A Bloody Mouthful: The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 4 | "Slabtown"

Beth! Is in Grady Memorial in Atlanta! Which as it turns out, is a weird and creepy place – and that has nothing to do with walkers! Upon waking up in the hospital, she is on the alert and gets greeted by Dr. Steven Edwards and questioned by Officer Dawn Nolan because you know, that’s what cops do. Even in post-apocalyptic worlds. Beth asks them about Daryl and Officer Nolan tells her she was alone, had a fractured wrist and substantial head wound, oh, and she owes them BIG TIME for saving her.

Beth learns about the workings of this weird medical society as we do. She is put to work, her training from her dad coming in handy. The staff disposes of dead bodies by dumping them down an elevator shaft. For the most part though, they try to save everyone – to put them to work, which brings up the following question: where are they finding these people and in exactly what condition? From what we have seen in Season 1, Atlanta is mostly desolate and evacuated. I HAS SUSPISHUNS!

Apparently one of Beth’s duties is to fetch food for Dr. Edwards. As she’s piling up his tray in the cafeteria, she meet the EVER SO CHARMING Officer Gorman, an oddly plastic-looking dude who tells her that he and Officer Nolan were the ones that found her. He also covertly sexually harasses and threatens her – “When someone does you a favor, it’s courtesy to show some appreciation. Unless want me to write down everything you’re taking. Everything costs something, right?” Capitalism lesson courtesy of Predator Gorman! Money is not the preferred currency.

Next stop is Dr. Edwards’ office/room/space. It’s a huge contrast from the sterile hospital – it’s messy, there’s a record playing, a huge painting hanging up, and the vibe is warm and defiant. The doctor mentions being bored without having research to read and Beth reminds him of his privilege – “If you are safe enough to be bored, you are lucky.” Guinea pig is on the menu tonight and Dr. Edwards gives Beth some, fully acknowledging defying Officer Nolan, because as we heard from Gorman, food comes at a cost. As we learn more about the power structure here, we see that the whole thing is precariously hanging in the balance. Everyone reports to Nolan but everyone also subverts her power, which even she seems to realize.

Beth and Dr. Edwards’ art appreciation was interrupted by a new body being brought in. Another officer is whispering to Nolan and the doctor seems reluctant to want to save the man. She demands that he tries. When Dr. Edwards gives her a bunch of excuses, she turns and slaps Beth in the face. As we and Beth look on in horrified amazement, Nolan tells the good doctor, “Steven, realize the stakes here.” Clearly there is something special about this dude but as with many other important details in this episode, the info is slow-coming.

In a brief moment alone, Beth asks Dr. Edwards about Officer Nolan. We learn that her pleasing temperament is standard for her. Dr. Edwards notices the blood on Beth’s shirt and tells her where she can find a clean one. Apparently Nolan regulates on the cleanliness of people’s clothing too but when Beth quips about how much Nolan must love the doctor’s office, he creepily responds, “We all have ways of making her pay,” with a smile. OH-KAY THEN.

Another patient it brought into emergency – this one, Joan, has been bitten and needs to have her arm amputated. She was a former resident of the hospital and was begrudgingly brought back. Gorman sees her and calls her a “smart-ass whore” before Nolan ushers him out of the room. Joan absolutely would rather die than live in the hospital again. She is not given a choice, however, and Nolan orders Edwards to amputate her arm. We get another wonderful display of gore here that has nothing to do with walkers, reminding us again that the horror here is human-made.

Beth ends up meeting Noah, another “patient”/slave at the hospital. He’s on laundry duty and seems like the only person there giving her real answers. He also gives her a clean shirt and tucks in a green lollipop for good measure. He warns Beth that they keep the ones that “won’t fight back” alive and dispose of the rest. “They think I’m scrawny. They think I’m weak. They don’t know shit about me, about who I am, about who you are.” The two bond and form an alliance.

Dawn apparently tries to make peace with Beth by offering her breakfast. Of course, breakfast comes with a lecture about how they saved her and now she has to contribute. “Keep working off what you owe, and you’ll be out of here in no time.” What Nolan is not saying is that what Beth owes is constantly being accrued.

Back in her room, Beth is greeted by Gorman who steals her lollipop and then forces her to suck on it in the absolutely creepiest and fucked up way possible. Dr. Edwards steps in and pissed that his plans were foiled, Gorman yells, “She should have been mine!” “Nobody is yours. Nobody. And if you think you’re getting Joan back...” “Oh I’m getting her back.” GROSS. The sense of entitlement coming from Gorman is nothing less than despicable but the fact that he implies that Beth belongs to Dr. Edwards is also super creepy.

