TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 5, Episode 4: Slabtown [AMC]

Tyler James Williams Emily Kinney The Walking Dead Slabtown

AMC‘s The Walking Dead Slabtown TV Show Review. The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 4: ‘Slabtown,’ could have been considered a stand-alone episode, or the trailing edge of season 4.2’s lesser loose ends; but it was ultimately that inevitable filler episode, that we all knew was coming.

In a quick tribute to the series pilot, Beth (Emily Kinney) awoke to a hospital room, overlooking a bombed out city of Atlanta. Her need to get free, and get a handle on her situation, led to a brief confrontation with her supposed saviors. While Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen) worked to talk her down, Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods) was more concerned with the intravenous needle, that Beth was wielding as a weapon. Being the recipient of an ongoing rescue effort, by Dawn’s police garrison, came as welcomed relief, to Beth. Dawn’s outright claim of Beth being indebted to them: not so much.

Nothing like waking up with a bill in your face, to determine the quality of a medical facility’s health care plan. The ‘billing apparatus’ would be driving force of the episode.

With all the focus on her supposed weaker points, Beth never really got a whole lot of credit for her overall perceptiveness. Considering that boredom has become a cornerstone of American life, I’d give her a double high five for her “safe enough to be bored is lucky” remark.

That perceptiveness kept her ahead of the curve, for the most part. She quickly figured out that being an inpatient, in this case, was akin to being an inmate. Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to see through someone like head goon, Gorman (Ricky Wayne) – his intentions were as subtle as a having a lollypop forced into your mouth – but she learned to see the in-house motto, of “use everything you can,” as a euphemism for “be useful or be used.” She also figured out a resident rooster’s plot, that used (and almost sacrificed ) her, in order to secure his place at the roost. While this did shake up her view, on who her friends & foes were, on the inside, she was able to recognize a trusted ally in Noah (Tyler James Williams), Dawn’s personal pet patient.

Her application of those wits still needed work, though. When the head of a police state establishes the innocence attrition rule (reprisal against civilians, for acts of rebellion, for instance), don’t expect a measured response to telling the Emperor he has no clothes.

Likewise, the point of snooping isn’t just about collecting illicit information/ material, it’s about not getting caught. Lingering over unexpected stumble points – like dead bodies – undermine the whole in-and-out-quick aspect of a successful snoop. Of course, everything worked out for the best. Beth got clear, and got payback, without really getting her hands dirty – and certainly without losing her virtue.

Dawn may have practiced her whole A Few Good Men schtick, but Gareth was a better leader. That alone should speak volumes. Gareth – weasel that he was – actually inspired his followers; Dawn just bribed them with perks. That tact didn’t work out well for the later rulers of Rome; so I see bad things for Dawn’s tenure. The perks, in Dawn’s case, included “pretty, but useless” persons, like Beth, being used as comfort women, for her Officers. Strong-arming the weak, in order to placate the strong, gets short term compliance at the cost of long term respect; so I see bad things for Dawn, personally.

The Terminus arc has been done with, and season 5 may be a while in taking shape, so an episode like ‘Slabtown’ had to happen. Fortunately, it was neither bad, nor useless, as far as fillers go.

Viewers got another angle to post-civilization collectivism, only slightly reminiscent of 28 Days Later (for the sake of the future, the boys need incentive), that again proved the virtue of rugged survivalism, over DIY restoration. As a possible foreshadowing of the Ford expedition, ‘Slabtown’ may have provided another reason to follow that thread (to anyone considering it an also-ran, to Team Rick’s).

‘Slabtown’ may have also taken a swipe at a few key sociopolitical issues. Beyond what may have been some Eugenic ideals, behind Dawn’s agenda, there was the old question of conservative fear of forced dependency, versus liberal fear of the police state. If anything, the episode demonstrated that they are two sides of the same coin (so quit sloganeering at me). It said something about the limits of using fear, of some greater evil, in order to induce submission/ compliance. Some people would rather lose an arm than remain ensnared; sometimes they resort to more drastic action, that turns them around to bite their “protective captors.”

Gorman may have set up the subject of the Warlord’s harem perk, for future extrapolation. His abuses were only implied, by the time Beth came into his cross-hairs, but the implication was enough to make his end an act of ironic ‘mouth service.’

‘Slabtown’ also may have said something about the American prison system, with the ‘inpatients’ working off their “debts to (Dawn’s) society.” Like the American prison system, any 90lb weakling that survived “the system,” was likely to come out the other end as a 200lb hardcase/ urban guerrilla. Bad for civilized society; good for Walker World.

While hardly a hundred pounds of muscle heavier, ‘inpatient’ life likely made for a much stronger, sharper Beth, than her detractors ever gave her credit for. On top of that, there may even be the prospect of further tutelage, by the woman now considered the ultimate survivor of the cast. If a battered hausfrau could attain that position, then Beth can – ‘Slabtown’ having provided proof, to that end.

Likewise Noah, another youngster in the lightweight class, had been proven an asset (dude knows how to repel), should he wind up a part of Rick’s group. While not quite representative of Generation Z, a Beth, Noah, Carl trio does paint a decent picture of the future warrior whipper-snappers of Walker World. The hopeful picture, anyways – realistically, the actual Generation Z (kids with no memory of civilization) will be full of monsters, like Lizzie: bereft of any civilized moral influences. Something to keep in mind, when criticizing Team Rick’s weakest links.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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