Warning: Spoiler Alert
Plunging straight into a totally different storyline is good enough for The Walking Dead, and it’s good enough for me.
Beth awakens in a hospital room. She’s got an IV drip in her arm, a well-dressed wound on her face, and no idea where she is. She staggers to the window to find the view of a cityscape—she’s back in Atlanta. She rushes to the door but finds it locked. Hmm. Locked doors in a hospital? There’s something amiss enough for her to instinctively rip the IV from her arm so she can stab someone in the eye with a needle. If she needs to. Like you sometimes do.
A uniformed cop and a doctor in a white coat enter the room, firmly and not exactly reassuringly telling Beth to drop the needle. The doctor introduces himself as Dr. Steven Edwards, and the cop as Officer Dawn Lerner. They explain that she’s at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. They found her in surrounded by “rotters” (interesting how many groups have had different names for the reanimated corpses trying to eat every living thing around them) and saved her. Beth doesn’t remember anything. She asks about Daryl, but they quickly inform her that she was alone. But, they did save her. And for that, Officer Dawn Lerner explains, Beth owes them.
The duties and expectations of “owing them,” it seems, involve keeping things nice and tidy and performing basic medical assisting duties. Beth isn’t there long before she figures out the expectations are way grosser than bedpans and bloody gauze. One of the officers who found her, a slimy douche named Gorman, explains to Beth as she’s fixing a plate for dinner that “thank-yous are expected around here.” No one takes without giving. Creepy, inappropriate leering. Beth suddenly isn’t hungry anymore.
She takes dinner in to Dr. Edwards. He clears away the work on his desk to make room for his food, bemoaning that he used to feel like he was “drowning in research” but now he’s “suffocating in boredom.” It takes a particular kind of experience to be bored during the zombie apocalypse, I think. Beth thinks that boredom is a luxury, and I think he’s right. He implores her to join him, but she refuses. She’s not interesting in “owing” any more than she already does. Edwards apologizes, offers Beth some food, and tries to engage her in maybe more pleasant conversation.
They’re interrupted when the officers bring in a gravely injured man. He fell off a roof, the officers explain. Dr. Edwards doesn’t offer a hopeful prognosis, even after he punches an airway into the patient’s collapsed lung. Dawn is frantic for better news, but he points out signs of internal bleeding. Dawn demands that Dr. Edwards save the man, but he declares that the man isn’t worth the resources. Dawn becomes irate and strikes Beth. The implication is clear: save him or I take her.
The two manage to stabilize the man, identified as Gavin Trevitt from his wallet. Afterwards, Dr. Edwards redressed the wound on Beth’s face that Dawn tore open. She changes out of her bloodied scrubs and into fresh clothes at his insistence. Dawn, it appears, likes things neat. Or, she likes them to look that way, anyway. Beth discovers a lollipop in the pocket of her new top, but she doesn’t get a chance to change her clothes yet.
A woman’s brought in, bleeding and howling and bitten. The girl (we’ll find out her name is Joan) fights and screams to be left to die. Dawn, always in charge when patients get admitted, ‘s incensed. The girl had apparently been trying to escape, and Dawn’s outraged that anyone would want to leave the situation she’d put in place. The woman continues to flail and scream, accusing Dawn of not being able to control “them.” Beth’s horrified, but holds the woman’s legs down at command Dawn screams at her. Joan’s arm’s strapped to the bed, and Dr. Edwards begins to amputate.
Later, after Beth gets a chance to actually change, she returns her dirty clothes to the laundry. Noah, another orderly, is working in there. He confesses that he’s the one who snuck her the lollipop. He confirms what Beth has figured out—that Grady Memorial is a brutal system held in place by a woman who’s losing her grip and a bunch of abusive cops. He has a plan, though. They think he’s weak, but he’s strong. And he knows Beth is strong, too.
The next morning, Beth is working and refuses the breakfast Dawn brings for her. She isn’t interested in owing any more than she has to. Less food means she can work off her debt in a shorter time. Dawn invites Beth to join her on a bench with the impatient seat-tap of someone trying to summon a naughty child. Clearly, she’s no longer holding it together as well as she seems. She begins a long explanation of why her way of running things is right and just. The world is different now, she explains, and everyone has to do their part. Sacrifices. She’s trying very hard to keep everything going. It’s the speech a single mom gives to her rebellious teenager as she tries to explain how overwrought she is. Beth doesn’t buy it. She didn’t ask to be saved. No, Dawn replies, but she clearly needed to be saved. She insists that Beth eat anyway, as she’ll be useless if she’s weak. Neither of them asked for the situation they’re in, Dawn reminds Beth.
Humming absently, Beth mops up the blood that’s still staining the floor of the amputee’s room. The humming wakes the patient. Beth moves to get the doctor, but Joan asks her to wait for a few minutes. She warns Beth that Dawn could “control them if she wanted to, but she’s too much of a coward.”
If there was any room left to doubt that Dawn’s officers were sexually abusing the girls in the hospital, it’s removed when Gorman encounters Beth as she’s changing the linen in another room. She searches for the lollipop that Noah may have left for her, but Gorman approaches her, eating it. He again insists that Beth should “show some gratitude” for what he and the other officers do to keep the rest of them safe. He forces the lollipop into Beth’s mouth in the most abusive way possible when Dr. Edwards steps in. Gorman threatens to keep at it, but Dr. Edwards warns him that when he’s sick or injured, he’ll remember this moment.
