Teaching the Dead: Breaking Down Dawn

I’ve spent the last few days since the MSF (Coda) trying to break down the episode. I’m having some issues with it. On many levels, it was a fabulous midseason finale, full of parallels to other episodes (“There’s no going back Bob”) and ironies (Gabriel locked out of his church) to role reversals (Rick shooting Bob2 without mercy). Even the stand off and prisoner trade brought back frightening similarities to the stand off in last year’s MSF, Too Far Gone. Two prisoners held captive for something in return. In both standoffs, a Greene family member died. Rick answered his own question to the Governor, “We can’t be too far gone that we can’t come back from this” when he shot Bob2, replying, “There’s no going back.”

However, a few things are sticking in my claw and I am trying to get a sense from others if they feel the same way. I can’t figure out Dawn. This is important in my mind because Beth essentially went on a suicide mission to bring Dawn down (whether she realized that would be the result or not, which is also unclear to me what Beth’s mindset was). The relationship between the antagonist (Dawn) and protagonist (Beth) is critical to understanding the resolution of the arc. If the relationship is unclear, then the resolution seems unsatisfying. I am trying to figure out how much of a “bad guy” Dawn is. On one hand, she is allowing rapes to occur and is enslaving people. On the other hand, she “protects” Beth and claims she has to put up with some of the unseedy parts of their survival system in order to maintain power and control. She has killed people, people she claims were “soft” and losing their way. Her own people are unclear about her – claiming to Rick that she’s just trying to keep it all together one minute, yet happy that she’s dead and calling her “the problem” at the end. Unfortunately, I never got a clear sense if Dawn was just a “Martinez” trying to hold a system together, a “Rick” who is confused about where the humanity line lies, a manipulating “Governor,” or a “Gareth” or “Joe” whom the apocalypse has warped. This distinction could answer the question if Beth’s “sacrifice” was truly worth it, or was a fatal burst of anger from an enslaved and manipulated girl.

Dawn’s “protection” of Beth puzzles me, and why she would open up to her so much during the episode. Could it be reverse Stolkhom Syndrome, where the captor is connecting with the captee? And why is Beth so angry with her at the end if she was just a person “trying to hold it together?”

One of my students believes she knows what Beth meant when she shouted, “I get it now.” Dawn, the student theorizes, kept Beth in her confidence and kept her safe because she knew she would need Beth eventually. She recognized Noah would come back, and she commented that she knew Beth and Carol were part of the same crew and that “you both showed up here. I don’t know if that’s important.” In other words, she knew that Beth and Carol’s group were close by, and probably surmised Noah would find that group and that the group would want them back. So, she used Beth – kept her safe, confided in her, knowing that Beth might be a useful chip if Beth’s group came looking for her and, more importantly, if Noah was with that group. Beth recognizes at the end that Dawn was just manipulating her to use her as a bargaining chip. The theory makes sense, but I wish it were more clear if that was the case.

The rest of the hospital group are stuck somewhere between Stolkhom Syndrome and just plain fear of the outside world. But we still don’t know, for sure, if the real threat was killed. Are any of those other cops part of the problem in that hospital? And if the prisoners are now staying willingly, is there really a problem there? Is it any of our group’s business? Does it even matter?

And so I pose the questions to you……What was up with Dawn? Was she sincerely connecting with Beth? Or manipulating the situation? Is she a villain? Or someone losing control of the system in place? What was Beth’s realization at the end? And why does she stab Dawn with that tiny pair of scissors (in the shoulder, no less. Not even the throat?)?

Or is my student right?

Help me out here…..


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