THE WALKING DEAD Season 5, Episode 8 'Coda'

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In Coda, our fragmented and separated group of survivors are all brought back together. To get to that point, though, things are not plain sailing for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the slew of familiar walker-smashing faces that we've grown accustomed to by this stage. The episode is Season 5’s mid-season finale and, to be perfectly honest, it’s very much a mixed bag.

After Officer Bob (Maximiliano Hernandez – better known as the MCU’s Agent Sitwell) managed to play Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) at the end of last week’s episode, this week sees former lawman Rick behind the wheel of a cop car and on Bob’s tail. It was certainly a nice, if not brief, moment to see Rick once more playing a cop, although his brutal actions were anything but nice. Seemingly braking Bob’s back after mowing him down, the grizzled Grimes put a bullet through his pleading prey. As touched upon in previous reviews during this season, the question that remains really does seem to be that of just how far gone Rick is at this point. He’s got to a stage where his trust is minimal, his thought-process is direct and near-enough one-dimensional, and anything that slightly resembles gloves have been well and truly thrown off.

Whilst Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), Sasha and Noah (Tyler James Williams) plan their attack on Grady Hospital in order to rescue both Carol (Melissa McBride) and Beth (Emily Kinney), the action back at Father Gabriel’s (Seth Gillian) church sees the man of God digging himself into quite the hole. After getting confirmation that the other Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) was indeed chowed down on by cannibals, Gabriel heads back to his once-safe holy house. Thing is, he’s now left stranded outside, with walkers waiting to chew on his behind, in a twist of fate that echoes what he has done previously to others. Luckily for him, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are a lot more charitable than he once was. Luckily for us viewers, we get to see the criminally-underused Michonne do what she does best: slicing ‘n’ dicing through the undead. Seriously, it was great to see Michonne back to being a badass, particularly when decapitating multiple walkers with an effortless swing of her katana. A series favourite, she seems to have been left firmly in the background for the majority of Season 5.

Bringing the final piece of our splintered jigsaw together, Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohen), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and the still out-for-the-count Eugene (Josh McDermitt) arrive at the church before setting off to join Rick and his crew at Grady. And over at Grady, pre-Rick’s entrance to the facility, we get to see some further developing of the relationship between Beth and the very grey character of Dawn (Christine Woods). After being somewhat of a hard-assed dick upon her introduction in this season, the last two episodes have seen the ice thaw around Dawn’s persona. Thing is, whether the show means to or not, Dawn comes across as a character that they are just really not sure what to do with. Or should we say they “were” just really not sure what to do with. Just when the character is growing on us, just when she seemingly has some redeeming qualities or some interesting facets, there she goes: added to The Walking Dead’s ever-expanding list of sadly deceased. And not just she, for the big shock of the season (beating out Bob witnessing his own leg being munched on, and Eugene’s Washington story being revealed to be bollocks) comes when Dawn takes Beth down with her.

With a peaceful and simple swap deal involving two of Grady’s for two of Rick’s, the plan goes array when Dawn demands Noah return to the facility as well. As Dawn and Rick proceed to have a dick-measuring contest, Beth eventually takes things into her own hands, playing on the earlier element of mentors having to fall, and stabs Dawn. A shot rattles through the skull of the youngest Greene girl as the mid-season finale provides audiences with the shocker that they had been waiting for.

Whilst it had been teased as being Carol (come on now, really was that ever going to happen?), we all thought that somebody was going to die during Coda. Sadly it was Beth. It was a strange decision and a strange moment. Sure, it was all kinds of heartbreaking, it just felt a little off for a couple of reasons. As it caused Daryl to cry, we can admit that there was suddenly a fair amount of dust in the air at STARBURST HQ – hell, we were also chopping onions, plus it was raining on our faces – the demise of Beth felt a little forced. This is a character who, up until the latter parts of Season 4, had nearly no characterisation. When Beth was left stranded with Daryl in the last season, that was when she finally got to get some meats onto her bones. But one of the things that left the emotional repercussions of Beth’s death hard to swallow is that sister Maggie had barely said a passing word about his missing kin since Season 5 began. We understand that this is a different world, a world where loved ones are seemingly lost on a daily basis, but surely she could not be that okay with her baby sister being missing that she was instead willing to go on a jaunt to Washington D.C. rather than do whatever she could to find her sibling, even if it meant finding her dead. As soon as Maggie seemingly remembered that her sister is missing, you instantly got the feeling that one of the Greenes isn't going to make it to Coda's closing credits. So whilst the image of Maggie seeing Daryl carrying the corpse of her Beth out of Grady Hospital is a striking, tragic moment in the show, right up there with the deaths of Sofia, Lori and Hershel, it feels as if The Walking Dead has missed a few beats since the sisters last saw each other. Additionally, it leaves viewers with the sense that you have seen this character grow since her Season 2 debut, for her to go missing, for you to build some interest and attachment in the character, for part of the group to go on a frantic mission to bring her back “home”… to just then receive the kick in the nuts of her winding up shot through the head. It just seems to have made certain elements of Season 5, as in the whole Operation Rescue Beth, seem almost not needed; that the show could have dispatched of Beth a whole lot earlier if that was to be the endgame. But then maybe that is the angle that the show was going for, that maybe you’re supposed to feel a little numb and a little beaten down by investing time in certain arcs, much like the characters themselves feel. And then there’s Carol, who seemed to be completely glossed over in this episode bar reaching out to restrain Daryl near the climactic moments of Coda. This is a character who was on death’s door, who it was touch-and-go as to whether she would live, but then we got a brief on-screen stir before the rest of her revival was done off-camera.

Coda was a decent episode of the show, even a decent mid-season finale, it just felt that the death of Beth was almost done just because it had to be done; that someone had to kick the bucket. Added to that, the pacing of the episode was a little erratic, and the decision to leave the Grady survivors behind seemed a strange one given how only earlier in this very episode it was mentioned about how some of them were rapists and wrong 'uns. Yeah, nice. Then again, that was between Beth and Dawn, so Rick et al wouldn’t be aware of that particular point. And that may also be something that rears its head further down the line.

Moving forward, it looks as if we will hopefully get some more of Michonne doing what Michonne should be doing – cracking skulls and stamping her authority onmatters – whist the strange matter of Morgan (Lennie James) is one that’s looking to raise its head once more. A solid episode to lead into the mid-season break, but certainly one that could’ve been slightly better handled and a little better executed in its storytelling.
 

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