And so it was, “Coda” brings the first half of Season Five of The Walking Dead to a close. While this episode wasn’t as strong as it could have been and the writing could have been much better, “Coda” had a good amount of tension toward the latter half as the series bid farewell to another character. The question remains, though…did it have to go down like that? Let’s find out.
The episode begins with Bob making his escape. He tries to break through his restraints, but to no avail. Walkers approach the police cruiser. Rick returns to the cruiser and drives off while Bob continues to run, still cuffed. As fast as he runs, Rick catches up to him in no time at all. He calls out on the radio for Bob to stop. Bob doesn’t, so Rick hits the gas and slams right into Bob, throwing him to the ground.
With Bob on the ground, Rick tells him that this could have ended peacefully if he just stopped. Bob asks to be taken back to the hospital, but no, he can’t go back after this. Bob hoped to smooth things out. With his dying breath, Bob declares that everyone in Rick’s group will die. Rick pulls out his gun and fires.
Gabriel is still on his own and comes upon the same school where The Hunters feasted on Bob’s leg. Walkers still remain locked behind the school door. Gabriel picks up a backpack and finds inside…a copy of the Bible. Really? What are the odds of that? Oh, and only then does he spot Bob’s decaying leg, complete with maggots and everything. He throws it aside in disgust just as the walkers break free from the school. Gabriel limps away as best as he can, but does the classic TV move of falling at least once. It wouldn’t be television if he didn’t trip one time. Luckily, he makes it back to the church, but he’s unable to find the entrance to the crawl space quick enough before he’s surrounded by walkers.
He moves around the barrier and begs for Carl and Michonne to let him in. Carl rushes to the door, though he’s unable to remove the wood. Michonne begins hacking away at it with an axe and Gabriel enters. Unfortunately, so do all of the walkers. Michonne cuts down as many as she can- with Judith strapped to her back, which is impressive- but there are just too many for them to kill. They enter Gabriel’s quarters and block the door. Gabriel motions for Carl, Michonne and Judith to enter the crawl space underneath the floor. The three escape first while Gabriel eventually catches up.
Now outside, they cut down what walkers they can before sealing the church shut. Well, at least Gabriel found a good use of the machete.
Back downtown, things have changed due to Bob’s actions. It may be time to rethink things due to what he did, though not just yet. Shepherd says that the story should be that Bob had been attacked by walkers. She claims to know the good cops from the bad and wants to help. Rick asks Licari how much he wants to live. His response is that Dawn won’t want to look weak. That and she may think the trade is a rip off since Bob is dead, so in his mind, it’s a good thing that Bob got attacked by walkers. Well, looks like that’s the official version so far.
At Grady, Dawn tries calling the officers, but gets no response. Good thing she can do this while working out. It’s important to multitask and look fit at the same time during the zombie apocalypse. But we learn that the officers sometimes don’t radio back. She tells Beth to put the photo next to the badges, not on her desk. The man in the photo is Captain Hansen, Dawn’s friend and mentor who she misses. People risk their lives by going out every day and that matters. Captain Hansen lost sight of that, apparently. In this world, Dawn says, you don’t need to have people like you, but they must respect you. Otherwise, one day you’ll call for backup and won’t get it. And when that happens, everyone goes down. Hansen lost sight of that. That’s what happened.
Michonne asks Gabriel were he went and he tells them that he needed to see and know what happened at the church. The church door begins to creak under pressure as the walkers are on the verge of escaping.
Luckily, Abraham and pals arrive in the fire engine. The groups reunite, with Glenn telling them that Eugene lied and Michonne informing Maggie that Beth is alive and the others are currently working to rescue her. Time to join them. That’s right, Maggie, you do still have a sister.
Beth watches as Officer O’Donnell knocks Percy around. He calls for Beth, but Dawn has use of her.
Beth tries to get some alone time at the elevator shaft, but Dawn just won’t allow that. Dawn tells Beth not to worry about Percy. He’ll be okay. Nothing is okay anymore, Beth says. All she wanted was some alone time, but neither she nor Dawn are going anywhere. Beth isn’t buying any of what Dawn is selling. Dawn keeps talking about doing what she has to do, but the world they live in is their reality until they die. Dawn counters by reminding Beth that the hospital saved her life twice. I’d argue it saved her more times, given the amount of times Dawn used Beth’s head as a target. Dawn continues. She saw the smashed jar in her office, but fixed it before anyone else saw it. She’s convinced that Beth is nothing but a cop killer. Things just happen a certain way.
