In The Walking Dead mid-season finale recap, Rick works to rescue Beth and Carol from Grady Memorial but ultimately a beloved character shuffles off this mortal coil…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Somebody had to die.
There was almost zero chance ‘The Walking Dead’ made it through the mid-season finale with the entire cast in tact, especially when it seemed like they were so close to being reunited once again.
For the biggest chunk of her first season on the show, Beth was routinely regarded as an annoyance. She was playing emo while the rest of her family and new friends were trying to fight to survive. At one point things got so low that Beth actually tried to take her own life, but when she was saved it was almost like the spirit inside her was resurrected as well. Beth became a vital part of the group, helping to care for Judith when Lori died and Rick just wasn’t capable of being a father.
She grew cold with the world at a certain point when watching people die became such second nature that caring hurt more than loss. Beth suffered through the brutal death of her father and fought to survive alongside Daryl, while offering him a slice of humanity he had never quite felt before. Beth became so special to Daryl that he fought tooth and nail to get her back and for a split second tonight he had her. And then she was gone.
Without further ado, let’s recap the heartbreaking episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ titled Coda.
Sunday’s episode picks up moments after Sasha’s head was introduced to a window last week as officer Bob Lamson made a run for it. He tried to saw off the ropes binding his hands, but to no avail. Instead, Lamson just took off, hoping to get a head start on the rest of the camp that held him and two other officers hostage hoping to exchange them for Beth and Carol.
Rick was quickly on the case and he gave chase first by foot and then by car. When he caught up to Lamson, he warned him over the loudspeaker to give it up and just stop running. When Lamson didn’t comply, Rick stopped playing cops and robbers and just ran him down with the car. As Lamson laid on the ground, back broken, begging for mercy, he tried to tell Rick about how he was becoming the very thing he feared. Instead of listening to more non-sense smothered in lies, Rick put a bullet in his brain while telling Lamson to ‘shut up’. It’s clear between the last remaining holdovers from Terminus and this latest action that Rick is done playing games. Threats will be dealt with immediately and without pity. Lamson had a chance to stop and save his own life. He chose to run. Rick chose to put him down for it. There’s no more option B.
Back at the abandoned building where Rick and his group were setting up, the two remaining officers both agree to help with the exchange while also telling Dawn that Lamson got eaten by walkers before they had a chance to save him. According to them, if Dawn knows Rick killed Lamson and she still goes through with the exchange then the rest of the group at Grady Memorial will see her as weak and that will be the end of her reign. She has to get an answer that still allows the deal to move forward so the officers agree to lie for the sake of getting home safe.
Everything moves forward with the exchange later in the episode…
Not Like Hanson
Survival at Grady Memorial Hospital is more of an implied things these days and no longer a certainty. Once a bastion of life saving doctors serving the Hippocratic oath, the hospital is now occupied by a group of former cops, who probably started out with the best of intentions but as things got worse and worse, so did they. The leader used to be a man named Hanson, who was the captain of the police squad, until Dawn took matters into her own hands and killed him. It seems the long days of running the show and watching people die like flies impacted Hanson dramatically and the officer who used to be a leader of men dissolved into something quite different by the time he had to go. The only one willing to do the deed was Dawn, thus the leadership torch was passed.
In a heart to heart with Beth, Dawn claims that she’s not going to go down like Hanson so she’s holding onto sanity with both hands and a white knuckle grip. She also explains that the reason why she ‘covered’ for Beth after killing Gorman was because Dawn couldn’t be seen as losing face to her other officers. The slightest sign of weakness or indecision would likely be met with a change in leadership. The change meaning Dawn would have to die.
Unfortunately more of her officers like a guy named O’Donnell already have plans to take over the leadership role. He was a rookie at the police academy at the same time as Dawn and they came up through the ranks together, but like many of the cops now staying at Grady Memorial, he thinks a change in leadership is just about due. He thinks she’s slipping and sliding down the same path as Hanson, but the only problem is in O’Donnell’s spare time he’s knocking down old men for not properly patching a hole in his uniform. In other words, Not all of O’Donnell’s dogs are barking either.
