“I get it now.”
Beth Greene’s final words are a cruel joke; whatever she gets, no one else does, as the long lost Greene girl plunges a small pair of scissors into Officer Dawn Lerner’s shoulder, receiving a bullet to the head in return.
The midseason finale of The Walking Dead, titled “Coda,” brings the Beth storyline to a chaotic conclusion, her proverbial torch snuffed immediately after she rejoins her tribe. After the season began with three of the strongest, swiftest episodes The Walking Dead has ever offered up, the previous five hours have all been building up to this violent meeting-of-the-minds between the Rick Grimes Gang and the goons at Grady Hospital. The goal was simple: Get Beth and Carol out alive. Consider that mission only halfway accomplished.
Beth’s brains weren’t on the wall until the finale’s final few minutes, but the writing was all over it much earlier in the episode. Beth stood front and center in terms of screen time, trading stories and philosophies with Officer Dawn; she even aids Dawn in murdering another cop, thereby cementing her status as “cop killer.” Really, Beth and Dawn seem to be simpatico for most of the hour; where did their flowering friendship go wrong?
The tables turn during the hostage negotiation. Rick successfully trades two of Dawn’s cops for his two people, but Dawn gets greedy, derailing the deal by demanding the return of Noah, the lollipop-hoarder who escaped Grady some weeks earlier. Rick refuses to surrender Noah, and Dawn refuses Rick’s refusal. Bloodshed seems imminent until Noah voluntarily surrenders, sacrificing himself for the greater good.
And then it’s Beth’s turn. For whatever reason, Dawn demanding Noah is enough to destroy whatever trust Beth and Dawn built with one another in the past handful of episodes, never mind this past hour. Beth stares Dawn in the eye, delivers those four confusing final words, wields her scissors, and eats a bullet for her bravery. Dawn dies in turn, as a distraught Daryl Dixon immediately avenges Beth by shooting Grady’s top cop in the forehead.
For their part, the Gradies don’t seem to mind. They were looking to get Dawn out of power at some point anyway; now that she’s dead, they’re totally fine with Rick and friends, going so far as to offer them continued shelter. Rick denies them, and offers them the chance to join the Rick Grimes Gang. It appears that no one accepts Rick’s offer except for Noah.
Moments later, the entire group reunites outside of the hospital. Team GREATM drives up in their firetruck alongside recently reunited pals Michonne, Carl, Judith and Gabriel. Out comes Rick, Tyreese, Sasha, Noah, Carol and Daryl, holding Beth’s body in his arms. Maggie falls to her knees at the sight of her dead sister; officially, Maggie is the final Greene on the field. (Not for anything, but where was Maggie’s interest in her sister before the midseason finale? How many times has she mentioned Beth’s name since the prison blew up? Twice? Anyway.)
It’s hard to know where The Walking Dead will go in the wake of Beth’s senseless death. For the first time in a while, the show lacks a clear next step. There’s no one to rescue, no one to murder. Eugene lied, so there’s no plague to purge. There’s no obvious shelter, seeing that Rick turned down Grady, and considering the state of Father Gabriel’s church, overrun with walkers. Right now, there’s little more than the open road; the world is Rick’s flesh-hungry oyster.
Wherever we go from here, it involves Morgan Jones: Rick’s old friend, first seen in the pilot episode, then again in season three’s “Clear,” and as recently as the tail-end of the season five premiere. Once again, Morgan shows up in “Coda” during a post-credits scene, making his way to Father Gabriel’s abandoned church, seemingly weeks after Rick left. On the ground, Gabriel sees a crumpled piece of paper: Abraham’s map to Washington, D.C., the one that boldly declares: “The world needs Rick Grimes.”
So, Morgan knows that Rick is alive, and potentially nearby. But is that information enough on its own? Unless Morgan is heading to Washington to join the Walking Dead spinoff, it seems as if the show is moving toward the nation’s capital, regardless of Eugene’s lie. It’s a curious direction for our group, but at least it’s forward momentum. After all, it’s as the late cannibal king Gareth said in the season premiere, and the increasingly feral Rick said in the midseason finale: “We can’t go back, Bob.” Let’s hope the show lives up to that promise.