WARNING: This article contains spoilers from previous episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.
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This episode seems to be a rather polarizing one for the fan-base. What opened with a very tense, very Romero-esque sequence was ground to a halt for the following half hour, focusing heavily on some dialogue that wasn’t totally necessary, and then ramped it back up for a tense final ten minutes. The episode was disjointed. It was almost as if this episode was a summary of how the first half of this season has gone. Open with a bang, simmer down to long exposition, then close on something that is tense, but seemed largely avoidable. I personally really enjoyed the episode for the most part, and being the fan-boy that I am, I was able to fill in some of the gaps that bothered other fans.
One thing I’d like to address though is that I see many fans, and even media outlets, trying to judge this half-season as its own stand-alone work. They’re treating it as if it were a season to itself. I can’t help but feel that doing that is a little unfair. If The Walking Dead has shown one thing, it’s that the seasons should be viewed as one complete body of work. Looking back at each season, with the exception of the six-episode first season, I can’t really point to a single half-season that stands on its own. To make a judgment call, or slap a grade onto the first half of season five just feels wrong. It feels incomplete. I think what we saw is a lot of groundwork laid for what happens next. In the timeline, all of the incidents dating back to the survivors regrouping at terminus, and maybe even all the way back to the loss of the prison, spans barely a week.
Think about that when you look back on the most recent episodes. In the past week, Rick alone has dealt with Joe and the “claimers,” Terminus, the Hunters, and the Hospital. If you reach even farther, he’s at most two weeks removed from battling the Governor. It’s no wonder this guy has reverted back to his “don’t trust anyone” mode. Hell, he even still has cuts on his face from his scrap with the Governor. While it seems like months to a year for us as viewers, it hasn’t even been a month since they dealt with the sickness that was working its way through the prison. When you look at it that way, these people have lost it all. Suddenly their actions make a lot more sense. Their coping mechanisms are that much more understandable. I may be wrong, but taking that into account makes this half-season and this episode that much more enjoyable.
“Coda” kicked off with a bang. Or was it a crash? A slam? Anyway, the episode begins with a tense cat-and-mouse sequence that felt very much like a Romero flick, and is very much the TV adaptation of Martinez’s death from the comic. The dark, brooding tone of the synthesizer set the mood as Rick’s footsteps and the sound of Lamson frantically trying to ware down his restraints laid the percussion. We see Rick reach the police vehicle Lamson arrived in, and used it to chase the still-bound officer down. Rick calls over the megaphone for him to stop, but Lamson does not comply.
There’s an especially pertinent part of this scene that was shown subtly, but stood out to me. When Rick is calling for Lamson to stop, he looks over to the dashboard of the car for a moment. On the dashboard there are two things that stand out. One is a photo of Lamson and his son. The other is a police hat that looks similar to the hat Shane wore. It was almost as if this were the angel on one shoulder, urging Rick not to hurt Lamson because they may be one in the same, and the devil on the other telling Rick to take him because he may be a danger or a loose cannon, like Shane. This could also be the writers pointing out that Rick has become very Shane-like, but I’ve grown tired of that comparison and disagree. Shane was only in it to protect Lori and Carl. Rick is in it to protect his entire group.
Rick makes his decision and guns the accelerator. Lamson is struck, sending him flying across the pavement. Rick gets out and has a dialogue with him, telling him he just had to stop. Lamson insists he was going back to help iron things over, and begs for Rick to take him to the hospital. When it becomes clear that that isn’t in the cards, Lamson tells Rick that he’s crazy. He tells Rick that he’s been “out there” too long, and that he and the other are going to die. Rick, unamused, raises his weapon and shoots Lamson. As he’s returning to the police car, Rick utters the words “Shut up,” takes a moment to contemplate what just happened, and then gets into the driver’s seat as we get a good look at the decrepit Atlanta skyline in the distance.
In this time, Father Gabriel has made his way to the school where Gareth and the Hunters had set up camp. When he arrives, he sees the school full of walkers desperately trying to escape the confinement of the building as he fumbles around the campsite. Gabriel turns over many items he finds lying around, but the one that catches his attention is a book bag that contains a bible. The bible is signed “Mary B.” and we are to assume it belonged to Gareth’s mother, Mary. Gabriel opens the bible to 2 Chronicles 8:10 and 2 Chronicles 11: 21. In this section, as I detailed in my predictions piece, the story of King Solomon is told. Solomon was the founder of the first temple, much like Gabriel has the opportunity to be the founder of the first church in the post-apocalypse.
