Monday, November 3, 2014

The Walking Dead, Season Five, Episode Four: Slabtown

Damn it, this episode opens Beth waking to find herself in a hospital in Atlanta.  It is extremely reminiscent of the first episode when Rick woke up alone in the hospital. Beth bangs against the door screaming.  When someone approaches the door, Beth backs away, pulling out her IV.  Officer Dawn Lerner  and Dr. Steven Edwards enter the room, assuring Beth that she will be okay and demanding that she drop the needle. They introduce themselves and Beth asks how she got there.  Dawn explains that her officers found Beth on the side of the road, surrounded be marauders.  Beth asks about Darryl but is told that she was alone and had they not saved her, she would be a walker right now.  Ominously, Dawn tells Beth that she owes them now. 

Later, Beth is taken into another room with Dr. Steven Edwards, where he turns off the respirator, saying that if patients don't show any signs of improvement, they pull the plug.   Beth and Edwards roll the now dead man through the hospital and when Edwards stops to talk to the cops, Beth looks up to see a man mopping the floors.  Beth questions how many people are there and Edwards explains that there are just enough to keep them going and that everyone has a job.  Beth asks about burying the man but Edwards explains that they only go outside when they have to, before throwing the body down an elevator shaft for the walkers to consume.

Beth is in the cafeteria making a plate of food, when Gormon introduces himself and explains how he was the one who found Beth and saved Beth from a walker.  Beth is pretty noncommittal about the whole thing and Gormon explains that Beth needs to show gratitude, unless he wants her to make a list of all of the food she is taking because everything costs something around here. Beth picks up the tray and walks away.

Beth heads to Edwards office, where Edwards complains that he is bored but Beth tells Edwards that he is lucky to feel safe enough to feel bored.  Edwards is playing music and says that  music is one of the few perks he gets for being the only doctor there.  Edwards questions where Beth's food is and she explains, "the more I take, the more I owe." Edwards asks if Beth has ever tried guinea pig and asks her to sit down, adding that Dawn doesn't have to know.  Beth tastes the guinea pig and is clearly not in love with it.  They stare at the painting in Edwards office and Edwards explains that art doesn't have a place any more because it is not about survival; it's about transcendence.  Beth says that she still sings.

Gavin is rolled into the hospital by an officer and Edwards calls Gavin a loser, adding that he was told not to waste resources.  Dawn however instructs Edwards to try.  Dawn questions if Gavin is going to make it and Edwards explains that he doesn't have the tools to save Gavin.  Dawn then slaps Beth across the face, telling Edwards to try grasp the stakes here.

Later, Edwards cleans up Beth face and explains that she must put on a new shirt because Dawn likes things neat.  Beth snarks about the mess in Edwards office and he replies that they all have ways of making Dawn pay. Edwards leaves the room and Beth opens her new shirt to find a lollipop tucked in the pocket.

Once again, another patient is brought in and she is told that her choice is to have her arm cut off or die. Joan screams begging to be left alone and Edwards ties her to bed.  Beth tries to leave but Dawn orders Beth to stay.  Joan screams that they cannot control death, as Edwards saws off her arm without anesthesia.

Later, in the clothing room, Beth meets Noah, who is ironing more surgical gowns.  Noah is the one who gave Beth the lollipop.  Noah explains that he and his father were both messed up when they were brought in and told that they could only save one.  Noah was saved because he was smaller than his father and his father would have fought back and been a threat.  Noah adds that Dawn is just barely in control. Noah plans to leave as soon as he gets the chance to get back to his mother and adds that he is from Richmond.  Noah says that they believe he is weak but he is in fact strong.

Dawn relieves Shepperd, who has pulled a double shift. Dawn then offers Beth a tray of food as a peace offering but Beth says that she doesn't need much and isn't staying any longer than she is needed.  Beth takes a seat with Dawn,who explains that Beth shouldn't see his as a sentence. Dawn points out that Beth is being given, clothing, food and protection and that these things have never been free.  Beth points out that she didn't ask for Dawn's help but Dawn responds that Beth needed it.  Dawn asks Beth to look at the good they are doing and adds that they have saved a lot of lives.  Dawn points out that she is keeping them all going and that it has taken a lot to get them there. Dawn believes that what they had before they can have again and that they just have to contribute.  Dawn tells Beth to keep working off what she owes and then she will be able to leave soon.  Dawn encourages Beth to eat so that she can work and heal properly.  Grudgingly, Beth begins to eat.

