- "They risked their lives, every time they go out there. Has to be worth it, has to matter. He lost sight of that, so he lost them. Beth, in this job you don't need their love. But you have to have their respect. Otherwise, the day's gonna come when you need backup and you don't have it. And what comes next? Everybody goes down."
- —Dawn to Beth Greene about why she killed her captain, Hanson[src]
Dawn Lerner is an antagonist and a survivor of the outbreak in AMC's The Walking Dead. Acting as the leader of a group of police officers residing at Grady Memorial Hospital, she attempts to maintain peace in the brutalized and corrupt system she runs, often leading to compromises and further trouble among the officers and the people she forcibly keeps inside the place. She serves as one of the two primary antagonists of the first half of Season 5 (along with Gareth).
Dawn is described as "A formidable woman. She is stern, focused and intensely pragmatic, but has a tendency to crack under pressure and lash out violently. Though she presents a stoic facade, she has a softer side that she feels the need to suppress in order to be an effective leader. She is charismatic with a vibrant energy…"
As season 5 progressed, we began to see that her real facade was her softer side. As seen on many occasions, she would use this facade to use people to make them believe that she actually cared for them to make them feel that they owed her something. Such as with Beth Greene, Dawn protected her, but not for Beth's personal welfare but for her own sake so she could have Beth on her side in case any incidences occurred. For example, when there was the brawl between Dawn and one of her officers, Beth saved Dawn by pushing the other officer down the elevator shaft.
As for her charisma and vibrant energy it consisted of violence and a deeply overbearing nature. Examples of this were when a valuable patient was being lost, she smacked Beth in the face to gain some measure of control, and perhaps the most obvious evidence was when she threatened action unless Rick Grimes's group handed Noah over. Dawn did this knowing that Noah would give himself up thus giving her power and control over the situation.
She is later seen whisking in Gavin Trevitt, who fell from a second floor window. After she learns that Trevitt is a doctor, she urges their current physician, Dr. Steven Edwards, to save his life, despite his protests. When Dr. Steven tries to explain to Dawn that the man can't be saved, Dawn slaps Beth to motivate him, re-opening her sutured cheek.
She later forces Beth to help Dr. Steven amputate Joan's arm after she was bitten trying to escape. Joan tries to resist, but Dawn refuses to let her die and cuts her arm off.
Dawn brings Beth some food and Beth tells her she's not staying any longer than they make her. Dawn tries to sell her on staying at the hospital. She thinks that the world will return to normal and it's important to keep safety and order. "Try to look at the good we're doing," she tells Beth. Beth eats the food but doesn't seem to change her decision to leave.
When Gavin dies, Dawn demands to know what happened, Noah takes the blame, saying he accidentally unplugged the ventilator. Dawn tells an officer to take Noah to her office. When Beth tries to explain what happened to Dr. Edwards, he says, "You gave him Clonazepam (a different drug, a sedative), right?" Beth is confused and hears Noah being beaten in the other room.
Later, Dawn comes to Beth's room. She knows that Noah didn't unplug the ventilator. She says she had to beat Noah. She proceeds to tell Beth that she isn't the greater good and hence isn't keeping her worth. "The wards keep my officers happy. The happier my officers are the harder they work to keep us going." She is later seen patrolling the hospital and Beth tells her that Gorman and Joan are looking for her in her office. When she arrives, she is attacked by a zombified Joan and the officer with her is killed before she can kill Joan. She later puts both officers down before they can turn and meets with Beth after she is recaptured.
Dawn calls Beth out for having Gorman killed but is shocked when Beth retaliates with the fact that Gorman tried to rape her and Dawn let it happen. She tries to justify her actions and tells Beth that she believes government forces will eventually rescue everyone, but Beth is not very convinced by this. Dawn looks at the floor and sees a shattered picture of her and Hanson before lashing out at Beth again.
At the hospital, Dawn is dealing with her officer’s inability to find Noah while Beth mops the floor and listens. When the conversation turns to Carol Peletier, who was injured and brought in the day before, and the officer wants to let Carol die, Beth interrupts on Carol’s behalf. Her outburst prompts Dawn to back the officer against Beth by telling the officer to pull the plug on Carol. When the officer leaves, Dawn explains this, and that she can't help Carol. She gives Beth a key to the drug locker and tells her to save Carol.
Dawn is shown exercising in the beginning while talking to Beth. Later on, after a confrontation with O'Donnell, it ends with Beth killing him. After the exchange between Rick Grimes's group and the people of Grady Memorial Hospital, Dawn demands for Noah. After a quick confrontation with Beth, where Beth stabs her with a pair of scissors, Dawn reflexively shoots Beth, and is immediately shot in the head by Daryl, despite attempting to explain the shot was an accident.
- Beth Greene (Caused)
- Herself (Indirectly Caused)
Shortly after the trade between Rick's group and the Grady Memorial survivors, Dawn demands Noah to be returned to her. After Noah agrees to return, Beth runs up to him and hugs him, before turning to Dawn.
Beth tells Dawn that she "gets it now", as she slips the scissors out from beneath her cast and stabs her vest in a futile attempt to prove her point. Dawn reflexively pulls out her gun and shoots Beth in the head, instantly killing her.
Dawn, horrified by what she has done, begs for Rick's group to wait before doing anything, but Daryl tearfully approaches and shoots her in the head.
This list shows the victims Dawn has killed:
- Gavin Trevitt (Before Reanimation)
- Joan (Zombified)
- Gorman (Zombified)
- Jeffries (Before Reanimation)
- O'Donnell (Caused)
- Beth Greene (Accidental)
- Herself (Indirectly Caused)
- Possibly Noah's father (Caused or indirectly caused or direct)
- Numerous counts of Grady Memorial Hospital patients (Alive,Caused, Before Reanimation, or Zombified)
- Numerous counts of zombies and unnamed people.
