As if there was some kind of cruel joke being played in The Walking Dead writers’ room to provide more fodder for those who are not a fan of certain characters, we now have our second episode headlined almost entirely by Beth. Last season we had “Still,” which found Beth and Daryl on their own, providing audiences with both the fan favorite and one of the lesser characters in one ‘let’s work out our issues’ episode. This week in “Slabtown,” we finally get to see what happened to Beth, who was last seen in the back of some car, but the results are fairly mixed. Chalk it up to a lack of much interest in Beth and a cast of characters who are mostly annoying and largely inconsequential, given the rest of the ensemble cast we already have to deal with, but “Slabtown” felt a lot more like dead weight.
After getting through an episode like this, which has problems based on the writing of most of these characters, another big issue comes into play, which makes me wish things could have played out differently. Based on how the previous week’s episode ended, we know that Daryl will be coming back to the church with Rick and the gang, and likely have at least one of the people from the hospital with him (and hopefully Carol). With that in mind, I could not help but think how much more interesting it could have been to watch an episode focused on the Daryl and Carol rescue mission, leading to us only getting a vague understanding of what Beth went through. Letting us fill in the gaps could have been far more exciting than sitting through explanations of the “you work what you owe” world that Beth had to deal with, where characters are all broadly defined for the most part and the system is a thin veil for people being held against their will.
The crazy thing is we probably will get the episode featuring Daryl and Carol on their mission. Last week I found admiration in The Walking Dead for ending the Hunters storyline so quickly, given how past versions of this show would have easily stretched it out for half the season. This week I see the beginnings of some non-linear storytelling taking place, and given the preview for next week’s episode, I am not really sure where I am headed next. I do like being surprised by the direction a show takes, but at the same time, this episode feels like the show spinning its wheels rather soon, given the immediacy we have seen so far this season. Speculation aside, there are other frustrations (along with some good stuff) that I found in “Slabtown.”
One major gripe is the character of Officer Gorman. There is a lot of talk from Beth and others about how this system is failing, even though Officer Dawn just talks down to everyone and does not want to get into possible drama, as opposed to keeping what she considers to be order. The problem I found comes from what I saw in this episode, which was that Officer Gorman was the sole cause of major problems. In a hospital full of people who are doing their part, there seems to be just one guy who is creepy and rapey, who could easily be dealt with by everybody else who knows that he is creepy and rapey, and yet they do nothing. Sure, life in the hospital may not be suddenly ideal, but getting rid of the one obviously evil guy would sure as hell make things better. Fortunately, The Walking Dead is happy enough to deliver just desserts when needed, so we get some nasty visuals of Gorman’s comeuppance.
Aside from this, I also had a basic lack of interest in this setting. Sure, there is some initial wonder for what is going on, but it soon proves to be pretty basic and made slightly less intriguing by the fact that wide-eyed Beth is the one leading this journey. Only two characters actually register as something other than bland personas, and they are Dr. Edwards and Noah. The latter works because he provides a backstory (which came unprompted) and manages to get away, allowing The Walking Dead to get away with some mild optimism this week. Dr. Edwards works because of how his demeanor suggests friendliness, even after the reveal of his betrayal. There is some complexity in that kind of a character, but again, given the actual cast of this series, why should I really care about this guy if I am not going to really be following him for that much longer?
That may sound a little mean-spirited, but it certainly fits the tone of the series. These people are living rough lives, with little time for levity. That is something I have come to expect and it would be nicer, honestly, to see it from the crew that gets things done. I like following Rick and the gang around. I do not prefer diverging into random Beth-focused storylines, where she can meet a new cast of jerks who will most likely end up being eaten by walkers. The end of this episode certainly looks to be putting things back on track in a dire way, given the arrival of Carol on a gurney, and I can only hope it means rescuing Beth and us from too much more time spent in Grady Memorial Hospital.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Beth squashes a zombie’s head with her foot. Gooey.
- Obviously I have been quite critical of an episode focused on Beth and made it clear that her character is not my favorite. I should note that Emily Kinney has stepped up her game, as far as her acting is concerned, which is helpful.
- I did admire the resemblance of Beth waking up in a hospital bed to Rick in the pilot episode.
- On the young guest star note, we had While Rider’s Keisha Castle-Hughes as suicide Joan and Everybody Hates Chris’ Tyler James Williams as escape plan Noah.
- Beth has her own episode and she doesn’t sing?
- I’m done with green apple lollipops for a while.
- I may not enjoy Beth all that much, but seeing her get slapped a lot (along with an attempted rape) is not something I enjoyed.
- When Joan’s body was discovered, I did enjoy the fun play with the censors, given her ‘note’ on the floor.
- RIP Guinea Pigs.
- Get well soon, Carol!
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what I and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.