to violate her mouth with it, and I found the scene so unsettling. The abuse of power and the way he crowded into Beth’s personal space was just as violating as any of the violence we’ve seen on the show.
- And yet, it was the final scene with the doctor and Beth that really caught me off guard. A man was brought in halfway through the episode, and something passes between Lerner and a guard. It becomes obvious that Lerner wants to save him. We don’t know why yet. During a moment of kindness (or so we are lead to believe), the doctor takes Beth on a stroll. They head to the basement and up to the roof, and he explains why he stays. After his story, he sees the exhaustion on Beth’s face. He tells her to give the patient his medicine and then call it a day. Beth does, and the man seizes and dies. It isn’t until the end that we learn what happened. The “good” doctor told Beth to give him the wrong medicine on purpose. It would seem the patient was also a doctor, and if he survived, perhaps Edwards wouldn’t be as valuable. He wouldn’t have what limited power he has, so he had Beth essentially take out the competition.
After Noah takes the wrap for the other doctor’s death, claiming it was an accident, Beth knows they need to get out of there. The two stage a daring escape (in which I was pleased to see Gorman get what was coming to him), and it is only because of Beth’s willingness to fight that Noah is able to get away. And when we see Beth once again captured by the guards, she lifts her head and gives a small smile as she sees Noah make it past the walkers and out the gate. (I do hope we see Noah again. Williams and Kinney have a great camaraderie on screen.) Beth accepted her capture knowing Noah was able to get away.
Kinney plays Beth with a quiet power – a young girl coming into her own in the midst of a devastating crisis. She’s survived the loss of first love, she tried to kill herself, she lost her father, got kidnapped, and still she fights. As unsettling as I found this episode, my faith in Beth was solidified.
As the episode came to an end, and the scene between Beth and Edwards wrapped up, the doctor walks out to someone else who was “rescued.” Beth secretly grabs a scalpel. (Is she going to take out Edwards? Lerner?) But wait… Who is that on the stretcher?
As the stretcher passes her, Beth does a double take. It’s Carol (Melissa McBride)! END SCENE. Bah!
Carol’s a bad ass. She’s shown us that time and time again. So what happened? Did she and Daryl stage Carol’s “rescue” so that she could find out where Beth was? They did see a car with the white cross in this season’s second episode. Maybe they followed it. Or did the couple run into Noah at some point?
And who was it that Daryl brought back to the group in Episode 3?
I’m hoping that Carol is there to help Beth because she and Daryl ran into Noah somewhere along the way. Imagine the damage Beth and Carol could do? And back at the church, I’m hoping Noah joins the group, and that’s who Daryl has with him.
When I heard this was a Beth centric episode, I wanted to put off watching it for the reasons I described above, and though I was missing Michonne, Rick, Daryl, and the rest of the crew, I found myself captivated, horrified, and yes, interested. I had so many questions, and frankly, after seeing the preview for next week, I don’t know when I’m going to get any answers.
But you better believe I’ll stick around until I do!