I’m tempted to say that devoting an episode to Beth is like “Breaking Bad” devoting an episode to Jesse’s two junkie friends or “The Simpsons” devoting an episode to Dr. Hibbert but those analogies don’t work because you can imagine in both cases how those episodes might be really good. A creative writing staff that’s good with character development can make anything interesting. A less creative staff that isn’t so good at it … can’t.
But applaud them for trying. It’s not just the interminable story arcs and talkiness in seasons past that have gotten the show bogged down, it’s the one-note rural setting. Ever since they took out CDC HQ in season one, the Grimes gang has either been in the woods or on one side or the other of some compound being besieged (the farm, the prison, Woodbury, Terminus). Everyone’s tired of rural Georgia. Last night, for the first time in a long time, we got a taste of city life. Annnnd … it was, unfortunately, predictable. If you’ve seen “Day of the Dead,” you know how badly things tend to go when rogue cops/military get together with doctors to try to “preserve civilization.” If you’ve seen “28 Days Later,” you know the special role that young women would be forced to fill by the powers that be during a zombie apocalypse. (Gorman jamming a lollipop in Beth’s mouth may have been the least subtle sexual allusion since the oysters/snails exchange in “Spartacus.”) Even if you haven’t seen those flicks, you can guess in both cases. For a season that’s been notable so far in its surprises, this episode was straightforward: The head cop is a tyrant, of course; hard choices about which patients to save when resources are scarce will be made, of course; and Beth would eventually make a break for it, of course, because if there’s one rule that governs this universe, it’s that the living are almost always better off taking their chances with the dead than they are with the rest of the living. The twist in which the doctor gave Beth the wrong medicine in order to poison a would-be rival was nice, and the scene of them amputating that woman’s arm with piano wire was a nifty upping of the grossout ante, but you can see the laziness of this episode in that scene in Dawn’s office when Gorman tries to rape Beth. It just so happens that the other woman whom Gorman had been raping is dead on the floor of that same office by suicide right at that moment, huh? And that she’s turning zombie just in the nick of time to serve man-eating justice on Gorman while he’s in the act of raping someone else, huh? If they’re going to make plot developments that easy and convenient, they might as well have given Beth some pat wiseass remark to utter while Gorman’s being eaten. “I think she likes you, Gorman” etc.
Now we wait to see how, precisely, Carol’s going to end up killing Dawn and liberating the hospital. Speaking of which, while it’s nice to see a female villain on the show, how realistic is it that Dawn would be barking orders at a monster like Gorman when he’s going around raping the hospital’s women patients? He’ll rape Beth and the patient who turns into a zombie, but somehow he draws the line at killing Dawn and taking over the hospital himself? C’mon.