“Coda” was the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead,” which everyone knows by now means there has to be some kind of shocking plot twist and, most likely, an equally shocking death.
While the overall plot didn’t turn in any way that was unforeseen, viewers were indeed given a heartbreaking death in the episode’s closing moments. Beth, who spent this season as a prisoner in a downtown Atlanta hospital, almost made it back to her extended post-apocalypse family. Rick had some hostages and the hospital people had some hostages. Hostages were exchanged and it looked like Beth was in the clear. But at the last moment she tried to confront Dawn, the wound-too-tight leader of the hospital survivors, and got her brains blown out in the process.
Beth’s death was tragic, yes, but not entirely unexpected. We all knew going into this week that a prisoner exchange was taking place and most likely someone wasn’t going to make it out alive. Carol and Beth were the prisoners, and, frankly, my money was on Carol to get her ticket punched. After a week showing just how far her character had progressed since her days as an abused woman, it felt she had come to a nice end-point. But I forgot about “The Walking Dead’s” reluctance to ice characters who have displayed any level of audience-pleasing toughness. Simply put: Beth was sympathetic, but Carol was cool. And if you can keep a cool character around while simultaneously tugging heartstrings, that’s what this show is going to do. So, bye-bye, Beth.
We finally got to see just how cold-blooded Rick has become in the episode’s opening moments, as he shot the escaping prisoner, Officer Lamson, after hitting him with a car. There was no Daryl or Carl or Michonne around to temper Rick’s more savage instincts and we got a brief glimpse into his cold heart of fury. I suspect this emerging side of Rick will come back to cause more problems for him in the latter half of the season. If the people in the hospital couldn’t trust Dawn, who was cracking under the pressure of leadership, then how will our crew handle a Rick who’s slowly going off his hinges?
The storylines that split apart in the season’s opening episodes finally reunited for Beth’s unfortunate demise. Abraham brought Eugene, Glenn, Maggie, Rosita and Tara back to the church just in time to save Michonne, Carl and the increasingly tough Father Gabriel from hungry walkers. The timing of Abraham’s arrival was a bit too convenient, but whatever. We’ve seen that Michonne could probably wipe out every single walker on the North American continent if she put her mind to it.
Father Gabriel’s crisis of faith continued, though it’s still unclear exactly what journey he’s on. Are we seeing a man slowly destroying himself or a man metamorphosing to a tough-guy zombie-killing machine? Time will tell, but seeing Gabriel crawl out from beneath the church carrying Michonne’s bloody machete led me to believe that we’ll see a lot more weapon-wielding in Gabriel’s future.
The first half of this season was a considerable boost from the meandering travels of the second half of last season. Though, with their mission to Washington in tatters after Eugene’s revelation, it’s unclear exactly what “the mission” now is for Rick’s crew. And without a clear mission to keep them together, will they manage to overcome everything stacked against them?
When the show returns next year, it looks like those may be some of the problems they’ll have to deal with. Oh, and a whole lot more zombies.