The Walking Dead Review “Slabtown”

Editor’s note: this review will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.

I have long been fascinated with the idea of a company store. The idea behind it is to get a company’s workers so indebted that they could never leave, effectively making them slaves. When I first learned about this in history class many years ago, it got under my skin. It was just so cold, calculating, and dehumanizing that it stuck with me in ways a lot of other lessons haven’t. When it came up in the latest episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I was pleasantly surprised. The company store is an absolutely perfect fit a a zombie-filled distopia, and I loved how it was used as the basis for a new villain.

AMC's The Walking Dead Review

“Slabtown” is a sudden shift away from the rest of this season of The Walking Dead. Beth disappeared last year, and has seemingly been largely forgotten by the rest of the group. It’s interesting, considering that the show spent half of a season looking for one person, but when another character disappears, it’s hardly even mentioned and certainly doesn’t get in the way of the forward momentum of the plot.

I think a lot of this is because of narrative convenience. The writers learned a lot of hard lessons from the wheel spinning of season two, and no one is eager to recreate that mess. This also represents just how much our characters have changed, and not in good ways. While we as the audience don’t want to waste a ton of episodes searching for a character, it’s more than a little horrifying the everyone else on the show was able to move on so easily from Beth’s disappearance. This is a young woman who has been with this group for a long, long time, who was kidnapped. It would make sense for them to move on from her tragic death with relative speed, but the fact that she’s out there somewhere, almost certainly being victimized.

But here we are, reunited with Beth, who wakes up in a hospital where she’s forced to pay for her treatment, food, and board with labor. The hospital is run by a police officer, Dawn, who has setup a sort of tribunal system of governance. Dawn and her fellow officers make up the muscle, while a single doctor is responsible for the care and well being of anyone they happen to find and drag into the hospital.

AMC's The Walking Dead Review

While Dawn initially seems tough and in control, it becomes evident very quickly that some of the officers, particularly the supremely icky Gorman, only barely recognize her authority, and will likely revolt if they’re no longer allowed to do whatever they want.

I really liked this setup. Dawn makes for a pretty scary bad guy, but when you factor in that she’s only just maintaining control over far more brutal people, it becomes even more interesting. Gorman is a monster. He victimizes women and then acts as though they should be in his debt for it. By contrast, Dawn makes herself seem almost reasonable. After all, there is a finite amount of supplies, and everyone has to pull their weight if the group hopes to survive. That means the vast majority of people are stuck with the grunt work, while the privileged class of police officers gets to enjoy the myriad perks of their station.

Into this medieval arrangement lands Beth, a woman who’s been forced through unspeakable trauma to become self-sufficient, confident, and strong. Government’s like Dawn’s depend upon a constituency that is unable to resist for one reason or another. So when an outsider is introduced with the capacity to do things her own way, it’s a match and powder keg situation.

Complicating matters further are the more sympathetic characters of the hospital: Noah and Dr. Edwards. Noah is a young man in a situation almost identical to Beth’s, and he’s desperate to escape. He’s not a terribly interesting character, but adds some additional stakes to the story.

Dr. Edwards, on the other hand, is fascinating. He immediately steps out as a voice of reason in the hospital, treating Beth with kindness and dignity, and helping her get acclimated to this new life. He uses the fact that he’s the only doctor to push back on the ruthless police officers and afford a basic protection to the people that work there. But his tiny sliver of control is extremely tenuous. Should another doctor happen along, all his leverage would disappear. He’s also crippled by the belief that, as bad as their situation is, it’s sort of the best possible thing they can hope for in the world today.

But even the doctor isn’t above manipulated Beth and using her as a pawn. Most obviously, he tricks her into giving a patient the wrong medicate and killing him, which we later discover was done so that he could maintain his standing as the sole doctor. He also makes a special point to show Beth the ground floor and horde of zombies just outside, assuring her that escape is hopeless and that she should simply accept her fate.

Noah and Beth decide to escape together in an appropriately tense sequence. Beth has to swipe a key from Dawn’s office, where she’s accosted by Gorman, who plans to sexually assault her. Luckily, the last victim of Gorman’s assaults recently killed herself in Dawn’s office, and Beth is able to use the reanimated woman as a weapon to kill Gorman. And it’s awesome.