Following a very intense talk between Dawn and O’Donnell with Beth sitting just a few feet away after escaping to the elevator shaft to clear her mind and be alone, the two authority figures are locked in a deadly game of who is willing to pull the trigger first. Dawn pulls a gun on O’Donnell when he sounds like he’s threatening her, but she’s still not willing to put him down. When O’Donnell gets the upper hand and knockst the gun from her hand, it’s kill or be killed.
The two fight and struggle to get the gun and get the best of the other, but finally Dawn strikes a blow that pushes O’Donnell to the edge of the elevator shaft. Dawn then yells at Beth, who pushes him in. He falls several stories down to the bottom where the walkers feast on a tasty snack. No more O’Donnell and a coup d’etat is dealt with rather swiftly and brutally.
Take Me to Church
It’s almost unanimous at this point that nobody really cares for Father Gabriel. He’s perpetually crying or scared, runs away instead of fights and I’m pretty sure baby Judith is tougher than this sad sack of tears. But when you start digging deeper into Gabriel’s psyche, maybe you start to understand the motivations behind what he’s doing.
He escaped the church last week because in his head, Gabriel believed that Rick’s people were the bad guys. While they did manage to save his life upon first meeting, it was just a day or two later when they were slaughtering a group of people inside his church. The level of brutality was something Gabriel hadn’t seen since the zombie apocalypse started. Remember, he had been locked up inside for months and had no contact with the outside world. Gabriel didn’t see the savagery with which people were treating each other now as a means to survive.
Only when he reached the school where Gareth and his people were camping and he saw Bob’s leg rotting away on the barbecue did he realize that Rick and his people did the only thing they could given the situation. Seeing that leg sitting there, covered in maggots and half eaten, made it real. Gabriel quickly realized the gravity of the situation, but by then it was too late. He attracted a group of walkers and he was hobbling with his leg injured after last week’s escape from the church.
He rushed back and made it through the organ spikes still in the ground as the walkers closed in on him. Gabriel began pounding on the doors, begging for help and in a twisted iron he probably felt the same way his parishioners did when they came knocking and pleading for his help. Maybe this was God’s revenge on him. Remember the words — you’ll burn for this.
Unlike Gabriel, who couldn’t bring himself to open the doors and save the lives of the people he once served as a pastor, Michonne and Carl were willing to do whatever necessary to make sure he didn’t die. It included breaking down the barricade they built to let Gabriel back in, but in the process it also allowed the walkers to pour into the church. The trio made a quick getaway through the hole Gabriel dug in his back bedroom before locking the doors and keeping the zombies trapped inside. As they made their escape, it was hard not to notice the words of John 6:56 scribbled above the largest wall in the church — “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. In a zombie apocalypse, this phrase takes on a whole new meaning.
Michonne, Gabriel and Carl get out of the church, but before they could make their next move, the doors started to give way. Out of nowhere a fire engine came tearing through to block the exit and take out a few walkers in the process. It was Abraham, Glenn, Maggie, Tara, Eugene and Rosita back from a very short trip trying to get to Washington. They disperse from the truck and quickly break the bad news to everybody — Eugene can’t cure shit — so they turned around and came back to the church.
Michonne does take time to share one crucial piece of information now that Maggie has returned. Her sister is alive and Rick along with the rest of the group are going off to bring her back safe. Maggie breaks down in tears, elated with the news that Beth is safe and coming home soon.
There was a lot of blowback this season that Maggie didn’t show more remorse or concern that Beth was missing or presumed dead, but there’s a certain level of disconnection people in this world have to feel or not feel as the case may be. Maggie watched in horror as her father was decapitated. She watched her family home burn to the ground. She’s lost friends and loved ones along the way. At some point she just has to stop feeling and not think about it anymore. Beth disappearing was almost like ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It’s not that Maggie didn’t care, it’s that she couldn’t face the loss of her last living family member. It was easier to pretend nothing happened.
But when she heard that Beth was alive, all of the emotions washed over Maggie once again. Her baby sister was coming home.
Rick meets up with the officers from Grady Memorial in a wide open space while Dary, Sasha and the rest of the group sit up on a rooftop acting as snipers with the hostages in tow until he can strike a deal. He offers a very simple exchange — two of their people for the two of his currently being held inside Grady Memorial.