When Gabriel lowers the bible, he sees Bob’s decaying foot that the Hunters had been feasting on. Enraged, he flings the grating the foot is resting on across the schoolyard. As he does this, the walkers inside the school break out. Panicked, the only thing the injured pastor can think to do is to flee back to the church. Unfortunately, the walkers give chase. We see Gabriel arrive at the tree the Hunters marked with “hobo signs,” as he makes his way back to his church. Gabriel attempts to shimmy back under the church to enter into his office, but at this point the walkers are flooding out of the woods. Frazzled, he limps his way to the church doors which have since been boarded up. As the walkers surround him, he screams to Michonne and Carl inside the church “I had to see it. I know now. Let me live with it.” This is clearly a reference to Gabriel feeling what his parishioners felt when he left them locked outside to save himself.
In what may be the most badass thing Michonne has done, she used an axe to cut down the boards sealing the front doors while Judith is strapped to her back. As Gabriel enters, a flood of walkers follow him in. The camera lingers on a symbolic moment when Michonne unsheathes her sword, forced to use it for the first time since they arrived at Terminus. Still with baby Judith in-tow, she cuts down multiple walkers before realizing there are too many. Gabriel directs them to the rectory, where the group escapes through the hole Gabriel had made in the floor. Gabriel volunteers to stay behind to hold the door shut as the other two escapes. He tells Michonne that it is worth it. As Gabriel is lowering himself into the hole, a walker lunges at him. He is miraculously saved however, by the machete he had stabbed into the floor before leaving. The next shot cuts to the walkers filing down the aisle of the church, not unlike parishioners to communion, as the words “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has Eternal Life,” are adorned above them.
On the outside of the prison, Gabriel is crawling out from under the foundation, miracle machete in-hand. Michonne helps him to his feet as he tells her “I can’t run anymore.” While you could take that as him addressing the physical ailment of his limp caused by the stray nail in the previous episode, I took it more as that he can no longer run from what he has done and what the world has become. Fittingly, Michonne looks him in the eyes and reassures him “We’re not running.” Carl and Michonne take care of the straggling walkers, and use the remains of the boards and a well-placed belt to seal the church doors as the walkers force their hands through the crack between them, a call-back to the “Don’t Open Dead Inside” door in the first episode of the series. I felt as if this signified that Gabriel is where Rick was mentally when he escaped the hospital. Gabriel, of course, has a little bit more information that Rick did though.
Back in Atlanta, Rick returns to his strike team, and conferences with Daryl about what happened with Lamson. Rick is unsure if the other officers will play ball now that he’s killed one of them, but Shepherd tells him that it’s a shame that Lamson was “attacked by rotters.” The group is skeptical, but Shepherd insists she knows the good people from the bad, and wants to help. Licari tells Rick that Dawn won’t accept a deal if she believes they hurt one of her people, for fear of looking weak in front of her officers. He also includes that since this is the case, it’s good that Lamson was killed by the dead, and not Rick.
Now we’re at the hospital with Beth, as Dawn tries to reach her officers over the radio. She gets no response, but this is not abnormal to her, as they often refuse to respond to her calls. Beth has seemingly replaced Noah as Dawn’s “ward,” as she organizes Dawn’s office. Dawn instructs Beth to place the photo of Dawn and her captain, Hanson, on top of her filing cabinet where three badges rest. Beth asks what happened, and Dawn tells her that she had to kill Hanson because he was losing sight of the fact that the officers’ lives matter. Dawn tells Beth that you need to command to respect, not love, and that if you do not, it puts everyone in danger. She also tells Beth that Hanson was her mentor, and that the stories don’t tell about how Dawn still misses him.
At the church, Gabriel tells Michonne and Carl that he had to see the school for himself, as the walkers begin to burst through their restraints. With impeccable timing, Abraham pulls up in the fire truck, taking out the porch and sealing the doors to the church, keeping the walkers inside. There’s a brief reunion, though Eugene lies in the back of the truck unconscious. Glenn tells Michonne about Eugene’s lie, and Michonne alerts Maggie that Beth is still alive. The group then decides to head for Grady Memorial to join the others.
At the hospital, before a commercial break, Beth witnesses Officer O’Donnell physically accost another ward, Percy – the older man Beth paid to go into a coughing fit so she could fetch the medicine for Carol in the previous episode. When we return from the break, we see Beth once again. This time she is sitting in the doorway to the elevator shaft where she and Noah escaped, letting her feet dangle over the edge. Dawn enters the hall, and tells her that Percy will be okay. Beth retorts that nothing is okay, and Dawn asks if Beth is going to jump. Beth states that she wants to be alone. Next, in what may be the biggest foreshadowing in the episode, Dawn tells Beth “Well, I know you’re not going anywhere.” Beth responds “Neither are you.” This is most definitely a reference to how the episode ends.
