The cliffhanger at the end of last week’s episode saw Daryl returning from a scouting trip to get Beth. The screen went dark before the audience learned who he came back with, but the sour expression on his face probably means one of the two ladies he fancies didn’t make it.
This week’s episode starts catching us up by revealing where Beth has been all this time, which is clearly of greater concern to the audience than her sister, Maggie.
Is it good?
Welcome to Atlanta
Beth wakes up in a hospital (sound familiar?), where she’s greeted by a uniformed police officer (Dawn Lerner) and a skeezy looking doctor (Steven Edwards). She also looks a bit roughed up, sporting a giant gash across her cheek that has been patched up during the time she was unconscious.
Officer Lerner explains to Beth that she was rescued by her people from a group of walkers, AKA ‘rotters’ (does anyone ever all these things zombies?)…and that she kind of owes them now.
To drive that point home further, Beth later meets Gorman, an officer who perfectly embodies the type of cop who gives you a ticket for going 5 mph over…only now his power trip has been fueled by the desperation brought about through the end of civilization. He explains in even creepier detail how Beth REALLY owes him for their him (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, vomit, vomit).
What did the five fingers say to the face?
To make matters worse, Officer Lerner seems to have more than a few screws loose. When a patient near death is brought in to Dr. Edwards, she fervently demands that he be saved. Edwards, on the other hand, claims that he is too far gone to waste their time and resources on. Lerner responds to his medical analysis by smacking Beth across the face.
This simple act accomplishes a few things that really set the tone for the rest of the episode:
1.) There are very pro and anti-Beth factions of Walking Dead fandom out there, but even the most ardent of her detractors had to feel sorry for the poor girl at this point. The pain showing though those big blue eyes was absolutely heartbreaking. Beth realized right then that the person in charge of her fate thought of her simply as a pawn rather than someone to be protected.
2.) Along those same lines, the slap opened up Beth’s facial wound along with the scar tissue she’d built up over time and her past self. This was a girl who just a few years ago had tried to kill herself, but with Daryl’s tutelage and years of survival living had become battle hardened and brave. Unfortunately, Beth’s current situation puts her right back into a state of fear and hopelessness.
New Friends, New Sickness
Beth makes a new friend, Noah, who helps explain some of the hospital’s (and Officer Lerner’s) shady history. To help drive that point home, Beth later witnesses a woman who’d attempted to escape the hospital being dragged back inside to have her arm amputated due to a zombie bite.
Things get even worse when Gorman finds a green lollipop that Noah gave her. He proceeds to sexually harass Beth with it the candy in a way that made me pray for Daryl to rappel through the ceiling and kick his ass. While that sadly didn’t happen, Dr. Edwards did come in and get him to stop before things could get any worse.
This (understandably) inspires Beth to ask Edwards ‘WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STAYING HERE?!’ After giving her a brief history lesson about the place, he shows her the horde of zombies outside that act as a deterrent to his dreams of escaping the Hospital from Hell. After that charming little story, Edwards asks Beth to give the patient Lerner was so concerned about his medicine…
…which totally kills him. Noah takes the blame for it, however, and is paid for his kindness with a brutal beating. Beth asks Edwards why he told her to give the patient something that would be lethal, but the good doctor denies making the mistake.
Later, Officer Lerner tells Beth that she knew it wasn’t Noah who did caused the patient to die. But in the name of keeping up officer morale, she allowed the beating to occur. Lerner also subtly informs Beth that she will be helping to keep up officer morale (in the name of ‘the greater good’) by providing creeps like Gordon with non-consensual services…all so her team will be happy, working hard, and pushing forward until they’re miraculously saved by whoever happens to show up one day.
Beth and Noah decide that it’s time to quit the world’s worst hospital internship and get out of there. The escape plan starts with Gorman finding Beth as she attempts to steal Lerner’s master key. Fortunately, this results in him getting smashed over the head with a bottle and eaten by the zombified remains of the arm amputee woman from earlier, who it turns out had been one of his non-consensual morale sources.
The pair then manages to get outside, where they run by a group of cars with white crosses on the back while Beth shows her previously unrealized marksmanship skills on the walkers in the parking lot. Despite Beth getting recaptured by the creep police, Noah manages to escape, causing a huge, defiant smile to spread across her face.
Momma Bear Has Entered the Building
After being hauled back inside, Beth screams at Lerner about her hopes and dreams of a rescue… and her facilitating of barbaric behavior…being complete crap. This results in Beth getting smacked around a bit and developing some more scars, which she this time proudly wears without any fear or trepidation.
As Dr. Edwards patches her up, Beth confronts him about the man he tricked her into killing…who was also a doctor. Edwards admits he had to kill him to make sure his skills still made him unique and protected. He then launches into a rambling soliloquy about how his painting of The Denial of Saint Peter makes it okay for him to be a spineless sack of crap.
Beth on the other hand, doesn’t agree with the doctor’s self-diagnoses. She grabs a needle and prepares to kill him, but is stopped short when Carol is wheeled into the hospital on a gurney…hopefully hiding a couple of AK-47s and a few grenades under her shirt.
This episode wasn’t nearly as visceral or exciting as the last three, which unfairly made it feel very slow and even a bit boring. But after giving it some thought, this chapter in The Walking Dead’s fifth season gave us some pretty good insight not only into Beth’s character, but a new breed of heartless survivors.
The people at the hospital aren’t outlaw cannibals; they’re figures of authority and medical personnel, which are the exact type of folks we’d want to see more than anyone in a zombie apocalypse. But instead of human flesh, this group cannibalizes their captives’ goodwill and spirit, using the guises of heroism and life-saving medicine to enslave them for their own gratification.
And don’t think that Lerner’s being left off the hook just because she’s a chick and not into rape. As the facilitator of these sexual crimes, she’s even worse than those she allows and encourages to do it.
It was a bit frustrating to have the episode end at a point with so much story left to tell (especially when the previews for next week implied that we’ll be going to a different plot point and coming back to this one at a later date). But despite the episodes slow pacing, it’s still solid entry into what’s turning out to be the best season of the series to date.