Gorman stalks off. Beth, disturbed and angry, asks Dr. Edwards why he stays.
He takes her to the ground floor of the hospital, now gated off but no longer an exit. He bangs the gates a few times, getting attention from some nearby walkers. As they drool and snap at the fence, Beth has her answer. He stays because the outside world is too horrific.
Inside, sure, is no picnic either. But Dawn took over for another man, Officer Hanson, who didn’t make good decisions once things went to hell. He’d wanted to save more people, but Dawn insisted that they
limit their resources, which is how the “work off what you owe us” arrangement was born. He looks ashamed, but Beth reassures him that he couldn’t have known she’d be so twisted. Grateful for a bit of sympathy, he tells Beth to finish attending to Trevitt and that she can be done with her duties for the day. Seventy five milligrams of clozapine, he instructs.
Beth is finishing the injection as Noah passes, leaning in to smile at her. Soon after the injection, the patient experiences a violent seizure. As usual, Officer Dawn is on the scene, demanding to know what happened. Noah jumps in to say that he must have unplugged the patient’s respirator while he was mopping. Or something. Dr. Edwards attempts to save the patient, but the seizure proved fatal in an already heavily broken body. Dawn drags Noah across the hall and begins to work on his face. Beth is shaking with terror, but Dr. Edwards attempts to comfort her. “You gave him the clonazepam like I asked?” he prods. Beth nods, but stammers, “Clozapine?” They’re two different drugs (clozapine is for psychosis, clonazepam is an anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drug), but they can all sound the when you’re first starting out. Did Beth make a fatal rookie mistake?
Dawn confronts Beth the next day. Noah’s smart, she admits, but he’s not much of a liar. Beth demands to know why Dawn beat Noah if she knew that he wasn’t at fault for Trevitt’s seizure. Dawn explains that she needs Beth to learn some lessons and cooperate better if she’s going to live with them. She’s really trying to induce Stockholm Syndrome, but Beth wants nothing to do with it. Dawn taunts Beth that she’s weak and will always be a burden. Dawn lifts Beth’s arm, revealing the scar on her wrist. The scar proves that Beth is weak, she proclaims. Silly Dawn. Beth had Daryl Dixon to teach her how to survive. She’s not going down that easily.
Beth finds Noah, and they begin their escape. Beth needs to retrieve the elevator key from Dawn’s office. She searches through the filing cabinets but doesn’t find much except for an interesting ID card and a picture of Dawn and the former Officer Hanson. Then she finds a pool of blood on the floor, Joan’s corpse, and the “*UCK YOU” Joan scraped into the floor with a pair of surgical scissors. Beth continues to ransack the office. Just as she finds the key, Gorman comes into the office. Beth flounders for an excuse, but Gorman has her caught and he knows it.
He begins to advance on her, pulling at her shirt and pressing his body down on hers against the desk. Beth seems to freeze for a moment, but before another breath can be taken, she smashes Gorman over the head with a jar of lollipops and hurls him to the floor, where the now-turned Joan is waiting to eat his neck out.
Beth departs the office, finds Noah, and they begin their descent down the elevator shaft. They’re using sheets tied together as rope, because in this universe, nothing is cliché. They barely make it out of the building, as Noah’s injured in the fall, but they fight their way across the parking lot. Beth has lifted Gorman’s gun, and she’s wasting walkers as fast as they approach. Or at least, she is for a little while. She gets tangled up in a group of them as she was covering for Noah to reach the outer fence of the parking lot (filled with cars with white crosses on the back windshield). More walkers advance. Noah slips free, and Beth’s saved by the officers, who drag her back into the hospital.
Beth’s taken to Dawn. Dawn continues to preach her gone-from-reality system of roles. It’s to keep everybody safe, she insists, until they’re rescued. There’s no rescue, Beth knows, and tells her such. Dawn snaps, and begins to work Beth’s face with a leather strop.
Dr. Edwards is stitching Beth’s face in his office. She’s split open in a few places, swollen and mottled with bruises. He’s pleased with her progress. They share a quiet moment alone.
But Beth knows the difference between clozapine and clonazepam. She knows that Dr. Edwards told her the wrong drug so Trevitt would die and it would look like an accident. She just wants him to tell her why.
Trevitt was a doctor, Dr. Edwards explains. And, while Edwards might hate his life and everyone in it, he knows that he’s expendable the minute another person who knows how to stitch people up comes rolling around. The lousiest kind of job security, he admits, but he had no choice.
Beth isn’t buying his bullshit, either. This girl has had her family farm overrun, survived on the road, taken care of a baby, eaten squirrel, seen her father decapitated, and survived on the road again. She has no time for Dawn’s delusions of rescue, and she definitely has no time for Dr. Edwards’ sickening justifications. Beth Greene is a girl who shakes things up. This world makes tough bitches out of even the most guileless of us all. She’s marching towards Dr. Edwards with another pair of surgical scissors tucked against her forearm. The officers begin wheeling another person in.
It’s a woman. She seems unconscious, but she’s not bleeding out anywhere. Her face looks peaceful. Familiar.
Officer Dawn Lerner, you’re officially on notice.
The Story continues on Sunday Nights on AMC