After several episodes of build-up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only ‘Walking Dead’ fan who thought the mid-season finale would be primarily devoted to a stand-off between our heroes and those holding Beth and Carol at the hospital in Atlanta. However, that’s not really what we got this week.
The confrontation itself takes just a few minutes to resolve… and in a way that probably gives off the illusion that this episode is a lot better than it actually is.
Remember police officer Bob, who knocked Sasha out cold at the end of last week’s episode? Well, as this entry gets underway, we see him running down the streets of Atlanta. Not long thereafter, Rick chases him in a police car, using the speaker to order him to stop. Bob doesn’t, so Rick hits him with the car. The severely injured officer pleads with Rick to bring him to the hospital, to which Rick replies, “You can’t go back, Bob.” Die-hard fans will remember this as the exact same thing he told the other Bob earlier this season, when that Bob suggested Rick should follow Abraham to Washington, D.C. looking for a cure. Rick finishes Officer Bob off by shooting him in the head.
After sneaking out of the church last week, we find Gabriel outside the schoolhouse where the Terminus gang had set up camp earlier this season. Among the remains around the camp are an old Bible (owned by “Mary B”… Denise Crosby’s now-deceased character, perhaps?) as well as the remains of Bob’s leg on the grill. Gabriel isn’t there long before the Walkers in the nearby schoolhouse break free and chase him. Gabriel runs back to the church and pounds on the door to be let in. Inside, Carl and Michonne hack away at the door barrier they previously put up, until the doors open and Gabriel comes running inside. Of course, this lets all the Walkers inside the church as well. Carl, Michonne, Baby Judith (who’s riding in a sling on Michonne’s back, Yoda-style) and Gabriel all take shelter in Gabriel’s office. The foursome escape through the same hole in the floor Gabriel used to leave the church earlier and – now outside – Michonne barricades the Walkers inside the church. Not long afterward, Abraham and his group show up in the fire truck. Glenn tells Michonne that Eugene lied about being a scientist, while Michonne lets Maggie know that Beth is alive. Maggie says, “Beth who?” Just kidding… although this is the first time that Maggie shows any concern or even knowledge of her missing sister this season.
Rick returns to the warehouse he and the group in Atlanta have been using as a base, and tells the others about Officer Bob. The two remaining police officers insist that Rick should still try the exchange, and should tell Dawn that Bob was killed by “Rotters” (the term they use for Walkers). After some debate, Rick agrees to continue with the planned trade.
At the hospital, Beth sits on the edge of the open elevator shaft having a conversation with Dawn. Dawn reveals that she found the smashed jar Beth used to knock out Officer Gorman, which resulted in him being eaten by a Walker. Unfortunately for them, another cop,Officer O’Donnell (Ricky Wayne), overhears everything and confronts Dawn. The two cops get into a fight, until Beth shoves O’Donnell down the elevator shaft to his death. Well, that’s now two cops that Beth has killed.
Rick successfully negotiates his prisoner exchange proposal with two cops on patrol, who agree to take him and the others to the hospital. Meanwhile, inside the hospital, Beth prepares for the exchange by sticking a pair of scissors inside a cast on her arm.
When Rick arrives, Dawn suggests they do the exchange one person at a time, starting with the male cop for Carol. After that goes fine, the exchange of Beth for the female cop also goes off without a hitch. However, Dawn then insists that Rick give Noah back as well, which doesn’t sit well with Rick, Daryl or anyone else. Noah disarms the situation by agreeing to stay at the hospital, but when Beth comes to hug him, she pulls out the scissors and stabs Dawn in the left shoulder. Dawn immediately reacts by shooting Beth, which results in Daryl shooting Dawn in the head.
The female cop from the exchange, Officer Shepherd (Teri Wyble), calms everyone down by saying that it’s over now and everyone should go their separate ways. Rick tells those at the hospital that anyone is free to come with his group if they so choose. Outside the hospital, our heroes exit just as Abe shows up in the fire truck with his group and the others he picked up at the church. Maggie collapses in tears as she sees Daryl carrying Beth’s lifeless body in his arms.
There episode also has another post-credits scene featuring Morgan and the mysterious X-Box symbol on one of the trees. (Sorry, that’s what I’m calling it until the show tells us otherwise). In this scene, Morgan makes his way to the schoolyard and the church, apparently long after our gang has deserted it. All the Walkers inside the church are dead, although how this happened remains a mystery. While in the church, Morgan finds the discarded map to D.C. with Abraham’s note to Rick about following him there.
My reaction to this episode is mixed. Beth was one of my favorite characters on the show, so it was hard for me not to be moved (and, yes, upset) by her demise. However, it gives Norman Reedus (who of course plays Daryl) a chance to show some genuine emotion and pain that I hope continues for at least a few episodes. With that in mind, let’s not take this week’s great ending (and equally great pre-credits opening with Rick and Bob) and fool ourselves into thinking this was a great episode overall.
First of all, what was Gabriel’s purpose for leaving the church at all? In the episode, he said he just had to go see… go see what? That Bob was really dead? That the schoolhouse was really filled with zombies? That the Terminus guys were all really gone? I was really hoping Michonne and Carl wouldn’t let this goofball back inside the church, so he would suffer the same fate as those others he talked about not letting inside. That would have been poetic justice and made for a really good segment. As it stands, the whole sequence with Gabriel just seems to be an excuse to get all our characters to abandon the church.
Now we get to Abe’s group. I get why they returned to the church, but wasn’t the fire truck out of gas? It not, why the heck was it sitting in the road for a whole episode last week? Just because Abe was spaced-out? Is he the only one who could drive the truck? There’s a big gap in the story here, which sadly I fear will be used to tell a complete flashback episode when the series resumes in February.
Of course, the mid-season finale is a lot better than we’ve seen from this series lately, but the whole plot with the hospital seems like little more than a ruse the writers used to find a way to kill off Beth. I suppose it also serves as a way to add Noah to the main cast – but so far his character has been pretty uninteresting and has served little, if any, purpose. Maybe Morgan will wind up adopting him when he finally catches up with our gang?