There were so many “Holy shit!” moments in season 5’s mid-season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead, that when we hit the last ten minutes, I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen next. I had my suspicions, especially when I read an interview with our brave archer, Daryl (Norman Reedus), saying one way he geared up for the episode was to sit around for a few hours and cry. That led me to believe those in charge were going to tug at our heartstrings, and someone was going to die. Not reading reviews about the show come Monday morning required supreme amounts of restraint that I’m still amazed I possessed. And before we sat down to watch “Coda,” The Husband and I took bets on who wouldn’t make it out alive.
Note: There are definitely spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the episode.
“Noah is a possibility,” I voiced, but he hasn’t been around long enough for us to establish a sufficient emotional connection with him for his death to really hit home.
“Gabriel?” I ventured.
“Who?” The Husband looked confused.
“You know, the priest.” I started laughing. “I read in an article that he was about as smart as a pet rock.”
“Matching personality too,” The Husband deadpanned.
Yeah, the dull Father wasn’t a good option.
“Maybe Tyreese? Maybe he can’t kill when he needs to and gets taken out.” Now I was just sifting through all the characters.
And yet, while it was just us guessing, my real suspicion centered around Beth – the young lady that wormed her way into my heart. For the past few seasons, I saw her as little more than a babysitter, but they’ve really developed her this season. And after episode 4 (“Slabtown”), Beth showed she was exactly what Dawn had come to see her as – a tough survivor. She knew her own mind, and she wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is at the hospital/prison she was stuck in. She valiantly sacrificed herself so Noah could get away. And by not offering her up as an option in my conversation with The Husband, I hoped I was keeping her safe.
As the show opened, I had to chuckle.
“Stop,” Rick’s monotone, though slightly annoyed, voice crackled over the speaker in the police car. “I said stop.”
And this was after he did a drive-by (well, run-by) disemboweling of a walker – SO GROSS, and yet so cool!
Anyway, Officer Lamson (New Bob) saw fit to smash Sasha’s head into a window and run away, and yet Rick (Andrew Lincoln) gives him ample opportunity to just stop. When he doesn’t, Rick says screw it and plows into Lamson with the car.
“OUCH!” I flinched, as Lamson went flying on the screen.
“Damn! He must’ve flown 20 feet!” The Husband noted.
New Bob thinks he’s paralyzed and starts whining about something. And then with cold disregard, Rick shoots the blubbering Lamson in the head, and then implores him to shut up.
Damn, Rick’s cold.
And so a tense hour begins. And yet I must defend Rick a bit here. I’ve read a number of other articles that suggest Rick is slowly losing it. I disagree – vehemently. Rick has done the whole reluctant leader thing in the first few seasons. People looked to him for no reason other than he was a cop – someone that kept the peace by virtue of his job. When he lost Laurie, he started to lose it. Hell, she even haunted him. She was a specter of his failure. By wearing the mantle of leader reluctantly, he never gave it his whole heart, and in doing so, things slipped, people died, and chaos reigned. But when the Governor entered the picture, Rick realized he had two options – keep pretending to be a farmer or step up to the plate. And when Rick committed to leading our band of survivors with Hershel, Daryl, and later Michonne by his side, that’s when his demons got laid to rest. Rick can come off as cold, but his humanity shines through when needed, and that is one mark of a true leader – making the tough decisions. He does that, sometimes with remarkable cruelty, but one could argue that it’s necessary.
Back to the episode, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I think Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is useless. Unwilling to put aside his fear (notice I said fear and not faith, for he does not seem like a faith-driven man to me) and learn the new way of the world, I thought for sure he would meet his maker in this episode. When he got to the school and saw what the Termites (Terminus Twits) had done – Original Bob’s severed leg – and confirmed Bob’s account of just how bad things are out there, he fell to his knees. It seemed to sink in that there really are people in the world that will kill for no other reason than they can. And when I saw the group of walkers banging on the school doors, I thought that was it. But Gabriel wasn’t ready to give up. When they crashed through, he got up, making that split second decision to live, and ran for the only place he knew – his church. Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that he must have yelled the same words to Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) that his parishioners yelled to him: “Let me in. Please!”
