After a strong string of episodes this season, The Walking Dead ends the year with ‘Coda’, aka the show’s latest bloody showdown.
Let’s bitch it out…
There’s an interesting exercise to be had in keeping up with a show, but not actually watching an episode until a mid-season finale. I’ve the pleasure of doing this once already this season when I subbed in for couchpotato for the Scandal finale and the experience is remarkably similar here with The Walking Dead. On the one hand there are several new characters that I haven’t built up a relationship (love or hate) with yet, but the tone and structure of The Walking Dead is so consistent that much of the conflict in ‘Coda’ feels familiar from previous seasons.
The series has always been more about how humans respond in the face of the bleakness of this new world order. From The Governor to the Termites, the strangers that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group encounter are always far more dangerous than the zombies (doubly so when you factor in Seth Gilliam’s Father Gabriel leading a horde right to your doorstep).
As a first introduction to S5’s “villain” Dawn (Christine Woods), ‘Coda’ is a bit unusual. The episode works overtime to provide some depth to and empathy for Dawn. She has corrupt officers, she’s a woman in danger of being toppled by men and she needs to maintain an aura of authority to remain in power. It’s this hubris that ultimately leads to the dramatic conclusion at the hostage exchange – had she resisted demanding Noah (Tyler James Williams) remain behind the entire bloody encounter could have been avoided. There’s even an impression, however fleeting, after she kills Beth (Emily Kinney) that she didn’t want/expect things to go this way, but by that point it’s too late and Daryl (Norman Reedus) has already put a bullet in her skull.
There’s nothing terribly unexpected about any of this. As most people guessed, it seemed clear that if anyone would go out in this mid-season finale, it would be Dawn and/or Beth. The fact that both are killed only underscores how The Walking Dead routinely uses death as a narrative crutch to generate excitement. Did Beth or Dawn really need to die…or is the assumption that the 15 million + viewers would be disappointed without a few casualties? This certainly feels more like the latter.
In fact the only surprise is that their deaths doesn’t result in further bloodshed. In previous seasons I would have expected Rick and co. to take everyone left standing out because they still pose a threat. Maybe this is where The Walking Dead is actually showing signs of evolution?
Then again, Rick does execute Bob Lamson (Maximiliano Hernández) in the opening out of what appears to be little more than spite and frustration at having to chase him, so…maybe not?
- Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) reaction to her sister’s dead body reeks of emotional manipulation, but I’ll echo the sentiments of other reviewers that Cohan and Reedus both sell their grief at losing Beth. #griefporn for the win
- While the outcome is expected, I quite like the dutch angles during the hostage exchange. We knew something was going to go pear-shaped, and the tilted angle and bad lighting provides some moody tension to the proceedings.
- Beth tells Dawn that she’s not a killer, but when push comes to shove, Beth chooses shove (literally – only moments later she’s shoving Ricky Wayne’s O’Donnell down an elevator shaft). Between this and Father Gabriel’s refusal to accept reality, this is some pretty on-the-nose commentary. In this world, you either kill or you die.
- Having not paid much attention to them when I was watching regularly, I was really bored by the Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) / Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) rooftop chat. Alan Sepinwall mentions the lethargic pacing of much of this finale and that’s never more apparent than in this scene. Booooring.
Your turn: what did you think of this mid-season finale? Did you expect Beth and Dawn to die? Is Father Gabriel the dumbest character on the show? Should Rick and co. have taken out everyone else at Grady Memorial? Do you feel bad for Maggie now that she’s lost her sole remaining blood relative? Sound off below and bear in mind our no spoiler tolerance (show only, no comics talk!)
The Walking Dead has finished airing new episodes for 2014. It returns to AMC Sunday Feb 8, 2015. Thanks for reading!