NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Walking Dead are present in this review.
“Slabtown” finally answers the question of where Beth has been since she was snatched by that mysterious car. In fact, it devotes the entire episode to that, with Rick’s crew never even being seen, after their (arbitrary) splitting up last week. This episode is the first half of a story that will be continued next week, one that will hopefully answer the question of why the show was so mysterious about Carol at the conclusion of last week’s episode.
Last week’s episode, while not bad, was rather contrived and often felt unsatisfying, beyond Rick’s reliable helping of badassery. This episode however feels like it’s on the opposite end of the problem spectrum, being well-constructed, but also feeling rather boring. The pace was sometimes agonizingly slow, despite Beth anchoring an episode better than one would think, and the fact that this is a two-part story may have worked against “Slabtown”, which feels like it’s saving almost all of its answers and real resolution for next week’s episode.
Regardless, Beth wakes up in a hospital bed in… Atlanta? Yep, apparently she was snatched by a group of former Atlanta cops that employ doctors and other such staff to keep the old world order moving, so that they can be ready to rebuild when the, “Nightmare” of the Walkers comes to an end. Said cops are led by Dawn, who took over the position from her former commanding officer, and runs a tight ship, even if it means deliberately ignoring problems with her personnel, namely her degenerate, abusive lackey, Officer Gorman.
On the bright side, this episode did effectively demonstrate how much Beth has evolved as a character since her introduction as a delicate wallflower in Season Two. She’s still nowhere near the level of someone like Rick or Carol in terms of current survivor ability, but she’s come along, showing that she can handle her own well enough, even if she’s still something of a sweetheart at her core.
Beyond Beth’s portrayal, another strength of this episode was Dawn’s portrayal. Dawn wasn’t just another Governor-esque extremist that was holding Beth against her will for her own selfish idea of survival. Sure, there were traces of that, but at least Dawn attempted to have heart-to-heart talks with Beth, and displayed at least some semblance of being burdened by the responsibility to her survivors that she’s inherited. She explains that she doesn’t want the world as it is, but she also believes that the old world is worth fighting for, and the weak must be cared for by the strong, whom the weak provide for so that the weak continue to be protected. It actually kind of makes sense.
This moment really hit home when Beth is tricked into killing a survivor that the hospital was caring for by the resident doctor, learning later on that the man she was tricked into killing was a doctor, and Dawn’s doctor would have been booted out, had another, more capable doctor been recruited. It was a testament to both the good and bad of Dawn’s operation, an operation that Beth ultimately attempted to walk away from, even if she was caught while smuggling out another survivor, Noah, a kindly nurse.
As much as this episode at least succeeded at being interesting though, the plodding pace is very difficult to excuse. Beth doesn’t spend nearly enough time figuring things out and asking questions, and while she’s definitely become a stronger character, she just felt like she was at the mercy of other characters yet again, and spent most of the episode doing nothing of real value. The almost non-existent presence of Walkers until the end of the episode didn’t help matters either, making an already slow-paced episode feel all the more dull.
At the very least, Beth got her revenge on Gorman after she finds the body of a dead woman, Joan that he formerly abused, who had to have her arm amputated after Gorman mutilated it. Since Gorman inexplicably didn’t destroy her brain, Joan ended up becoming a Walker just as Beth was snooping around Dawn’s office for an exit key, leading to Gorman coming in at that exact moment, and Beth pushing him down to get eaten after he gets all rapey again, which was pretty awesome for her character, I must admit. Yes, this kill was incredibly contrived, and the fact that Gorman, a strictly-regulated cop with procedure hammered into him very aggressively, somehow forgot to destroy Joan’s brain upon her murder is total bullshit and blatant lazy writing, but the moment was awesome nonetheless.
The episode ended shortly after Beth was brought back, beaten by Dawn for her escape attempt, and patched up once again. As she walks out, she sees an incapacitated Carol wheeled in right as the episode ends, setting up the second part of these events in next week’s episode. The reveal that something’s happened to Carol is intriguing, though it begs the question of how she and Daryl would have gotten separated. I guess next week’s episode will tell.
While it finally answers the question of what happened to Beth, and attempts to shake up the show’s structure by centering everything on Beth’s perspective this week, “Slabtown” disappointingly felt like a filler episode, even if it was at least better constructed than last week’s episode. The episode felt like a slog after the excitement of Rick’s group being hunted by Terminus cannibals, but hopefully it all leads somewhere satisfying, come next week.
- Beth's disappearance is resolved
- The idea of centering on Beth for an episode was creative
- Dawn's survivor politics actually made some sense
- Very slow and too often boring
- Gorman's death was very contrived
- Too dependent on setting up for next week