Like many fans of ‘The Walking Dead’, I’d been waiting for this week’s episode, which finally explains what happened to Beth. Emily Kinney is one of my favorite members of the cast (for obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious reasons), and I was looking forward to seeing what’s been going on with her character. Sadly, this week’s episode is a complete dud – one of the worst in the entire series’ run.
Imagine a medical drama set in a hospital during the apocalypse and you might have an idea of what this entry was like. Sort of ‘General Hospital: Zombie Shift’, if you will, and about as bad as a title like that would suggest. As the episode begins, Beth’s eyes open and she notices a ticking clock… indicating that wherever she’s at is running on some sort of power (or has a lot of batteries to waste). She gets out of her bed, realizes she’s in a hospital room, and makes her way to the window, where she sees the bombed ruins of Atlanta outside. Seconds later, a doctor enters and introduces himself as Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen). The doctor is joined by a female police officer named Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods), who tells Beth that “You owe us” for saving her life.
Dawn seems to be in charge at the hospital, and any patient they save is required to help out once they’ve recovered. This results in Beth making the rounds with Dr. Edwards. What about the patients that don’t make it? Well, we discover their fate rather early as one fatality (after Edwards stabs him in the head to make sure he won’t turn) gets dumped down an elevator shaft, where it splats onto a collection of other bodies on top of the elevator car many floors below.
A female patient is brought in by some police officers with a Walker bite on her arm. She refuses any kind of drugs to calm her, so Beth is told to hold her down while Edwards takes a wire and uses it to cut off her infected arm. This scene is only necessary for two reasons: 1) because up until now there’s been very little blood (and zero Walkers) in the episode and, 2) this woman will be a necessary plot point later on.
Beth makes friends with a young African American boy at the hospital named Noah (Tyler James Williams). Noah, Beth learns, has been at the hospital for about a year – which immediately made me question how the place has had power as long as it has, since an earlier scene showed that the hospital is clearly running off generators. Since I’m assuming that these are gas-powered, once again ‘The Walking Dead’ seems to have an unlimited amount of fuel available for its characters, even long after the onset of the apocalypse. At some point, the writers really need to address this. Beth also learns from Noah that Dawn has only really been saving the weak people that come into the hospital – the ones she believes she’ll have no problem controlling. Noah wants to leave, and Beth announces that when he goes, she’s going with him.
Beth gets sexually harassed by a cop named Gorman (Cullen Moss). At one point, he steals a lollipop that Noah has given Beth, sticks it in his mouth for a while and then makes Beth suck on it (the lollipop, just to be clear!). I was waiting for Chris Hansen to come in and tell Gorman to “Have a seat over there.” It’s a creepy moment for the show. Thankfully, Edwards arrives in the room before anything else can happen.
While on the roof of the building, Edwards instructs Beth to inject a patient with a certain drug. When she does, the patient goes into a seizure and dies. Noah takes the blame for it, and is punished by Dawn. Beth confronts Edwards about it, but he claims that she misunderstood the name of the drug that he told her to use. Noah decides it’s time to get the hell out of Dodge, and asks Beth to sneak into Dawn’s office to retrieve the key to the elevator door, which – since it’s on (or close to, the episode really doesn’t make this clear) the ground floor – will open up and allow access to the outside. The episode never really addresses why they couldn’t just use the stairwell, but I’ll assume it was well-guarded or completely blocked off.
When Beth goes to retrieve the key, she notices the female patient (the one who lost her arm) from earlier in the episode dead on the floor. I’m not sure exactly what happened to her here (suicide?), but again, she’s mainly just a plot contrivance. Beth finds the key she needs, but Officer Gorman catches her and tells Beth that he won’t say anything if she – ahem – gives up the goods. Of course, this is the precise time that the dead female turns into a Walker. Beth notices this, smashes an object over Gorman’s head and knocks him to the ground, where the Walker turns him into lunch. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Rejoining Noah, the two use a makeshift rope made out of hospital sheets to lower themselves down the elevator shaft to make their escape, with Beth disposing of many a Walker along the way. They finally get to the outside, where Noah gets through the hospital fences, but Beth is recaptured by some of the police officers outside the building.
Once again inside the hospital, Beth confronts Dr. Edwards and asks him how he knew that the man she accidentally killed was a doctor. Beth has put the pieces together in her head, and Edwards confesses that he told Beth to inject the man with a lethal drug because if there was another doctor in the hospital, Dawn may no longer have any use for him. Later, Beth looks like she’s going to use a scalpel to kill Edwards, but as she approaches him, another patient is brought into the hospital on a stretcher… and it’s Carol!
While the above may make this week’s episode sound more interesting or active than it really is, it’s important to note that not much of anything happens until a good half hour into it. As much as Beth is one of my favorite characters, this episode really suffers from the absence of the rest of the cast – aside from Carol’s brief cameo at the conclusion. I don’t read the comics (at least not as far as the series has gotten), but I hear that the character of Noah is important, so I’m guessing that he’s probably with Daryl in the woods (see last week’s recap) and a future episode will have the group at the church go to the hospital to save Beth, assuming Carol isn’t able to do it on her own. I’m not sure if Dawn is supposed to be the next big villain of the show or if she’s just going to disappear in a few episodes, but it’s hard to imagine her as a serious threat to anyone in our group. In fact, it’s hard to really buy that the people currently at the hospital would put up with her for as long as they have already.
What is everyone else’s assessment of this entry? Was it as bad as I thought it was, or have the prior episodes this season just spoiled my expectations for how good ‘The Walking Dead’ should be every week?