Another The Walking Dead mid-season finale, another death of a prominent cast member. By now you probably know who won’t be continuing to fight the good fight when The Walking Dead returns for its second half of season five next February, but I’ll save that tidbit until after the jump regardless. Let me just say that, of all the characters the writers could have chosen to kill off, this choice was easily the safest. Does that make the fallout any less resonant? Does that make the loss any easier to bear? We’ll attempt to sort it all out.
Hit the jump for The Walking Dead recap.
Let’s get to the episode recap before delving into the mid-season finale’s major character death. We pick up directly after the events of last week’s episode with Bob trying to free his tied hands before the Walkers can get to him. Meanwhile, Rick runs after him, slicing Walkers open as he goes (or just casually driving by them). He gives the cop a chance to stop, but then gives him a healthy bump with his own squad car (which definitely caused me to laugh out loud); Bob has a banged up head and probably a broken back. Rick executes him rather than take him back or leave him to be eaten alive by Walkers. Harsh, but ultimately merciful.
Following Father Gabriel’s trek through the wilderness, he just happens to end up at the cannibal camp where a bunch of Walkers are trapped inside the school and would like nothing better than to snack on the clergyman. He finds a bible belonging to Mary B, along with a rotten hunk of meat that was once a human being. The Walkers finally break through and Gabriel stumbles away from them only slightly faster than they shamble after him. He leads them back to the church (what a jerk) where dozens of them come out of the woods. Gabriel attempts to make it through their defensive barrier, which only just barely holds back the horde. It looks like their defenses are too strong owever, from the inside, has Michonne is taking a fair amount of time hacking through the door brace, only to let the multitude creep in for a feeding frenzy. (Why would you let this asshole in when you’re undermanned, outnumbered and have a little baby with you? Especially when he could have just manned up and taken the Walkers out while they were hung up on the defenses?)
While Michonne and Carl escape through the crawlspace under the church, Gabriel holds the horde at bay until he too can escape. Then, the three of them clean house by killing the Walkers outside and locking the remaining ones inside. Some great images of the Walkers lurching through the church on their way to the altar, and their many grasping hands writhing through a gap in the barricaded doors.
Carl has Baby Judtih in a backpack while he, Michonne, and Gabriel wait outside … why they’re still waiting, I’m not sure. As they’re standing around, Abraham crashes the firetruck right into the church’s entrance, sealing the Walkers inside for a little longer and bringing fresh troops to the fray. Glenn breaks the news to Michonne about Eugene’s fib; Michonne gives them the good news to Maggie that Beth is actually alive and they’re attempting to save her, a rare bit of (short-lived) positivity on this show.
Back in Atlanta, Rick returns empty-handed, which disturbs Sasha and Tyreese moreso than the other cops. Rick talks to Daryl to determine their next move, to find out if Dawn will still bargain with them.
Tyreese and Sasha are on the rooftop’s edge not too far from the others. Tyreese is once again sharing a personal story with his sister, telling her about the time he let Martin live but told Carol he killed him. Tyreese thinks he’s still the same as he was when he was a kid, but Sasha thinks she can no longer be so innocent. It’s a lot of jibber-jabber that probably didn’t need to be said over and over again, but it certainly makes the death later in the episode hit home just a bit more.
Daryl takes up a scoped rifle alongside Sasha while Rick goes to meet with with Officers Franco and McGinley to introduce himself and make a deal. The officers hold him at gunpoint while the snipers keep them in their sights from a nearby rooftop. Rick gives them the details of his offer and answers their questions; Sasha takes out an approaching Walker before the Rent-a-Cops even know she’s there, and Rick waits for their answer.
At Grady, Dawn gets worried that her Marauders aren’t radioing in, though it’s not unusual for them to keep radio silence. Dawn seems like she’s cracking under the pressure as she tells Beth about the late Captain Hansen, her mentor and friend who she says, “Lost his way” before she killed him. Meanwhile, the cops are even more on edge and are getting testy with the other residents. Dawn reveals to Beth that she knows she killed her fellow cop, and has been covering for her. Officer O’Donnell overhears Dawn’s confession and challenges her, saying it’s just like Hansen all over again, and that it’s time for a change. Dawn draws on him in the hallway while O’Donnell plays over their history together. She’s got good reason to hold the moral highground over this scumbag, but it feels like the whole thing is about to fall apart. Right on cue, they have a nasty brawl that ends with Beth and Dawn teaming up to knock him down the elevator shaft to the waiting Walkers below.