- "No, I didn't mean to-!"
- —Dawn to Rick and the rest of the group after she accidentally shoots Beth in the head[src]
Dawn and Beth are shown to have a strained relationship, the two of them not trusting each other. Dawn tells Beth she "owes them" because they saved her, though this seems to be something that all new arrivals are told. When Steven Edwards tells Dawn that Gavin Trevitt cannot be saved, Dawn angrily responds by slapping Beth on the cheek, causing her suture to reopen. After Trevitt died due to Beth accidentally administering the wrong drug, Noah takes the blame but Dawn knew Beth was the cause. She tells Beth that she is doing everything for the greater good and Beth isn't the greater good. After Beth is subdued by an officer when attempting to escape the hospital with Noah, she is brought to Dawn's office. Beth tells her nobody will come to save them, so everything Dawn is doing is useless. Dawn looks at a picture of her and Hanson, who she "dealt with" for the greater good before knocking Beth unconscious, straining their relationship further. By the time we get to "Crossed" her relationship with Beth, despite an escape attempt by Beth, appears to have improved to the point where she can talk to Beth without hitting her. She appears to help Carol by giving Beth the key to the drugs cabinet and telling her to go and treat her. It's unclear as to what her intentions are at this point.
In "Coda" their relationship seems to be more stable. Dawn tells Beth that she knows what actually happened to Jeffries, and how her colleagues will react once they found out what she did to Gorman if she had not covered it up just to protect her from the harm that the others could do to her. Beth seems to be indifferent towards the fact that Dawn has been protecting her this whole time in the place. When Dawn got into a fight with O'Donnell, Dawn seems to care enough to keep her safe, telling her to stay out of the way. The girls assist each other in the fight, which eventually killed O'Donnell by getting pushed down the elevator shaft.
However, it was revealed that Dawn's reason for keeping Beth safe was to eliminate her colleagues that she does not trust, letting Beth do the dirty work. Beth's distrust towards Dawn increases after the revelation.
When Rick, Daryl, and the rest of the group arrive at the hospital to pick Beth and Carol up from the hospital, Beth is irritated with Dawn for not letting Noah go with her and her group. When Noah agrees to stay, to avoid conflict between the groups. Beth hugs him and glances hatefully towards Dawn when she murmurs that she knew that Noah would come back to the hospital. The two look at each other intensely, before Beth tells her she gets it now and stabs her in the shoulder, causing Dawn to instinctively pull out her gun and pull the trigger, shooting Beth in the head. In the midst of the shock, Dawn tries to convince Daryl, who is seen walking towards her angrily with a gun ready to fire, that it was all just an accident, that she did not mean to kill Beth, implying that, despite their relationship, she did not wish to do any harm towards Beth.
- "Only on her bad days...it's unfortunate for us that that's the only kind she has."
- —Steven Edwards on the subject of Dawn's violent outburst
Dawn and Dr. Edwards seem to have a good working relationship, however they often disagree on things and he seems quite wary of her. Dawn's persistence and ways of running the community seem to annoy Edwards.
Hanson was her superior officer who was in charge of the hospital first. When Hanson began to become reckless and make bad choice she took it upon herself to have him "dealt with" and take over. She seemed to care about him as she kept a photo of him presenting an award to her in her office.
Dawn and O'Donnell seemed to have a close relationship before the apocalypse started. He stated that they were rookies together and that they had shared a cigar when his wife gave birth to their daughter. Their relationship appeared to have deteriorated over time, with O'Donnell becoming violent and laughing at the female wards being raped. It worsened to the point where they were willing to kill each other, to which Dawn and Beth did kill him fearing for their lives.
- "And maybe somebody in charge who ain't her."
- —Gorman to Dr. Edwards about Dawn[src]
Dawn is his superior officer, who allows him and other officers to take advantage of the women at the hospital. He resents her, and implies that sooner or later she won't be the one in charge and he will be able to do what he wants.
- "Noah's smart, probably my best worker. That story he told about the ventilator, boy's not much of a liar."
- —Dawn to Beth[src]
Dawn and Noah are shown to have a stable relationship, with Dawn saying that Noah is one of her best workers in the hospital. Dawn, upon finding Noah in the outbreak, left his father injured, but saved Noah, taking him back to the hospital. It is shown that Dawn feels guilty for punishing Noah after he takes the blame for accidentally killing Gavin Trevitt, knowing that he lied to protect Beth. Any guilt she felt did not stop her from punishing him, though. How she reacts to Noah escaping the hospital is currently unknown.
- "We're not going to let you die; we are not going to let you turn."
- —Dawn to Joan[src]
It is shown that Dawn cares about Joan's well-being, as after she escapes the hospital and is bitten, Dawn brings her back in to amputate her arm. When she resists, Dawn tells her that she's not going to let her turn and die. In "Coda", Dawn reprimands O'Donnell for "laughing with his buddies while that poor girl [Joan] got raped," implying that she had more sympathy for Joan and cared more for her than she initially let on (even if Joan did not return these feelings).
- Dawn is the first primary antagonist presented on the show to be female.
- Christine Woods does not view her as such, however, but more so as "someone who is trying to keep it together and be a hero."
- This character was first introduced in the Comic Con 2014 trailer for Season 5, where Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd confirmed the actress as Christine Woods.
- The casting call for this character used the name Vivian Bishop.
- It was confirmed on Talking Dead's "Inside the Dead" segment that she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
- Presumably as a result of this, Dawn and the other officers in her group wear spotless police uniforms, which is supported based off of her conversation with Noah regarding her laundry.