We were long overdue for a main character's death.The title of tonight's midseason finale was "Coda," which should have been enough of a clue from the get-go as to who we were going to lose. I say we because that's the beauty of The Walking Dead and the secret to it maintaining its status as the number one show on television. We, the viewers, are all in this together and each week we may as well be covered in sweat and dirt and virus-laden blood and frustration with adrenaline serving as our main source of sustenance.That's how heavy and engaging this show gets.
Tonight's episode was electrified by tension from beginning to end, and did not disappoint. The last two minutes of the latest installment delivered a punch to the gut as one of our people who has practically been with us since the beginning reached the end of their time in the Apocalypse.
What's that they say about the best laid plans?
Last week, we collectively cringed as Sasha fell for the oldest trick in the thriller book by not only letting her hostage, Officer Lambson, close enough that he could inflict damage on her but allowing him to do so from behind her. His advantage was such that he could have killed her. The end result of her momentary lapse in judgement was *only* a bumped skull and a short nap. The duplicitous Lambson left her with as he ran for freedom still in his plastic cuffs.
Rick more than catches up to Lambson. He runs Lambson over with a police car when he refuses to stop. And then instead of listening to the fallen officer with the questionable agenda blather on as he lies injured in the street, the Rick we saw become reborn in the flames of the collapse of Terminus, simply pumps a bullet into Lambson's head and then tells him to shut up. Moving right along....
It's decided amongst Rick and everyone on the rescue mission that they will stick to the plan of swapping the two cops for their two loved ones trapped in the hospital. Both the surviving lady cop and the alpha male cop who tried to strangle and feed Daryl to walkers last week (how'd that plan work out for ya, big boy?) convince Rock that they can't admit Lambson was killed in a scuffle. They all need to make Dawn believe he was killed by rotters/walkers because otherwise she will see the trade-off as a rip-off. Alrighty then!
Not such amazing grace....
Meanwhile back at the church — which at this point is a string of words you know is going to lead up to something ultra awful — Father Gabriel's secret field trip to the local school with no supplies or weapons to fend off walkers goes just about as well as one might think. The school is teeming with walkers locked inside who set their sights on the shady pastor just as he and his injured foot stumble upon a bible belonging to Mary B. (She was either a parishioner or even the smiling lady in the rectory photo.) He also discovers what appears to be the infamous and now severely decomposing leg of poor Bob, maggots and all. He has an unholy moment where he tosses the limb from his sight just in time for the walkers to free themselves, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "School's out."
In a wonderfully fitting bit of irony and justice, the mob chases him back to his church which had been thoroughly barricaded to protect him and Carl, Judith, and Michonne who stayed behind from the rescue mission. Now who is outside the church, screaming and clawing to get back in? An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, indeed.
Carl and Michonne quickly come to his aid though that requires the inevitable swarming of the church's interior by the walkers. (What time do services start??? Looks like we're gonna really need them!) Their only option is to re-use Father Gabriel's escape route through the floorboards. So now they are all outside while the church is filled to the brim with hungry throngs of undead who are barricaded inside- a reverse sanctuary. Thankfully, Michonne doesn't need to come up with a Plan B as a big, old, red fire engine filled with Team G.R.E.A.T.M. pulls up with big, old, red Abraham at the wheel.
Michonne joyously relays the news of Beth's survival at the hospital and for the first time all season Maggie appears interested in her only living blood relative's fate. It's still bizarre that Maggie made no mention of Beth all season. The only possible explanation is that she chose to block it out and accept Beth as a loss since the Apocalypse more or less forces survivors to always expect the worst while hoping for the best.
Glenn fills Michonne in on Eugene's lies and how Washington is no longer the end game. It's decided that everyone is taking a road trip to Grady Memorial Hospital.
A true crisis in healthcare...
Dawn (who still suffers from TV's most severe case of resting bitch face) is getting her cardio in as she tries to radio the three officers sent to investigate the shots while Beth is keeping her company doing her weary, deary ward work. Beth dusts a framed photo of Dawn with Hanson, the cop who used to control the hospital. Dawn lets it spill that Hanson was her mentor and friend but he lost sight of the fact that venturing into the city streets always has to be worth it. And then she says a bunch more stuff about how the person in charge must always have the respect of their subordinates or else when push comes to shove (remember this for later!) they won't have back-up when they need it most.
