The Walking Dead, S5 Ep4 — Slabtown

To be honest, I wasn’t especially looking forward to this week’s “Beth-centric” Walking Dead episode. I didn’t feel up for a drastic change in setting after all that’s happened in the first three episodes of season 5. But I should know by now that nothing energizes the site like a complete departure from the group for an episode or two. “Slabtown” has its issues, but it’s better in a lot of ways than Beth’s standalone episodes with Daryl (which were pretty much the weak spots in an otherwise strong season 4).

The timing of “Slabtown” most likely begins around the time members of the group were captured at Terminus and ends before the end of last week’s episode, when Daryl returns to the church with at least one unseen person.

Officer Dawn Lerner and Dr. Edwards

Officer Dawn Lerner and Dr. Edwards

Beth wakes up in a sterile hospital room with an IV in her arm. Compared to every place we’ve seen since the CDC facility, it looks like a nice safe place to be; it doesn’t look like a post-apocalyptic hospital, just a hospital. It even has power. But Beth knows better than to feel safe, especially when she finds that she is locked in the room.

The doctor and police officer who come in and get her seem helpful, but a dark side comes out almost immediately, when the The Officer, Dawn, matter-of-factly tells Beth that she owes her.

What follows is a struggle between Beth and her captors that comes down to freedom. Beth works in the hospital, witnessing some pretty horrific stuff, to pay off her debt, but, aware that it will add to her debt, she refuses to eat. The characters range from scummy caricatures (Gorman, the officer who constantly harasses Beth sexually) to sympathetic-but-probably-hiding-something (Dr. Edwards).

Then there’s Noah. Noah is apparently based on a character from the video game, and, unlike everyone else we meet, he sees himself as a captive. He hides it beneath a smiling demeanor, but Beth sees it early on and they become fast friends (with more than a little potentially romantic chemistry). Noah even takes the fall for something Beth was set up to be blamed for — something he didn’t do — and takes a beating in her place. They hatch a plan to escape together, but only Noah, injured in the process, manages to get out.

Noah and Beth

Noah and Beth

The good news for Beth is that Noah’s escape appears to have happened just as Daryl and Carol arrived at the hospital, after following the car that had taken Beth. As Beth is drawn back in, she sees Carol, suddenly unconscious, wheeled in as a new patient.

There’s a chance that they found Carol injured and left Daryl to die. More likely, after finding Noah outside the hospital and learning that Beth was inside, she lured them into an impending ambush by playing injured. And Daryl’s companion back at the church? Probably Noah, though there is little doubt that the remaining group will return to the hospital. If they can manage to take it over, it could be a pretty sweet setup. We won’t knew what happens next in this arc for at least a couple of weeks, though — next week’s episode looks as if it focuses on the DC-bound group led by Abraham.