After last week’s episode was basically a panel-by-panel copy of the Hunters storyline from the comics, this week we get something totally new and unexpected. Who’d have thought we’d be going BACK to Atlanta, much less find a totalitarian-communist hospital. Originality is always a good thing, so despite some awkward moments, this episode was basically a winner.
I’ve said it before that one enjoyable thing about post-apocalyptic storytelling is seeing various little micro-societies. In the real world, where everything is on a larger scale, everyone is interconnected and we have laws/rules/customs, so you generally don’t get much deviation. In a fictional post-apocalypse, where you have societies on the scale of 10-50 people, with no communication and no laws, weird stuff can happen. We’ve seen how The Governor did things. We’ve seen a few approaches by Rick & Co. We got a glimpse of how Terminus operated. And now we have The Hospital.
The Hospital is interesting and I enjoyed that they didn’t try to spoon-feed us every tidbit of information. Much was left vague and that makes sense because we were experiencing this story from Beth’s point of view, where she doesn’t know what the hell is going on. So the viewer shouldn’t know what is going on either. It’s weird and unsettling. Right from the opening, you just kinda know that something isn’t right here, and as Beth learns more, we learn more as well.
Basically the story is a classic take on the needs of the group being more important than the needs of the individual, or the societal trade-off between safety and liberty. Those can be very fun stories, mostly because they usually have something to say about the real world. This episode failed (a little) by not taking a firm position on the morality of the situation, but it wasn’t a fatal failure. I guess from Beth’s point of view, it looks pretty bad. But, we also see how Officer Dawn’s rules have allowed the hospital to function.
The best thing about the episode is how vague the new characters are. TWD stumbles when it gets into this “good people doing bad things” crap. Is Dr. Edwards a good person? Is he a bad person? He’s obviously doing some good things, but he’s also selfishly causing the death of another physician just to safeguard his own position (and this was after he’d threatened Officer Gorman…”what happens when you get an infection and I won’t help you?”). I like that Dr. Edwards isn’t obviously good or bad because that’s how people are in the real world; we can be more than one thing at a time. Usually TWD has done a piss-poor job with this sort of nuance. The same thing applies to Dawn. She’s obviously doing some horribly wretched things (forcing other women into sexual slavery because it makes her male officers “happy” enough to maintain order). But, you do get the sense that she actually believes in what she is doing and that it benefits the “greater good.” Dawn probably sees herself as the leader who has to make the unpopular decisions, and it’s obviously weighing on her. The episode didn’t really slow down and patronize the viewer by making sure that we could understand the complex personalities and motives; Rick never squatted down to tell us how things were working. It was all left vague and allowed the viewer to apply their own interpretation. That’s so much more entertaining than Rick “Good Man doing Bad Things to Survive” Grimes.
We also get another one of those scenes that’s uncomfortably long (Officer Gorman forcing the lollipop into Beth’s mouth… UGH!) and some very effective zombie stuff (where the muzzle flashes, the disorientation from the gunshots, the bright light upon running outside during Beth and Noah’s escape).
The only things that didn’t really work for me were tidbits about the overall situation. It never made sense how this hospital with limited staff was finding all these injured people. Are there injured people all over the place, waiting for Officer Dawn’s people to save them before the zombies get them? I mean, it’s been a year or so… Wouldn’t you think by then all the survivor enclaves in Atlanta would know about each other and there wouldn’t be random people everywhere? It just seems like groups would consolidate on a faster scale than a couple of years. And how is it that Dawn is still in charge of Gorman? He’s a violent pig who doesn’t have any trouble doing terrible things to women. Why does he do what Dawn says? Gorman just doesn’t seem like the type to respect a female officer just because she outranked him before the apocalypse. He seems more like the type who would have sexually harassed Dawn before the apocalypse and become violent after.
And we were left with a nifty cliffhanger when Carol is wheeled in. I’m betting that she isn’t really hurt. Probably more than she acted hurt to gain access to the hospital. But, we’ll see in a few weeks since next week seems to be focused on Abraham. It’ll be interesting to see how the show juggles these multiple storylines. I’m not confident that they’ll be able to maintain momentum with a Beth/Darryl/Carol story, a Rick story and an Abraham story…
A pretty solid episode that presents some interesting ideas and doesn't patronize the viewers by pretending to give us all the answers or forcing us how to feel.