Beth then confronts Dawn about how she runs Grady, and Dawn delves into a monologue about how she knows Beth is responsible for the death of Gorman and her other officer. As Dawn is explaining how she wants to help Beth in her own very roundabout way, O’Donnell enters the hall. He has apparently overheard everything, and threatens to tell the other officers that Dawn is covering things up. He tells Dawn that “This is Hanson all over again.” Dawn draws on him, and leads him toward the elevator shaft as O’Donnell attempts to reason with her. It’s important to note here that the camera lingers on Dawn with her gun drawn. If you pay close attention, you can notice that Dawn isn’t practicing very good gun etiquette, as she is resting her finger on the trigger the entire time; despite the fact the she seems reluctant to shoot O’Donnell. Keep this in mind as it is important later on.
O’Donnell is successful in talking Dawn down a bit, and then disarms her when her guard is lowered. Dawn’s gun then slides across the hallway, and falls into the elevator shaft. The two then break into a full-on fight. The fight scene that ensued was very well-choreographed, and a lot of people enjoyed it. It just didn’t do it for me though. I’m not sure to what extent police officers are trained in regard to martial arts, but the fight just sort of felt like a cheesy kung-fu battle to me. How adept Dawn was in martial arts seemed sort of strange, the fight felt unnatural.
Eventually, Dawn knocks O’Donnell backwards, and he teeters on the edge of the elevator shaft, struggling with his balance. Dawn calls on Beth, and for the first time, Beth intentionally kills someone by pushing O’Donnell down the shaft. You can hear as the officer hits the side of the shaft, and eventually the body pile at the bottom, as walkers begin to groan in anticipation of the meal coming their way.
After yet another break (so many commercials), Beth propped against the wall of Carol’s room, sleeping. Dawn enters, and offers Beth a drink. Beth refuses, and the two lay on the dialogue about how Beth thinks Dawn was protecting herself by covering for Beth, and Dawn realizes that Edwards used Beth to kill the other doctor in Slabtown. Beth insists she’ll get out, “just like Noah,” and Dawn insists he’ll be back. “They always come back.” Dawn admits she identifies with Beth, and reveals that she is aware that Beth knows Carol. Dawn gets choked up over the fact that Beth helped her when O’Donnell attacked her, and insists that she isn’t using Beth, and she will remember how Beth helped her. Before cutting away, we begin to see Carol come-to in the background.
Next we jump to Atlanta, where Tyreese and Sasha are set up as snipers on top of what appears to be a parking garage. We spend the next five minutes listening to the two discuss how they’re still the same as they were when they were kids, and how Sasha has always followed in Tyreese’s footsteps. He points out that this isn’t much different than what she is going through now, as he went through the same thing not long ago. Tyreese also admits to sparing Martin’s life, and acknowledging that Sasha had to tie off his loose ends when she killed Martin at the church. Sasha agrees with Tyreese that they are the same, but tells him that she can’t be anymore. Tyreese looks hurt by this, but the speaking stops as they see a police car arrive at the meeting location below. Apparently, off-camera, Rick has set up this meeting for his proposal. To be honest, I would have much rather seen that than the extra dialogue between Beth and Dawn or the exchange between Sasha and Tyreese. It just seems like the writers were really trying to hammer home these messages ad nauseam, which left us missing some things that would have been legitimately interesting to see.
Sasha and Daryl take aim on the cop car, as Tyreese and Noah keep an eye on the captive officers. Tyreese radios down to Rick as the car arrives. Rick approaches the car, hands raised. He somehow knows the officers’ names, as he addresses them as they draw on him. Rick alerts them that he used to be a sheriff’s deputy in King County, and they order him to place his weapon on the ground. Rick peacefully obliges, and reveals his proposal of Shepherd and Licari for Beth and Carol. The two enquire about Noah and Lamson, and Rick admits to harboring Noah, and tells them that Lamson was killed by walkers. The officers, visibly worried, ask where Rick’s people are. At that moment, Sasha snipes a walker nearby, and Rick responds with one of the best lines in the entire show: “They’re close.” Rick tells them to radio their lieutenant, and backs away.
After a particularly long commercial break, we come back to Rick’s group entering the hospital with the officers he met downtown. Spliced into this sequence are scenes of Beth and Carol readying themselves for the trade-off. Beth slides a pair of scissors, the same scissors she was going to kill Edwards with in “Slabtown,” before pushing Carol to the scene in a wheelchair. Rick’s group has Shepherd and Licari in-tow, but this decision seems pretty questionable overall. Why not meet at a neutral location? Did Dawn demand it happen at the hospital and nowhere else? Why did we, once again, not see this negotiation? That seems kind of crucial. Either way, the editing in this scene was well-executed, but fairly distracting as the shots were presented in an off-kilter, Twilight Zone-esque fashion, and The Walking Dead has rarely, if ever, used this sort of cinematography. It was almost as if to say “Get ready for something crazy to happen!” Which, well…
The exchange goes down in the tight hallway within the hospital. Dawn orders her officers to lower their weapons. Rick does the same to his group. The first exchange goes fine, are after some dialogue about how Lamson dying is a shame because he was “one of the good ones.” On the second exchange, Rick personally delivers Shepherd as Dawn does the same Beth. Rick has a rather touching reunion with Beth, as he kisses her own the head. At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that Rick feels as if Beth is one of his own children, since he was so close with Herschel.