And without a thought, Carl and Michonne did, showing us that once again, humanity isn’t dead.
After Michonne did some slicing and dicing with Judith strapped to her back, Gabriel urges them all to run into his office. (Does that mean Judith is a badass by proxy since she was strapped to Michonne? The Husband assures me it does. Although she may have a concussion after being rattled around so much.) With the walkers descending down on them, he urges Carl to get Judith out, and he tells Michonne definitively that he isn’t leaving until she goes. And in that moment, I decide I dislike him a little less. Which brings me to another “Holy Shit!” moment!
Gabriel left a machete stuck in the floor that he previously used to pry up the floorboards to escape the church. Once he sees Carl and Michonne get out, he waits a few beats and jumps for the hole in the floor. Walkers fall into the room, and he puts his hands up to defend himself, and one falls right on the machete, splitting her head in two! WHOA!
Once he emerges from underneath the church, the bloody machete clutched in his hand, I saw a new man. Here’s hoping he keeps up.
Once outside, things are looking bad for our group. They tried to barricade the walkers in the church, but there are just too many of them. Stand and fight, or run? The choice is taken from them, as Abraham comes barreling up in the Firetruck of Death! YEAH, for good timing!
Michonne looks surprised to see them, and when she hears that Eugene is full of shit, the look on her face was pretty damn funny. And yet, she happily shares the news of Beth’s situation with Maggie. Beth is alive, and Rick took a few people to save her.
Now, I’d been wondering why Maggie hasn’t asked about Beth much this season, and I can accept that she thought she was dead. In this world, death is a stark reality, and I believe that if that’s what Maggie thought happened, she would simply deal with it by not talking about it. But the look on her face and Tara’s exclamation that they should go save her sister starts to shed light on what’s to come… probably.
At the hospital, Dawn (Christine Woods) and Beth (Emily Kinney) have a long heart-to-heart. Beth telling Dawn that she doesn’t have to give in to the terrible ways of her subordinates, and Dawn telling Beth how she’s just trying to keep them all alive and keep the peace. Then, in walks the turd, Officer O’Donnell. He overhears Dawn alluding to the fact that she and Beth helped the patient (Carol), after telling him they would pull the plug and let her die. He feels she has betrayed her group, and threatens to tattle. Well, Dawn isn’t having that, and they start to throw down. And I’ll just go ahead and say it, Dawn can fight. In the end, Beth is there to help Dawn and shoves O’Donnell down the elevator shaft. The gals make their way to a more private spot to finish their chat and tend to their wounds. But in the end, I’m still left wondering about Dawn. I just can’t figure her out. Good, bad, or otherwise! But she rubs me wrong.
Back to the other group of folks in the ATL, the two remaining hostages have basically convinced Rick that they don’t like Dawn. Dawn isn’t right in the head, and everyone wants her out along with the worst of the men she controls. They are willing to say that Lamson was overtaken by walkers, so that the prisoner exchange goes smoothly.
Rick meets two officers in a parking lot and let me say this scene was well done. Daryl and Sasha were on the roof with their rifles while Rick meets two of Dawn’s men. He says what he’s willing to offer, and when one of the officers asks where his people are, he simply says, “They’re close!” – as a bullet flies by taking out a walker that was behind them. Realizing that Rick might have the upper hand, the cops agree to the exchange.
Then we see Beth at the hospital getting dressed. Next thing we know, Beth is pushing a very weak-looking Carol down the hall. And it is here, that I thought maybe I was wrong. Carol has come a long way from the meek woman in Season 1 and 2. She’s become the woman she always thought she should be (powerful words straight from her). And, well, she saved pretty much everyone in the beginning of this season. She’s become strong, proud, and she’s shown she is an equal to the other strong players. She would sacrifice herself in the right situation – for Daryl or Beth, maybe even Rick. Would her last play be to sacrifice herself for the others?
