The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Episode “Coda”
Rick To The Rescue
The epic rescue mission to save Carol and Beth from the clutches of Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital finally unfolded Sunday night and while most of the hour was a mixed bag, they saved the best for last. The hostage exchange was as intense and psychologically exhausting as anyone could have hoped for. It was a nicely wrapped up mid season finale that opted to leave us struggling with what we had seen instead of hanging crazily off a cliff speculating on the future (although, with time, we’ll be doing the speculating part of that as well).
The group, which had been split into three separate factions, came back together in the closing minutes. The reunion was almost too orderly and perfect, but I suppose that could have been intended to contrast the heart wrenching events that just took place inside the hospital’s halls. The deal to exchange two cops for Carol and Beth nearly went as perfect as Rick and company could have hoped for until Dawn threw them a curveball. What resulted was a thousand thoughts and fears racing through our heads while the reality of the situation was resolved in the blink of an eye, or, more appropriately, a single pull of the trigger.
Dawn and Grady’s Mixed Bag
The Grady story arc felt almost like filler as it developed, a storyline created specifically for the show to not only differentiate it from the comics but to also (possibly) allow the show to remain a safe distance behind. It ended with the same feelings. Season 5 started at a breakneck pace and multiple scenes from the comics were finding their way to the small screen each week. I would imagine the last thing the creators would want to do is catch up to the comics and be stuck in a spot where both worlds have to be completely separate, they have an upcoming spinoff series to handle that.
The problem with Grady was that it simply lacked the charismatic and terrifying characters that carried Woodbury, the claimers, and Terminus. Dawn felt like a cardboard cutout, her emotions felt flat and her dialogue didn’t connect on any deep level. Whether this falls on the directors, writers, or actors is irrelevant, this sort of carried through to the rest of Grady’s inhabitants and held back a plot line that certainly had potential. Every scene that took place inside Grady had me wishing they would just switch back to Rick, or the church, or Abraham, or anyone. The cops captured by Rick and crew even added greatly to their scenes but for some reason, these characters just didn’t exist at Grady itself. Doctor Edwards was the closest but he wasn’t developed to a great enough extent. No one at Grady was.
What made parts of this episode great was the show’s bread and butter, Rick and Daryl. The show’s two most popular characters stepped in and saved the episode in the final fifteen minutes. Their emotions felt real, they struck a chord and made you care. They had you worried about their safety and if they could protect everyone else when it seemed like it was all going south in a hurry. That was the ultimate high point of this episode and one of the brightest moments of the season.
Everything was going so well. Despite losing Bob Lamson (who made his escape in “Crossed” but was run down and executed by Rick early in the hour), the deal went through. Carol and Beth were exchanged for the two remaining cops but Dawn had one surprise demand; she wanted Noah back. Rick was not ready to add to the deal they originally agreed upon. Beth, who we saw hide a pair of scissors before the meeting went after Dawn. That precise moment was such a great moment. I was expecting a total blood bath, both sides were sure to open fire and in such a confined space there was no telling who would and wouldn’t die. Everyone was at risk but before I could even process a single possible outcome, a single shot ended it all. Dawn took out Beth and was promptly taken out herself for that decision. After that? Well, that was that. The Grady residents quickly called for an end, it was over and there was no need to escalate the situation further and cooler heads prevailed.
This scene and the following one that had Rick and friends leave the hospital to find Glenn and his group making their way for the doors were executed superbly. They are perfect examples of what makes the Walking Dead so great and powerful. “Coda” wasn’t without its flaws but it sure left us stunned and reeling. Much like the premier episode “No Sanctuary“, we had to try our best to keep it all together as Morgan took center stage in a short post episode scene.
Coda Final Takeaways
- Seth Gilliam is becoming the underrated hero of every episode. The directors and writers just put him in good spots and this type of short and sweet character development is what seems to work the best for any character in the show. In “Coda”, Gabriel finds his way to the school where Gareth and the Termites were staying. He finds a bible and Bob’s cooked leg and the wealth of emotions that strike him at that one moment was simply compelling.
In this week’s “Was that really necessary” segment, Michonne carrying Judith on her back as she fought the walkers invading the church. I questioned if it was in fact Judith on her back during this scene but thought “no, no it just can’t be” as the sack was swung around helplessly but low and behold it was, in fact, Judith going for the traumatic ride as she waited until things calmed down a bit to start crying. I was dumbfounded by this bit of silliness.
- It was a bit hard to buy into the emotions involved in the last scene. Maggie, as we’ve mentioned multiple times, has not seemed to care about Beth at all since they were separated after losing their father. She finally cared in “Coda” but it almost felt too little too late. This is something I feel the show runners just goofed up on but I expected her to show some emotion here and it was still a moving scene to close out the episode.
- Dawn never developed into a solid character. She felt shallow right up to the very end, as did Grady as a whole. Director Ernest Dickerson had his work cut out for him in crafting the moving finale and did an admirable job. Still, I can’t help but wonder what could have been compared to what we got.
“Coda” had its fair share of flaws but it saved its finest moments for the end. Rick and company did their best to save the episode and they succeeded to an extent. The Grady story arc came to a close and, overall, it felt like filler. It felt that way from “Slabtown” and it struggled to become more than that. It also felt like the creators thought it was necessary to kill off a major character and this episode is the what they came up with. It was a bit of a disappointing end for Beth but life is full of disappointments. Just because it’s a TV show doesn’t mean that everything has to wrap up perfectly and obviously it never does in the world of the Walking Dead. Despite the flaws, I feel losing Beth will have a profound impact on several characters and the plot moving forward, it might just take some time to develop. And time is exactly what we have as we begin the long wait to February when the Walking Dead returns.
What did you think of the latest Walking Dead episode? Be sure to let us know in the comments below and give us your rating of “Coda”!