Recap: The Walking Dead Episode 5.04, Slabtown

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Beth wakes in a hospital, an IV in her arm. It is clean and quiet, almost like she is waking in a world not inundated by zombies. Of course, she is not. She is in a hospital in Atlanta, under the care of Dr. Steven Edwards. Police officer Dawn Lerner – who it soon becomes clear is running the show – found her along the road among what they call “rotters.” She has a fractured wrist and a minor head injury, but is otherwise okay. Dawn informs her that if they hadn’t rescued her, she would be one of them. “So you owe us.”

Through stories pieced together over the course of the episode by Dr. Edwards and Dawn, when the outbreak occurred, Dawn reported to an officer named Hanson. They were ordered to evacuate everyone in the hospital to a park. Dr. Edwards didn’t realize how bad things were until they heard jets, bombs, screams. From the roof, he could see that Atlanta was overrun. Everyone they evacuated was dead. Those left in the hospital barricaded themselves in, and mostly kept to themselves – until the food ran out. Then they would venture out to scavenge in small teams. Along the way, Dr. Edwards saw sick and injured people everywhere. Dawn kept telling him they couldn’t spare the resources, but it was eating away at him. Dr. Edwards struck a deal with Dawn. They would take in the sick and injured, mend them, and let them work off their “debt” in the hospital: cleaning, assisting with patients, laundry, cooking, etc. Eventually, Hanson “cracked” and started killing people indiscriminately. Dawn took care of him and restored order to the hospital. For that, Dr. Edwards is grateful.

It soon becomes clear that Dawn is megalomaniacal. She believes wholeheartedly that someone is coming to save them, and that when they being to rebuild civilization, you must be part of the system, must give back, must contribute to the greater good. But along the way she beats people who don’t contribute to her idea of the greater good, and she looks the other way when her guards rape the women they rescue because if her guards are happy, they are better at their job.

Beth befriends another patient, Noah. Dawn’s team found him and his father, both badly injured. Dawn decided that they could only spare the resources to save one of them, and she chose Noah. After some time in the hospital, Noah realized it was because his father was big and strong, and would fight back. He has been planning an escape, because he has never seen anyone pay off enough of their debt to be let free. She decides she wants to escape with Noah.

Two other patients that come in are important in tonight’s episode. One is a man who Dawn is desperate to save. He fell off a building and Dr. Edwards doesn’t believe he has a chance. Dawn forces him to work on saving him, so he does. At one point, Dr. Edwards asks Beth to go give him his next dose of medicine. She does, and within moments he starts seizing. Noah instantly takes the blame and with it, he gets a beating. Beth gave the patient the drug that Dr. Edwards told her, but he insists that that wasn’t the right one. The drugs have similar names, and Beth isn’t sure who was at fault: her or the doc. While digging around Dawn’s office for an escape key, she finds the patient’s wallet and ID. He was a doctor, and Dr. Edwards knew him. He purposely told Beth the wrong drug because he feared that if the patient got better, his value would diminish and he would be killed or fed to the zombies.

The other patient is Joan. She had been a patient before, and tried to escape. They found her with a bite in her arm and brought her back to the hospital to amputate her arm. She had escaped because Officer Gorman had claimed her as his own, and was keeping her as a sex slave.

When Beth sneaks into Dawn’s office to steal a spare key so she and Noah can escape, she discovers Joan in there, dead. She had killed herself after etching “f*ck you” into the floor. She would rather be dead than a sex slave. It is about this time that Gorman comes in and finds Beth snooping. He has had his creepy eyes on Beth since the moment she arrived at the hospital, and was now going to use this “infraction” as blackmail. He starts kissing Beth and she turns away. When she does, she sees Joan’s finger twitch. She submits to Gorman, and while he is busying himself under her shirt, she hits him over the head with a jar of lollipops. (This is especially fitting because Noah had sneaked one of the treats to Beth, but Gorman stole it. He later comes back to Beth, teasing her with it, then forcing it into her mouth.) The jar-smash sends Gorman to the ground, into the slavering mouth of zombie Joan. Beth runs.

She and Noah have no time to waste. The elevator shaft has been where the doc was dumping corpses (after they were properly lobotomized, of course) and is now their escape hatch. Noah lowers Beth down to the safety of the platform with a rope made of sheets, then climbs down after her. A walker surprises him halfway down and, startled, he lets go. The pile of fetid corpses cushions his fall, leaving him with a minor leg injury. He doesn’t let it slow him down. As they continue, walkers start closing in on them. Beth shoots a few in the pitch-black shaft, and a few more as they break into daylight. She kicks a path for Noah to run through, and he makes it out the other side of the fence. Beth isn’t so lucky. The guards capture her, handcuff her, and bring her back into the hospital.

Dawn is furious when she confronts Beth about Gorman and Joan. “He attacked me!” she defends. “No one is coming! We are all going to die and you let this happen for nothing.” A moment of fear flashes across Dawn’s face, as she realizes, deep down, that this is probably true, but then the hard-ass returns, and Beth gets a beating. Dr. Edwards tends to her new wounds, and this is when Beth confronts him about the meds and Edwards admits he knew the other patient. Edwards is called to care for another patient, and Beth is left alone. She spies a pair of surgical scissors and palms them. She creeps down the hallway with, perhaps, murder on the mind – but then stops. The new patient they brought in is Carol.

After the Terminus-cannibal story line of the first three episodes, this one felt like a let down. It wasn’t the lack of gore or action or zombies; it wasn’t even because it was a Beth episode (I like Beth). But the danger didn’t feel as immediate as with the cannibals. The cannibals were f*cking vicious. At least there was a modicum of safety at the hospital, and the threat of death didn’t seem nearly as imminent. I’m not saying that the constant threat of rapes and beatings isn’t horrible, I’m just saying it seems more palatable than being slowly carved up over days or weeks to maintain freshness. If I had to choose between being held hostage at the hospital and being held at Terminus, I would choose hospital in a second. When you have had three weeks of that intensity, this almost seems like a respite.

I have a friend who insists that Carol will die at any second, claiming that her story is done. I think that is ridiculous, but he is steadfast with his argument. But between Daryl smiling at the end of last week’s episode, and the ending of tonight’s episode, I think Daryl got both Carol AND Beth back. If he had found only one of them, his smile would be restrained because that would mean that one was dead (or at the very least, lost). But next week is going to be an Abraham story¬Ö which, frankly, does not excite or interest me. I still don’t quite understand why he still thinks that Eugene is going to be their savior. Maybe I am too cynical; maybe he is too stupid.