Later, we see Beth mopping the floor in Joan's room.  Beth tells Joan that she is sorry and Joan comments that Dawn is a coward.  Joan believes that Dawn has made a deal with the devil because Dawn is not the one paying the price.

Alone now, Beth searches under a mattress for the lollipop Gormon gave her.  Gormon walks in and opens the lollipop in front of Beth. Gormon offers the lollipop to Beth, but when Beth refuses, he forces it in her mouth.  Edwards enters and tells Gormon to leave Beth alone. Gormon comments that Beth should have been his but Edwards asserts that no one is Gormon's and that Gormon will not be getting Joan back ether.  Gormon says that he will get Joan back and that Dawn will not stop him.  Edwards replies that he will stop Gormon and questions what happens when Gormon gets an infection, or gets bitten.  Gormon responds that there will be someone who isn't Edwards and someone in charge who isn't Dawn, before leaving the room.  Beth questions why Edwards stays.

Edwards takes Beth to the ground floor of the hospital.  He runs a pipe along the barred window and walkers appear.  Edwards explains that when he thinks about leaving, he comes downstairs and looks at the walkers. They leave the area together and head out to the roof.  Edwards explains that when everything started, Dawn reported to Hanson.  Edwards and Beth look out at the destroyed city of Atlanta. Edwards explains how when it all started, they went out on runs and saw people in desperate need of help and so he struck a deal with Dawn to help them.  Beth tells Edwards that he is not the problem.  Edwards explains that when Hanson cracked, Dawn took care of things and kept them altogether and alive.  Beth questions if this is living and Edwards points out that he is still breathing, along with the patients they have brought in. Edwards adds that as bad as things get in the hospital, it is still better than outside.  Beth says that she has to get back, so Edwards says that tomorrow, they will start fresh.

Beth is preparing a dose of medicine for Gavin and then she injects him.  Noah appears in the doorway, just as Gavin starts to seize. Later, Dawn, Edwards, Noah and Beth surround a now dead Gavin.  Dawn puts a knife through Gavin's brain and demands to know what happened, pointing out that Gavin was fine until Beth and Noah were left alone with him.  Noah stammers that it was an accident and that he accidentally unplugged the ventilator.  Dawn orders that Noah be taken to her office.  Beth steps up to say that this is not what happened and that Gavin started seizing.  Edwards questions what medicine Gavin was given and suggests that Beth gave Gavin the wrong one.  In the other room, Noah is being beaten and Beth screams but she is held back by Edwards.

Later, Dawn approaches Beth in an empty room and explains that she knows that Noah was lying because he is her best worker.  Beth questions why Noah was beaten and Dawn screams that she didn't want to but had to. Dawn tells Beth that every sacrifice they make is for the greater good because the second they lose sight of that, it's all over.  Dawn tells Beth that she is not the greater good and is not strong enough.  Dawn says that the wards keep the officer happy and that the happier the officers are, the harder they work to keep them all happy.  Dawn adds that this hasn't been easy but after they are rescued, this will all be worth it.  Dawn tells Beth that outside they are all dead or someone's burden.  Beth calls it bullshit, but Dawn grabs Beth's arm and shows her the scar from when she tried to kill herself.  Dawn says that some people aren't meant for this and this is okay, as long as they don't take advantage of the ones who are.

Later, Beth examines a bruised Noah.  Noah says that Dawn is as trapped as they are but Beth asserts that they are not trapped and that she is leaving with Noah.  Noah says that the basement is the fastest way out and they being to plan how to leave.  Noah tells Beth that she needs to get the spare key from Dawn.

Beth heads into Dawn's office, when Dawn is busy and opens a filing cabinet.  Beth looks down and finds that Joan has slit her wrist and is lying dead under Dawn's desk.  Beth searches Dawn's desk and finally finds the key in a locked drawer.  Before Beth can leave the room however, Gormon enters. Beth lies saying that Dawn was asking for a key but Gormon says that he was just with Dawn. Gormon suggests that Dawn doesn't have to know about what Beth was up to and that maybe there is a solution for both of them.  Gormon takes Beth into his arms asking if they are going to work something out here.  Beth backs up as Gormon puts his hands up her shirt. Beth grabs a jar of lollipops and bashes Gormon over the head with it, causing Gormon to fall to the ground. Suddenly zombie Joan gets up and attacks Gormon turning him into a snack.