Beth needs a moment away from Dawn and her harshness that permeates the air in waves so she goes to hang out in the only quiet place — the little room next to the open elevator shaft that serves as the disposal for all dead humans. (Seems like a great idea!) Dawn doesn't like to let Beth out of her sight ever since realizing this farm girl can become a stone cold vigilante when needed.
Beth delivers the real talk of the week about the reality of life in the hospital — a concept Dawn likes to ignore. Right after Dawn reminds Beth of how she saved her despite knowing Beth killed Gorman (the cop in her squad with a penchant for raping) another officer (O'Donnell) reveals he has been lurking outside the room, eavesdropping. After the two cops argue about which one of them gets the award for acting most effed up in the Apocalypse (and O'Donnell's confrontation causes Dawn to admit the fun fact she was the one who offed Hanson) the two officers of the law come to blows. O'Donnell has the upper hand but Beth steps in and flips her switch to gangsta, shoving O'Donnell down the elevator shaft.
After saving her tormentor, Beth again tries to find some quiet space, this time at Carol's beside. And again, Dawn and her severe case of resting bitch face won't give her a moment's peace. Beth says she is sick of how everyone in this messed up hospital uses others to do their dirty work. Dawn has an epiphany and realizes by everyone, Beth is also referring to how Dr. Edwards must have used Beth to kill Dr. Trevitt. Dawn lets it fly that she's aware Carol isn't just some random patient to Beth. Just then, Carol starts to show signs of life — it's like the fearlessness in Beth's voice is waking her up.
The day the music died...
Tyreese and Sasha and Daryl are stationed on top of a building as Rick's revised plan is about to be carried out. Rick is on the ground as another cop car finds its way to him. He introduces himself as a deputy, lays his gun on the ground and then breaks down his plan for swapping his two cop hostages for Beth and Carol. In my favorite moment of the week, just as one of the new cops on the scene asks Rick where his people are, one of Rick's people fires off a shot at a nearby walker from the roof with a sniper's precision. "They're close," Rick drawls.
The two opposing groups meet in the hallway of the hospital. Everything with the hostage swap goes smoothly without a cross word or bloodshed. As Rick's group attempts to leave, Dawn's trademark crappy management style gets the best of her and she demands that Rick also hand over Noah. Rick looks like he would like to pull a Lambson on Dawn and just kill her before advising her to shut up. Noah volunteers to return to the hospital as he fears what might come next if he remains. Beth insists on hugging Noah goodbye.
And that's when it happens.
Beth approaches Dawn with a look that first suggests another goodbye hug is in the works but then quickly ices over to what appears to be some parting words for Dawn from her former ward. After informing Dawn of how "she gets it now," Beth calmly stabs Dawn's throat with the scissors she's been hiding in her waistband. Almost simultaneously, Dawn's gun goes off, blowing Beth away. Within seconds, Daryl, Beth's loyal keeper, fires a shot at point blank range into Dawn's skull. Both groups refrain from additional fire.
The surviving cops invite Rick and his group to stay since now that their "biggest problem" is gone, everything will be different. (Oh, surrrrah.) Rick invites anyone who wants to leave to go with them. As a devastated Daryl carries Beth's body outside, the fire engine carrying the rest of the group pulls up. Maggie collapses with grief. Coda.
Meanwhile back at the church, AGAIN.....
In the same sly trick that occurred in the season premiere, following tonight's credits, we were treated to a secret additional scene once again featuring Morgan! Who we haven't seen, well, since the last time the show decided to play this sly trick. Lo and behold, Morgan has followed the map-like signs on the trees (which are tied to Father Gabriel) all the way to the school and then the church, which is now somehow devoid of walkers (perhaps done in by everyone else before they headed to Grady Memorial in the fire engine?) After enjoying a snack on the alter, Morgan discovers the map to DC which Abraham left for Rick, complete with his apology note about how the new world is gonna need Rick Grimes. Morgan smiles to himself in the knowledge that his old neighbor is alive and kicking. Looks like Morgan will now likely start heading north.
What did you think about the midseason finale?
Things to ponder until we meet again on February 8, 2015:
*Is Father Gabriel now part of the group whether he likes it or not?
*How many hospital newcomers will also be joining that group and how can they be trusted?
*WHERE will everyone wind up this time?