Walking Dead season 5 opened with blood and guts as we expected in this zombie post-apocalypse horror show. But, we got answers as well to some questions lingering from the cliffhanger end of Season 4.
Did our heroic band of survivors stumble into the clutches of cannibals? Yes they did.
Will they survive — yes they will.
But, unanswered WHERE IS BETH?
To make an educated guess, let’s look at Beth’s storyline, her Character ARC. Where did she start? What’s happed so far? Where is she going?
First let’s consider those authors in the ‘writer’s room’ who put the show together. How do they assemble characters? After that, let’s dig into Beth’s story.
The writers create WARRIOR ARCHETYPES
- Rick the Deputy Sheriff — wears boots, a cowboy looking hat, a gun on his hip and cleans up dens of bad guys — can you say, “Hello Western Warrior Archetype — the COWBOY SHERIFF WARRIOR ARCHETYPE.”
- Michonne — SAMURAI ARCHETYPE.
- Daryl — Hello Robin Hood, the ARCHER ARCHETYPE.
- Andrea — a creative twist on the cliché DUMB BLOND.
- The Governor — a PIRATE with an eye-patch.
- Carol – COMMANDO ARCHETYPE
So, there we are. The writers use archetypes to create Walking Dead characters.
Where does Beth fit?
In the final scenes of Season 4, a flashback shows Carl’s deputy-sheriff hat blowing off his head, Rick picks it up and plunks it on Beth’s head and saying, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
Why is Beth called the new sheriff? Nothing is accidental in TWD script, so what does that bit of action accomplish? Will Beth become another SHERIFF WARRIOR?
Character ARC for Beth
Is Beth’s a COMING OF AGE story?
- 15 when the Apocalypse struck,
- 16 when Rick and company arrived at the farm,
- 17 when creepy former prisoner tried to flirt with her at the prison/fort.
She grew up in a dry household – no alcohol. She is the baby of the family – a pretty, blue-eyed blonde – no doubt a virgin.
Beautiful Maiden Archetype?
Life in the post-apocalypse world is tough on maidens. She learns to shoot, becomes as well-trained in the arsenal of weapons as the others. Beth is a baby-sister, a nurse, a cook and a singer. She raises emotional spirits among the survivors. She stabs zombies on the fence line. So her emotional growth includes the maiden warrior but hints as another female archetype: the warrior mother.
Her clearly hopeful outlook, her willingness to soothe others, her expressed wish to have a baby suggests she might be able to carry the emotional female-center of the group.
By the time the prison is attacked, when she sees her father beheaded by the Governor, she has become strong warrior and grabs an automatic weapon to fight in the doomed effort to beat-back the attackers.
Into the Forrest
She escapes from the prison with Daryl into the woods. Now Beth is alone in the Forest with a strong male warrior. Where have we seen that before — how about fairy tales where the beautiful maiden is banished from the castle to the magical forest? Forest settings in folklore are places where characters undergo tests, gather strength and acquire new survival skills.
Daryl and Beth find an abandoned car where they take refuge in the trunk. Hey, a car! Where many a couple have found more to do than just sleep. And the two of them are snuggling in the trunk — a tight space. Eek! WHAT COULD HAPPEN? Apparently nothing, but in her coming of age story, she is now confronted with the adult reality of her sexuality. What direction will it take?
With Daryl, she suggests drinking Peach Schnapps but he refuses to let her have Peach Schnapps as her first drink. In this exchange, Daryl is more than just her physical protector; he becomes the protector of her transit to adulthood. Peach Schnapps is for babies and she is no longer a child. Daryl protects her Alcohol Virginity.
At a bootlegger’s cabin that Daryl knows about, she has her first drink – moonshine. Daryl is her escort as she transits to adulthood.
What will happen when they drink alcohol together? Once again sexuality questions are raised.
In the cabin, drinking hard liquor, she invites a game of Never Have I Ever — and what might the ‘never’ be? No doubt about it: its sex.
But Daryl is a man’s man. Not a ladies’ man. Maidens are not for him and perhaps to relieve his sexual and emotional tension, he does a very manly thing — he pees on the wall. Let’s face it, when a man pulls it out and pees publicly he is making a statement about his manhood.
NO sex. Just a hot fight followed by intimate, emotional exchanges that reveal character motivations, goals and obstacles from both of them.
Beth’s sympathy allows Daryl’s strong protective nature to be revealed. Daryl is driven by a motivation to protect. When he could not save Hershel from the Governor, his goals were stymied. Now, in company with Beth, Daryl breaks down emotionally.
In Snow White, the evil queen gives the Maiden a poisoned apple. Biting into the apple, the Maiden falls into a suspended sleep [mythological abduction]. She is put in a coffin by the dwarfs and only awakes when the handsome Prince kisses her. Daryl sleeping in the coffin is a role reversal. Continuing the role reversal, Beth hugging Daryl from behind awakens his emotional self.
Embedded in the sequence we find Beth shooting his bow and arrow — clearly her motivation is survival. Is she changing into Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt?
In an attempt to kill a walker with the bow and arrow, Beth turns her ankle. Daryl takes on the role of Mr. Darcy as he carries her piggy back to the house and once in the house carries her across a threshold like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s hero of yesteryear. The sequence with Beth and Daryl throws out a lot of sexual innuendo and we get to know them much better as they struggle and fight. But a herd of zombies breaks up the party.
Daryl is sidelined killing said zombies. The last we see of Beth is her bag on the ground and a car peeling out with a cross painted on it.
Beth has been Abducted
In ancient mythologies, the abducted girl is taken to the underworld — Hades, hell. While she is gone the earth dries up and nothing grows. Daryl’s heart dries up. He is undone by her loss and takes up with the Claimed group, then gets taken in by cannibals. But the first time he sees a car like the one that took her, he is off and chasing it.
But he is also with Carol, are the writers working up to a second triangular affair? Carol, Daryl, Beth?
How Do Maidens and Virginal Princesses End Up?
Virginal Princesses end up married to the Prince — a happily, ever after ending.
Some of them are sacrificed at the volcano to appease the God of Fire — a not so happy ending but one with some prestige.
Or they are sacrificed to the monster in the castle (King Kong? Beauty and the Beast?) to keep him away from the villagers.
Or, is she the new dumb blond? Will she make stupid decisions like Andre did? Both she and Andrea could take care of themselves out among the zombies but that didn’t save Andrea from her own failings and inability to see the dark side.
A TV-teasing-trailer shows Beth rising from a hospital bed and gazing out the window to a rooftop parking lot in a big city. The teaser ends with a female police officer entering the room accompanied by a male doctor. His mouth is red, the officer is wearing red lipstick – hmmm? Are we seeing more sexual innuendo around Beth?
Well, well, well!
A beautiful young woman, stranded high atop a tower and held against her will by a threatening older woman…hmmm? We have seen that in fairy tales of yore — so I’m going with Beautiful Maiden in the Tower Archetype. Except in the updated version of the story the princess gets herself out of the tower.
The next episode where all is revealed is titled, Slabtown.
We see Beth alone, sitting on the edge of an elevator shaft in a TV-teaser clip. Yeah. She will get herself out!
But, does Beth save the prince?
And, does the title of the next episode, Slabtown,
indicate that it is a place of death?
A modern-day Hades?