Beth walks in the halls and passes Dawn, who questions if everything is okay. Beth tells Dawn that Gormon was looking for her and that she saw Gormon and Joan headed towards Beth's office. Beth then walks by Noah, who is quick to follow.  Beth pauses long enough to look down the elevator shaft before Noah ties a rope around her and lowers her down slowly. Noah accidentally drops the rope and as Beth falls, she drops the flashlight.  Noah grabs the rope before Beth can fall of the way down.  Noah then secures the rope and starts climbing down himself, only to be grabbed by a walker, causing him to fall into the pit, hurting his leg.  Beth jumps into the pit with Noah and helps him stand. A limping Noah takes the lead and the two walk out of the shaft.  Beth and Noah are attacked by walkers and Beth starts shooting.  Beth and Noah make their way outside and start running but see a group of Walkers running towards them. Beth stops long enough to stomp a walkers head and shoot until she runs out of bullets.  Beth is quickly surrounded but an officer shoots the walkers and takes Beth down, as Noah makes his escape.

Alone in Dawn's office, Beth explains that Gormon attacked her, just like he attacked Joan, and that  Beth let him.  Beth accuses Dawn of letting this happen but Dawn asserts that this is just so that they can survive.  Beth tells Dawn that no one is coming and that they are all going to die and that Beth let it happen.  Dawn then slaps Beth across the face.

Edwards fixes up Beth's wounds, saying that she should be able to get back to work soon. Edwards goes to leave and Beth questions how Edwards knew that Gavin was a doctor, which explains why Edwards had her give Gavin the wrong medicine.  Beth says that if Gavin had lived, there would be another doctor and not only would Dawn not need Edwards, Dawn wouldn't have protected Edwards. Edwards admits that Gavin is an oncologist and that he knew him.  Edwards explains that he would have been kicked out, or maybe killed. Beth says, "use everything you can use." Edwards then brings up Peter denying being one of Christ's disciples when Christ was arrested before leaving the room. 

Beth picks up a pair of scissors and marches down the hall but stops as she sees Carol being brought in on a gurney.

Okay, this was an all Beth episode and though I was expecting the worst, it really wasn't bad at all.  First we had the reminder to Rick waking up in the hospital in the first season and then the complete and utter devastation of Atlanta.  Though Beth has been on the road with the group, for much of the zombie apocalypse Beth has been very sheltered.  Her life as the prison baby sitter and her time on Hershel's farm were sort of an oasis from the horror and now she is face to face with it and for the for the first time, she is on her own. 

It is clear that Beth is not the same young woman who took to her bed on the farm and then tried to kill herself.  Beth is now a survivor and unwilling to give up.  I like that she fought back and even after being caught, was preparing to fight back.  What more, Beth is clearly smart because she realized that Edwards had her murder Gavin. With Carol in the hospital, I really hope that these two go all Thelma and Louise and that one of the male characters doesn't come along and save them.  

Episode five continued the theme of this season - what will one do in the name of survival.  Dawn has clearly made a deal with the devil as Joan said.  She told herself the lie that someone would come someday and save them and that every little sacrifice would be worth it on that day.  As each day passed, Dawn had to hold more tightly to this lie, desperate to hold onto a modicum of control, when those around her had already descended into animals. 

This episode also showed how vulnerable women become in a situation like this.  Gormon clearly didn't see women as people and instead, saw women as property to be used at his will. I do however have to offer kudos to The Walking Dead for not turning Beth into a victim and having her raped by Gormon.  Even though Joan chose death, in a way, that is a sign of her fighting back.  Joan used the power at her disposal to escape, even though it was an escape to the grave.  It's too bad zombie Joan was not sentient because I like to think that there was some satisfaction in eating Gormon.

Once again, The Walking Dead has split up its massive cast of characters.  This needs to be handled delicately. It will be interesting to see how the characters meet up again and how many of them will survive the separation.  I prefer to see them altogether; however, if separation means that we never have to watch another season of White people sitting on a porch and arguing, I can live with it.