I really wanted to write this last night. I tried, but the words wouldn’t come, at least not how I wanted them to. And, at this point, you’re probably thinking that it was because The Walking Dead killed off a major character and I was upset.
You’d be wrong, of course.
“Coda”, The Walking Dead‘s mid-season finale, was a pretty solid episode, delivering many of the elements that made season five the strongest thus far in the series. In the end, though, it fell flat for me, failing to elicit much emotion whatsoever.
Oh I know. I can hear people crying out now that I’m callous. How can I not be moved by the death of a character we’ve come to know over the last few years? I just wasn’t, mainly because the whole storyline beginning with my least favorite episode of the season, “Slabtown“, was just flat throughout, save for some terrific moments between Beth (Emily Kinney) and Noah (Tyler James Williams).
“Coda” begins well enough with a tense scene featuring Rick (Andrew Lincoln) running down Bob (Maximiliano Hernandez) as he tries to escape and make his way back to the hospital. It’s a well done scene because it displays how Rick has changed, preferring to use violence when necessary to help him and his group survive.
The scenes with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) making his way back to the church are also executed well, even though I wanted to scream at him for being a complete idiot, endangering the lives of others in the process. The best thing to come out of that church sequence was that we got to see Michonne (Danai Gurira) slice and dice some walkers again as well as much of the group reconnect.
But I think everyone knew from the moment the group hatched a plan to rescue Beth that something would go awry. It was only a matter of time before the group experienced another casualty and a mid-season finale is the second best place to bump someone off (a finale being the most ideal). The only question was which character was going to be sacrificed?
If you’re reading this, you’re fully aware that Beth met her untimely demise at the hands of Dawn (Christine Woods), who reacted instinctively and shot Beth in the head when Beth stabbed her with the pair of scissors she’d tucked away in the cast on her arm. Honestly, when I saw Beth take those scissors, I knew her fate was sealed.
And yes, it is sad that Beth’s dead because Emily Kinney did some really fine work this season. It’s too bad she was saddled with that terrible story filled with stock characters and an overly familiar situation where everyone’s a monstrous human being.
Let’s be honest. The whole hospital storyline was pretty standard and, at the same time, manipulative. It was all designed to show how Beth’s worldview changed because humans that aren’t part of our main group are nothing more than bastards, doing whatever it takes to live. Most, if not all, of the characters in the hospital setting were one note, failing to connect with viewers on any level. That’s not the fault of the actors because I’ve seen Woods in shows like Hello Ladies and she’s talented. Here, it was almost painful to listen to the patented dialogue coming out of her, though she did the best she could with the role.
The writers obviously wanted us to sympathize with Dawn and others in the hospital to some degree but that effort was a resounding failure. There simply wasn’t enough time to establish that setting within the confines of eight episodes (fewer if you consider that “Slabtown” didn’t arrive until the fourth installment this year) and they never seemed more than caricatures, existing only as a plot device to lead to the episode’s final moments.
Both Beth and Emily Kinney deserved better. In fact, it would have been more interesting to explore the dynamic between Beth and Darryl (Norman Reedus) now that she’s changed from the time they’d spent together on the road. Even better, she could have been a loose cannon, spiraling even farther downward and allowing Kinney to push her acting abilities to the limit. It would have been fun to see her paired with either Darryl or Rick and show the contrast (with Darryl) or similarities (with Rick) of becoming more savage, a complete 180 from the innocent girl she used to be.
Instead, the writers took the easy way out, opting to create a big moment while sacrificing what could have become a strong element to the series.
Where does The Walking Dead go from here? Who knows? Though I applaud The Walking Dead for the self-contained half season, many of the stories they introduced have come to an end with a whimper more than a bang (no pun intended for Beth’s final scene). The trip to DC ended leaving that group with nothing to do and the boring hospital narrative ended in too obvious a manner.
I really wanted to like “Coda”. Again, there were elements about it that maintained the overall strengths the series exhibited this season. But the writers have to learn to tell a compelling long narrative without making it lengthy. The Terminus storyline worked well because we were in and out. It gave the characters a purpose to propel the tale forward and had a satisfactory ending before wearing out its welcome. I’m hoping we see more of that in the future.
Anyway, the series will return in February. I’m not certain as to whether I’ll still be reviewing it on a weekly basis as I’m possibly moving on to other projects but time will tell. Have a great mid-season break everyone!
The Walking Dead – “Coda” grade: B-