The two realize they are not alone. O’Donnell is at the door and has heard the entire exchange. He’s ready to tell the other officers since they have a right to know who they really work for. Dawn doesn’t take kindly to this threat and draws her gun, but the others already think that she’s cracking under pressure. But Dawn is convinced that she’s fine. She’s also nothing like Hansen, even though she’s the one that killed him when no one else could or would go through it
Dawn doesn’t lower her weapon. All she’ll have to say is that O’Donnell came at her and had no other choice. O’Donnell speaks of their past: they were rookies together. That man, Dawn says, is long gone. The man O’Donnell is now likes to abuse patients and laughs with other officers about rape. O’Donnell defends himself, stating that they need to hold onto what they have. Besides, Dawn herself isn’t exactly innocent. O’Donnell feels that she’s changed after Hansen’s death.
All right, enough of this dialogue. A fight breaks out and O’Donnell temporarily gets the upper hand on Dawn and Beth, even managing to knock Dawn’s gun down the elevator shaft. But two is still better than one and two eventually force O’Donnell down the elevator shaft. Well, that happened.
So after this, Beth regroups in Carol’s room. And she just can’t get any sort of alone time because there’s Dawn again. Dawn tells Beth that it’s okay to cry, but Beth says that she doesn’t do that anymore. Oh, you are full of shit, Beth. Dawn admits that she cries, just not when other officers can see her. Beth now knows why Dawn covered for her- she only did it to save her own ass, not help Beth. Officers like Gorman and O’Donnell were problems, but Dawn just had to make them go away. That’s how she gets things done, Beth says- she uses people. Speaking of people, Dawn believes that Noah will return since the people who flee don’t get very far and always return. Beth thinks otherwise.
Dawn sees a lot of who she used to be in Beth: she didn’t take orders from anyone. Dawn is also one step ahead, as she knows that Beth has a connection Carol. It must mean something if they’re both at the hospital. Well, less so for Carol. She’s just there because she didn’t look both ways. Anyway, Dawn offers Beth the chance to be a part of something important. People like Gorman and O’Donnell hurt people. The world lost nothing from their deaths. She insists that she didn’t use Beth, too.
On one of Atlanta’s many rooftops, Tyreese tries to get Sasha to stop beating herself up. He shares his own pain: the Hunter that she killed was Martin- the man who Tyreese and Carol ran into while everyone else had been imprisoned at Terminus. He told Carol that he killed him. He should and probably could have, but he didn’t. He keeps thinking about it. He remembers when the two were young and thinks that they could be the same as they were back then, but Sasha says she can’t be that way. Not anymore. As the group follows one of the cruisers through the scopes of their guns, they radio to Rick that the officers are headed to the vantage point.
At said vantage point, Rick introducers himself to the two officers: Franco, played by Rico Ball, and McGinley, played by Kyle Russell Clements. Rick even goes as far as mentioning his past life as a deputy. He gives the terms of his proposal to the officers: Grady is holding two members of their group, which can be exchanged for the two officers they have captive. After that, they’ll part ways, no harm, no foul. They ask about Lamson’s whereabouts and Rick gives the same story that the officer gave him about Bob being attacked by walkers.
We then immediately head to Grady for the exchange.
Oh, and before this, it’s worth noting that we get a brief scene of Beth sticking some scissors inside of her cast. You know this scene is important. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be seeing it.
So it’s time for the switch. Dawn tells Rick and the others to lower the weapons, while they do the same. Rick gives the same story about Lamson. Beth expresses her condolences and the exchange goes well…at first. They exchange their hostages one at a time. Once Beth and Shepherd are exchanged, Dawn tells Rick that she’s glad they could work things out.
…but she’s also gonna need Noah. After that, they can leave. Rick is pissed. Noah wasn’t part of the deal. True as that may be, Noah was Dawn’s ward. When he vanished, Beth took his place. Now that Noah is back, Dawn wants him. Plus, one of her officers is dead, so she feels that she’s owed this. Rick reminds Dawn that she doesn’t have a claim on Noah, so the deal is done. Noah, sensing a fight could break out, offers to return to Dawn of his own volition.
Before he can do so, he’s given a final hug from Beth. As Noah retreats, Beth stares down Dawn and tells her that she gets it now.
Then she stabs Dawn with the scissors. On instinct, Dawn fires her gun, the bullet ripping through Beth’s skull. In retaliation, Daryl shoots Dawn.
But before any further fighting can break out, Shepherd orders everyone to hold their fire. The fighting is done. This was just about Dawn. The people of Grady offer Rick and his group a chance to stay with them and survive since they’re better off inside than out there. Rick shoots down the offer and instead tells anyone at Grady who wants to leave should step forward. No one does.
Abraham and company conveniently arrive, but of course, they’re far too late as the first half of The Walking Dead’s fifth season comes to a close.
