Review: The Walking Dead S5E04 “Slabtown”


TheWalkingDeadS5E04

“You owe us.” — Officer Dawn Lerner

[spoilers]

Season 5 of The Walking Dead has been on such a hot streak to begin the new season that it was bound to have a bit of a drop off sooner rather than later. Even the best shows needs to slow things down after sprinting right out of the gate. Tonight saw the show finally answer the question: Who took Beth?

“Slabtown” answers this question by dedicating an entire episode to it, but also focusing the entire episode on Beth herself. This is a character who has outlived it’s comic book counterpart and who had become a punching bag for fans and detractors alike. Beth Greene has been called worthless and whose only skill seems to be taking care of Lil’ Asskicker and singing for the group. Her character was one example of why the show’s detractors have called the writing on The Walking Dead one of it’s biggest flaws. Yet, the writers since Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner seem to have found something salvageable about the youngest Greene.

Beth Greene’s character reclamation began all the way back in Season 4 where she began to show signs of understanding the rules which now govern the new world they all live in. When her new boyfriend was killed off in the last season’s premiere episode her reaction was to shrug it off and just remember the good times she had with him. This new found attitude would continue throughout season 4 yet Beth never sacrificed her hold on her humanity even as she finally adjusted to the new world she found herself in. It helped that she found a sort of big brother-like protector in Daryl who received emotional support from Beth as payment for teaching her how to better survive.

Now with tonight’s episode the initial reaction by most would be to groan and wonder if and when Daryl and Carol will come in with guns blazing to rescue her from what looks like a very bad situation. People wouldn’t be too harsh for thinking such a thing, but Gimple and his writers know that this was an opportunity to continue building up this new Beth Greene. Just as season 4 saw the emergence of Queen Badass Carol Peletier this season could further see Beth raise up her game and show everyone that she’s not useless and could more than take care of herself even when separated from everyone else.

It didn’t take long for Beth to realize that Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards were more than just helpful faces. Dawn never even gives Beth a chance to think that her new situation was better than the one she left. Grady Memorial looked safe enough, but the “greater good” way that Dawn ran things was nothing more than a thin veneer over something that the Governor and last season’s Joe would approve of. In a move that harkens back to how drunks and poor people were shanghaied into indentured servitude on ships a couple hundred years ago, Dawn has built herself up a dictatorship all in the name of preserving civilization. She wanted to keep things as organized and law-abiding until rescue comes from the government and things go back to normal.

Beth saw right through this charade while Officer Dawn and Doctor Edwards fail to notice that the young, pretty thing in front of them has survived on the outside and grown to become a hardened fighter in her own right. She’s learned from the best (Rick, Daryl, Maggie and, to a certain extent, even from Carl himself) and throughout the episode we could see the wheels in her head turning, turning for a way to get herself out and back out in the world where she knew she had a better chance of surviving.

While the episode still slowed things down a tad too much in the beginning to set-up the final minutes, they weren’t as painful as similar slowdowns as in the past. We got to learn who at the same time as Beth did that her new protectors were bad news (some even quite open with the rapey angle) and that others also wanted out. While it would’ve been great to see the show make more use out of guest-star Keisha Castle-Hughes (will be great to see her on the upcoming season of Game of Thrones) there’s a chance that we might see more of Tyler James Williams’ as Noah who made good on finding a way out.

Is Noah the unseen figure Daryl called out in the end of last week’s episode?

I guess we will have to find out a couple weeks from now as the show now turns to focusing on the Abraham group as they head towards our nation’s capital. Now that we’ve gotten to see Beth prove herself as worthy as the rest (to some degree) of the Rick Grimes Gang, it’s now time to see if the writers have a way to make Abraham, Eugene and Rosita more than just one-dimensional characters to this point and time of the show.

Notes

  • “Slabtown” was written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis.
  • Nice to see Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris on the TV once again.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider cameo’s as a ward of Grady Memorial who ends up ending the further rapey adventures of Officer Rapey McRaperton aka Officer Gorman.
  • Either Rick’s people just have had a lot of practice shooting zombie heads while on the move or Beth has been hiding just how good a shot she really is. She missed just one out of at least 15 shots.
  • Tonight’s episode was pretty much a whole new cast outside of Beth and until the very end with the appearance of Carol for a few seconds.
  • For a city that was supposedly bombed out by the government in the height of the zombie outbreak, Atlanta sure looks quite intact as it did in the season premiere. I guess the production designers on this show have never seen footage of German cities truly bombed out during WWII. This is how Atlanta should look.
  • Talking Dead guests tonight are John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood), Ana Gasteyer (SNL, Suburgatory) and Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5

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