Published on November 4th, 2014 | by Bean0
The Walking Dead review – Season 5 Episode 4 – “Slabtown”
After such a killing start to the fifth season, The Walking Dead has spent the last two episodes stumbling along like a lonely walker with no jaw. It’s sort of going somewhere, but it’s pace has become aimless and it lacks bite.
Once more using the ol’ ‘out of the frying pan’ trope, Beth finds herself being patched up in hospital by a creepily dime-eyed doctor and an aggressive cop demanding vague recompense. Where Beth has been for the last..however long, since she was kidnapped and disappeared from Daryl’s watchful eye, is not referred to; she was found by the wayside with walkers descending. This is a darn site less traumatic than the situation I had second-guessed her into; wasn’t she in the clutches of the mundo-nasties, The Marauders? Hmmm…put a pin in that one. Carol seems to have just had a run in with them instead, as her “Surprise!” entrance at the episode’s close attests. This moment gives Slabtown more purpose than the 45 minutes preceding. That’s just how Carol rolls.
Anyway, Beth is now faced with yet another assortment of dickweeds, more disappointingly with another wafty set of half-thought-out creeds, which after the nonsense with cannibals we just finished with is a bit much. The fundamental dysfunction at the heart of Slabtown is partly why the episode ends up being so frustrating. None of it really makes any sense. Ok, it has something to say about the inherent problems of city life in the zombie apocalypse. We’ve already been shown the threat of herds of walkers right back in Season 1. The new issue is these penned in city folk are soft, unappreciative of the luxuries they enjoy, but more worryingly – dependent.
An inability to fend for yourself is what truly compromises the human spirit. Only the cops are combat ready, everybody else is shiny and suited up for the theatre of a functioning community. This fiction is thinly veiled and ends up being a bit incoherent, which further exasperates. Doctor Edwards shows the vulnerability of his position; his skills as the much-needed physician buy him nothing in the grand scheme of Slabtown. Who they save or don’t at this hospital is arbitrary and self-serving. His machinations earn him nothing but a few more days at the top of the heap, and a score of bodies he stepped on to get there. His credentials would be vastly more meaningful, and useful if he had a spine to go with them. Alas…
And so we encounter the dangerous weakness of the perpetually protected. Beth was one of those people, and is seemingly still fighting to evolve beyond this. Is her evasion of Gorman the cardboard rapist a sign that she is advancing out of victimhood? I would hope so. She does make a calculated decision to set up Dawn for a grisly office fall, but conveying ruthlessness is not Beth’s strong suit, so it doesn’t land.
The show needs to be more ruthlessness itself, particularly when it comes to how much time to dedicate to what. Beth has been a Dawn Summers character since Season 2. However, Buffy’s pop-out-of-thin-air sister grew into more than the sum of her parts in a way that Beth hasn’t yet. Her progress has been slow and hard won, but she remains a foil. She represents the innocence of humanity, right? Ok, fine. Except there’s a finite amount of time that remains interesting for, and it is definitely less than the length of an episode.
Slabtown’s other characters, in particular Dawn are sketchily drawn at best. Perhaps there has just been such a surfeit of arseholes in The Walking Dead at this point that characters with potentially interesting motivations (why is Dawn so delusional? How does she manage to equate her role as pimp to protector?! Whaaaa?), are rendered tedious because they come off as one-note bastards. If you must people the show with vile creatures, and it seems likely that the zompocalypse isn’t going to bring the best out in everybody, at least make them riveting. Merle was riveting. I miss Merle.
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