The midseason finale is here and it’s no coincidence Wal-Mart raised the price of Kleenex by 500%. Grab your hanky and your disbelief and settle in, the #1 show on television is off and running… literally. As always the following episode recap may contain spoilers and bad taste, reader discretion is advised.

We open with the second greatest slow speed chase in history. Officer Lamson is still running after the crap he pulled last episode but Rick is right on his tail, in a cop car. He’s telling Lamson to stop, repeatedly. Now Rick’s a busy man and ain’t got time for that so he speeds up and hits Lamson with the car; breaking his back and his spirit. Rick gets out, some pleas are made, and Rick moves things along with a bullet to the head. Roll those creepy credits.

We start with Father Gabriel still on his nature walk where he finds his way to the school. You know, Cannibal High from a few episodes back. He takes in the sights, including Bob’s now maggoty leg. Well, there a bunch of Walkers trapped inside and the allure of the good preacher is too much and they burst through the glass. It’s time to hobble along back to the church.

In a nice twist of fate Father Gabriel finds himself locked out of the boarded up church and, much like his parishioners before him, he is frantically begging to be let in. Lucky for him neither Carl nor Michonne are the soulless bastard he is and bust through the door to let him in. They manage to get Gabriel inside and, after a slight moment of redemption on Gabriel’s part, end up trapping the Walkers inside the church. For people who were dying to get in a year or so ago they don’t seem too eager to stay and are slowly breaking down the door to get out.

After the break we see Sasha, still having a tough time after being played by Bob Two, staring vacantly while Rick talks to the two remaining prisoners. Officer Shepherd is talking out her ass about how the plan can still go forward and they’ll gladly say that Lamson got killed by the Rotters. It’s a believable story after all.

We cut to the hospital where Dawn is exercising on a stationary bike while she and Beth chat about the past, present, and future. They talk of Hanson, mentors, and losing the way. Beth’s not buying what dawn’s selling.

Back at the church Father Gabriel is lamenting about how he just had to go to the school, had to see it for himself, had to know. At this point the Walkers are about to break through the door when Abraham and Company show up, conveniently blocking the door with the fire engine. It’s a pleasant reunion despite the news that Eugene lied about a cure. Beth is alive and Maggie couldn’t be happier. She has some hope again. Time to go meet up with the rest of the crew and save her sister.

After a commercial for ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ – almost forgot how good the rebooted franchise was, we come upon a little showdown by the elevator. Beth and Dawn are talking about the unnatural death of Gorman when resident ass-hat Officer O’Connell overhears the whole thing. Apparently it’s time to make a change. Dawn disagrees and pulls a gun. A fight ensues that ends when Beth pushes O’Connell down the open elevator shaft. A little later we see Beth on the floor of Carol’s room. Carol is looking better. Dawn walks in and she and Beth have some words about the nature of survival and the art of using people to get what you want. Beth let’s her know she is going to get out, just like Noah did. Beth simply assures her he’ll be back, they always come back. Carol stirs in the background.

Back up on the roof across the way Tyreese is trying to talk some sense into Sasha but she won’t hear it. He talks about their childhood and of letting Martin go. It all falls on deaf ears. But it doesn’t matter; it’s time to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ Rick meets up with a squad car and two more Grady cops. He wants a prisoner exchange. A little sniper play and a downed Walker later and they know he’s serious. They’re off to meet the Wizard.

The exchange is about to go down. Beth grabs a pair of scissors and conceals them up her cast before joining the rest. She wheels a conscious Carol down the hall, flanked by Dawn and Grady’s finest. Carol is turned over, an easy exchange. Then Beth trades places with Shepherd. There is a collective sigh of relief, a moment of ease, and then Dawn opens her mouth. She wants Noah back or the deal is off. Hell no says Rick but Noah is willing to go, to get the deal done and Beth home. Beth runs over and hugs Noah. This is not OK. Dawn, basking in self-righteousness tells Noah that she knew he’d be back. This infuriates Beth and she gets this look in her eye and you know, at that instant, her story is about to come to a tragic, if not inevitable conclusion. Beth has had enough of Dawn. Her one great victory, that of helping Noah escape, is being ripped from her. She won’t allow it. She takes those scissors and plunges them into Dawn’s chest with every ounce of contempt she can muster.

Beth has grown a great deal since her suicide attempt back at the farm. She has learned to value herself and she has learned how to survive in a world gone mad; where affectations like sweetness and kindness are overlooked for more practical traits like scheming and ruthlessness. This season, in the hospital especially, Beth learned self-reliance and the need to do whatever it takes to survive. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson to be taken away from the season so far. Whether it is lying about curing the apocalypse or eliminating a rival doctor to ensure you remain indispensable to the group, people will do whatever it takes to survive. There is no more innocence left in the world, no more shining beacons of hope. There just is. Just survival.

Beth overreached and she paid the ultimate price. Dawn’s gun went off and in a flash Beth’s light was extinguished. Daryl put a quick end to Dawn right before breaking down in a flush of emotion. When he cried, we all cried. And when he carried out Beth’s lifeless body and we saw Maggie’s world, like her legs, crumple beneath her we cried some more.

Sure, the show continued on after that. In fact there was another stinger featuring Morgan. He’s still following the group. We see him at the school and the church. He even finds the map and laughs when he realizes Rick Grimes is still alive. There is story to be had. Friendships and alliances to be rekindled or forged anew.

But that can wait. This episode, this story, this season was about Beth. Yes, life will go on as life does, but we will all be lesser for her absence in it.