The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Episode “Slabtown”
I think it’s safe to say we all knew the highly tense and brutal string of Walking Dead episodes would come to an end eventually. I had mentioned in the review of “Four Walls and a Roof” that some concerns were created moving forward and while “Slabtown” did address a big one, it also confirmed that my worries were legitimate. The biggest question answered was “where’s Beth?” I have no problem with Emily Kinney, she’s pretty talented, but she has to be the unluckiest character from the show. Episodes with a heavy focus on her just come across as lackluster, often relegated to filler status. I do not think this is because of Kinney, the problems go deeper than that. From writing to directing to plot, she isn’t given an opportunity to show she can carry an episode or even a scene. Her character was never built up to do that yet they tried it anyways. While I like Kinney, she isn’t good enough to put all of that on her shoulders and elevate everything around her to a higher level. To be fair, it’s a difficult task only a few characters on the show could handle.
Welcome to Slabtown
The biggest draw of “Slabtown” was to introduce a new group of survivors who set up shop in Grady Memorial Hospital. It doesn’t take long to get a peak at the potential darkness contained in Beth’s new home. This was the one big concern they didn’t waste any time addressing. We saw Gareth’s demise in the previous episode which left us without a clear villain and threat. In one hour, we were given enough to know that there are some shady and outright dirty people taking care of Beth. I don’t care much for Dawn yet and she didn’t bring any great villainous presence to her first appearance like Gareth did. Gorman was set up to be THE bad guy to worry about, despite him being under Dawn in the hierarchy. This was what bugged me the most about “Slabtown”.
I wasn’t a fan of Gorman or the performance that was put in. Whether this was the actor or director, it doesn’t matter because he was killed off swiftly. Why develop this character at all just to see him die so soon? Because it’s the Walking Dead and that’s what they do. These “filler” episodes have gotten pretty predictable. When I saw Gorman I couldn’t help but think back to the prisoners from season three. Many of them didn’t last long and it seemed painfully obvious that their whole existence on the show was phoned in. Much like the “shit happens” guy from the prison, Gorman bites it (gets bitten actually) and it’s for the best. How it was handled wasn’t as rewarding though.
Joan, who Beth found dead in Dawn’s office, turning at just the perfect moment could be seen from a mile away. Gorman’s pressure on Beth and his lollipop scene were clear indicators that the guy is a big awkward sleaze bag but it’s hard to care when you were just introduced to the character. Even more predictable was the faux tension created during the escape down the elevator shaft. Not only did Noah get a quick scare from a walker on his way down, he got another one when he reached the bottom. This was like the home run swing teases from the premiere episode “No Sanctuary” except there wasn’t much else going for the scene this time around.
Speaking of Noah, he and doctor Steven Edwards were some of the bright spots of the night. While neither made a big splash, the actors (Tyler James Williams and Erik Jensen respectively) put in a solid effort and they created the moments we’ll be waiting to see more of. Noah was able to escape and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him while Dr. Edwards had a bit of a good vs evil vibe going for him. I didn’t see him as a villain but his current situation has him making some tough decisions that we can ponder over (see his tricking Beth into killing another doctor). We weren’t really given enough to get a good read on him yet but I’m at least curious to see where the character goes.
Slabtown Final Takeaways
Director Michael Satrazemis, who directed one of the better season 4 episodes “The Grove”, didn’t give us a great episode but he had his moments. The scene where Beth and Dr. Edwards have a rooftop conversation set against the ruins of Atlanta looked amazing and ominous, it really drew me into the world. The escape scene also had a nice look and feel to it. Beth’s shots in the dark and the slow motion break for the fence were the highlights of the night.
While I doubt anyone was surprised to see Carol being brought in at the end, we at least got a quick answer to part of last week’s closing question. The other part probably involves Daryl finding Noah and returning to the church.
When the group is split and we get these character focused episodes, it can really only go as far as the viewers care about the characters. I can’t speak for everyone but I only care about Beth because Daryl does, I’m not really interested in seeing her on her own. Maggie doesn’t even care about her.
The intense and horrifying ride finally came to a stop and while “Slabtown” felt like it would be right at home with the filler episodes of a season ago, we at least got some answers and the plot kept moving. We lost Gareth only to immediately get a new set of mysterious survivors that pose a threat to the main cast. Whether this episode drew you into Grady Memorial Hospital or not, we got our first look at a big part of the episodes to come.
I’m sure the incredible run the show was on had our expectations too high for a Beth-centric episode, but even if I’m being a bit too harsh, there were still some clear shallow and predictable elements scattered throughout “Slabtown”. I wanted this episode to rise above “filler” status but it just didn’t get there despite some opportunities to do so. The momentum stalled out and we’ll be looking for Abraham to get us back on track next week.
What did you think of the latest Walking Dead episode “Slabtown”? Were we too harsh or not harsh enough? Let us know in the comments below and make sure you rate the episode!