The Walking Dead Episode 504: “Slabtown” Recap

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For this recap, I’m going to do things a bit differently. I’m going to do my summary of the plot, then my take-aways, followed by an examination of where this might fall on the timeline of events, and finally the positives and negatives with a grade for the episode. 

As always, full spoilers for the episode and some of the comics to follow.

Summary:

This… this was a different kind of episode. I’ve watched it twice now, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. This episode wasn’t a particularly bad one, but it wasn’t particularly great either. This installment served largely as an exposition dump, which appeared to rub some viewers the wrong way after the first three action packed episodes of the season.

We’re immediately shown Beth who is waking up in a hospital room alone. This scene is meant to appear similar to the scene in the first episode of the series, with Rick waking up from his coma. From there we see Beth pound on the door and pull an IV out of her arm. Entering shortly after is Dr. Steven Edwards and Officer Dawn Lerner of the Atlanta Police Department. The two alert Beth that she was found alone on the side of the road, seemingly passed out after losing consciousness fighting off walkers.

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Beth gathers pretty quickly that the hospital is not a good place. She is told immediately that she owes the officers running the hospital, and later finds out that she is not free to leave until she clears her debt to them, a debt that is added to every time you eat or are provided any services by those running the operation. This sort of thing may be a commentary on the current state of healthcare in the United States, but I wouldn’t get too caught up in that thought.

Outside of Dawn, we aren’t privy to much information regarding her officers. We meet Gorman though, who is the resident creep who seems to have a history of forcing himself onto patients of the hospital, as well as challenging Joan’s leadership. Gorman appears to have taken a liking to Beth too, as we see him frequently make uncomfortable passes at her, including a terrible scene featuring a lollipop that made my skin crawl. I never want to eat anything sour apple again.

We learn that there are other patients serving time in the hospital, including Joan portrayed by Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Noah played by Tyler James Williams. Joan appears to have tried to escape the hospital which resulted in her being bitten. Dr. Edwards and Dawn try to calm Joan because they need to amputate her arm, but Joan resists anesthetic and tells them she’d rather die than stay. They do indeed amputate Joan’s arm, forcing Beth to hold her down as they do.

The second patient we meet is Noah, the resident janitor of the hospital who also appears to work closely (though reluctant) with Dawn as well. Noah reveals that he became a ward of the hospital after they took him in, leaving his father behind, when the officers fond them injured on the side of the road. Noah was around the Atlanta area searching for his uncle, originally hailing from Richmond, VA, where his mother is still located. Noah also tells Beth that his camp in Richmond is well fortified, stating that it “has walls.” This was particularly interesting to me, because Richmond, VA is about a two hour drive from Washington D.C., where Rick and company are headed once Carol and Daryl return. It may be possible that Noah hails from one of the many walled communities from the comic series, such as the Alexandria Safe Zone, Hilltop, or the Kingdom. Noah also reveals to Beth that no patient has ever worked off their debt, and they are seemingly trapped there.

Dr. Edwards and Beth get a lot of alone time together in this episode as well, and Dr. Edwards seems like a decent guy for the most part. Edwards doesn’t like his current situation, and opposes the way things are done at the hospital. At first, Edwards appeared that he might be the TV show adaptation of Dr. Stevens, Woodbury’s reluctant doctor from the comics, but by the end of the episode it appears that Edwards is just as slimy as the officers. When the officers bring in another doctor from another hospital who is injured, Edwards tricks Beth into giving him the wrong dose of medicine, killing the new doctor. This doesn’t bode well for Beth or Noah, who attempts to vouch for her, as Beth is threatened and Noah is beaten by Gorman.

This event causes Beth to begin planning an escape. When she seeks the help of Noah, he alerts her that Dawn keeps a spare key to the elevator shaft where they dump their dead in her desk drawer in her office. This would be the quickest way for the two to escape, so Beth agrees to recover the key. When she enters Dawn’s office though, she finds that Joan has also broken into the office, subsequently killing herself and leaving her body to turn, seemingly in hopes that she would kill Dawn after turning.

