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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season-five midseason finale, “Coda,” of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
The death toll on AMC’s The Walking Dead continued to rise during Sunday’s season-five midseason finale.
After spending the first half of the season held hostage at Grady Memorial Hospital — and following an escape attempt gone awry — Beth (series regular Emily Kinney), the Greene family’s youngest, ultimately sacrificed her life to save her friend Noah (Tyler James Williams). (Following the fifth-season premiere, THR put the likelihood that Beth would die this season at 60 percent.)
During the battle to save Beth and Carol (Melissa McBride), the deadly showdown also cost the hospital’s de-facto leader Dawn (Christine Woods) her life. Here’s how it panned out:
After escaping last week, Officer Bob (Maximiliano Hernandez) flees to warn Dawn of the group’s incoming rescue mission, but Rick (Andrew Lincoln) winds up hitting him with a police car and ultimately shooting him — muttering the same words that Gareth (Andrew J. West) told Lawrence Gilliard Jr.‘s Bob Stookey at Terminus: “You can’t go back, Bob.”
Meanwhile, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) sees firsthand what the new world is like after discovering Bob’s barbecued foot at the former Terminus camp. He returns — with a flock of walkers on his tail — to his church, which is now boarded up and rigged with spikes for the group’s protection. In order to save Gabriel, Michonne (Danai Gurira) is forced to destroy their safeguards, and whatever sanctuary the survivors had is now long gone. Michonne, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Judith and Gabriel then escape through the floorboards to safety — returning yet again to life on the road. Gabriel explains his escape and tells Michonne that he had to see for himself what happened to the world.
Then, just as the walkers are about to escape the church, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) arrive at the church in their fire engine. It is then that Michonne tells Maggie that Beth is alive at a nearby hospital in Atlanta. An elated Maggie cries and hugs Glenn after he informs Michonne that Eugene was lying and there is no cure or reason go to D.C.
At the hospital, Dawn tells Beth that her mentor and friend died after he lost his way. But what she doesn’t reveal is that Hansen cracked and Dawn was forced to kill him. Officer O’Donnell (who previously beat an elderly patient and made jokes about a girl who was raped) overhears Dawn and Beth’s conversation in which Dawn calls Beth a cop killer — and claims that Dawn is cracking too. They come to blows, and Beth ultimately pushes O’Donnell down the elevator shaft to save Dawn’s life and protect her standing at Grady.
Beth then reveals that Dawn only covered for Beth to protect herself from those who threatened her post at Grady, where everyone uses people to get what they want. Beth vows to escape — just like Noah, who Dawn believes will be back. Dawn explains that she knows Beth is close with Carol and offers her a chance to be part of the system at Grady. Then Carol wakes up.
Over at rescue headquarters, Rick tells Daryl that Bob wouldn’t stop, and the group mulls forming a new strategy for their two hostages, with one telling Rick that she plans to lie to Dawn, that Bob was attacked by walkers in a bid to save her life. Her cohort tells Rick that Dawn will likely see the trade — without Bob — as a rip-off.
Rick identifies himself as law enforcement to two cops from Grady and offers them a proposal. With both cops in their sights, Daryl and Sasha protect Rick as he offers a two-for-two peaceful exchange. As Rick and company enter the hospital with Dawn’s cops, Beth — armed with scissors — wheels a now conscious Carol to the meeting place. Just as the trade is about to go down, Dawn learns that Lampson was “killed” by walkers. Rick trades the male officer for Carol, then the woman for Beth.
All hell breaks loose. Dawn asks for Noah before Rick and company can leave. Dawn thinks it’s a fair trade since she was giving up Beth, who wound up replacing Noah. Rick and Daryl defend Noah, who steps forward to return to Grady. Beth hugs Noah just as a smug Dawn says, “I knew you’d be back.” That sets Beth off, and she stabs Dawn with scissors. An armed Dawn fires a shot that goes right through Beth’s head, instantly killing her. In immediate retribution, Daryl then shoots and kills Dawn with a gunshot to the head. With guns ablaze, the female cop orders everyone to stand down.
With everyone in tears, those left at Grady offer Rick’s people a place to stay at the hospital — now free from Dawn’s reign. Rick declines. At that point, Abraham, Maggie and company arrive at the hospital to see Rick and everyone else walking out of the hospital — with Beth’s dead body in Daryl’s arms. Maggie collapses to the ground in tears.
The end tag, meanwhile, finds Morgan (Lennie James) returning — this time at the Terminus barbecue and what’s left of the church, where he prays and laughs at his surroundings. He discovers Abraham’s map for Rick with a note to go to Washington, setting the stage for a potential reunion.
Beth’s death comes as her older sister, Maggie, spent the better part of season five seemingly in shock because she had failed to mourn her father, Hershel (Scott Wilson), who died during the encounter with the Governor (David Morrissey). Also questionable for fierce warrior Maggie has been her apparent lack of interest in looking for (or mourning) Beth after learning in the season-five premiere that she was taken by a black car with a white cross on it. Executive producer Robert Kirkman told THR ahead of the midseason finale that Maggie’s questionable behavior will be addressed later this season.
Kinney, who joined the series in season two and was promoted to regular ahead of season four, has seen Beth come full circle. Initially a weaker character — who memorably attempted suicide when the series was set at Hershel’s barn — Beth really came into her own after her father’s death. Like Maggie, she became a fighter and was able to care and defend herself and became a confidante for Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Additionally, the character’s passing will also play a major impact on Daryl after the duo bonded last season. That episode saw Beth coax the closed-off Daryl out of his state of shock after the group’s fatal encounter with the Governor — and helped Daryl close the book on his tortured past.
The loss of Beth Greene brings to three the number of series regulars The Walking Dead has killed off during season five. Bob and Gareth were killed off in episode 503. This season, the drama based on Kirkman’s long-running comics featured its largest cast to date with 17 series regulars. With the three deaths, it now stands at 14 — still one more than season four — and still tops in the show’s history.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its fifth season on Feb. 8 on AMC. Check back to THR‘s The Live Feed on Monday for interviews with Kinney and showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
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