The Walking Dead Recap: Nurse Beth

Photo: Gene Page/AMC

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It was bound to happen. After what was arguably the best three episodes to start a season since we first met Rick and the gang, last night’s all-Beth chapter fell flat. Maggie’s little sis is just not interesting enough to carry a full hour alone, and unfortunately, most of her new pals at Grady Memorial Hospital aren’t, either (save for one who may have a relative we know). The only bright spot comes in the final seconds, as we catch a glimpse of Beth’s ticket out of the worst nursing internship ever.  

The show wastes no time before explaining what happened to Beth after things went south at the cemetery. She ended up by the roadside, out cold with a nasty cut and a fractured wrist, destined to be zombie food. As luck would have it, two of the Grady Hospital officers just happened to be cruising around and found her lying by the road. (The cops are said to have had a “lead on some guns,” but that’s still a long way from downtown Atlanta to be on patrol, and a lot of precious gas wasted.)

Maybe death would have been better than being rescued by this bunch. Officer Gorman, the cop who saved her, turns out to be a sexual predator and an asshole with a capital A. It seems possible that he saw Daryl in trouble that night, too — but why help a tough guy with a crossbow who won’t suffer your bullshit when you can scoop up a pretty blonde? Even if there were more zombie action in this episode, nothing would be more disgusting than Gorman’s sour-apple lollipop game. Beth would probably rather dive headfirst into the corpse pit than spend another second with that sleazebag.

We also meet Dr. Stephen Edwards and Officer Dawn Lerner, who are both hiding secrets and willing to get their hands very dirty to survive. We can tell right off the bat that Dawn has issues, as she tells Beth, “You owe us.” Dawn’s rise to power at GMH came with a price — killing her boss, whose badge she keeps in her office next to a framed photo of the two of them together, and letting Gorman have his way with one of the residents. The top cop is wound tight, a neat freak, and gets off on slapping Beth around whenever she can. Dawn is also convinced that some semblance of society exists outside the hospital walls. If they can just hold out long enough, she reasons, “they” will save them, and her crew will help rebuild the world. Beth knows otherwise.

The Doc is a more complex guy. He’s got a thing for the blues and a copy of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ propped up in cluttered office — he’s an artist and an intellectual, in stark contrast to Dawn’s blunt-force leadership. (Even when he’s eating guinea pig, it’s nicely plated.) The Doc seems like someone Beth can trust, as he gives her a tour of the hospital (there’s where we dump the corpses, here’s where the zombies live) and waxes philosophic about creativity in the age of apocalypse. (“It doesn’t have a place anymore. Art isn’t about survival. It’s transcendence. Being more than animals. Rising above.”)

He’s not a fan of Dawn, either, but he admits she’s kept the hospital refugees alive — at least, those she deems worthy. He’d rather serve under her thumb than take his chances on the outside. (Beth wisely questions whether life at GMH is worth living.) But the Doc makes it clear that survival comes first, Hippocratic oaths a distant second. Beth doesn’t screw up her patient’s meds; the Doc intentionally gave her a bad script to kill him. Thanks to the I.D. badge she found in Dawn’s office, Beth realizes the patient was also a physician. The Doc made sure he wouldn’t be replaced.

As for the other residents, there’s Joan — who clearly wasn’t down with Dawn’s rules or Gorman’s sexual advances — and Noah of the Lollipop Guild, the kind orderly who takes the heat for Beth when her patient croaks, and Beth’s one true ally. Joan will be forever remembered as the victim of the most barbaric amputation in the zombie era, and a most excellent reanimated revenge. (We barely knew Gorman, but man, it was great to see him devoured. Maybe what’s scarier than “rotters,” as this group calls them, are jerks like Dawn and Gorman — people with control issues. Lost in a world where they feel utterly helpless, their power trips are amplified.)

But it all comes back to Beth, who’s become the Zooey Deschanel of the zombie apocalypse — never passing up a chance to show she can carry a tune. (Joan liked her singing, but, then again, she’d just had her arm sawed off with a wire. The woman was not of sound mind.) Of course we’re rooting for Beth’s escape plan with Noah to work, even if it raised a few questions of plausibility. (Beth picks the right key in a drawer full of them; the elevator shaft of dead bodies doesn’t stink unbearably.) But Beth is always more interesting in the context of who she’s with — such as Maggie or Daryl — than as a character herself. When Dawn calls her out for being weak and references the scars on Beth’s wrist, it wasn’t just a reminder that she once tried to kill herself. It highlights a missed opportunity to make her character darker, more complex; a young woman deeply troubled by the carnage around her.

Dawn, of course, underestimates Beth’s fighting spirit. Beth clears a lane for Noah to escape and smiles as he clears the fence, even while she’s being cuffed by the GMH hit squad. She also calls out the Doc for his euthanasia plot and hits Dawn with a reality check: “No one’s comin’, Dawn! We’re all gonna die, and you let this happen for nothing!” (Oddly, Dawn seems to overlook the fact that Beth directed her to a trap — the office where Zombie Joan was feasting.) Also, note that Noah mentioned he was looking for his uncle. That detail seemed specific for a reason. Could his long-lost relative be Rick’s old pal Morgan?

As Beth walks down the hall toward the Doc, she’s brandishing something sharp. Sure looks like she’s going to use it for non-medical purposes. That’s when she sees the grey-haired queen bitch rolled in on a gurney. It’s Carol, who’s sure to help kick off a serious hospital break and (eventually) bring Beth back where she belongs — with folks we’d much rather be stuck with in a zombie hellscape.

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