Just as Beth finds the key, as well as information on the patient she had accidentally killed and realizing she was set up, Gorman enters the office. Gorman calls Beth’s bluff, and assures her that Dawn never has to know she was snooping around if they can come to an “agreement.” Beth nods, appearing to be on board, but just as Gorman begins to slide his hand up her shirt, she bashed him over the head with a jar of lollipops. Gorman falls to the floor just as Joan is waking up as a walker, and he is eaten. Beth grabs Gorman’s gun, and gets out of the office.

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Beth sets off to get Noah, but quickly sees that Noah is with Dawn, and has to quickly find a diversion. Beth, while trying to cover blood that is on her shoe so that Dawn will not see, tells Dawn that Gorman and Joan were looking for her and are in her office. Beth and Noah then make haste for the elevator shaft.

At the elevator shaft, the two use rope made of a sheets to lower themselves down, and Noah falls after a walker from a floor below reaches through the elevator doors. Luckily enough, the giant pile of bodies disposed by the hospital crew breaks his fall, though he does appear to have injured his leg. The noise the two have made attracts a good bit of walkers, and the two flee through the dark ground floor as Beth disposes of the walkers with some rather unrealistic headshots in the dark.

The duo bust through a set of double doors at the end of the corridor, and are outside. As they make a mad dash for the gates, a pack of walkers are closing in on them. Beth begins to dispatch the walkers, and as the noise of the gunfire is distracting them, Noah makes a break for the fence, eventually making it out. Beth is caught by a pack of officers however, returning her to the hospital.

Beth is back in her room when Dawn enters and gives her a speech about why they do what they do. Beth tells Dawn that what she’s doing is allowing her officers to take advantage of patients, and wasting time waiting for a rescue. Dawn tells Beth that she isn’t made for this world and is a burden, echoing the sentiment of Daryl after the prison fell, Gorman, and many fans of the show. Dawn then hits Beth in the face for the second time in the episode.

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As Edwards is patching Beth up, she reveals to him that she knows about the other doctor and that she was set up. Dr. Edwards explains that if he hadn’t had her kill the new doctor, Dawn may have sent him off, or had Gorman kill him instead. Beth is clearly unhappy about this, and Edwards cites a painting in his office that he had discussed with Beth earlier, stating that St. Peter denied knowing Christ when he was arrested, because if he had not denies Christ, Peter would have been crucified as well.

Edwards leaves the room, and Beth, now scarred on both sides of her face, grabs the scissors Edwards was using and sets out in the hall, presumably to kill him. Just as she approaches him, the officers wheel in a new patient on a stretcher, who is revealed to be an unconscious Carol, and the episode fades to black.

Take-Aways:

This episode presented a pretty mediocre story, but there was still a good bit to be taken away from it though. Here are a few things I picked out:

– Dawn is oddly sympathetic. She appears to only be making moves so that she doesn’t lose control.

– Dawn also references the fact that a good man almost costed them everything once, possibly referring the the picture of her with another officer that was shown in her office.

– Beth is constantly told she is not a fighter, and by the end of the episode she appears ready to prove them all wrong.

– As stated above, Noah hails from Richmond, VA, and could possibly be a part of the many fortified communities from the comic books.

– Also stated above, Dr. Edwards, though questionably sleezy by the end of the episode, may be the TV adaptation of Dr. Stevens.

– There are a lot of parallels between the hospital, a place that is traditionally healing and safe, but is full of punishment and sentencing in this instance, and the prison, a place that is normally for punishment and sentencing, but was used as a place of healing and safety before it fell.

– There is a man early in the episode that Edwards says was found while the officers were out on a run. The man had gone into cardiac arrest and was suffering from dehydration. This sounds very similar to a story showrunner Scott Gimple told on AMC’s Talking Dead last season, regarding the owner of the funeral home Beth and Daryl stumbled across, and where Beth would be kidnapped.