The deal moves forward so Carol is picked up out of her bed and put into a wheelchair. Beth changes clothes, but slips a pair of scissors into her cast just in case something goes wrong. Finally out in the hallway, she locks eyes with Rick and the rest of her people just a few feet away.
Rick and Dawn agree to exchange one person at a time, first Carol and then Beth. In short order, the officers are returned to Grady Memorial and Beth is getting a hug from Daryl and Carol is safe and sound. Until….
Dawn demands that Noah rejoins the Grady Memorial ‘family’. He was her ward and now Beth is leaving and she took his place. She says for this thing to get completed, Noah has to come back or no deal. Rick looks like he’s about ready to drop napalm on Dawn’s face when Noah agrees to return to her side. It’s not worth sacrificing all these lives just to save himself so Noah reluctantly hobbles back to Dawn, knowing the fate that will probably fall on his shoulders once Rick and his people are gone.
Beth quickly rushes to Noah and gives him a hug goodbye. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. After she lets go, Beth looks at Dawn straight in the eye and says she understands now before plunging the scissors into the cop’s chest. In a split second, Dawn has her gun out and she fires straight up at Beth, the back of her head exploding as blood goes flying in every direction. Beth knew what Dawn had become and what she was willing to do to maintain her control over the hospital. It meant never showing weakness and that belief was going to cost Noah his life. Beth couldn’t bare to face that reality so she decided to take out Dawn the same way Dawn took out Hanson — because no one else would do it.
As Beth crumbled to the floor, Dawn mouthed that she didn’t mean to do it, but with tears in his eyes, a vengeful Daryl stalked across the floor and put a bullet directly through her eye. Dawn goes flying and everybody has guns out pointed at everybody else.
Finally Shepherd (the female cop from Grady) tells them all to holster their weapons. It was just about Dawn, nobody else had to die. Rick and his group put away their guns as well before he tells the group at Grady that anyone who wants to join them is welcome to come along right now as a one time offer. Noah of course bolts and rejoins the group, but he returns at a mighty high expense.
Outside the hospital, Abraham and the cavalry have arrived to play backup for Rick and the rest of the group trying to get Beth back. Everyone approaches as Rick and Carol and everybody else exits with tears in their eyes. Finally, Daryl emerges with Beth held in his arms, her lifeless body bouncing with each step. Maggie spots her sister and immediately breaks down in tears. She had already let Beth go, but brought her back just hours earlier and now she’s gone again. This time for real and there’s no coming back.
No one should be surprised when death comes creeping around the corner on a show titled ‘The Walking Dead’, but that doesn’t mean the impact of loss still doesn’t hurt. Beth finally stood on her own two feet over the course of the last two seasons, but there’s no rhyme or reason in this world. In a perfect scenario, Beth hugs Daryl, the two kiss and live happily ever after while realizing they’ve been in love since sharing some moonshine in a beat up hillbilly shack last year. This isn’t a picture perfect world, however, and Beth’s decision to do what no one else was willing to do ultimately ended with her own death.
There have been some gut wrenching deaths on ‘The Walking Dead’ but for some reason Beth’s was shocking and made the biggest impact since father Hershel met his demise last season. She wasn’t supposed to go this way.
She learned to fight. She learned to survive. She learned to stand on her own two feet.
Beth was strong. And then Beth was gone.
In the post credits scene, Morgan reappears for a second time this season where he shows up first at the school and then the church as his hunt for Rick and the rest of the survivors continues. At the church, he puts down items that his son Duane loved as he says a prayer in the abandoned building that once stood as a house of God. On his way out, Morgan discovers the map that was left behind with directions leading to Washington D.C. At the bottom, Morgan sees the words written by Abraham that close out by saying ‘the new world’s going to need Rick Grimes’. Morgan is on the right track, but when will he finally catch up with his old friend?
The title of tonight’s episode was ‘Coda’, which in terms of music or literature means a conclusion or concluding part. It seems this chapter of ‘The Walking Dead’ has come to an end and things will begin anew when the show picks up next year.
‘The Walking Dead’ returns in 2015 with the second half of the season on AMC.