Admit it: you were relieved, weren’t you? That Carol finished the episode still breathing, we mean. We’ll go one better and admit that the last 5 minutes of the show had us whispering “Please let it be Beth” over and over again. Heartless? Fine. But if the choice is between having Carole killed for drama and having Beth killed for drama, we’re thrilled that the latter was chosen by the writers. Despite all the hard work put into her this season, Beth never really came together as a compelling character and her death felt like the culling of narrative dead weight that the show needed. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing about this mid-season finale (the “jumbo shrimp” of TV programming) that we agreed with. The rest of it was classic Walking Dead: people standing around and having long conversations until one of them does something incredibly stupid and senseless. After all this time – and all the progress made this season – it’s disheartening to see that this one problem still plagues the writing of this show. It seems the writers can only force narrative outcomes by having the characters do strange, nonsensical, or out-of-character things.
Minor example: Why did Michonne and Carl abandon the church? They break open the doors, take out a couple walkers and just… run away. From what was depicted, it never looked like such a large group of walkers that they couldn’t have fought them off – especially since most of this season was devoted to showing what efficient walker-killing machines they’d all become. Why open the doors at all? The man outside had escaped from them, proven himself to be useless, and had a history of letting other people die in order to protect himself. Why risk Judith’s life to save Father Gabriel? Because then you can have a scene where Abraham drives up in his fire truck and the group gets triumphantly reunited. It wouldn’t have been as dramatically interesting to have them arrive to a dead priest on the steps of the church and Michonne and Carl safely ensconced inside. It also serves to demonstrate that our group is more moral than people like Father Gabriel, who never opened those doors when others were begging to be let in. The writers had them act stupidly in order to service this one moment and this one idea.
Of course, having Rick run a man down and shoot him in the head kind of shits all over the “we’re the moral ones” tone of the episode.
Major example: Beth’s ridiculous – and totally meaningless – death. It’s like the writers decided the mid-season finale needed a death and they simply shoved one in at the end. “I get it,” said Beth, in her final words. Oh, well. That’s good, then. Could you have stayed alive long enough to explain it to the rest of us? Because we don’t get it at all. Beth essentially gave up her own life and risked the lives of every other person in that hallway. Is it so wrong of us to want an answer as to why? We suppose the whole drawn-out thing with Dawn and her slavemaster ways was meant to come across like some sort of psycho-mind game-power play kind of thing and Beth simply broke at the end when Dawn demanded Noah’s return, but it never really came across that way. Dawn, for all her nastiness, was pretty minor-league as villainous psychos go in this world (no heads in fish tanks or feet on the barbecue), and Beth never seemed to have any reaction to her other than mild disgust. We would have to believe that Beth was broken and pushed past her limits in order to willingly surrender her own life that way. It was just … pointless. All that buildup and it came down to Beth acting stupidly and impulsively. Even the actors had a hard time selling this one. Everyone except for Maggie looked totally confused in the last few seconds, like they had no idea how they were supposed to play the scene.
But we think the most disappointing thing about this episode, after the truly fantastic pacing and plotting of this season, was just how deadly dull it was. WAY too many “Let’s talk about our feelings” scenes which were, in the grand TWD tradition, so stiffly written and lethargically performed that we’d swear someone literally said “Let’s talk about our feelings” at one point.
It felt like the show hit the ground running with the opening of this season and then never really stopped giving us great moments and character bits. None of that energy was to be found anywhere in this episode.The only reason we don’t suspect they dug up an old script from season two and dusted it off is that they spent so much time this season building up to this episode. But as epic confrontations go, the Dawn and Beth showdown was about as limp as it gets.
Let’s just hope this was a momentary bump in the road and they’ll be back to season 5 form when the show returns.
[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]
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