'Walking Dead's' Emily Kinney: Beth's Surprise Reunion Changes Everything

The actress talks about Beth's "fearlessness" and what's ahead as part of THR's weekly episode dissection
Gene Page/AMC
"Walking Dead's" Emily Kinney

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 504, "Slabtown," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

Beth Greene has turned a major corner.

After three weeks (and an entire summer), AMC's The Walking Dead finally revealed Beth's (Emily Kinney) whereabouts during the fourth episode of season five on Sunday where the character evolved from a teen to a woman able to fight and fend for herself. And while being trapped at Terminus was terrifying, the demented hospital staff who "rescued" Beth and are effectively keeping her there as a working hostage are far from a walk in the park.

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As it turns out, Dawn (Christine Woods) is a twisted arm of the law who oversees a hospital where people in black cars with white crosses pluck seemingly helpless people off the side of the road. In exchange for shelter and medical treatment, those who are rescued are put to work maintaining the hospital as Dawn is still convinced that people are coming to save them.

On the other hand, there's Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen), who reveals himself to be a coward after a doctor who threatens his position at the hellish hospital is brought in and tricks Beth into giving him the wrong medicine.

Everything comes to a head when Beth and Noah (Tyler James Williams) escape. It comes after zombie Joan — a patient who opted to kill herself rather than play by Dawn's rules — kills Gorman, an officer who physically assaulted Beth.

While Beth is captured after Noah escapes, Beth grabs a scissors and seems poised to fight her way out. But all that changes when in the final scene of the episode, Carol (Melissa McBride) is brought in — unconscious.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Kinney about Beth's evolution, how Carol's arrival changes everything and what's ahead.

Beth has really evolved from her suicide attempt at the farm to become this warrior we saw during this episode. What will she learn from this experience?

The whole episode, she's trying to figure out who these people are and if they can help her — and if they're nice and what's going on. By the end of the episode, you see her smile when Noah runs away. In that moment, there's that sense that she can take care of herself and has her own power. The whole set-up that they have in that hospital is such a power struggle with Dawn (Christine Woods) trying to assert her power. By the end of the episode, Beth has a fearlessness. Even though she's being physically abused by Dawn and attacked, there's a strength to her. She knows she can keep running away and that they don't have power over her because she doesn't want to stay in this place. A lot of the way that they are able to get people to do what they want at this hospital is this idea that being outside would be worse than being in here. By being, "Well, f— it, I'll run away and keep running away," and the fact that Noah is able to get away is a step forward. Even though she's captured at the end and in the same place, she's definitely not in the same place emotionally.

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Carol has now checked in to this hellish hospital. Will they reveal that they know one another?

Just seeing her in that last moment of the episode snaps Beth out of where she was at. When you see Beth with Dr. Edwards and Dawn, she's in this place of fearless and knowing they don't have power over her. But she's also numb to this whole environment and very alone. Seeing Carol flips this switch inside her, "Oh, maybe the plan can be something different; maybe it's not just me depending on me. Maybe my family is closer than I thought." It changes her mindset just by seeing Carol.

Our theory is that Carol intentionally allowed herself to be "found" by this group. She and Daryl knew that someone in a black car with white cross took Beth, and it'd be really difficult to break up two strong fighters like Carol and Daryl.

If you look at how Noah and Beth were taken, I feel like it was probably the same. Carol is fighting to get away from walkers and they captured her. But what they're doing is taking people who they think are strong to survive to this point and be in their hospital society but weak enough where they need that help and stay there to be taken care of. They're capturing people like Noah and Beth that appear to be people they can control. I think they probably saw Carol either get attacked by a walker and saved her and took her to the hospital. I don't think Carol was, "Hey, take me!" I don't think Carol and Daryl know where Beth is at all. I think they captured Carol the same way they captured Beth and Noah.

Beth had to hold down Joan down while her arm was being amputated. That had to bring up strong memories of Hershel, right?

Definitely. That whole moment is so traumatic: Watching somebody scream and have their arm cut off. Beth is again revisiting painful memories of her father. The more Beth gets to know Joan, she gets a lot of information from her and learns about what kind of place this hospital is. The fact that Joan would rather be dead than living in this hospital says how horrible it is there. Beth is slowly learning that. Seeing Noah get beat up and Gorman attacking her and the whole lollipop thing — Beth is going through all these different experiences and learning more about this situation and realizing that people like Joan are saying they'd rather be dead than live in this world. Once Beth realizes that, she doesn't want to be there anymore. She would rather be outside fighting walkers than in that environment, even though she's still alive there.

