‘The Walking Dead’ Recap: An Eye For An Eye

walking dead midseason finale

Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” season five, episode eight, titled “Coda.”

Well, that was inevitable. In true “Walking Dead” style, after the show spent hours building up a character, taking the time to make them empathetic and tying them into the emotional fabric of the story, the guillotine fell once again, and tonight the victim was Beth.

After her time at the prison serving as de facto caretaker for Judith while Rick was playing farmer, then through the loss of her father and her time on the road with Daryl, Beth was finally starting to recognize her own strength — becoming a true survivor instead of simply a victim. Her journey has been one of the most compelling aspects of this season, and it’s been a joy to see Emily Kinney discovering the steel in her character over the past few episodes. But alas, as soon as Beth grew into a position where she might’ve actually been useful to the group on the road, she outlived her usefulness to the show.

While it’s arguable that Beth had more evolving to do (count me among those who would’ve liked to see her follow a similar trajectory to Carol, shifting from being a burden to carrying the burdens of others), in death, she provides far more of a catalyst for story than she ever did in life. The loss of Beth will serve as the dramatic impetus for Maggie and Daryl and Rick and Noah in the back half of season five, and by extension, Glenn and Carol and Carl and Michonne, rippling out across the group to remind them that there are no happy endings here — that even when they’re together, they’ll never truly be safe.

Still, Beth was at least allowed a heroic death — after being manipulated by Dawn and Dr. Edwards throughout her time at Grady, it was heartening to see her regain her agency by taking down the crooked cop; she likely knew that the attempt would end in her death from the moment she slipped the scissors into her cast, seemingly able to predict that Dawn’s sympathetic routine would unravel as soon as she had the opportunity to regain the upper hand.

The hour went to great lengths to emphasize Dawn’s humanity in the early going, trying to position her as a woman who was trying to do the right thing in the wrong circumstances, defending Beth against yet another dirty cop in her force — but as Beth noted, playing good cop simply allowed Dawn to keep her hands clean while letting others do her dirty work. Dawn served as another stark reminder that the road to hell is paved with good intentions in the world our survivors now inhabit, and while I’ve appreciated this season’s attempts to reinforce the idea that there are no “good” people and “bad” people, only people in untenable circumstances, it’s not a lesson that either the audience or our group needs to be reminded of at this stage in the game. Yes, humans are more of a threat than the walkers, and yes, the longer they’re forced to live in this world, the harder it will be to hold on to their own humanity, but didn’t we already tread this territory with the Governor and the Termites? I don’t expect the story to be all rainbows and butterflies after a zombie apocalypse, but the unrelenting bleakness of the world does make for repetitive plotting the longer the show goes on.

Considering that the season so far has been building up to this episode, “Coda” spent a lot of time spinning its narrative wheels, delaying a payoff until the episode’s final ten minutes. Sure, we saw Gabriel come across the Termites’ camp (and poor Bob’s rotting leg) before almost getting himself, Michonne, Carl and Judith killed by leading a horde of walkers back to the church, but while the experience of finding himself locked outside the church and begging for help was hopefully a humbling wake-up call for the fallen pastor, it was undeniably frustrating to see him once again put others at risk because of his cowardice.

The episode’s final few moments did prove to be some of the series’ most powerful yet — both Lauren Cohan and Norman Reedus gave truly gut-wrenching performances after Beth’s death, and it was heartbreaking to see Maggie’s rapid transition from elation at learning her sister was alive to utter devastation at seeing her dead over the course of twenty minutes. There has been a fair amount of criticism this season that Maggie hasn’t spent enough time wondering where Beth is, and while a throwaway line here or there certainly would’ve helped, I don’t think anyone can doubt Maggie’s feelings for her sister or discount the emotional impact of that scene after Maggie collapsed on the ground at seeing Beth’s body in Daryl’s arms. It was powerful, but mostly because of Cohan and Reedus’ reactions — Beth has always seemed earmarked for death, and while she lasted longer than I expected her to, the moment was so abrupt, it was Maggie’s reaction at having come so close to reuniting with her final remaining family member before losing her at the last moment that truly twisted the knife. I just wish we’d had a little more time to dwell on the loss — especially in the wake of Maggie getting there too late to see her before the end, Beth’s death felt a tad emotionally manipulative, rather than an organic progression that was earned by the story arc, which blunted its resonance for me.

