[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead. Because AMC didn’t send screeners of the finale, we weren’t able to write the recap ahead of time. Look for it soon.]

Would Rick Grimes and Co. save Beth and Carol? Would anyone die in the process of that rescue attempt? And would the three groups — in downtown Atlanta, at the church, on the highway — be reunited? Those were the big questions heading into tonight’s “Coda” midseason finale of The Walking Dead. And all were answered.

As predicted by yours truly and over 35% of readers, Beth Greene met her end in tonight’s episode, getting (accidentally?) gunned down by Dawn Lerner after Beth stabbed her with a hidden pair of scissors. Formerly more of a background character, Beth (played by Emily Kinney) had two big episodes in season 4 with Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon, and then emerged this season as a strong-willed survivor willing to speak her mind and take action while being held captive at Grady Memorial Hospital. Unfortunately for her, that also signaled that she was probably not long for this world, as showrunner Scott M. Gimple has a habit of beefing up material for characters just before sending them to the afterlife.

I’ve already gone on record as really liking season 5, but it needed a strong eighth episode to keep that momentum going and get people excited for the back half to air in 2015. The show has always delivered on its midseason finales — especially with the Barnageddon massacre (R.I.P. Sophia) of season 2 and last year’s beheading of Hershel — and while this year’s installment may not have equaled either of those examples in terms of pure shock value, it was an emotional and effective hour of television nonetheless.

The episode began in dramatic fashion with Rick chasing down a fleeing Bob in a cop car — ramming into him and breaking his neck when the fellow police officer refused to stop. He later finished the job by gunning him down and THEN telling him to “shut up”…which seemed a bit unnecessary at that point, but whatever.

After that, it was time for the Father Gabriel Incompetence Hour, as the troubled priest led all the zombies from the overrun school right back to his church, with the gang only escaping thanks to some serious slicing and dicing by Michonne. They were later reunited (and it felt so good) with Team Abraham as that group returned from their phony-baloney trip to go save the world in Washington, D.C. With the church now gone and news of Beth’s whereabouts at Grady Memorial, they all decided to take off and join the party in downtown Atlanta.

Speaking of Beth, she was having a hell of a time getting caught in the middle of a nasty fight between Dawn and the newest jerkface of a cop named O’Donnell, who likes to push down old men in his spare time. Beth ended O’Donnell by pushing him down an elevator shaft. Hey, maybe Beth and Dawn will now become BFFs and go skipping off into the sunset together!

But things were in motion on another front as Rick met up with two other Grady cops and proposed his swap of his two hostages for Beth and Carol while snipers took care of any unwelcome rotters attempting to crash the negotiations. The stage was set for the prisoner swap to happen, and it looked to proceed without incident…until Dawn insisted on getting Noah back to replace Beth. Noah agreed, but Beth would not have it, and after giving Noah a hug, stabbed Dawn, leading to her own demise. Sister Maggie arrived with the others and broke down upon seeing Daryl carrying Beth’s lifeless body out of the hospital. (We then got another secret scene at the end of Morgan arriving at the church with a Goo Goo Cluster, indicating he is getting closer to the others and has excellent taste in snack foods.)

Were you satisfied with the midseason finale? Sad to see Beth go? And how has season 5 as a whole measured up for you so far? Be sure to check back soon for Kyle Ryan’s full episode recap (UPDATE: ”Coda” recap is live), as well as our interviews with all the key parties. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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