“The Walking Dead” recap (5.4): Slabtown

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As our doe-eyed Beth (Emily Kinney) awakes, we realize something familiar about the city view she’s staring at from outside her hospital window. Wait, hospital? Surely those aren’t still operating—not even in Atlanta, where we suddenly realize we’re in. A man in a doctor’s coat and a woman who appears to be an officer enters the room—they introduce themselves as Dr. Edwards (Erik Jenson) and Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods). They tell Beth she’s at Grady Memorial Hospital, all the way down in Atlanta. Officer Lerner tells her she’s lucky to be alive, and that she owes them now.

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Grady Memorial is now run by a handful of officers and recovering patients who are pulling their weight to make things run smoothly. That’s Dawn Lerner’s code of conduct. She wants things done a certain way, and her motivation to keep a hospital building secure and functioning are actually completely admirable intentions—except for her nasty attitude and her hankering to swat people across the face whenever they cross her. Beth breezes past Dawn’s room where she’s seen on an exercise machine, instructing someone we later meet as Noah, to wash and press her uniform. It’s a stark contrast between the scenes we’ve grown familiar with—everyone looks polished, showered, well slept, well-fed. It’s luxury. Have we seen electricity like this since the gang took hot showers at the CDC? Beth finds the cafeteria, where they’ve wrangled up guinea pig and strawberries for breakfast. She meets Gorman (Ricky Wayne), the guy who apparently “saved her life” and drove her away in that black car with the white cross. He too seems to think Beth owes him something, but his stance is pervy and off-putting, so she looks on at him blankly and steps out of the room without so much as a thank you.

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In Dr. Edward’s office, he’s playing a record and offers Beth a seat at his desk. His disarray reminds me of the Governor, but his demeanor is softer and seems genuine, for now. They start talking about art—he has a painting he rescued from the “High,” the Atlanta High Museum. And the painting is The Denial of St. Peter. He tells Beth he’s “bored—another indulgence, she notes. And we have to remember that at one point, prissy little Beth had no interest in fighting, getting dirty, or acting tough. This setting is giving her a glimpse at her true self for the first time—her true strength. “Art is not about survival, it’s about transcendence,” Dr. Edwards says.

A new patient is wheeled in just then and this guy is badly injured. He fell from a building and he’s suffering internal bleeding. His name is Mr. Trevitt and Dawn seems to know this, but we don’t know how just yet. The smart thing would be to let him go and not waste resources, but Officer Lerner insists they try, followed by an unnecessary slap to Beth’s face after she realizes the efforts were all in vain. Beth takes it like a trooper, but she doesn’t get what Dawn’s deal is. Dr. Edwards tells her she has bad days on the regular, but it has yet to be determined if Dawn Lerner is a few things: an actual cop, good or evil, or simply determined to keep things a certain way. We see that fire and instinct emerge when another injured victim comes in to the hospital, flailing, and they explain they have to cut off her arm to save her, or else she’ll turn. In a flash, we see Dawn is the one that wants to make sure that people are saved, and we see the desperation for preservation of life in her eyes, but why? Who has she lost along the way? Rick is a cop, and sure, his “cop mentality” kicks in from time to time, but he’s not still trying to wear his uniform or even wear that title—it’s dangerous for the taking. Isn’t that what being a guest at Grady Memorial is all about? You take something, you give something back. Dawn’s stance is that she gives back life, shelter, food, protection—but Dawn Lerner is not Grady Memorial.

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The woman who came in flailing must have her arm cut off. Oh, shit. After the gruesome arm sawing, Beth meets Noah (Tyler James Williams), the guy we saw getting bossed around by Lerner. He’s laundry room duty—ironing and starching scrubs. He happily explains he’s part of the “lollipop guild,” when Beth got fresh scrubs, she was surprised to see a green lollipop sticking out of its pocket. Is this all just too good to be true? Where did these people come from and why are they being so generous when they don’t have to be? Noah says they think he’s scrawny and weak, but he’s going to get out soon and get back home to Richmond, Virginia, where he’s originally from. Beth wants to help him find a way out, because she wants out, too.

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