“Coda” is a mixed bag for me. It does its job in bringing the entire group back together for the confrontation with the people at Grady and did have a sort of interesting twist that, I feel, will maintain viewer’s interest for the remaining half of the season in February.
In my opinion, if there was a constant question on the group’s mind after escaping Terminus, it was “What happens next?” That’s a constant of The Walking Dead, but these past few episodes have had our team of walker killers trying to figure out their next move. They escaped Terminus without any losses, took care of The Hunters in no time at all and found a temporary shelter in Gabriel’s church.
Once the group split up, we had a chance to have more focused episodes that dealt with one group of survivors. Much like Season Four, the final episode had to reunite everyone. This episode did that, but at a price.
There were a lot of themes and messages that the episode dealt with that helped characters overcome their personal problems: self-sacrifice, searching for clarity, preserving the past and, of course, survival of the fittest- a constant theme of this series.
This episode dealt with characters like O’Donnell and Tyreese acknowledging their pasts and wanting to hold onto what memories they had of their past lives. In this charged atmosphere, it’s easy to get swept up in the violent walker killings, trust betrayed and losing the people close to you. It’s not wrong to hold onto memories, but as Sasha pointed out, it’s impossible for some people to turn back. Some are just too far gone. Sure, officers like O’Donnell and Gorman were horrible people, but the atrocities they committed reminded them of who they once were. Mind you, this does not justify the rape and abuse at all. It just shows them trying to be the same people they once were before the world went to hell. They want to change the world more than they want the world to change them.
That’s where people like Dawn come in. They want to save the world as much as possible and by any means, but, as Beth points in, the world they live in is their reality. In her mind, there’s no point in trying to hold onto the memories of a world that no longer exists. Instead, you make do with what you have. And because everyone doesn’t share the beliefs of someone like Dawn, the people of Grady had no big issue with her death. Like Noah and others said, she barely managed to hold onto control. The same could be said for leaders like Rick, Mary, or the Governor. You can only maintain so much control before everyone starts to crack or question the leader’s effectiveness. The leader wants to do what’s best for everyone, but it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time.
One question The Walking Dead constantly asks is “Do the ends justify the means?” There’s never a clear answer, which I like because it allows viewers to come to their own conclusions. Dawn tells Beth and O’Donnell that Hansen lost his way, which is why she had to kill him. She made a decision that no one else would make or have the fortitude to do. To Dawn, she saved lives by killing someone that was once respected. We don’t get a lot of clarity as to what led to Hansen’s supposed change in character, so for all we know, this could have been the first step in Dawn’s own downfall.
Actually, let’s talk about Dawn. First off, I think Christine Woods played the part well as an authoritative figure. Though not the most muscular or intimidating figure, I got the impression that she knew how to take charge. But Dawn isn’t someone who knew how to maintain control, as we learned from the others around her. She lost control of her officers, maintained the belief that the world could return to the way it once was and tried to save as many lives as possible.
In fact, as I watched Dawn berate O’Donnell for his actions, I wondered why Dawn felt she was in a position to criticize. Sure, O’Donnell was a prick, but Dawn abused the hell out of Beth on several occasions. For the longest time, she turned a blind eye to the horrible things her officers did to patients. They ran amok while she tried to hold onto as much control as possible. And when they were killed, she acts as if the world is a better place without them, even though she’s the one who allowed them to commit atrocities in the first place.
Truth be told, I think the officers were just biding their time to get rid of Dawn. Few of them spoke highly of her, but all pointed out that she had problems and did not want to be perceived as weak. She told Beth that she used to stand up to authority figures and never let anyone tell her what to do. The same happens here, when she refuses to let other officers point out her flaws. I’m not saying that Dawn fancied herself as invincible, but she seemed unwilling to point out where she failed.
There are a few other moments in this episode that did not add up. So Tyreese told Sasha about leaving Martin alive while Carol went to Terminus. Sure, this shows how his guilt had been eating away at him and his attempt to get Sasha to stop beating herself up, but why not tell Carol this? She’s the one he ought to be talking to, especially since he told Carol that he had killed Martin. I just don’t think there was any payoff to it, considering it happened awhile ago. If Martin was still alive and out there, I’d understand the need to bring this up, but since The Hunters are long dead, this felt a bit unnecessary.
