Quote of the week: “If we hadn’t saved you you’d be one of them right now. So you owe us.” – Officer Dawn
After she was kidnapped last season, we have finally found out what has happened to Beth. Episodes that are focused almost entirely upon one character have always been received with mixed feelings, and ‘Slabtown’ is no exception. After the intensity of the last few weeks’ episodes, it is not surprising that this one would feel a little flat. It definitely gives us some much needed plot progression for Beth’s storyline, but the episode just feels like it was lacking something.
First of all we are introduced to a whole host of new characters, but most of them are to some extent quite one-dimensional. From the beginning, it is clear that the Grady Memorial Hospital group – Officer Dawn, Officer Gormon, and Dr. Edwards – are meant to be antagonists, but after the complexity of Gareth and the Terminus Hunters these guys just feel extremely underwritten.
Officer Dawn provides us with an understanding of her group’s motivations for doing what they do at the hospital. She says that: “Every sacrifice we make needs to be for the greater good”. To her the “greater good” is that the strong survive for when the world is restored, even if that means that “sacrifices” have to be made. An example of this would be how she allows ‘strong’ people like Officer Gormon to sexually assault the ‘weak’ on the grounds that it makes him happy. Statements like the one she made above make it seem like we are supposed to feel a degree of sympathy toward her, since, as we have seen with Rick, it is difficult for the leaders of these post-apocalyptic groups to make the tough decisions to ensure their survival. However, because her character is completely under-developed at this stage, it is impossible to feel sorry for her. At the same time, we don’t feel the intense hatred we felt for Gareth’s methods of self-preservation and hence the Grady Hospital group doesn’t work on the level of antagonists nor as misguided protagonists. Hopefully we will see them developed somewhat in the following episodes, because at this stage they really aren’t defined enough.
One of the saving graces of this episode is that it does set up a fair amount of future potential. Last week we were left off with Daryl returning to the group after his search for Beth, concealing whoever it was who was with him. Then at the end of this week’s episode we saw Carol being brought into the hospital on a stretcher. There are a number of possibilities about what might have happened. First of all, was Carol kidnapped by the Grady Hospital group or is this all a part of her and Daryl’s plan to rescue Beth? There are even further possibilities when you consider that Noah managed to escape during the scene where he and Beth attempted to flee the hospital. Could he perhaps have met Daryl and Carol and is helping them save her? I don’t think that this is the last we will see of Noah and this could be an interesting way to introduce him into the main group. When all of this is taken into consideration, next week’s episode looks highly promising.
Finally, this episode did also address the interesting element of the geography of the world of The Walking Dead. Grady Memorial Hospital was overlooking Atlanta, meaning that after five seasons the group hasn’t exactly travelled too far from where they were in season one. What this means is that a lot might happen between now and their arrival at their new destination of Washington DC. Granted, a lot of the travel in the first four seasons has been mostly directionless, but it still means that crossing a small distance offers a lot of potential for drama. The future of the show looks to be very exciting, and hopefully we’ll soon be back on track with more amazing episodes like the ones we have been treated to so far this season.