TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 5, Episode 8: Coda [AMC]


AMC‘s The Walking Dead Coda TV Show Review. The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 8: ‘Coda,’ seemed less like a mid-season finale, and more like the end to the longest transition period, between two complete seasons, that I can recall. Whether the Hospital arc amounts to an epilogue, to last season’s Road to Terminus arc, or a prologue, to whatever season five shapes up to be, can likely be determined by views on Beth (Emily Kinney). The Hospital arc was hers; its outcome, her legacy.

Even as hos’ boss, Dawn (Christine Woods) applied her new-found leverage – i.e. Carol (Melissa McBride) – to getting stronger-than-she-looks Beth under her thumb, the recovery plan, by Beth’s people, had hit a major snag.

Officer Lamson (Maximiliano Hernández) had misread Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) intentions, and made a break from the ‘Gingerbread House.’ Considering that meant battering his way past Sascha (Sonequa Martin-Green), in the process, he had clearly misread the wrong people.

So, do cops not understand what happens to people who defy cops? Maybe Lamson was holding out that Rick was at least decent enough to be sporting about the chase. He did seem to know what was coming, though, but kept running in a straight line; so maybe he was just scared stupid.

Like a lot of past… characters, Rick should be judged by how he handles ‘disappointment.’ I once went so far as to draw comparisons to Gareth. Well maybe having the words “can’t go back, Bob,” come out of Rick’s lips, helped make the comparison a bit more apt, for some; so maybe we now have a Rick with a touch of the Gareth to him. Garrick? Nah. Rick would have to take a bite out of someone, first – oh, wait….

At the opposite end, of the Walker World learning curve, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) had some trouble differentiating between Rick’s group, and the Hunters; so he had set out to the school, to see if the Hunters were as bad as Team Rick had made them out to be. He looked around their camp, while the Walkers inside continued to press on the failing glass pane, just as Gareth had left them. All Gabe focused on were the personal items the Hunters had left. That included a bible, that belonged to Terminus Mary – Gareth’s mom. If that humanized them to any degree, where Gabe was concerned, then noticing some left-over Bob may have left the more defining impression.

A question I’ve long had, about zombie canon (whatever the hell that’s supposed to be), is where do bugs fit in. Zombies are decomposing, right? So why was Bob’s thoroughly cooked leg the only maggot action we’ve seen? Frankly, there should be clouds of flies all over the Z-scape – regardless of whether they’re averse to far gone zombie meat, or not (animals don’t turn – plenty of those remains, plus infrastructure detritus). I guess I’ll chalk it up to logistical difficulty.

One bum leg deserves another. When the levy finally broke, Gabe was too hobbled to get back into the church the way he left. That, or he didn’t want Walkers pouring up the hole, after him – I’m just thinking of reasons why he couldn’t just go up the hole, replace the floor boards, and put something heavy over it. In any case, Gabe was left pretty much in an ironic predicament, pleading to be let into the church-turned-bunker. It was also ironic that the inability of Carl (Chandler Riggs) & Michonne (Danai Gurira) to stop the Walkers from filling the church (after Michonne had to chop her way out, to let Gabe in), led to a divine kill (by Gabe’s machete – without Gabe), and a Wonko the Sane moment, with the trio feeling less safe out in the open, than when they were locked in the church.

Well, nothing says ‘fire brigade rescue moment’ like having the Ford (Michael Cudlitz) expedition show up in an actual fire engine. Michonne took the news, of the great ruse, about as darkly as was to be expected; but redirected nicely, with a Beth update for Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

I understand that Maggie had presumed Beth dead, after the prison scramble, and redirected her grief into finding Glenn (Steven Yeun). I imagine she went through a similar process, after Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) update, at Terminus. Still, her reaction to Michonne’s news would have resonated more, had there been more visible evidence of her actually dwelling on her sister, since last season.

Rick having done away with Lamson left a sizable hole in the trade-off plan; but Daryl remained committed to the diplomatic solution. Despite what seemed like disappointment (making me wonder if thoughts of sabotage went into Lamson’s execution), Rick opened the floor to the remaining two captives. Their willingness to work around the Lamson problem – Officer Shepherd (Teri Wyble), in particular – had more to do with Dawn, than their immediate predicament.

Dawn’s power didn’t come from bribery & turning a blind eye – that only maintained the system she has presided over. Her power came from being the lead mutineer. I imagine that once things went Z, the top cop defaulted to top Warlord; that power passing to whomever had the cajones to take him out. That was Dawn. Her problem automatically became keeping her new subordinates from moving on her; so placating the stronger officers, thus marginalizing the nobler elements, all the while fostering an environment of coercion & manipulation (that kept her hands clean, while incriminating her subjects, further), became the order of the day.

This was Beth’s understanding.

Rick’s parlay, with two more Officers, went cordially enough. I imagine there were quite a few viewers, eager for some tribe-on-tribe action, sinking with disappointment over the follow through, on a diplomatic solution. Well, ‘Coda’ was a character build episode. More importantly, it was the culmination of a Beth character build; and given Beth’s limited action hero faculties, the episode appropriately drew on strength of will, and the kind of tension a clash of the strong willed generates. It just so happens that it’s the kind of tension that made Rick’s remark, about his people being “close,” kind of hilarious (to me, anyway).

