The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 8: Coda

SPOILERS.

I MEAN IT.

If you haven’t watched this episode of The Walking Dead yet and don’t want to know what happens, then avert your eyes, because I will be all up and down this episode.

CONSIDER YOURSELF ALERTED.

That is all.

First, let me just say…I didn’t see that coming. I mean, at one point early in the episode I thought I got a hint of what was going to happen, but still. I didn’t see it coming.

The it, to which I am referring, is the death of old what’s her face. I mean Beth. Beth! Oh my God, they killed Beth! You bastards!

Before I go into the story of Beth…can someone please do something (anything) about Father Gabriel? I mean, he’s…a human, so I suppose that’s something in his favor. But ohhh myyyy gawwwwwd I am so over his zombie squeamishness. I know he locked himself in a church and “La la la I can’t hear you screaming”-ed himself through the first 18 months or so of the new world order, but…dude. Get it together.  I kind of lost all patience for him in the previous episode when he couldn’t kill a zombie because she was wearing a crucifix. Father, she is undead, and would eat you for lunch, crucifix or no. It’s time to adjust.

And can someone explain to me…OK, so, Michonne is a killing machine, no? She sliced her way through a good handful of zombies invading Father Gabriel’s church, and barely worked up a sweat.

Michonne, Master of Badass

Michonne, Master of Badass

Then she, Carl (with baby Judith, of course), and Father Gabriel retreated to the rectory to scoot out the hole in the floor. When they were trying to close the rectory door and put something solid between them and the relentless undead, zombie fingers prevented them from fully shutting the door. Michonne is the woman who cut the jaws and arms off two zombies and wore them as postapocalyptic personal protective gear. Why didn’t she think to slice off those grabby, undead fingers so she could properly shut and lock the door?

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Then Abe Ford conveniently showed up in his fire engine, collected everyone, and drove off to Atlanta to rendezvous with the rest of Rick Nation. Hail, hail! The gang will soon be gathered again.

 All right, so, back to Beth. I know, I was extremely hard on her in previous posts, largely because the writers gave her nothing to do besides sing and take care of baby Judith (other than that brief, “I think I want to kill myself” story arc in season 2), but you know, she’s been doing her thing since the prison went down and they all separated. She’d become tough, and honest, and remarkably clear-sighted about their lives and the state of the world around them. During her time in Grady Memorial Hospital with the Dawnians, Beth had become increasingly vocal about the injustices she saw enacted upon the other hospital residents. She’d also managed to put an end to two of commanding officer Dawn‘s incredibly corrupt and abusive officers, so her capacity for ridding the world of dangerous jerks was pretty high. That’s too bad, because there sure seem to be a lot of dangerous jerks out there.

So long, dangerous jerk!

Take that, dangerous jerk!

Through somewhat drawn out negotiations, the Dawnians and Rick Nation agree to a hostage exchange; Beth and Carol for the two officers (still living) that Rick and the rescue team had captured. Herein lie my problems with the misunderstandings regarding Dawn’s nature. She? Is clearly a dictator. She may be making it up as she goes along, and she may have herself convinced she’s doing something “for the greater good”, but she is absolutely the embodiment of a totalitarian dictator. She has people beaten for mistakes. She sees people as bargaining tools. She lets her officers rape the wards, ostensibly to “keep them happy”. The wards are forbidden to leave her stronghold, and must work to pay off a debt to the Dawnians which said wards did not necessarily have any autonomy in incurring (i.e., Beth was brought in unconscious after [probably] being hit by one of the officer’s cars, and was told she was indebted to them for saving her life, which they jeopardized in the first place). She doesn’t want love, just respect. Dawn created a shrine to fallen officers (at least one of which she killed, and another one of which she knew was raping the wards) to propagandize her hierarchical structure. And Dawn manipulated people into doing her dirty work for her, like getting Beth to kill the officer she was fighting with. Because turning one person against an enemy creates a common, dirty, secret bond.

PROPAGANDA!

