The Walking Dead: “Slabtown” and the Complex Values Hierarchy

the walking dead season 5

S05xE04 :Slabtown”

Each tribe we have encountered so far has had an established hierarchy and Slabtown is no different. The law enforcement and lone doctor at Slabtown, the hospital Beth wakes up in after her mysterious disappearance/kidnapping, utilize a system of checks and balances that don’t necessarily even out for everyone. If civilization has become a system of governing laws like those ruling Terminus, Woodbury and Slabtown, can the human race ever really “come back” from the post-apocalyptic societies we have created in the meantime?

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie!

If we consider Terminus a place for those willing to break vital moral codes to stay alive, Slabtown can be considered a place where the weak and frightened compromise “lesser” values to escape the realities of post-apocalyptic life. While, on the surface, Slabtown looks to be a haven for those in need of medical attention (there is a actual doctor), individual community members lower on the established hierarchy disagree. When Beth wakes in Grady Memorial Hospital, she is on lockdown initially, until Dawn, the police officer in charge, welcomes her with the bleak reminder that she “owes” them for the medical work they did for her when she was first rescued. Thus begins the tallying of what Beth consumes in Slabtown versus the work she puts into the community. While this system seems fair, if not downright feudal, but problems arise when the current leadership isn’t necessarily interested in fairness but more so in maintaining the status quo.

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With the status quo at Slabtown comes the disgusting revelation that Officer Dawn, the strong female leader of this group, is allowing Officer Gorman to sexually assault the female tribe members. Dawn also exhibits violent tendencies–slapping Beth twice out of misplaced anger. For Dawn, the “greater good” is what matters–keeping the stronger tribe members satiated until “help” arrives. But, with only the strongest interacting with the outside world, the fear of the unknown causes the weaker members to quietly accept the injustice of the tribe, convinced they would not survive without their oppressors’ protection. In addition, those that do attempt to escape are forcibly brought back to the hospital in order to continue “working off” their debt. While the leaders claim they are keeping society functioning so that civilization can rebuild, the twisted value systems of those in charge make Slabtown a hellish place to exist for those lower on the social tier.

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According to the Oxford English dictionary, “Feudalism” is defined as “The dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.”

If we think of feudalism as being a social order that thrives on the weak knowing their place and not upsetting the hierarchy, it is no surprise that women and the young are victimized. With such an uneven distribution of power, the weaker tribe members do not and cannot speak up, for fear of retribution or, as the doctor tells Beth, getting kicked out of killed.

Beth, though, has the ability to overthrow this twisted system through her association with Rick, Daryl and the Tribe. Unlike the Slabtown tribe, the value system of Rick’s group lies in individuals cooperating within a democracy, each person offering their strengths, with the freedom to leave if so desired. Although small, female and considered weak (even by herself, as we are reminded when Dawn calls her out on the scars from her suicide attempt), Beth remains a survivor. We caught a glimpse of her survival skills when she and Daryl forged along alone, and she has evolved as a character and a person because of her experiences. When Beth asks Doctor Stephen Edwards why he stays, it is because she is aware of her options. The outside world–full of walkers, strangers and death–is at least a place where freedom exists. This is why, after surmising the lengths even the doctor will go to to maintain the status quo (he has her poison another doctor who might replace him), she kills Gorman and tries to escape with Noah. Although dragged back against her will, the simulation of freedom within the walls of Slabtown will not be enough for Beth, and now, with a resourceful ally in the hospital, the status quo may be in question.

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Yes, we see Carol on a stretcher, being wheeled into Slabtown and now we know that, after following the car with the cross on it (whom we now know was Gorman and his goons), Daryl and Carol have indeed been separated (So who was in the bushes when he returned last week??). Carol and Beth, both women who have evolved from weak victims to strong survivors, are at Slabtown, and it seems to me that a revolution could be at hand. We can only hope that the Tribe is as diligent to rescue Carol as she was to save them at Terminus.

The Collectiva Diva

talk zombies with me @collectivadiva on Twitter

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