AMC's The Walking Dead Review

With that out of the way they are able to access the locked elevator shaft, descend on a robe made of torn up sheets, and run out of the hospital in a blaze of gunfire. Unfortunately, Noah is injured in the process, and all that shooting attracted a sizable horde of zombies outside. They’re are set upon almost immediately, first by zombies, and then by the police. Noah manages to escape, which gives Beth something to smile about briefly when she’s captured.

The episode ends, like most episodes of this season so far, with a cliffhanger: Carol being rolled into the hospital and needing medical help. I would have bet this arc would have been a single-episode affair, but it looks like I was way off.

This wasn’t the strongest episode of The Walking Dead, but it built up a nice little universe within the hospital. I’m eager to see where things go next week.

Grade: 4 zombies heads out of 5



I really like how the show introduce all his vilains… And this episode is just the same.

Tension building nicely, could be a short story arc (terminus like) or something way longer (woodburry like). I’m curious how,they’ll handle the fact that we go back in Atlanta.

After only 4 episodes in the season, one threat already eradicated, the show put the next gear up! Looking forward more than ever! To me this episode was 5*. Just saying…


I like the point you bring up about Atlanta. The show just seems to orbit the city, doesn’t it? It just keeps popping up, even though they should be getting gradually farther and farther away from it.


4/5? wow really? Were we watching the same episode?!

My issues are as follows:

1) A Beth-centric episode. Really? A character so boring that even her sister has forgotten about her, and is only really around to provide a haunting singing voice for the trailers – she gets her own episode?

2) Weirdo cops that have given up their morality to allow beatings, rape and kidnapping. Riiiiiight

3) We had a whole section based on getting a key…. WHICH THEY NEVER USE!

4) Zombies come to the shaft when a body gets dropped in, but not a flashlight or whimpering Noah?

5) Beth suddenly became the sharpest shooter in Atlanta when she reached the basement

6) Apparently the hospital crew can be frivolous with their resources, especially power. Must have the most efficient diesel generators in the world!

I could go on, but I feel my point has been addressed!


Hah, I figured this would be a pretty divisive show.

1. I think any character could have an episode revolve around them if written right. Beth is pretty boring, and I absolutely hate the singing, but I thought this worked.

2. I actually really liked this part. Dawn is “in charge”, but only because she completely ignores the horrible brutality of some the other officers. If she tried to maintain closer order, she’d be gotten rid of immediately. That’s how she justifies it to herself: she has to allow some ugliness to prevent things from getting even worse.

3. I think they did need the key; the hallway with the elevator was shown as being locked earlier.

4. Yeah, that’s a fair point.

5. Hah, that’s just how this show is. People always make perfect headshots no matter what. It bugs me.

6. That’s another fair point, and one that I should have addressed in the review. They constantly had lights and monitors running when they really couldn’t have afforded to do that.


The whole episode seemed longwinded to me, establishing the circumstances Beth finds herself in. The wife and I quickly figured out, the hospital was being run as a new serfdom, with the cops as the new knightly class, providing protection and keeping order. I was shocked that anyone inside would think a rescue is coming, after living through all that they have, including a front-row seat to the bombing during the worst of the outbreak. I agree with some of the points made, like them having enough fuel for the generators a year later defying belief, as well as the escape thru the elevator shaft, and Beth being forgettable, even to her sister! I completely missed that it was Carol being wheeled in at the end; I was disappointed that Beth wasn’t going to shank somebody who needed it. I guess this means Noah was who Daryl was calling to come out at the end of “Four Walls and a Roof,” who was rescued from Atlanta when they followed the cross-marked car.


I thought of something later, about Carol being brought in: what if she allowed herself to be “caught”? Is she turning into Snake-Eyes, from “GI Joe”? The easiest way for the ninja to enter a fortress, is to be “captured” and then attack from within.

(I know, I know; first rule of Ninja Club, is that we don’t talk about Ninja Club!)

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