I’m really not sure what happened here: did Beth commit suicide by cop, or did she reveal herself a fundamentally stupid and selfish person in the end? After all, stabbing Dawn with tiny scissors would never have killed her but could easily have resulted in a massacre wherein both sides shoot each other to death, thus concluding The Walking Dead. In fact, I’d argue “Coda” offers us the best possible outcome: save for little Miss “I Get It Now”, our heroes walk away unscathed, while the hospital tribe turns a new leaf under Shepherd’s more reasonable leadership (for now anyway). Did Beth know this would happen?
Throughout this half-season of The Walking Dead, I’ve been looking at Dawn as a well-intentioned coward stuck in a deadly, post-apocalyptic version of the sort of queen bee dynamic one encounters in high school. Think of the corrupt officer as that popular student who doesn’t want to bully weaker kids but fears losing her social standing so much that she’ll turn a blind eye to her friends dunking nerds in the toilet. This all too common lack of fortitude would go a long way to explain why the alleged leader of the hospital tribe covertly asked Beth to treat Carol in “Crossed” instead of making the official call to follow through on her own policies.
In “Coda”, though, she reveals a different motivation for her incompetence. By changing the terms of the exchange at the last minute, Dawn isn’t trying to reclaim Noah as a ward so much as assert her superiority over Rick. The petty power play serves no purpose other than to quell the policewoman’s insecurities, making her more akin to that two-faced homeroom tyrant who keeps finding someone else to blame for why she spread nasty rumours, stuck bubblegum in another girl’s hair, or, in the world of The Walking Dead, killed her friend and mentor to move up in the food chain.
For whatever reason, I actually believed the explanation in “Slabtown” that Hanson had grown too unstable to manage the hospital tribe and therefore had to be put down. After all, we’ve seen many a leader lose his marbles on The Walking Dead. However, Dawn’s chronic vagueness on the matter, her refusal to give concrete examples of her predecessor’s weakness, hints that the situation might not have been so cut and dry. It’s no surprise Beth would question Officer Lerner’s newfound altruism in “Coda” and choose to arm herself.
Lest we forget, young Miss Green picks up that fatal pair of scissors before hearing of any trade, and Dawn would eventually have needed a scapegoat after getting rid of her two main rivals. Death might have seemed a better alternative for Beth, as it had just three seasons ago on The Walking Dead, and why not do the locals a favour along the way by taking out their main oppressor? She wouldn’t even have had to kill Lerner per se. A good stab in the throat would have ensured the corrupt officer ends up in emergency care, giving Edwards plenty of opportunity to finish the job.
Of course, the southern teen would have dropped her best laid plans the minute her tribe walked through the door. That is, until Dawn stupidly claimed Noah back as her property. Perhaps Beth couldn’t bear the thought of her friend being used as a substitute patsy. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, the way I did Shane’s passing in “Better Angels”. At any rate, after all that’s transpired in “Coda”, I can’t believe none of the indentured servants took up Rick’s offer to leave the hospital. Now that’s a depressing social comment as only The Walking Dead can deliver!
Death toll so far: twenty-eight. In other news, Gabriel is an idiot.