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Will things change with Dawn now that Beth has pointed out the obvious that no one is coming to save them?

There's definitely a sense of being more equal even though Dawn beats her up in that last scene. The reason Dawn beats Beth up is because she feels so powerless. Beth is standing up to her and is telling her what's actually happening and they're treating people badly. Beth is saying a lot of truths to Dawn and really sticking up for herself. The only way that Dawn is able to assert her power is by beating Beth up. In a lot of ways, Beth and Dawn are becoming equals, which is very scary for Dawn.

But at the same time, that says so much about Beth.

Yes! Beth, now that there's no one — not even Daryl there to help take care of her or guide her — she's really stepping up. You really see Beth going from being a teenager to a powerful woman. It's awesome. I think that was there all along in Beth. She's very smart and aware, but it was just a matter of when she needed it to come out. She has always had that confidence.

How will Beth's time at the hospital be different now that she helped Noah escape and effectively killed Gorman?

They're going to want to make her pay. They have this system of owing after take things or when you don't do things properly and this system of punishment. But it's funny because this whole system doesn't really matter to Beth. At the end of the episode, she's numb to it: "F— you, I don't care. I'm going to do what ever I want, if I want to scream, I'm going to do that." She's very fearless by the end of it and Dawn and Edwards can sense that — and it's scary for them. The thing they have over all those people there is that they say, "Well it sucks here, and we're treating you bad, but at least we're keeping you alive. And out there, you wouldn't be able to survive, but you have to adhere to our rules."

Why is Beth happy to see Noah escape while she's captured?

I think Beth is mostly just happy that he's getting away. I can't say much more than that!

Can we expect to see Beth try to escape again or does Carol being there change her plan?

I hope that snaps what Beth's idea was. That snaps her out and changes how she might approach if she wants to run away or attack Dawn. Seeing Carol makes her stop and rethink what her game plan is. Does she pretend not to know Carol? 

Read more 'Walking Dead': Is Carol Becoming the New Andrea?

Gorman and the rest of the officers are sexually assaulting the wards in exchange for working for Dawn. Will that continue or will what Beth told Dawn sink in?

You'll have to wait and find out. But I do think Beth feeding Gorman to zombie Joan shows she definitely asserted her power there and said she wouldn't let someone assault her in that way.

Beth now realizes that Dr. Edwards is a coward — and he had Beth kill for him. At the end of the episode before Beth spots Carol, was she planning on killing him?

I feel like she doesn't know what she's going to do. It's an odd choice to make. Beth is in this fearless but numb state of wanting to do what ever she wants. Like taking the scissors and stabbing someone, running down the hall or just sitting there. Before she sees Carol, she's not sure what she's going to do. I think Beth just wants to take them all out. She has no respect for Edwards or Dawn anymore. The whole thing is not something she believes in at all. She sees Edwards as a coward and not someone she can trust. He was so nice at the start and it's disappointing to her that she's not someone she can trust.

We know Beth has some sort of medical skills — as we saw during the episode — and considering her background with Hershel, who was a vet. Do you think she wants to assert her medical training to gain more power with Dawn, who clearly values doctors more than most?

I think Dawn values that for sure. That's her big thing: Keeping them save and healthy and feeding everyone. So everyone has to have a reason to be in that facility.

Do you think Edwards feels any regret about the man he has become and his decisions in this episode?

He's the worst because he pretends to be something better than he is. I think he probably feels regret but he doesn't know how to stand up for himself. As much as he is a knowledgeable doctor and has power in that community, I don't think he is very confident. He's extremely sad.

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Given Beth's abilities to survive, do you think she can help this group or do they all need to go?

I don't think she has any interest in any of them — except for Noah, and she helped him. At least for Edwards and Dawn, Beth isn't interested in being on their side anymore.

Do you think Beth ever reunite with everyone?

I hope!

You were effectively the only series regular in this episode. What was it like to film this?

It was challenging and a very emotional and physical episode. All the elevator stuff entailed a lot of stunts and I did a lot of that stuff. It goes by so quickly. We shot those elevator scenes over a couple of days. Some of the stuff outside was physically demanding but it's really satisfying.

What did you think of Beth's big episode? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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