PROPAGANDA!

To those of us who haven’t lived (or studied) the mechanics of a dictatorial regime, Dawn’s actions may seem inconceivable. I’ve read commentary that has said she was barely in any kind of control, citing things like her looking the other way regarding the sexual abuse of the wards. Their commentary evolves from the assumption that she can’t stop them. What the commenters don’t assume is that she won’t, or simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t take into the account that permissiveness among the chosen elite and brutal strongarm tactics are the trademark of many, many dictators. Stalin killed his perceived enemies and surrounded himself with yes men, who he let…kidnap and rape and beat and enslave, and it was because the yes men knew he would kill them if they tried to overthrow him and failed, that he remained in power. And life wasn’t so bad for people in the inner circle, so why rock the boat. Hey…does this sound familiar?

At the end of the hostage exchange, Carol and Beth are both back with Rick Nation and the two officers Rick Nation had captured were back safely to their own. Dawn–afraid to appear weak in front of her officers–changes the rules and says she wants Noah back or the deal is off. The conversation goes like this:

Dawn: He’s one of mine. You have no claim on him.

Rick: The boy wants to go home. So you have no claim on him.

Dawn: Well then we don’t have a deal.

But what if they think I'm wimpy?

But what if they think I’m wimpy?

The social commentary behind them bargaining about the claiming and servitude of a black man is an entire blog in and of itself. I’ll just spin this out into the webisphere for now. However, if you’re in the middle of philosophizing over media images of social issues, please don’t fail to recognize this, readers.

Foreshadowing alert: this claiming of people hearkens back to the episode “Claimed”, where the group Daryl fell in with post-Beth-capture could call dibs on rabbit halves and beds and such. Initially, it seemed kind of weirdly playground-ish (but with more serious implications). It ended poorly for the original claimers, and there’s no reason to think things will go differently for Dawn. It would have been way more satisfying–and perhaps more appropriate–if one of Dawn’s own officers shot her when she changed the rules of the game, especially because they understand that the ire of Rick Nation was focused on Dawn, not them. When Dawn’s officers didn’t take this opportunity to wrest power from her, Beth knew that Dawn’s demands for power would only grow. She knew Noah would be horribly mistreated, and she knew Dawn had to be stopped somehow. That’s what she “got”, at the end. I can only hope she was trying to stab Dawn in the neck with her mini-scissors, and had the worst aim in the history of being stabby.

Rut-ro.

Rut-ro.

I’m pretty sure Beth knew that a shoulder wound wouldn’t be fatal.

Unless she was still trying–albeit in an incredibly roundabout way–to kill herself.

Alas, poor Beth, we hardly knew ye.

So Beth stabbed Dawn, and Dawn shot Beth, and Daryl shot Dawn (who looked like she had the ridiculous, ludicrous nerve to try and plead for her life), and a bloodbath was averted when Dawn’s officers called to hold fire. “It was always just about her,” the officer says. Rightly so. And I’m pretty sure Khrushchev danced on Stalin’s grave, too.

Ummm...funny story. So I didn't mean to shoot your friend in the head...

Ummm…funny story. So I didn’t mean to shoot your friend in the head…

Interestingly enough, none of the residents of the hospital left with Rick Nation, when Rick offered to take them in. The devil you know, it seems, is better than the devil you don’t.

And then all of Rick Nation got in Abe’s big red truck and drove away.

We did get one last teaser. Morgan showed up again, and he found his way into Father Gabriel’s abandoned church. He gently, mercifully–almost lovingly, really–did away with a zombie trapped under a piece of debris, hissing and biting at him. And then he found a map Abe had left for Rick, and realized he was on the trail of good buddy Rick Grimes and the Rick Nation.

Shhhhhh...

Shhhhhh…

GIVE US MORE MORGAN! WE WANT MORGAN!

The end, until February 8.

Since I’ve been thinking Russian history during this blog, here’s an Epic Rap Battle: Rasputin vs. Stalin, to play you out.

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