But now the group is back together again, and Morgan is still on their trail (whether for good or ill remains to be seen) — here’s hoping he doesn’t head to Washington after finding Abraham’s map, since I’ve been anticipating his next encounter with Rick ever since their last showdown. We’ll have to wait until February to see the fallout from tonight’s bloody hour, but that leaves plenty of time to speculate on where our gang goes from here, and who will be the next survivor to bite the dust. Hit the comments with your theories.

“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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  1. tf says:

    no matter what we think, the plot had already been put in motion. my great regret is that I don’t think that the powers that be thought of the backlash to this. the reactions from fans here is worse than with T-Dog, Andrea or Herschel. I just don’t get it. I know about the build up the character and that then becomes their demise. I think as much as I love this show that this was hastily put together, and the way that Beth was killed was not worthy of what she had been to the show. I never thought that she was a burden, she always served a purpose to what was needed at the time. I also cried with her when she was on the TALKING DEAD. Emily Kinney was truly devastated. I wish bigger and better thins for her and I’m sure those are on the way.

  2. Peeved Viewer says:

    Not only does what Beth does seem OOC after Emily’s comments that what Beth wants most is to reunite with Daryl & her extended family, but Rick was OOC in that he has always stepped between his people and danger. It is weird he doesn’t stop her and say that he will handle it. Daryl was so overprotective of her he may have let her hug Noah, but would have pulled her from Dawn if he was IC. Carol is wheeled to the group looking frail, but stands immediately and fluidly after Daryl pushes her a few feet (to be positioned for the camera to get her reaction to seeing Daryl’s heart break). Dawn’s gun is secured in its holster, held down by a thick strap, she feels no threat from Beth and is relaxed and her hand’s not on her gun. Even if you think Beth has time to pull a small pair of scissors from her cast, the gun supposedly is in Dawn’s hand and goes off accidentally, but it’s not. Plus, it’s pressed between their bodies and pointed up and left across Dawn’s body, not at Beth’s head. There is a BTS interview where an FX guy says there is a bullet hole in Beth’s forehead which is up against Dawn’s face/shoulder…what kind of trick shot is that? Just bad writing and bad editing to manipulate the audience. Also, reading in an interview that Emily appears to be the only cast member who didn’t ask to leave the show who didn’t get the phone call the other cast members got and was told while they were filming ep 7 she was dying in 8 when Gimple handed her a copy of that script…it was disrespectful. Someone said the core cast members were so excited about having Emily with them the rest of the season and had been planning stuff and all that was thrown away. Then Gimple saying he picked the character whose death would have the biggest impact on the audience just shows it was all a deliberate manipulation. If he wanted to kill off Beth, at least the characters should have been IC, it should have been better shot and it should have meant more. If the rumors are true, the group barely mentions her again and Daryl will be with a new cast member before the end of the season.

  3. Sleepwalker says:

    While this season was the best so far, the shock ending spoiled the beautiful momentum that they had in play. Shock for shock’s sake only lasts a few moments, then there’s no place else to go. Beth’s character arc was far from complete. She was just transitioning from teen to adult, and we never got to see this change. By reviewing past seasons one can see a definite pattern evolving in the writing and it’s now starting to get too predictable– and stale.

    • Dynnik says:

      The fifth season the best so far? Noooo! :-P —Maybe you we were asleep during the first two seasons… when they still knew that the strength of the show was in remaining true to the tragedy of the circumstances but giving the characters reasons to •become• what they needed to survive (plus grade A acting). Right now, as you said, the characters have grown used to it all (they forgot who they were before the zombies) and as a show it’s too predictable, even in the death of a dear cast member.

  4. guest says:

    beth’s death was so random. I feel like it was done for shock value. The whole story about the cops and the hospital felt forced. I didnt buy the relationship between beth and the cop, while it seemed like the writers really wanted me to. If the show keeps up like this, im gonna stop watching.

  5. Mikus says:

    The only problem I have is with the timing. Since the show is on hold until Feb., the emotional scars inflicted on viewers will have healed by the time we get to see Maggie react and grieve for her lost sister. Beth’s death would have more power if we didn’t get to break away for 2 months imo.

