Plot: When Beth (Emily Kinney) wakes up in a hospital in Atlanta, she must find a way to survive the dictatorship of Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods)
Poor Beth. Kidnapped way back in “Alone,” a full 7 episodes ago, her absence has gone almost entirely unnoticed. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) especially rarely mentions her and they’re sisters. I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually forgot her character existed from time to time. So when the promo aired last week for “Slabtown,” I was pretty excited. Not because Beth is a particularly engaging character on her own, mind you. She needed Daryl (Norman Reedus) to make her solo episode last season even remotely interesting. I was looking for to it because we would finally find out where the hell Beth has been all this time and, based on last week’s cliffhanger ending, hopefully bring her back into the fold. Disappointingly, only half of that happened.
“Slabtown” was one slow and tepid hour of television. It wasn’t the intense slow burn we got last week that ended in one of the best payoffs this show has ever done. Not even close. The majority of this week’s episode had a snails pace filled with exceptionally little of interest. The mystery of where Beth is ends up being resolved right at the start (she’s at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta), and then a lot of time is spent meeting these new characters. We have Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen), a survivor who believes in saving anyone he can, Noah (Tyler James Williams), a young man paying off his debts doing laundry, and Dawn, an aggressive police officer who still believes that help is coming. And no, none of these characters really bring anything of worth to this show.
The only character among these three newbies that actually has any potential to become something worthwhile is Edwards. It’s been repeatedly proven on this show that anyone with a semblance of medical knowledge is very valuable. This is actually the driving force for Edwards’s actions throughout the night, for both good and bad. He’s a nice guy with a selfish side, which actually gives him a modicum of dimension. Once his group inevitably clashes with Rick’s, it’s very possible that Beth will vouch for his skills and bring him into the fold as a new member. As for Noah, he’s clearly only a vehicle to bring the group to Beth. It’s highly likely at this point that he’s the one Daryl brings back after the events of “Four Walls and a Roof.” It would be infinitely better if it was Beth that escaped so she can just come back already, but if we have to delay the inevitable through a throwaway character, I guess we don’t have a choice.
Dawn was by far the worst addition of them all. Holy crap, talk about a badly written character. She’s clearly supposed to be the “villain” of this arc but she’s not terrifying by any means. In fact, she’s actually unimaginably dumb. Who in their right mind would ever think help was coming after so long? This apocalypse has lasted for over two years now. Anyone who hasn’t just moved on is beyond the realm of denial. But okay, let’s say she’s just being “hopeful.” How does treating people like garbage and forcing them into slave labor further this mentality that help is coming? It’s clear by this set up that she’s prepared for the long haul on her own and prefers to be in control. She completely lacks the charisma of an engaging villain too. You have the Governor and Gareth, and then follow up with this? Swing-and-a-miss.
The moment Beth started to plan her escape with Noah is when the episode actually got interesting. It took way too long to get there though. What I absolutely loved about this was how it clearly presented Beth as a reliable survivor. She may have been a burden on people before, but now she can handle her own. Pushing Gorman (Cullen Moss) into a walker, busting out of a hospital, and maintaining her composure against clear threats are clear examples. She even got her own slow motion action scene where she killed a ton of walkers. There’s no way Noah could have escaped without Beth too. Of course, her getting captured again was the most “Beth” thing to happen.
Thankfully the momentum carried all the way to the finish where Beth witnesses Carol (Melissa McBride) being taken into the hospital on a gurney. God, what happened to her and Daryl when they left?! I believe that this episode’s ending has yet to bring us up to the events of last week, which leads me to theorize that Daryl and Carol were attacked on the road and got split up. Why is this show so adverse to keeping their cast all together? I honestly have no idea, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Carol will do to these asshats after she decimated Terminus. Or perhaps her presence with Beth and Daryl presumably running into Noah will bring the hammer of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) down. Because let’s be honest, every character introduced is totally expendable. They’re there to rack up the body count.
“Slabtown” is easily the weakest episode of the season. It started off slow and failed to gather a lot of momentum to become something worthwhile. The new additions are generally useless too, though there is some potential usage for Edwards, and Noah might just be the guy who brings our protagonists back together with Beth. Dawn however is just a stupid new character who has “doomed” written all over her face. The definite highlight was Beth soundly kicking some ass to bust out but even that ended in a disappointing fashion. Honestly, after last week’s episode, I was under the justifiable impression that Daryl was returning with Beth and this would be a one-off episode. It wasn’t though and now we’re stuck with what we have. At least we know where Beth is and have new characters for Rick’s group to dispose of in crazy ways.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.