After that incident, Beth and Dawn head to Carol’s room to watch over her and get some peace of mind. Beth figures out that the other cops who threatened her rule are now gone, thanks to her; she knows that people in Grady use each other to achieve their own ends. Dawn figures some of her own things out, like the fact that Beth knows Carol. She denies that she used Beth, and doesn’t lament the passing of Gorman and O’Donnell since they were terrible people.
After hearing Rick’s deal, he brings the two hostage cops to Grady along with his team. Dawn and her own team meet them in a hall and holster their weapons while Beth wheels Carol out. After a tense moment, it looks like everything’s going to go peacefully. The cops stick to their story that “Rotters got Lamson, and they saw him go down,” which is probably a code between the Grady folks for any situations like this that arise.
They trade Licari for Carol first, then Beth trades for Shepherd. The deal looks done, but Dawn changes it, saying that she needs Noah before Rick & Co. can leave. Daryl sticks up for him, as does Rick. Dawn’s own people don’t support her, but Noah offers to give himself up to finish the arrangement without bloodshed. Beth hugs him goodbye, just as Dawn tells Noah that she knew he’d come back.
This apparently sets Beth off, as she stabs Dawn with the scissors she had hidden, and Dawn accidentally shoots Beth through the head. Daryl puts a bullet between Dawn’s eyes, and things are about to go to Hell, but Shepherd puts a stop to all of it, saying that it’s done, that it was all about Dawn, and it’s over now. They offer to let Rick & Co. stay, but he declines and says he’ll accept anyone into their group that wants to leave.
The cavalry arrives too late, though they do mop up some remaining Walkers outside Grady. Rick sees them and shakes his head; Maggie falls to the ground in distress as Daryl carries Beth’s body out.
Oh but wait, keep watching! Because Morgan Jones (Lennie James) is still hot on the trail. He arrives at the cannibal’s camp at the school and kindly puts a fallen Walker out of her misery. Arriving at the church by following the trail markers, he finds the scenes of chaos there, but stops to make an offering and say a prayer for his departed son. He finds the handwritten note from Abraham that mentions Washington and Rick Grimes, which should probably have his attention.
Okay, let’s talk about the first part of this season. It’s been a strong first half what with dealing with the horrendous events at Terminus, reuniting the team with Carol, and setting up camp at the church while Abraham led humanity’s last hope to Washington, D.C. (and while that last part didn’t end so well for the characters, it sure made for great drama). What was missing from all this? Beth, and the answer to her mysterious kidnappers who drove a black car with a white cross. While at times it seemed as if the fanbase (and some of the characters themselves) didn’t care too much about this plotline, the writers pushed through it, not only answering the question, but giving arguably the two most popular characters (Carol and Daryl) the opportunity to road trip in order to save her. Hell, they even gave Emily Kinney an entire episode to herself in order to introduce the Grady Hospital folk in “Slabtown.” When Carol showed up injured and unconscious, it felt for a moment as if Beth may have matured into a strong, self-reliant survivor who would take over where Carol could have left off. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, Beth felt used by a number of people at Grady, and despite the friendships and family bonds she formed with Rick & Co., decided it was better to commit suicide by cop in the defense of a relatively new companion’s freedom rather than to continue living in this topsy-turvy world of horrors. Admittedly, I’m torn on this decision. After spending so much time bringing Beth along, of course it’s an emotional punch to lose her, as evidenced by the reactions of Rick, Daryl, and sister Maggie. At the same time, however, Beth (as a character) was easily the most expendable. She was young and inexperienced, she was more of an innocent caregiver than a ruthless killer, and her constant singing and childish behavior likely irritated a number of viewers. But with her departure, the show has become just that much bleaker.
I don’t know, guys. After seeing the fallout on Twitter and The Talking Dead, maybe I’m in the wrong when I say that Beth’s character was the easiest choice to kill off. I leave it to you to convince me otherwise, so please carry on this discussion in the comments below!
Rating: B for the episode, A for the first half of the season
Odds & Entrails:
- Rick: “You just had to stop.”
- Rick: “You can’t go back, Bob.” Creepy, since this is what Gareth told Bob Stookey earlier this season.
- Gabriel: “I can’t run anymore.” Michonne: “We ain’t runnin’.”
- Dawn: “Beth, in this job, you don’t need their love, but you have to have their respect.”
- Dawn: “It’s okay to cry.” Beth: “I don’t cry anymore.”
- Officer McGinley: “Where are your people?” *sniper shot* Rick: “They’re close.”
- Anybody check the actual runtime for this episode minus commercials? It felt like it was 50/50…
- RIP, Beth. (It should probably be mentioned that this episode’s title “Coda” is a term for the end of a piece of music, so yeah, we probably should have guessed that this was Beth’s end.)