The Walking Dead, Slabtown - TV review: Long lost character makes shocking return

Warning: This review contains spoilers for viewers in the UK

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The Independent Culture

After months of speculation and last week’s cleverly misleading cliffhanger, the truth surrounding the disappearance of Beth (Emily Kinney) is finally brought to light, in an episode that is a welcome respite from the carnage of the previous instalment.

Picking up where last season left off, Beth wakes up after seemingly being abducted, to find herself in a hospital at the mercy of Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods).

Beth is forced to remain in the hospital until she has repaid the ‘debt’ she owes them for saving her life, but she quickly encounters the dark side of their system and plots to escape.

Only a few seasons ago, the idea of a Beth-centric episode would have sounded terrible, so it’s a testament to the efforts of the show’s writers and Kinney’s charming performance that this episode works so well.

Emerging as an antidote for the gloom that has defined this season to date, Beth returns and makes leaps and bounds as she finally develops the backbone she desperately needed.

 

The hospital is a fittingly eerie setting. For much of the episode it feels like the Walking Dead creators have given viewers a vision of what ER would be like after the end of the world, complete with an elevator shaft that has become a makeshift garbage disposal unit.

The episode features fine guest star performances, with Dawn Lerner a particularly intriguing adversary, clinging to some sense of normality in a world gone to hell. Similarly, Beth’s friendship with Noah (Tyler James Williams) feels authentic, as the two of them use their collective wits to try to beat the system.

But frustrating aspects of the episode remain. A conveniently reanimated corpse frees Beth from having to kill the police officer that attacks her. The officer in question is too overtly sinister to take seriously. From his first introduction it’s apparent that his only purpose is to exist as a force for Beth to overcome.

That said, Carol’s surprise appearance at the conclusion indicates the greatest challenges may yet lie ahead as this season’s intricate plot continues to unravel.

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