Review: The Walking Dead “Slabtown” Season 5 Episode 4

Content Warning:

Graphic Violence – amputation, medical procedures, Walker attacks, LOTS of dead bodies

Sexual Violence – sexual threats and attempted rape, but no nudity

Offensive Language – some cursing (d***, s***, a**) and a lot of sexual discussion (some is aggressive)

Because of the subject matter, The Walking Dead has always been a graphically violent show. Viewers have been treated to a variety of ways to kill or be killed, and the effects of that lifestyle have been clearly shown in each character’s reaction to what life has become for them. This week’s episode took things a step further and showcased the lengths some people will go to in order to survive.

After her disappearance from the funeral home, Beth’s storyline picks up again as she wakes up in Grady Memorial Hospital and is told by Officer Dawn and Dr. Steve that she was saved by members of their group and brought there for medical attention. They claim to have found her fighting what they refer to as Rotters, and that they got there just as she was about to be killed. What initially seems to be good news is immediately followed by the line, “So you owe us.” That’s not ominous at all.

Initially, it looks like Dawn was just being a bit dramatic as Beth begins to repay her debt by helping Dr. Steve care for patients, but then we’re introduced to more of the cast:

  • Gorman, who propositions Beth in exchange for food.
  • Joan, who ran away unarmed and would rather be turned before staying there.
  • Noah, whose father was killed because he was strong and would have fought back.

Add those to the various slaps, threats, and beatings, and it becomes clear that Beth may have been better off elsewhere.

From start to finish, “Slabtown” is filled with tension and a sense that something is wrong (in addition to the fact that dead people are walking around). Beth’s talk with Joan reveals that Dawn is allowing the officers to demand sex from the women in exchange for their protection at the hospital. While it’s not said outright, it is implied that the men are becoming more abusive and that the situation is, if possible, worsening. Shortly after that, Gorman comes into Beth’s room with a sucker that he stole from her. To put it lightly, his attitude, and the way he forces the sucker on Beth, is disturbing and hard to watch. The fact that Dawn is watching from the doorway for part of the scene makes it clear that she is willing to sacrifice anyone in order to protect what she refers to as “the greater good.”

Throughout the episode, you can almost see Beth grow up. She has always been a relatively generic character who mainly served as a weak and innocent counterpoint to the rest of the group, much like Carol’s characterization in Season 1. Now, she has to stand alone without the protection of her friends, and we get to see the strength that’s been hiding within. In one episode, she goes from a scared girl depending on others to tell her what to do, to a woman who will go to any lengths to protect herself and her friends. Instead of hanging back, she is now in the front, protecting an injured Noah from the dead, to make sure he can escape even though it means that she gets caught. Instead of staying quiet, Beth tells Dawn, “You know what’s happening here and you let it happen. You’re letting it happen… for nothing.” Instead of pretending ignorance, she tells Steve that she knows he had her kill someone to keep his place, and that she won’t be used. Just when we see what Beth can be driven to by the brutality around her, another wounded survivor is brought in and Beth has to decide what is more important:  revenge or friendship.

The Bottom Line

 

“Slabtown” takes a side trip from the normal routine of angst and undead violence and leads viewers into a world of denial and desperation that left me feeling like I needed to crawl under the covers and eat chocolate until the world was right again.

 

8.8

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Lari Burkhart

A life-long book addict, I spend most of my time trying to find a way to avoid reality through sci-fi and fantasy. I've been a Christian for quite some time (no numbers, please) and I'm always ready for a discussion about how fiction mirrors the Bible and its principles even when it's trying not to.

2 Comments

  1. Cody Hahn on November 5, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Great write up. Seriously laughed at the negative of “No Darryl”

  2. Drew Koehler on November 5, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Great article. You summed up the episode perfectly. I would love to read some predictions and maybe read some of the deeper moral issues being covered in the episode such as abusive male dominance and such which seems to correlate a lot in perspective with what is happening in the media with gamer gate etc…

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