Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead TV series and comic books.
First things first, since this is bound to be a bloody midseason finale, we’ll do something fun with this review. I’ll break this up by character and count down each death throughout the article. Because I’m morbid. Because Gimple would want me to. You can also keep up with deaths this entire season in our who lives and who dies hub.
After half a season of wandering, searching, and finding themselves, Rick and his group have finally delivered a proper ending to some of the themes and storylines looming over the show since the latter half of season 4. This midseason finale is properly titled “Coda.”
The setup for this episode is perfect. Everyone’s plans seem to be working out until they don’t…1) Maggie can’t wait to see Beth again upon hearing that she’s still alive. 2) Dawn and Beth are getting closer to each other, perhaps even developing some sort of friendship. 3) Gabriel has decided to go out on his own, and find his way — or is he running from his sins?
The conclusions of these threads are haunting.
We start off pretty much where we left off: Officer Bob is making a run for it, and Trigger Rick is right on his trail in a police car! Rick even uses the car’s megaphone…before he runs over Bob. So it’s pretty much good cop/bad cop.
Then Rick delivers the line, “You can’t go back, Bob.” Holy crap, what a line! It’s what Gareth says to the first Bob during the slaughterhouse scene in the beginning of the season. Rick is equally as merciless in his delivery of the line. It’s so frightening to see Rick execute someone in such a cold-blooded way. Has Rick’s transformation finally come full-circle? It would seem so. These first few minutes of the finale are some of the best of the entire series.
DEATH #1: Officer Bob.
Afterwards, Rick tries to convince Daryl that now they have to go in guns blazing since they don’t have all of the cops to trade for Carol and Beth. The way he looks at Daryl as he proposes his plan…there’s something off about Rick. He’s a very different leader, open to manipulating his people like the Governor did.
After the ending of this episode, though, you have to wonder if Daryl should’ve listened to Rick…
So things continue as planned. Rick shows up at the hospital parking lot for the negotiation with the cops. Things seem to be running smoothly at first. But it really does seem that Rick isn’t very sincere in his attempts. I’m pretty sure he’d rather blow people’s heads off with his ridiculous handgun than negotiate. That’s just not the kind of man he is anymore.
The negotiation scene is incredibly tense, a very delicate moment that could send bullets flying at any second, Rick weaponless in the crossfire. Those few minutes, which come almost at the end of the episode (the time alotted to each plot thread is really odd in this finale), are unbearable. My heart was pounding.
The hospital’s long hallways work so well for the negotiation scenes. They’re cramped and dark. You can almost see the armistice line in between the cops and Rick’s group. Things go off so quietly, though, at first. Seriously, it was unbearable because you just know things are going to take a turn for the WAY worse.
And they do. As soon as Dawn asks for Noah…
Dawn & Beth
This episode deals a lot with leadership, and whether we should trust our leaders. After all, it’s pretty obvious that both Rick and Dawn are trying to further their own agendas, even if they think they’re just doing what’s best for their groups..
“You don’t need their love, but you have to have their respect,” Dawn tells Beth, referring to her group. They’ve grown close in the last two episodes. Dawn understands that the tension is high at the hospital, and that she could lose control of her men at any minute. We get to see a bit more character development for Dawn, just enough to sympathize with her a little, eventhough she kidnaps people.
Dawn reveals to Beth that she protected her from the other police officers after Gorman’s murder in “Slabtown.” “You’re a cop killer,” Dawn declares. Too bad Officer O’Donnell overheard her. That’s when we really see some steel from Dawn, who threatens to kill O’Donnell in cold blood in the same way she killed her mentor Hanson after he lost control.
The setup in the long hallway with the dying light bulbs is perfect. It’s a claustrophobic and quiet scene. Even the fight scene is presented without a soundtrack.
I didn’t realize until now, but it does seem like Gimple sets up Dawn and Beth to be co-conspirators in a murder. It’s well done. I finally like these two characters. They’re two of the only women at the hospital, and they’re surviving whatever way they can. Carol, who I love, would do the same.
DEATH #2: Officer O’Donnell
Afterwards, Dawn tells Beth that she was like her when she was young. Is this some kind of foreshadowing for Beth? Will she change from the naive girl from past seasons and turn into the hardened warrior she needs to be to survive the apocalypse? She says to Dawn, “I don’t cry anymore.”
Beth is convinced that she’ll get out of the hospital alive, and that she’ll never be back. She’ll be able to survive on her own now. Dawn assures her that, “They always come back.”
No, she gets dressed after all the commotion with Dawn, hides a pair of scissors inside her cast, and rolls Carol in a wheelchair to Rick during the negotiations.
It’s pretty remarkable how much time was spent on Dawn and Beth this week. Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to Beth. Her and Dawn make a great team. I rescind my past hate.
Too bad these two killed each other during the negotiation:
DEATH #3: Beth
DEATH #4: Dawn
Dawn asks for Noah during the negotiations, and before this can go off peacefully, Dawn reminds Beth of something she told her earlier, “I told you they always come back.” This sets Beth off. “I understand now,” she replies, as she stabs Dawn in the chest with the scissors.
In true Walking Dead fashion, these two warriors were the best characters of the episode, they had their shining moment, and they faced their end.
Things don’t look too good for Father Gabriel, who finds Bob’s cooked foot in his first scene of the episode. Much of the rest our time with him is spent evading zombies. It looks like a higher power really is after Gabriel for his sins. Again, it’s full-circle, as Gabriel begs to be let into the church.
“Please, don’t leave me out here,” he screams, as Carl and Michonne break open the doors. Gabriel does redeem himself just a tiny bit by holding off the zombies while Michonne and Carl escape the church. “It’s worth it,” he says to Michonne, since he assumes he’s a goner.
But he’s a survivor, it seems. “I can’t run anymore,” Gabriel says, afterwards. Is he ready to face his sins head on and repent? We’ll probably see some of that come February. He’s in it for the long-run in the comics, so we might have Father Gabriel around for quite a while.
An expertly crafted episode leads into a quiet coda after the credits. Morgan, who showed up in the season 5 premiere, is getting closer to Rick’s group. He tracks them down to the abandoned church. It’s a quiet scene with nothing buy a few notes from a piano. Morgan prays over the corpses between the pews. Just then, he finds the map that Abraham gave Rick at the end of “Four Walls and a Roof.”
He reads the note: “The new world’s gonna need Rick.” Fade to black.
This is a perfect end to the first half of a season that has masterfully tackled adult themes, slowing things down and developing characters in meaningful ways, emphasizing the quiet moments, and wrapping them around these scenes of relative peace that speak tons. There’s a sense of discovery, as the new world is teased throughout the season, that has never been a part of the show before. It’s always been about survival, but finally, the showrunners and the cast have set their sights on beginning a new life, starting over.
That’s the beauty of this season, and of this midseason finale, as Daryl carries the deceased Beth in his arms. Things have really come to an end in this place. There’s nothing for Maggie to look back to. Rick decides to leave the hospital and take anyone who wants to leave with him. Everyone is set to move forward and find a new life.
I can’t wait to watch them find this new place come February.
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