Beth Greene doesn’t get a lot of love from fans or characters of The Walking Dead. Even her own sister, Maggie, seems to forget about her. In “Slabtown,” Beth reminds everyone why she’s worth remembering.
The episode opens with Beth locked in a hospital room. Dr. Steven Edwards and Dawn, a police office and leader of this group, enter the room and inform her that she’s at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The show doesn’t try to hide the fact that this place is not a refuge. Within the first minute of meeting her, Dawn informs Beth “We rescued you. Now you owe us.”
The underlying insidiousness of this statement is not lost on Beth. Her mind immediately begins to assess the situation. I say “mind,” but what I really mean is intuition. That’s Beth strength. Other people on this show use their brain or their braun, Beth uses her emotions. She’s made her weakness her strength.
Dr. Edwards takes Beth around the hospital and shows her other patients. They aren’t into hope at Grady Memorial. If a patient doesn’t show signs of improvement after a few days, they shut off their life support. They dispose of the dead, but still warm, bodies down an elevator shaft where zombies tear them apart. This sounds callous, but it keeps the zombies at bay.
In the cafeteria, she meets the man who rescued her, Gorman. He’s immediately offended when Beth doesn’t show him any gratitude for rescuing her. I don’t blame her. Gorman has a giant flashing sign on him that says “I am a bad person!” Then, he reveals something truly disturbing about the hospital. You have to pay for everything that you take, including food. No one’s told Beth how she’s supposed to pay for things. The look Gorman gives her says that she’s supposed to pay him by laying on her back. Smartly, Beth opts to not take any food.
She does bring food to Dr. Edwards, who shares his meal with her. It’s guinea pig, which I imagine tastes like squirrel, which I imagine tastes like chicken. So far, Edwards seems decent, but this is The Walking Dead, you never trust anyone.
Beth gets more insight on the dynamics of the hospital when she helps the doctor care for a man who’s fallen off the first floor of an apartment. Edwards feels like it’s a lost cause, but Dawn wants to save him. Edwards doesn’t think he’ll last long. Dawn is desperate and when she doesn’t like the doctor’s diagnosis, she smacks Beth across the face and says “Try to grasp the stakes here.”
Dawn is clearly unstable and perhaps has dangerous as Gareth.
As Beth is cleaning up after the incident, she discovers a lollipop hidden in her change of clothes.
That evening, another resident, Joan, is brought in after an escape attempt. She’s been bitten on the arm by a walker. They need to cut off her arm to keep her alive, but all Joan wants is to die. Her death isn’t an option for Dawn.
We learn a few things here: 1. Dawn isn’t evil like Gareth, but she is most certainly twisted. 2. There are a lot of politics at play here. Joan says “she’s not going back there.” Dawn tells her she doesn’t have to, but Joan reminds her that she “can’t control them.” Whoever they are and whatever they’re doing to Joan is worse than being torn apart by zombies.
In the room where they keep the hospital scrubs, Beth meets Noah, the boy who gave her the lollipop. He doesn’t keep secrets from her. Noah, who has been at the hospital for a year, tells Beth exactly how things work. Dawn is in charge, but just barely. All former patients are prisoners until they pay off their debt for treatment, but that debt only grows as they use the hospitals provisions. This sounds worse than student loan interest.
Beth finds more than an ally in Noah. She finds a kindred spirit. His lines give the writers a way to express Beth’s inner monologue. When they first meet, he tells her,
“They think I’m scrawny. They think I’m weak. They don’t know shit about me.”
This is Beth. Everyone underestimates her and no one believes in her. She believes in herself and that’s really all that matters.
Gorman finds the lollipop Noah had given to Beth. He taunts her with it for a few seconds, then he opens it, licks it and shoves into her mouth. This is a less than subtle metaphor for what Gorman intends to do to Beth as soon as he gets the chance. Thankfully, Dr. Edwards interrupts them and kicks Gorman out. Now, it becomes obvious to Beth why Joan was willing to take her chances with zombies. Better dead than a sex slave.
On Dr. Edwards orders, Beth gives the patient who fell off of the building clozapine, but when she does, the patient begins to seize. Noah realizes what happened and he takes the blame, saying he accidentally unplugged the machines. To punish him, Dawn and other officers take him out into the hallway and beat him.
Privately, Dr. Edwards is quick to put the blame on Beth. He tells her that she was supposed to give the patient clonazepam not clozapine – one is an anti-seizure medicine and one is an antipsychotic. Beth knows she didn’t misunderstand. She figures out almost immediately that Edwards had her kill the patient.
Dawn may not know the whole story, but she does know that whatever happened is Beth’s fault. She lashes out at Beth, essentially telling her that she’s a worthless burden. Beth argues with her, but Dawn is smart, she grabs Beth’s arms and points out the scars from when Beth attempted suicide. She tells Beth that she’s not meant for this life.
The best thing about all of this is that none of it gets to Beth. You can see it in her eyes. All she’s thinking is “you’re such a pathetic, confused bitch and I feel bad for you.” Beth has grown up and she’s not about to lock herself in a bathroom with a broken shard of a mirror in her hand.
Noah and Beth hatch a plan to escape down the elevator shaft. Beth goes into Dawn’s office to find the key. In another callback to Beth’s suicide attempt, Beth finds Joan on the floor of Dawn’s office, having killed herself. Beth doesn’t mourn for Joan. Instead, she knows that it will be to her advantage when Joan turns.
Gorman catches Beth as she’s looking through Dawn’s office. Obviously, he wants payment to keep her secret. I’d really like to drop this guy off at Terminus, but there’s no need as zombie-Joan wakes up as Gorman reaches for Beth. He becomes zombie food 30 seconds later.
Beth and Noah make their way down the elevator shaft, the bottom of which is crawling with zombies. In the dark, Beth shoots them all right in the head. Once outside of the hospital, she cracks open a zombie skull with her foot. Weak and not made for this world are no longer words one can use to describe Beth Greene. Beth Greene is a badass.
Despite her zombie fighting skills, she’s no match for the armed officers that catch her and Noah before they can make it to safety. Beth still intends to escape, even if that means killing everyone who gets in her way. At the end of the episode, Beth ready to stab Dr. Edwards with a pair of surgical scissors, but something stops her – she sees Carol being wheeled into the hospital.
Carol’s appearance at the end is so significant for Beth’s story. Think back on how Carol was in the beginning of this show. She was battered and broken. Now, she is just as formidable as Michonne. Beth is a mini-Carol. Her evolution is slower. She’s not there yet, but she is much younger and needs more time to grow into her self. There is no one better to help Beth become the woman she is meant to be than Carol. Carol isn’t going to rescue her. Carol is going to show her how to rescue herself.
What do you think of Beth’s character growth? Do you love her or still hate her? More importantly, do you think both she and Carol will survive Grady Memorial?
Here’s a sneak peek of next week’s episode:
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.