Warning: This recap for the "Coda" episode of The Walking Dead contains storyline and character spoilers.
Pretty much every cast member had all but confirmed there would be a big death in this midseason finale, but still.
Beth. Just when she was about to be reunited with her sister.
The living dead continue to be the least dangerous threat to the living in Season 5.
Officer Lamson craftily fled at the end of last week's "Crossed," and when "Coda" opens, Rick is running after the escapee. Rick spots a police car and begins chasing Lamson in it, and when the Grady Hospital cop ignores repeated orders to stop, Rick guns the car, slamming into Lamson and launching him into the air like a projectile. A twisted heap on the ground, Lamson tells Rick his back is broken and begs to be taken to Grady.
Rick refuses. "You can't go back," he says, and Lamson warns him he's been "out here" too long, that Rick's group is going to die. Rick answers with a bullet to Lamson's head, and then tells him to shut up before walking away and getting back into the police car.
Gabriel Gets a Clue
After lamming it out of the church, Gabriel wanders over to the school, the one where Gareth and the Terminites held their cookout. When he spots the remains of Bob's leg covered in maggots, he finally realizes everything Rick and the others have been telling him is true. But before he has a chance to process it any further, the walkers who have been trying to get out of the school since the Terminites visited break down the doors and began swarming towards Gabriel. He hightails it back towards the church, dozens of walkers in tow, and begins yelling, begging Michonne and Carl to let him in.
Insert comment about reaping what you sow here.
Michonne and Carl rip down all the barricades Rick and the others had so carefully constructed to keep them safe, and Gabriel gets in, but the walkers follow. He, Carl, Michonne, and Judith manage to crawl out the back via the tunnel Gabriel had earlier used to leave, and while they all make it out safely, the dangerous adventure Gabriel leads them on does nothing to quell the feeling this 'fraidy cat is going to get someone killed.
As this new offshoot contemplates the next move outside the church, Abraham and his group return in a big way: driving the fire engine right up to the church door, just as the walkers trapped inside threaten to break free. After a quick catch-up session — Eugene lied! Beth's still alive and being held at a hospital in Atlanta! — the reunited friends pile into the truck and head off to ATL.
"I Get It Now"
With Lamson out, Rick decides to use Grady officers Shepherd and Licari to forge ahead with the plans to demand a hostage swap with Dawn.
Meanwhile, at Grady, Beth continues to figure out the complicated leadership philosophy of Dawn, which boils down to manipulating others to do her dirty work so she can maintain her control over them. Dawn's intentions don't appear to be completely misguided, but she once again uses Beth to help ensure her position when one of her Grady cops threatens to overthrow her, and she has Beth shove him down the elevator shaft to his death.
Also at Grady: The swap has been arranged, and two of Dawn's officers lead Rick's group, along with Shepherd and Licari, up the stairs of the hospital, where Dawn, three of her officers, Dr. Edwards, Beth, and Carol — who has awakened and is riding in a wheelchair — wait.
The swap is made: Beth and Carol rejoin Rick and Daryl, and Shepherd and Licari reunite with their Grady brethren. But Dawn has one more requirement: Noah. She wants him back. Rick says no, Beth says no, but Noah agrees.
"I knew you'd be back," Dawn smugly tells him, and it's the last straw for Beth. She knows Dawn has ordered Noah's return only to avoid looking weak in front of her staff after giving in to Rick's negotiations.
"I get it now," Beth tells Dawn, as she plunges a stashed pair of surgical scissors into Dawn's shoulder.
Dawn's gun goes off, shooting Beth in the forehead.
Rick, Noah, Carol, and the Grady cops look stricken, but it's a devastated Daryl who gets instant retribution when he fires a shot into Dawn's head. Everyone aims their weapons at each other and the massacre Tyreese had feared is imminent, until Officer Shepherd interjects with a plea for peace. "It's over!" she says. "It was just about her."
Shepherd invites Rick's group to stay at the hospital, but he turns her down and invites the Gradyites to join him.
Outside the hospital, Maggie, Glenn, and the fire engine crew have arrived, just in time for Maggie to spot Daryl walking out of the hospital doors carrying Beth's body.
Maggie crumples to the ground.
In a surprise P.S., Morgan appears again, and his journey through the woods takes him to the schoolhouse, and then to the church, where he prays, lays down a Goo Goo Cluster candy bar, and then finds the map Abraham had given to Rick — the one that marks the journey to Washington, the one that also has Rick Grimes's name on it, and indicates that's where Rick might be heading.
That almost certainly suggests a Rick/Morgan reunion by the end of Season 5, right?
* Adding to the harshness of Lamson's death: The car Rick used to run him down was his own car. A quick pan to the dashboard during Rick's ride highlighted a photo of Lamson with a young boy, presumably his son.
* Eugene update: He was either asleep or still unconscious in the back of the fire engine.
* Tyreese tells Sasha he had the chance to kill Martin, the Terminus cannibal she ended up killing at the church. He says even after what happened to both of them, maybe they're still the same, like they were when they were kids. She points out that Tyreese's humanity may remain intact, but she doesn't think hers is.
Photos: Check Out More Pics From This Season of 'The Walking Dead'
* We've all wondered why Maggie hasn't expressed any concern about Beth this season, but it's clear she's surprised when Michonne tells her Beth is alive. Maybe Maggie had assumed her sister was dead, because it was too painful to hope otherwise? Remember what she told Abraham last week: "It's never going to get any better than this."
* Who has made all those marks on the trees, the ones Morgan is following?
As for Beth, fans took to Twitter to express their grief/shock/outrage:
Sorry I'm not emotionally stable enough to attend school I'm mourning the death of a loved one. #RIPBeth— Marissa Vargas (@MarissaVarg) December 1, 2014
My dad just told me to stop crying because it's not real and I told him "MY HEART DOESN'T KNOW THAT* #RIPBETH— Upper Echelon (@shadesoftrinity) December 1, 2014
Now share your feelings with the group, Dead-heads: Did you predict Beth's death? How do you think the devastating loss will affect Rick's group? Will it push Daryl back into his shell? And now that all of Rick's group is reunited, where do they go from here? The preview for the series' return in February teased Michonne suggesting they find a new homebase; do you want to see them on the road, or do you hope they find a new sanctuary, perhaps in Washington?
The Walking Dead returns Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. on AMC.