One of the most unique aspects of The Walking Dead is its unpredictability: when a character leaves, wanders off, is abducted or whatever, there is a very real chance that this is the last time we’ll see them.
Think the guys who left the camp back in Season One. Think of Merle, who after cutting himself free in episode three, we didn’t see again until Season Three – at least not in the flesh.
So it’s a relief to see Beth (Emily Kinney) again – although considering she was never exactly the most dynamic of characters, it seems strange that this is how we see her, with an entire episode dedicated her.
Still, from of the off, it becomes clear that she isn’t out of the woods yet. The hospital she wakes up in is just that little bit to clean – at one point we see someone mopping, who has time to mop at the end of the world – with its occupants complaining of boredom; a sure sign that a rude awakening is imminent.
From the pervy, territorial man in the police uniform to the disillusioned doctor, at first this place bears all the signs of a tinder box waiting to ignite – although as events transpire, it looks like perhaps we’ll be seeing this place for a bit longer.
This would be fine if the characters were as interesting as the core group, but unfortunately they aren’t, being by turns defined by the most basic of personality traits: sadistic, mad, determined or cowardly.
The whole setup isn’t sufficiently different from other places we’ve seen so far, making it hard for any events to stand out. So far we’ve had the epic assault on Terminus in episode one, a near-legless Bob in two and the butchery of Gareth and gang in three, but nothing comes close to matching that here.
For the first time, the show’s attempt to have an episode centred around one main character almost backfires. It worked with David Morrissey’s Governor last season, and the last stretches that Michonne duked it out solo in the latter half of Season Four were great, but for all her likeability, Beth isn’t a patch on either of those two characters.
It could be argued that as one of the most innocent (or least far gone) characters in the show, she functions sufficiently as a relatively passive prism through which to view the depths other characters’ sink to, but here, not quite enough of note happens for this to work.
Saying that, there are some brilliantly creepy – and very bloody horrifying – moments that elevate episode. From Beth’s forced lollipop sucking (ew. Just ew. Ikcy Icky ew) to the forced arm amputation, there are a number of individual moments that will surely make it onto the show’s top WTF moments by the show’s end, even if the rest of the episode won’t.
By the end, yet another last-gasp reveal (The Walking Dead’s getting good at these) offers the very high possibility of things livening up a bit next week. Let’s hope it does.