The Walking Dead changed gears this week in an episode that serves to broaden the world that has previously existed. It is reminiscent of the episode last season when the writers took the focus off of Woodbury and the prison and focused on the Governor's journey.
A point was made to emphasize the duplicitous nature of governmental institutions that are designed to keep our society together. Hospitals, police, and adoption services, all are shown their twisted reflections in this week's episode. After a season-long absence, Beth (Emily Kinney) awakens to find herself in a hospital ward, surrounded by a doctor (Erik Jensen) and an untrustworthy cop, Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods). The normalcy of the hospital is quickly shown to be an illusion.
Kinney, who in the past has been a weak link in the cast, has a breakout performance as she is taken through the ringer this episode. Beth's awakening in the hospital eerily echoes the pilot episode where Rick wakes up alone in a hospital. (Is this the same place?) However, her path quickly deviates from Rick's experience. Beth finds a companion in Noah, played by Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), who had been kidnapped as well. He understands the diabolical nature behind the institution and also knows what it takes to stay alive. On the other side of the coin is Officer Gorman, played by Rickey Wayne, who is looking to violate Beth at any opportune moment.
This episode is the first attempt to show how problematic putting the world back together really would be, if a cure were found. This parallel side story actually speaks to the possible futility of Abraham and Eugene's mission to Washington DC. Even if a cure is found, would society be able to regain its humanity? Showrunner Scott Gimple has spent a lot of emphasis this season showing how much primary characters, such as Rick and Glenn, have changed and if it is possible for them to be normal again.
"Slabtown" also explores the bigger picture of civil institutions and workers. It intelligently asks the question, "are civil servants working because they are genuinely trying to make their community better?" The episode makes the argument that most are working in these positions out of fear of losing a safety net and are simply making decisions out of protocol, not because it's best for the indiviual's needs. This is the type of episode that exemplifies what The Walking Dead is besides zombie horror. It reflects a mirror at humanity's ugly side and exposes what is lurking right under the surface.
It seems that we will be following at least three separate story strands until the mid-season finale. It looks as if this should all come to an explosive meeting once the crew is reunited. At the end of the episode, Noah escapes while Carol has been captured. Surely Noah (who is probably the person hiding in the bushes at the end of the previous episode) will run into Darryl and Rick. This will certainly lead to an action-packed rescue mission.
It should be noted that next week's episode focuses almost entirely on Abraham and his struggles to get his crew to Washington DC. After the events of "Slabtown" viewers and surely each character, will have to determine if society is truly worth saving. Can these people, including Beth, who have become savage warriors, ever be able to go back to normalcy? Look for this theme to carry over the course of the season and perhaps longer.
"Slabtown" was succesful at expanding the canvas of The Walking Dead, allowing the scope of their story to grow. While the change of tone could easily be seen as distracting to some, surely the events of this episode will pay off to greater ends later in the season. "Slabtown" was a thought-provoking episode that was skim on thrills, but sometimes during a zombie apocalypse...you gotta catch your breath.
Source: Point of Geeks