– The painting in Dr. Edwards office is the Denial of St. Peter, which Edwards also references. This, another example of religious symbolism within this season, could be foreshadowing for a number of events outside of Edwards denying that he knew the doctor brought in by the officers. It’s important to note too, that though he denied Christ, Peter eventually redeemed himself and became the first pope. It’s also said that Peter mans the gates of heaven.

– The doctor the officers brought in was from St. Ignatius Hospital. St. Ignatius is the patron saint of soldiers, which is ironic because he was killed by Beth following orders. This could also be more religious symbolism used as foreshadowing.

– Carol is not in the hospital by her own doing. I know a lot of people are trying to connect the dots, but realistically there is no way that Carol injured herself to enter the hospital. For one, they’d have to have gathered somehow that the only way to get in is to be someone who is injured and that they think they can control, and they’d have to set up a situation where the officers would see her.

– I’ve also seen a lot of people theorizing that Dawn might know Rick, and that the uncle Noah is looking for is actually Morgan. I know these might seem like cool plot twists, but ultimately they’re predicable and far-fetched. If either of these is true, I’d be a little disappointed as it it would break the realism for me.

– By the end of the episode, Beth is looking an awful lot like Andrea from the comics:
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Timeline Issues:

Though it may seem like it’s been forever since we’ve seen Beth from our perspective, according the to the timeline of the show, it may have only been a few days. Looking at course of events that have following Daryl and the rest of the group, it’s only been about a week since Beth was taken from the funeral home. That is a really long week when you consider all the stuff the characters have gone through:

-Daryl loses Beth at funeral home late at night/early morning
-Daryl chases car until Joe’s group finds him sometime after daybreak
-Daryl spends around two days with Joe, based off the episodes that featured them (2 Days Pass)
-Daryl reunites with Rick, Michonne, and Carl as Joe captures them and plans to execute them
-Rick and co. dispatch Joe’s group and head for Terminus (1 Day Passes)
-Within a day, the group arrives at Terminus, is reunited with Glenn and the others, and pulled into the warehouse to be killed.
-With Carol’s help, the group escapes and hits the road for two days as documented in episode 502. (2 Days Pass)
-The group meets Fr. Gabriel and is taken back to his church. They later raid the food bank.
-That night they feast, and Bob is taken by the hunters, and Carol and Daryl take off after the car they see.
-Rick and co. kill the Hunters.
-Abraham leaves with Glenn, Maggie, Tara, and his group in the morning. (1 Day Has Passed)
-Daryl makes it back to the church that night.

While this timeline isn’t guaranteed, it’s probably close. This would put it at about a week’s time since Daryl and Beth were separated. My guess would be that this episode begins around the time that Daryl joins Joe’s group, and as time passes in the episode, we probably end around the time when Rick kills Joe and his group, and they head for Terminus. This would put Noah out on his own for about two days before he’d be found by Carol and/or Daryl (because at this point we can all agree that it’s probably Noah in the woods with Daryl, right?).

Overview:

7 out of 10 = Could Have Been Better

This episode wasn’t the greatest, but it did give us a lot of perspective, and we finally know what happened to Beth. A few questions remain though: Whose dog was that at the funeral home? How did Beth end up with a gash on her face if she was just fleeing walkers, and how did Carol end up in the hospital?

It appears we’re being set up to see Rick’s group complete a video-game style checklist before setting out for DC. Food supplies from food bank? Check. Medical supplies and automobiles from hospital prison? Check.

Positives/Negatives:

+ Beth is becoming a fighter
+ I find Dawn oddly sympathetic
+ Noah appears to be a strong character
+ Neat parallels drawn between the prison and the hospital
+ Beth kills someone with a jar of lollipops. Seriously.

– A lot of exposition to take in at once
– Shallow, unlikable characters like Gorman and Edwards introduced.
– This episode, like a few others of the series, handled the idea of sexual assault poorly.
– Beth is suddenly able to pop off headshots in the dark after only handling a gun once before in the series

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