Gabriel. I’ll say it again: I’m not a fan of this version of him so far because of his extreme cowardice that nearly got Carl, Michonne and Judith killed. Why did he need to go to the school to see and know for himself about what The Hunters did? Was Bob missing a leg not enough? And how convenient that the one item he found in the backpack happened to be a copy of the Bible. That’s just as contrived as seeing the cross around that walker’s neck in the previous episode. I’m surprised at the restraint Michonne and Carl must have shown toward Gabriel, given that he never told them about his secret passageway and even brought the walkers with him to the church. And it is pretty well-timed that the walkers chose that moment to break free from the school, given how we’ve seen them there before. If Rick had been with this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just pistol-whipped Gabriel around for a bit.
Speaking of Rick, let’s head downtown. First off, that sequence with him chasing down Bob showed that he’s still a violent man, but he gave Bob a chance quit running away. It’s interesting how much calmer Rick has been with the officers and that he was more willing to compromise. No, he didn’t like the story that Shepherd came up with for Bob’s death, but if it helped the trade-off go smoother, he was willing to accept that. Just as Tyreese and Daryl originally wanted, Rick chose to negotiate first. He still had the others on the rooftops as backup, but he chose to lower his weapon and speak to the other officers, rather than at them. It was a nice change of pace from the dictatorship that we’ve come to expect from Rick.
At the same time, though, he wasn’t about to bend over backwards for Dawn. They made an arrangement and Rick planned to stick to that. He wasn’t about to go guns a-blazing when Dawn altered the terms, but he stood his ground without resorting to violence. After Rick’s past failed attempts at sorting out his differences with the Governor, I figured he would put aside any talk of negotiation. And yet, he put his pride aside if it meant the safe return of Beth and Carol.
All right, enough. Let’s get to the exchange. First off, I found it a bit strange that we went straight to the rooftop to Grady. Plus, Carol had awakened and reunited with Beth off-screen. That, I feel, was a real missed opportunity for a moment between the two. A small scene of the two talking or Rick’s group conversing with the officers would have been enough to have a bit of buildup to the confrontation. As is, it felt a bit rushed.
I thought the change had a good amount of tension in it and I loved the use of Dutch angles in the hallway. At any point, Dawn or Rick’s groups could have pulled out their weapons and this exchange could have become bloody in no time. The standoff didn’t move too fast and I got the feeling that both sides just wanted to get the switch done as soon as possible with no violence. For a moment, it seemed like we would get just that.
And here’s where we get an example of weak foreshadowing on The Walking Dead. Hell, I don’t even know if it should be called foreshadowing because it was so blatant. So we got a brief scene of Beth sticking a pair of scissors in her cast- the same pair of scissors we saw her grasping at the end of “Slabtown.” If you’re going to show this scene, it’s clear that it will be important later on. So when Beth stabbed Dawn, we know where she hid the scissors.
But why show us that? It saps some of the tension out of the scene because we know Beth has something planned during a relatively smooth exchange. I think that small scene should have been removed altogether. Beth pulling the scissors out of nowhere would have been a bigger surprise and made her death all the more shocking. But because the writers included this scene, there wasn’t as much shock as there could have been. Less is more in this instance. Don’t show that scene at all and let viewers be surprised when the big moment arrives.
I also have to question why Beth chose this course of action. She cared for Noah and wanted what was best for him, yes. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why she stabbed Dawn. First off, Dawn is a police officer going into what could be a dangerous standoff. She’s not going to walk into this without some sort of armor or bulletproof vest, so I don’t see how effective Beth hoped to be with those scissors. Beth had nothing to gain from doing this, but she had everything to lose. “Slabtown” showed that she had the will to live, but her actions felt very irrational. Nothing good came out of this and she easily could have thrown both groups into a shootout, which is what almost happened. Dawn shooting her seemed almost on instinct and there was immediate remorse when she realized what she had done.
I just don’t feel that Beth’s death will have much of an impact to the characters aside from Maggie and Daryl. Speaking of, I don’t think Maggie even acknowledged Beth that much ever since everyone got separated at the prison. She spent the entire time trying to reunite with Glenn, but as far as I’m aware, she didn’t talk about Beth all that much. It seemed like only here did she even remember that she had a sister. Her reaction was brutal, though. She saw her father decapitated and now, after hearing that her sister was alive, she could only collapse in horror at seeing Daryl carrying Beth’s body. It was a strong moment for the series and bleak note to end on for the first half of the season.
“Coda” was an effective end the first half of Season Five, but some of the writing held it back from being great- Gabriel’s recklessness, Beth’s odd sacrifice, and Dawn’s motivations, just to name a few. And with the people at Grady now minus a leader, I have to wonder what will become of the hospital. While Beth was not my favorite character, I do think she slowly made a change to toughen up and become more aware of the reality around her. The group has been reunited with now two less people than when they escaped Terminus. And now that Eugene exposed as a liar, the question remains “What now?” Here’s to February.