  6. gilang says:

    What I think is rick is the person who really evolved into sharp cold emotion, he understand that there are no turning back, he is changing into someone who is willing to do anything to keep the families safe, and won’t do same mistake like letting the opposite or possible enemy live and then hunt them back ( governor, Joe’s group, terminus) he won’t take chances anymore might as well think better killed first as defence than let the chance slipped and then crosspath again into killing and jeopardize the safety of his families. Also I think that stupid Gabriel is trying to proof the existance of the cannibal after talking to Carl that they were the bad people wanted them killed, that’s why Gabriel went out to school check the camp and when he found the truth and ran like little girl, leading the hoard of walkers straight to church, which ironically he is experiencing the same fate like his commune begging for mercy to be let in while he locked the church door. I just wish michone let him outside, and be torn by the walkers, after all it was his choose to out from the church at first place. I think I understand what beth means about dawn, yes agreed that she doesn’t want tobbe used anymore at the exchange. Remember dawn said the bad guy officer keep them safe but need sex in return, that all just a part of a system, so she let other officer rape the young girls. and the way she told Noah will always back and told that Noah is her possession, her warden. I think she did that to Noah too, sexualy abused Noah and make him as her bitch.
    Beth death will probably the catalyst of the next scene. Played very well and heartbreaking Norman Reedus sob quietly, it graves me that pain in chest also. He is so amazing. Cohan act is also remarkable, the way her expression change from relieved into shocking horror and heartbreaking cries collapsed as she saw Daryl carry Beth…I really think they both pulled the scene very well!!! Applause for them….

  7. shes gonna write songs now
    #beth #twd

  8. Travis says:

    So many people are saying Beth died for shock value. It was sad to see her go, but I think it was a good choice, story wise. Everybody said they were happy to see her grow as a character and find her backbone… well, this was the outcome. When Dawn thought she had won by getting Noah to come back to the hospital, Beth saw that she had been used once again, and decided that she couldn’t let it stand. She chose her fate, and by her action, Noah was allowed to leave. It wasn’t a meaningless sacrifice… I think it showed that Beth was willing to give herself up to see that justice was done, and that Dawn wouldn’t manipulate her anymore. It was a more heroic and meaningful death than most of the main characters we’ve seen killed off so far.

    • Xena Phobic says:

      I agree with your comments completely. Although Lori’s death traumatized me the most…. I was depressed for a week. lol. I do think that Beth stopped a larger altercation from happening. I don’t think Rick’s group would have backed down from the agreed trade or that Dawn would stop at only getting Noah. (Why did Noah agree to go back? That was strange.) Dawn was not going to let them go without her usual adding of unreasonable and unknown conditions. The sh*t was about to hit the fan and brave Beth put an end to it. The look on Daryl’s face when he shot Dawn was priceless. LOVE #Emily Kinney. I can’t wait to see what she is in next.

  9. notmoose says:

    I get why they killed her off. Shock value and now they’ve got all the other character’s anguish to draw off of in the last half of the season. Beth was this genuinely good person, like a distilled version of Tyrese because she was never made to be on the fringes of things. Killing zombies and all that. The rest of her story (had she lived) would have played out too much like Carol’s and with so much repetition going on already it’s probably a good thing they offed her.

    Had me crying like a baby, anyway.

  10. Sean says:

    Complete BS. Is this going to be just like GoT where every likeable character gets killed off?

  11. gigi says:

    I was surprised and yet expected Beth to be the one they kill off. She could be annoying at times but I am sad to see her go. She had a lot growing to and showed hehe could survive on her own. Too bad they didn’t keep her on longer to really develop her character instead of of always being on the sidelines like Carol did.

  12. Jake says:

    Dangn’t. Beth had turned into a really special character. That really sucked to see her die. Should have been Maggi or Glenn, Tara or even Carl. That kid was sure cute when he was little but then he grew up and became like the fat kid on 2 1/2 men. Killing him off would make Rick total badass. But beth? She was the only nice thing to look at in all that mess of zombies and such a good actress.
    Oh well. RIP Beth!

  13. Seikobella says:

    I can’t believe they killed off Beth. WTF!! I’m very upset.

  14. Alex says:

    They killed Beth for shock value and man pain. I don’t get it at all.

  15. Andrew C says:

    I see it as a jump the shark moment.. viewers are pledging to stop watching..there are several people that couldve been killed off but instead they pick one of the few that everyone gathered around.. and we get what? “Chris Rock” in exchange..lol..

  16. LT says:

    I agree with the article. That’s pretty much how I feel about this arc, too. It seems they finally figured out there was nothing for Beth to do. P.S. I hope Morgan hasn’t gone off the ranch and is after Rick to try to hurt him. What a great actor Lennie James is.

  17. Goodbyenoway says:

    The writer must be one cold-hearted bitch. Beth was a great character and her death is being mourned. Stop the negativity, enjoy the show, or just go back in your sad hole.

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