Published on December 2nd, 2014 | by Bean0
The Walking Dead Mid-Season Finale Review – Season 5 Episode 8 – “Coda”
WARNING! MASSIVE SPOILERS!
Bringing to a close the hostage hospital chapter with a resounding thud, “Coda” serves up some mid-season finale dramatics, choosing to leave us united but fallen. This time last season saw the fall of the prison, Hershel’s brutal beheading; the psychotic glory of the Governor owned the hour. Since then our group has been scattered and lost, reforming in unlikely new pairings and small teams, new members and different factions have joined the fray and they have come back together a stronger and more determined band.
The storming of the prison is a very hard act to follow; there is less scenery-chewing lunacy and the relative stakes this season are smaller in number, though they cut to the group’s heart all the same. In Beth and Carol are the kind and the strong, those characters whose arcs have seen extraordinary developments in subtle ways over long years. Beth’s recent coming of age made her most likely to perish, lending the pathos of one cut down too soon.
As a viewer, this feels like a fitting end to Beth’s story – one that began as the shy and suicidal teen and ended heroically shivving a monster. The end of Dawn is a welcome relief; many characters have come and gone in The Walking Dead over 5 years, but none so unconvincingly constructed as the hospital administrator – good riddance. Beth’s death will be a blow to the group, but had they killed off Carol, I may have stopped watching.
“Coda” makes the most of it’s threats, spending time establishing tension at each stage and friction between supposed allies. It’s open is a strong start, with the recapture of Officer Lamson. Whilst Rick chases down this quarry, he glances at the photograph on the dashboard of the cop car; Lamson with his young son in happier times. The sight doesn’t give him pause and what soon follows is the sickening crunch of Lamson hitting the tarmac as Rick runs him down. The score throbs like adrenaline coursing through the scene, pulsing more slowly as Rick explains his methods and makes his play.
As Rick’s raison d’etre becomes clearer, so do his choices, and the manner in which he communicates them to others. He told Lamson to stop, and when he didn’t, Rick pursued his next available option. The simplicity of his world-view during a crisis is dangerous but he believes it necessary. If the cold open is a reminder of how far Rick is prepared to go to finish the job, the final act lets us glimpse again the moral leader he grew out of; his need to salvage something meaningful from the blighted rescue of Beth and Carol by offering to take in strays is a noble gesture, whether regarded as such by the strangers or not.
Alas, the crew at the hospital have allowed their isolation to let them cling to the notion that order can be restored, and they want nothing to do with this unkempt loser. When a hot shower with room and board is available, let alone medical facilities and the use of your sodding DVD player, the real world might not seem so far away. That all these “luxuries” come at the price of your liberty and physical inviolability, doesn’t impact on the staff/inmates. Their reluctance to join Rick and reclaim their freedom is perhaps the most appalling moment in the episode, a leery reminder of the potential inclination in all of us to trade being possessed for our possessions.
Meanwhile, contemplating her gaff last episode, Sasha begins to consider her old persona with disdain, pushed past tolerance by the ignominy of falling for Officer Bob’s trap, a mistake which led to his death. Tyreese appears concerned by her hardening, still embracing his own childlike qualities – though they cause him to lie to and endanger others – but his sense of timing is as inappropriate as he is well-meaning; right before a hostage-negotiation might not be the best time for the warm and fuzzies…
Taking his innocence to a debilitating level is the Reverend, whose rambling search comes to a close at the site of Bob’s dismemberment. It appears he required proof of man’s baser impulses; as he says “I had to see, I know now, let me live with it.” Personal journey or not, since he’s such a newb, he leads a horde or walkers right into their cosy little sanctuary (thanks Rev, nice job), after first finding himself on the outside looking in, just as his parishioners once were.
Michonne and Carl being somewhat braver than the Reverend, they save his bacon, and he at least returns the favour, barricading the door against the walkers while his saviours escape. His first courageous act and move toward acceptance of the zombie apocalypse is beautifully underlined with the line of scripture painted above the altar; “He who eats of my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. Indeed.
Where The Walking Dead decides to go next is a conundrum; with each death a little more innocence is lost. And every new difficult decision calls for all the more need for morality. Without Eugene’s righteous cause, and with the fallout of Beth’s death yet to land, the group may flounder. They will need re-forging in the wake of fresh tragedy; they will need a new mission.
The episode’s actual coda poses an excellent question, as to who you become without the solace of others; whether you let the burden overcome you, or if you choose to act. Bookending his re-appearance in “No Sanctuary”, the arrival of Morgan Jones is a refreshing return of a familiar face, but we shall have to wait until February to see what part he has to play in the next era of the The Walking Dead.
Review by Nina Clark. The following nugget of nerdliness comes courtesy of her chap, Mark Rowden.
Mark’s Zombie Connoisseur Corner
Re. the lady zombie cleaved by the Rev’s well-placed machete; a nice nod to one of the original posters for Dawn of the Dead. Classy.
Nina’s Walking Dead reviews will return in February 2015 for Season 5’s back nine.
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