Dawn tells Rick that she’s glad the exchange could happen peacefully. Rick agrees, and as his group turns to leave, she demands they return Noah after looking back at her officers. Presumably she demands this so that she does not look week. As his group turns around, stunned, Rick insists that this wasn’t part of the deal. Dawn responds that since Beth took the place of Noah as her ward, she needs him back to fill Beth’s spot. Dawn insists that Rick has no claim on him since he came from Grady, and Rick retorts that she has no claim either since Noah just wants to go home (looks like we’re headed to Richmond). Shepherd chimes in that this isn’t necessary, but Dawn silences her. Dawn tells them that if they do not comply, they have no deal. Rick tells her the deal is done, but in order to circumvent what would certainly be a bloody outcome, Noah volunteers to stay. Rick objects to this, but Noah insists.
As he trudges toward the Grady crew, Beth stops Noah and embraces him. Noah tells her it’s okay, and Dawn slyly utters “I knew you’d be back.” Beth, now teary eyed, stares down Dawn. Beth approaches Dawn as the others look on tensely. She tells Dawn “I get it now.” At this moment, you can hear Dawn remove her firearm from its holster. After a tense moment, Beth stabs Dawn in the shoulder with the scissors she hid in her cast. Dawn, with her itchy trigger-finger and terrible gun etiquette, accidentally shoots Beth in the head, killing her instantly. The blood spatter shoots backward, and lands on a horrified looking Rick. The camera pauses on various members of the group, capturing their responses. Daryl is the first one to act, as he draws his side-arm and shoots Dawn in the head as she begs him not to, mouthing that it was an accident.
Everyone in the hallway draws on one another, but Shepherd calls off their fire. She insists it’s over, and that it was just about Dawn. Her officers lower their weapons, as a teary Carol gets a devastated Daryl and emotional Rick to lower theirs, as well as the rest of the group. Rick, overwhelmed by the incident, paces for a few moments before Shepherd offers them safe-haven in the hospital. Edwards insists that it’s better than being outside, but Rick refuses that notion. He tells them that he’s taking anyone that wants to leave.
At this moment, Michonne, Abraham, and the others arrive. They dispatch a few walkers as they approach the hospital. Rick and his group exit the hospital, as Rick shakes his head in sorrow when he sees Maggie, very similar to how she did when Lori had died. Behind him, the group exit one-by-one until Daryl appears, carrying Beth’s lifeless body, similar to how he carried her in season four when she hurt herself at the funeral home they sought refuge in. Maggie drops to her knees, hysterically crying as Daryl approaches her. The camera zooms out to one last shot of the group with the Atlanta skyline in the backdrop, and the credits roll.
After the credits, we get one last clip as Morgan is inadvertently led to the school where the Hunters stayed, and eventually to Gabriel’s church. We see Gabriel approach an incapacitated walker, and gently hush her as he, somewhat begrudgingly executed her. At the church, Morgan erects the cross lying on the alter, and lays down a snack cake, a bullet, and a rabbits foot, sustenance, protection, and luck. He says a quick prayer, then chuckles to himself for a moment when he sees the quote above the alter and realizes all of the walkers around him. As he turns to leave, he notices a map on the ground. The map is the same map Abraham gave to Rick, the one with “The new world is gonna need Rick Grimes” written on it. Morgan looks on, piecing it all together in his head just as we fade to black.
- As pointed out to me by user Lostie in the comments of my predictions post, “Coda” is the end of a song, and that’s clearly a reference to the ever-musical Beth.
- This show really likes to signify the moral center of each group by giving them a limp or missing leg. Keep an eye on Gabriel and Noah.
- When Daryl cries, we all cry.
- This group, especially Rick, may never trust anyone again.
- Maggie is probably incredibly devastated, especially since the search for Beth was kind of an afterthought to her. Expect this death to reverberate through the group for some time.
- Even Tyreese was ready to shoot at the end of the episode.
4.5 out of 5 Tears for Beth
This episode was disjointed and loaded with unnecessary dialogue, but it ultimately delivered a significant character death that, while seemingly avoidable, will have a lasting effect on the rest of the season, maybe longer.
February is right around the corner… right?
+ Tons of parallels.
+ The Ricktator Strikes Back.
+ Great homage to the zombie genre.
+ Significant loss of a character that will push the story forward.
+ No more hospital/church/Atlanta
– Beth’s demise was largely avoidable.
– We missed a lot of cool moments in exchange of monotonous dialogue