Last night, for the first time since season three,I was disappointed in an episode of The Walking Dead. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that Beth Greene (played by Emily Kinney) is not my favorite character on the show. However, the fact that this spotlight episode was about Beth wasn't the only problem.
I realize that the writers and directors have their own vision of where the story is going and that they relish the mental unrest their method of doling out that vision to the public causes the fans, but from the outside, this episode seemed to contribute very little to the overall story arcs. I kept waiting for the connections to the rest of the arcs to come only to be left with nothing but a little snippet of possible connection at the literal last moment of the episode.
We've seen other "spotlight" episodes in season four and while each gave the characters the opportunity to expand and grow within the series, each was still closely tied to the bigger story arcs. "Slabtown," however, did very little to give us a better idea of who Beth is becoming and felt completely disconnected from the story arcs we're currently following.
Yes, we saw that Beth was stronger than she had been in earlier episodes, but that strength has been coming on for some time. She is still tentative in her movements and actions. So much so that I find it difficult to like the character. Hesitation gets you or your companions killed in this world. True, she helped Noah escape and stood up for herself, but those actions represent very little growth for Beth since season four.
As for the larger story arcs, I'm sure the writers have made the connections later in the season. However, in this episode we missed out on the payoff viewers need for those arcs. There was no progress on the journey to Washington. No clarification of the role of Father Gabriel. Not even a hint of what Morgan is doing skulking in the woods. In short, we spent a week in stasis. For a show that gives viewers only so many episodes per season, viewers expect a little more punch for the purpose of each episode.
The only link we got to the over arching story arcs for the season came in the last few seconds of the episode and were decidedly unfulfilling. A brief glimpse of Carol (played by Melissa McBride)down and out for the count on a gurney wasn't the emotional payoff the audience needed to make this episode satisfying. Instead, that image left me completely cold toward the entire episode. Rather than being anxious for next week's episode because I want to know how the characters are doing and what progress has been made toward Washington, I am hoping next week's episode will wipe away the lethargy left by the let-down that was "Slabtown."
Tune in to The Walking Dead Sundays on AMC.