The mid-season finale of THE WALKING DEAD finished with a BANG. This episode followed our group of “heroes” as they executed their mission to free Beth from the HOSPITAL crew at ST. NOWHERE. We should know by now that whenever something looks too good to be true… it probably is. Warning, there will be spoilers ahead, but I will preface the major one later before I examine it.
The episode starts off with RICK chasing down the escaped cop / hostage in a police cruiser. He turns on the loud speaker and tells the man to “Stop.” The man doesn’t know what to think of Rick. It’s hard to trust someone in the Apocalypse. And for good reason. Rick runs him over, telling the policeman, “I told you to stop.” Zombies shuffle down the road towards the injured “hostage”. I thought Rick would leave him for Rotter Food. I was wrong.
I don’t know if what Rick did next was worse or not. The cop pleads with Rick to no avail. He realizes this futile task and says, “You’ve been out here too long.” Rick replies with a gunshot to the head, and very select words: “Shut up.” Wow, this is not the Rick we met in Season 1. You could argue that he’s learned from his mistakes and won’t risk the lives of his “family” anymore. However, I’m beginning to feel like Rick is becoming a ruthless monster.
The church group awaits the Away Team’s return from the Hospital. Michonne stands guard with Carl and Judith. The Priest snuck out last week and went to a nearby school. Zombies bust out and chase him all the way back to the church. Just great. Actually, the zombie slayage was great. I always enjoy watching Michonne slice and dice like a balletic samurai. The best zombie death was when the priest cowers back into his escape hatch. A zombie busts through the door, and falls on the machete embedded in the wooden floor. The exposed blade splits the Biter’s face down the middle – “Thy fearful symmetry”.
Back at the hospital… Rick joins his team with the other “hostages”. To further explore this transformation into monsters, I will reflect on earlier in this season. When I saw these bound and gagged hostages lined-up, I thought all that’s missing is a TROUGH. While our heroes don’t plan on cannibalizing their victims, it seems like they are just as ruthless as the baddies from TERMINUS. And what were those guys doing but trying to preserve their own well-being and sustain their group? Kind of like Rick, right?
While Rick and his team evaluate their approach to negotiations with the hospital group, BETH is already planning her own escape. She contemplates her next move sitting at the open elevator shaft. The Hospital Leader, DAWN, shows up. She says, “You’re not going anywhere.” Beth retorts with strength, “Neither are you.” I like how this suggests a sort of prison cell confinement. No matter where they bunker up they are always trapped within their own prison.
It was interesting how the Leader tried to gain Beth’s trust. She could use a valuable person like Beth on her side, since some of her crew is planning a mutiny. One of her fellow cops shows up and confronts her about what happened in the past. This leads to a scuffle. Dawn asks for Beth’s help, and she complies, pushing the cop down the elevator shaft to awaiting zombies below. It seems like Dawn orchestrated this like a master puppeteer. When you think of it, Beth has eliminated several of the Leader’s “enemies” already. What a valuable asset.
Rick negotiates the hostage exchange with cops from the hospital. A zombie approaches behind them, when they ask Rick, “Where are your men?” A silenced rifle shot ripping through the zombie’s skull answers their question. But Rick adds “Close” for good measure. Yeah, close enough to take you out if you try anything.
Back to the church… Michonne and Carl dispatch the priest lead zombies when Glenn & Maggie, and Abraham’s crew arrives on the scene, crashing their fire-truck into the church. Like the song says, “Reunited… and it feels so good.” Michonne’s all smiles as she tells Maggie that Rick is out with a team to rescue Beth. Finally, Maggie will reunite with her sister – her only remaining family member. Hope was lost, but now it’s found.
Jump to… the exchange. The camera twists to an askewed angle to frame this hallway stand-off. Something isn’t right. Something is off-center, so to speak.
Carol has since awakened. Beth has since armed herself with a hidden pair of scissors. Whatever goes down, she’s ready. Rick stands on the other end of the hallway like it’s High Noon or something. There’s only enough room in this Western Town for one of us.
One hostage is exchanged for Carol. Daryl is relieved, as he watches Rick’s back with the rest of our heroes. Then another hostage is exchanged for Beth. “I got 99 Problems, but the b*tch ain’t one”… Yet. The Leader asks for NOAH back, since he’s her ward. She needs numbers to maintain her “operation”. She needs more puppets…
*****AND THIS IS WHEN WE ENTER… SPOILER TERRITORY*****
Skip this section, if you haven’t seen the episode… Seriously. Don’t ruin this for yourself…
Okay. Here we go… There WILL be SPOILERS ahead…. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…”
Noah agrees to stay at the hospital. He’s thinking of the trouble he’ll cause his new friends if he doesn’t agree. Noah knows he will probably be punished should he return, but he’s trying to make up for earlier when Beth helped him escape originally. Unfortunately, she was captured, while he limped away, leaving her behind.
Beth doesn’t think it’s fair for him to be forced into this. She knows the horrors of the hospital and their terrible hierarchy. She hugs Noah goodbye. She’s thinking of her concealed weapon. She gets closer to Dawn. Here’s her chance. I was so excited. I knew all she had to do was pull out those scissors. She’s doing what’s right. She’s helping Noah. She’s trying to put an end to this Leader’s evil reign.
My anticipation for this attack was bubbling like a pot of water on the stove. And then it boiled away in a nano-second. Evaporated. As the Leader was just as quick on the draw. A gunshot to the head and it’s all over. What?!
I yelled at the screen. NO! I was just riding the high energy of a promised attack – of vengeance. Almost as fast as I could register possible success, my moment of triumph was immediately blown away. Dashed. Defeated. Splattered across hospital walls…
Rick doesn’t say “Shut up” this time. He hesitates. Daryl doesn’t, “he’s been out here too long.” He executes our fantasy of vengeance, although now it carries much more weight.
Needless-to-say, Daryl was heart-broken. He was about to reunite with Beth, and continue forming their strong sibling relationship. Maybe he was even distilling some more moonshine somewhere so they could get caught up over a few jars?
And Maggie… Man… Maggie was told that her sister was about to be rescued, only to arrive and see her corpse held in Daryl’s arms. Wow. This was just absolutely heart-wrenching. Like the song doesn’t say, “Reunited… and it feels so” sad.
What a polarizing shift from ecstatic expectations to the deep dark abyss of loss.
*****NOW EXITING SPOILER TERRITORY*****
What an emotional episode. THE WALKING DEAD doesn’t shy away from doing what’s necessary for the story. If the characters we come to know and love are never in danger, and never die, then what reason do we have to be scared? And we should be. We should always be frightened for their safety. We should always feel anxious with a show like this. It’s best to be challenged every now and then.
Who would have thought a zombie show would have characters we love so much – with this level of emotional dimensionality?
I can’t wait for the hiatus to be over. From the sneak preview, it looks like the returning episodes may showcase an iconic moment from the comics that will transform Rick forever. I’ll be there as soon as it returns to find out.
Did you miss that final scene after the sneak preview? It looks like the Walkee Talkee Dad from Season 1 is still on Rick’s trail. He arrives at the church. A possible new home? And sets up his own personal altar (on the actual altar) claiming these 4 walls and a roof as his own.
What did you think? Are you still recovering from this emotional mid-season finale?
Where will the crew go next? Will the Father reunite with Rick?
Is the priest to be trusted? Is he a part of another group that is out there somewhere? Did some of his parishioners survive despite him locking them out?
Will you read some of the WALKING DEAD comics to tide you over until the show returns in a few months?