Despite having helped serve Rick’s punchline, Sascha was still wrestling with coping, over Bob, while Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) was still working his way through to her. Call it an all-cards-on-the-table approach, but Ty thought it useful to share his own shame, over the whole Hunter mess. So much for Ty keeping Martin a secret. Hopefully, the revelation amounts to something, down the road; otherwise, I’m still not entirely sure why Ty felt compelled to make that detail part of his moment with Sascha.

At the hospital, Dawn confronted Beth over what she might have considered to be some unfair, residual resentment, on Beth’s part. Dawn made a case for the greater good – which now included covering for Beth – but Beth didn’t seem particularly interested in being a protected ward, at the other residents’ expense. The debate, while not particularly heated, did leave them wide open to an unfortunate intrusion, however.

Maybe women talk through their issues too much, under certain circumstances. Their fragile peace being compromised, by Officer O’Donnell (Ricky Wayne), was an unforced error, to be sure; but women do seem to know how to chew gum & walk, at the same time, when the fur starts flying. As evidenced by O’Donnell’s moment of rudeness, however, guys who get gabby, mid-action, get the shaft.

The mutual threat, that O’Donnell represented, certainly made for a bonding moment; but there was still an impasse. Dawn was still too much of a cold & manipulative cynic, for Beth, and Beth was still too naive for Dawn. Each sold the other short, on account of this. An understanding was reached; but it left Beth preparing for a bad turn, while Dawn expected Beth to roll over, for the greater good, when the time came.

So, Rick followed through on the diplomatic solution, Dawn reciprocated, and a long overdue reunion was in store. That, and a certain type of person is born every minute. I find it a little odd that so many people actually didn’t see this outcome coming.

First, there was the compressing of the rogue’s redemption formula. Two conventions The Walking Dead has excelled in: the righteous kill, and the tragic kill. Gareth was a righteous kill, while Lizzie was a tragic one. Given enough time, for something that looks like redemption, the show occasionally tries for both (Merle & Governor “Brian”). When Dawn allowed Beth to save Carol, I had hoped it was some convoluted trap, since the alternative seemed… well, tragic. Call me a cynic, but I know when this show’s buttering me up for a flash fire; and a moment between Dawn & Beth – with only so many episodes to work with – could only mean one outcome, or the other, but not both.

Figuring out which, was then a matter of figuring out the kind of impact the showrunners wanted to have. Daryl had gone dove, Rick went along with him, and Carol had been sidelined; so the Hospital arc boiled down to how Beth & Dawn resolved their impasse, but in a way that pushed all the right viewer buttons.

Second was the replacement roster angle. It seems to me that whenever a new character is introduced, there is always the question of which cast member can be replaced by the newbie. I had pegged Ty as the new T-Dog; Beth as the new Sophia; Hershel as the new Dale; Bob as the new Hershel; and the appearance of Gabe put a bad spin to Bob’s last spotlight. Then came Noah (Tyler James Williams), and suddenly, his initial escape didn’t seem like a big enough moment, for Beth.

Dawn’s last moment power play left Beth with the realization that things would not change, at the hospital, unless she made one that counted. Her measure turned out to lack the punch she had intended; Dawn’s response was tragically – and fatally – reflexive.

I suppose so was Daryl’s.

Rick deserved some credit for not securing the situation, at the remaining officers’ expense; as did Shepherd, for sticking to her commitment, and ensuring that a female voice would represent the change Beth had hoped for.

The good thing about reading the writing on the wall: I get to focus on the execution. The climactic moment to the Hospital arc had it all. Satisfaction, shock value, and that icy-hot moment – where you have to put all other reactions on hold, because things could actually get worse – followed by a measure of relief & release. An interesting mix, of triumph & tragedy, that’s actually kind of rare for the show. Not a bad legacy, heading into season 5.2 , for one so maligned, as useless.

If anything, the one foreseeable drawback, coming out of ‘Coda,’ will be one more mourning process. Would it be terribly terrible of me, to hope that Sascha takes up Ty’s role, as consoler, so there won’t be two mourners moping abouts? Residual fall-out, from the D.C. dupe, will be bad enough.

Still, maybe Ty can have Father Gabe carry some of his moral load – get back to hammering Walkers (he was good – I miss it). Maybe the mutually mellowing effect, that “Caryl” seems to have made for itself, can slow down Rick’s de-evolution (so I can savor it more – Mu-hahaha). Mostly, I’m hoping that Gabe learned his lesson, and will be less of a liability (pious pacifism likely keeping him a drag, nonetheless), going into season five, proper.

I’m going to sign off on ‘Coda’ as being the culmination of a bridge arc – both an epilogue & a prologue. By wrapping up the remaining loose ends, from the Road to Terminus arc, Beth’s bottle run finally cleared the way for season five to actually begin, and the sky is the limit. Just the way I like it.

As for the great sub-plot to season five, so far: Morgan (Lennie James) may have been left behind, but at least he was left knowing whose trail he’d been on, since Terminus; so maybe not so far behind, before long. The question is: if he sticks around, who does he replace…?

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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