But then the prisoner exchange goes off without a hitch. First Carol for one of the officers, and then Beth… until Dawn pulls a fast one.
“Now I just need Noah,” she says. Apparently, Beth was her ward, so she needs a replacement.
Noah looks sick, and you can see that he wants nothing more than to turn Dawn’s request down, but one look at Beth, and he takes a deep breath resigning himself to staying.
“It’s okay,” he tells Beth and Rick. “I’ve gotta do it.”
Beth runs up to Noah and hugs him (I so loved these two together!). As they embrace, Dawn says “I knew you’d be back.” It’s something she had said to Beth during their chat, that they always come back. Something clicks with Beth – maybe that Dawn always manages to get her way – by using others. Well, Beth isn’t having it. She steps up to Dawn and says, “I get it now.”
As Beth was getting dressed, she slipped a pair of scissors into her cast. We assumed they were just in case. You never know when you’ll need scissors. Well, she pulls them out and lunges for Dawn, plunging them into her shoulder. Dawn’s immediate reaction was to fire her gun. Whether it was a reflex, or not, when Dawn shot Beth, my heart fell. We assume Dawn firing was only an instinctive reaction, as she quickly mouthed that she didn’t mean it. She looked as shocked as we were.
The reasoning behind Beth’s actions is still up in the air a bit for me. Did she (correctly) deduce that Dawn was the head of the poisonous snake and taking her out would kill the snake? Did she just think Dawn was a sucky human being (again she was right)? Dawn’s motivations never became clear to me, so it was hard for me to see her as an unnecessary evil. The Governor was a bad dude. The Termites – ditto. Dawn… I think she was just a delusional weakling who used this situation to her advantage. Whether that meant she couldn’t be allowed to live, I’ll never know, because once she shot Beth, Daryl dispatched with her right quick.
The look on everyone’s face was heartbreaking. Time stood still, and we saw a cast, blonde hair, and blood on the floor. Thankfully, Beth was right about Dawn being the ringleader. Once she was gone, another female cop stopped everyone right quick. This was all about her Dawn, and she told the cops to holster their weapons. They even offered Rick a place at the hospital.
And this is why I’m convinced Rick is not a lost cause. He said no, but said that anyone that wanted to leave was welcome to come with them. It’s unclear if anyone joins the group. We shall see.
And just as Rick and company are leaving the hospital, the Firetruck of Death pulls up. You can see the hope and the excitement on Maggie’s face, and then she sees Daryl carrying Beth’s limp body. And our hearts broke all over again. Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) screams of despair were soul-wrenching, and as she falls to the ground, the credits roll.
But wait… Post-credits. Guess who we see. MORGAN! He finds the school. And then the church, and after an offering of a Goo Goo Cluster candy bar, a bullet, and a blue rabbit’s foot, he laughs and goes to leave. But, wait! Something catches his eye? It’s the map Abraham left for Rick. The one that says:
“Sorry I was an asshole. Come to Washington. The New World’s gonna need Rick Grimes.”
A few things I want to see in the back half of the season.
- Give Gabriel a clear cut personality. Is he evolving or just another weak link? Same with Eugene. They either need to step up or step out.
- Stop wandering around Georgia! You want to wander around? Move to South Carolina, North Carolina… Hell, head on up to DC. But enough of the plodding around the woods.
- Rick seems to have snapped out of his funk. Can Tyreese please do the same?
- Give us something joyful. Not as a teaser for something horrific, but as a simple joyous event. A reminder that while Eugene might not have the cure, maybe there is something worth living for. Maggie and Glenn getting married comes to mind. They already have the Not-So-Sucky Father there to officiate.
- And give Morgan something more than after-credit scenes. Lennie James is awesome! Use him!
February 8th seems a long way off.