The latest episode of The Walking Dead provides the answer to a question on everybody’s mind: what happened to Beth at the end of season four? Turns out, the answer (and the episode) was surprisingly dull.
Beth was rescued by a group of survivors holed up in Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, and Beth (and the viewers) get a few more glimpses of the crumbling ruins that remains of Atlanta after the military firebombed it in an attempt to contain the zombie outbreak. How such a large hospital as Grady managed to get by unscathed is obviously beside the point.
Grady is something of a haven in this new zombie world order. Officer Dawn and an assortment of Atlanta police run the hospital in a self-contained system where “everything costs something” and survivors who receive medical attention work off what is owed.
Really, they’re just kept as prisoners inside the hospital as the fanatical Officer Dawn waits for someone outside to rescue them and reinstate order in the larger world. It’s nice to have goals, I suppose, even if those goals are ridiculously naïve.
Over the episode, we are introduced to the major players in the hospital. Aside from Officer Dawn, we meet Dr. Edwards, the hospital’s only remaining doctor; Officer Gorman, a creepy man with a vaguely rapey sensibility; Joan, a mysterious woman who tried to flee the hospital only to be bitten by a walker; and Noah, a kindly orderly who brokers lollipops to those he likes.
Grady seems to be a brutally efficient location where survivors munch on guinea pigs (and are damn happy for it), brag about boredom inside its walls, and dump dead bodies down an elevator shaft. They all live in Grady in perfect harmony with the hoard of walkers that inhabit the basement – the biggest reason those inside have remained inside.
After Joan’s attempts to escape (most likely due to her unclear association with the rapey Officer Gorman), the Grady staff attempts to save her by hacking off her arm after the zombie bite. Later, Joan commits suicide and turns into a zombie, mauling rapey Officer Gorman in the process. In all of the graphic detail, what’s most interesting about the Joan character is that she’s played by former Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider). It’s hard to imagine Dame Judi Dench doing the same, although I have no doubt that she could, and it would be the best goddamn thing you’ve ever seen on television.
But even the best systems have their flaws. Aside from rapey Officer Gorman, the seemingly innocent Dr. Edwards actively kills (or enlists the unwitting Beth to kill) any other doctor that shows up. Turns out, being the only doctor in a massive hospital is really, really good job security.
Tired of being an accomplice to murder and of all the beatings she receives at the hands of Officer Dawn, Beth decides to partner with Noah of the Lollipop Guild and attempts to escape Grady. After hauling themselves down an elevator shaft onto a pile of rotting corpses, Beth and Noah make their way through a dark corridor with only rapey Officer Gorman’s handgun to protect them. The sequence is the most effective in the episode as it is lighted only with the gun’s flash as Beth shoots her way to safety.
Outside, Beth and Noah are overrun with more zombies (shock), and only Noah is able to escape, injured and defenseless. Good luck to him. Officer Dawn’s Atlanta P.D captures Beth, returning her to the hospital. There, Beth confronts Officer Dawn and tries to burst her overly optimistic survival bubble by telling Dawn what she probably already knows: no one is coming to rescue them because it’s very likely no one is left to do the rescuing.
Office Dawn responds with a well-exercised backhand to Beth’s cheek. The number of beatings this poor girl has sustained is starting to rival the number of zombie’s we’ve seen forked in the head. After Dr. Edwards patches her up (again), Beth responds in kind by seemingly planning to murder him. She is stopped by the arrival of another unconscious survivor: our friend Carol.
Thus ends one of the more boring and listless episodes of The Walking Dead I’ve seen in a while that, overall, felt like the answers to questions that no one asked. I suppose there’s value in seeing how other groups are surviving in the zombie apocalypse but not if they’re all as boring as this group. If this is what the producers have in store for the recently announced spin-off, then count me out of that.
That is, unless the survivors are in London and Dame Judi Dench plays the zombie Queen of England. I’ll all-in for that.