Once away from Predator Gorman, Dr. Edwards shows Beth the first floor of the hospital which is teaming with walkers (or rotters, as the hospital folk call them). He fully admits to trading his freedom for this institutionalized prison-esque environment. We learn that there used to be another officer in charge working with Nolan named Hanson. Together, they cleared the hospital and began to protect the survivors. The doctors on staff agreed to help injured people in exchange for the police’s protection. Hanson became erratic and people began to die. Eventually, Nolan killed him and took “charge.” Looking at the walkers, Dr. Edwards dejectedly says, “As bad as it gets, it’s not as bad as out there.” For someone who has spent the last year (at least) “out there,” Beth isn’t convinced. Edwards parts with her with instructions for the special male patient from earlier.

She goes to give him the prescribed medication and the patient goes into cardiac arrest. Noah pops in at just the right moment to witness this. He eventually takes the blame to save Beth from repercussions and gets beaten up on account of it. Even though everyone knows that it wasn’t Noah, it wasn’t Beth, and that it was Dr. Edwards doing. He had intentionally given Beth the wrong instructions. None of this matters though because Officer Nolan has an image to uphold. *eye-roll*

Nolan again finds alone time with Beth and this time, their interaction is even better! She hints at the horrific inner workings of their micro-society. Nolan admits that she looks the other way to keep the officers happy so that they will protect the hospital staff and patients. And yes, keeping the officers happy (who are all male aside from her) means exactly what you think it means. And now we know why Joan wanted to die. Clearly allowing rape and sexual assault is A-OK in this world if it’s for the greater good. And it gets better! Nolan points out Beth’s suicide-attempt scars and shames her for being “weak.” According to her, Beth’s only redeeming quality is her attractiveness and that is only good for keeping those darn officers chipper! This exchange is made even more haunting and fucked up coming from Dawn, woman to woman, and her believing that it’s a necessarily evil to keep their community running smoothly. What?! Does NOT Compute.

After hearing this b.s., Beth goes to find Noah. He tells her about his plan to escape and they team up to make it happen. Beth ends up sneaking off to Nolan’s office looking for keys to get out. She finds Joan behind the desk, murdered with a pair of scissors. Just as she’s about to leave, Gorman catches her and threatens to tell Nolan unless Beth gives in to his sexual advances. The show once again hints at rape but does the viewer a solid by not taking it all the way (on screen anyway). As he slides his hand up her shirt, she hits him over the head and he falls prey to newly walker-ized Joan and meets a happily deserved death. THANK YOU!

Beth heads back to Noah and they begin to descend down the elevator shaft using tied towels and bed sheets, old school style. There is quite a bit of tension here since it’s a long way down and you have the threat of Nolan from above and walkers from below. Once at the bottom of the shaft, they end up firing shots in the enclosed area causing temporary deafness. This particular scene is reminiscent of the camera flashing in the opening scene of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (skip to about 1:15). Instead of a camera flashing glimpses of the horror around, it’s Beth’s gun firing that gives those glimpses. Well-played!

Eventually they make it outside to a sea of walkers. There’s a ton of chaos as Noah and Beth get separated. He makes it to the fence to get out just as the cops come out and recapture Beth. It’s a bittersweet moment. Back inside, Nolan interrogates Beth. She retorts, “He attacked me. Just like he attacked Joan. Just like you let him. No one is coming. We are all going to die and you let this happen for nothing!” Rather than take any kind of responsibility, Joan slaps Beth across the face AGAIN. Way to be an abusive cop, Dawn!

Now that Beth is in recovery-mode again, Dr. Edwards tells her she’ll be good to go in a few days. Beth lashes out at him, telling him that she knew that he set her up to kill that patient and that the patient was another doctor. Dr. Edwards admitted that if he had let the doctor live, then the police might not have a need for him anymore. He supposedly sacrificed the other doctor to stay alive. Beth doesn’t buy it and rightly so. It’s a flimsy excuse, especially from someone who knows how to make Nolan “pay.”

Our final scene of the episode shows an empowered Beth holding a pair of scissors walking towards the doctor. Suddenly a new patient is brought in. We see that beautiful gray butch haircut and immediately know it’s Carol! She is either playing a Trojan horse here (because NONE OF THAT SHIT IS GONNA FLY with Carol around) or something terrible has happened. My guess is that Noah found Carol and Daryl (or Curul and Durul as I like to call them) and that he is the one with Daryl when they get back to the church. I smell a rescue mission afoot!

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the whole “Slabtown,” thing – According to Wikipedia, Slabtown was a red-light district established in Atlanta in the 1840s, and located off Decatur Street (on the present site of Grady Memorial Hospital). “Largely built with abandoned concrete plates used in construction, called slabs. This wicked development was of great annoyance to the good citizens of Atlanta, as crimes were often committed there, and many of the young men fell into bad habits from frequenting Slab Town. In these places, occurred scenes of debauchery and indecency that shocked the moral sense of the community,” so say the community members in 1902. Looks like Grady Memorial returned to its roots, didn’t it?! Where is that moral sense of community now?

Until next time, friends.