The Walking Dead: Coda – Mid-Season Review


The Walking Dead Warning: Spoilers

AMC’s The Walking Dead aired its anticipated mid-season finale tonight.  The episode once again brought all of the characters together, answered a few questions and left us with a teaser hinting at the return of a season one character.  We saw Father Gabriel discover the true nature of the world outside his church, more of the inner-workings of Grady Memorial and Tyreese’s hostage exchange plan play out.

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I made a complaint earlier in the season about the show’s episodes being devoted to only part of the group at a time.  Like last week’s episode, “Crossed,” and tonight’s episode told the story in an ensemble fashion, which increased the pace.  Most of what I have to say about these eight episodes have to do with this organization and I will use tonight’s episode as a capstone to my point.

The first three episodes of season five dealt with what happened to the group following their capture in Terminus.  In short, they escaped, found a church then killed Gareth and the rest of the Terminus camp.  In the article from the link above I said I wasn’t happy with these three episodes.  The second half of season four was mostly spent on the train tracks with the mystery of sanctuary in Terminus hovering in the background.  To have that wrap up in three episodes with the story turning to the police in Grady Memorial was a waste of a good story and villain.  Despite bringing the story back to the city, Grady Memorial was nowhere near as interesting as Terminus could have been.

The next three episodes covered three different stories.  In order to introduce viewers to the people of Grady Memorial Hospital we had an episode devoted to Beth, the other wards and the officers.  The next covered Abraham and his people with Maggie, Glenn and Tara as they made their way to Washington D.C.  The third followed Daryl and Carol as they searched Atlanta for Beth.

Because these stories were stretched in to 40 minute episodes they were much slower and resulted in less plot than they would have had if they shared screen time.  I didn’t learn enough about the hospital to really care.  The D.C. group really only reshuffled loyalties and ultimately had no impact or purpose in the finale.  Daryl and Carol are great, but all the time spent doing things like sneaking around indistinguishable offices and spending the night in a refuge shelter without actually coming anywhere close to the hospital wasted the purpose of the episode.  These episodes and their structure took a lot away from the finale.

The last two episodes, “Crossed,” and “Coda,” had much more meat to them and wrapped up all these different stories resulting in a half successful rescue since Beth is killed in the process.

So what went well this season?  Certainly it is better than all that time on the farm in season two.  Parts were better than the road to Terminus episodes as well.  Father Gabriel was a good addition to the story although his character mostly fell flat and slowed the story.  He served as a morality check between the groups.  It is hard to distinguish between right and wrong after so much time in a wasteland.  Rick’s group tore down a house of God for protection.  Before that he showed no mercy to a group of cannibals he captured.  When Father Gabriel found the cannibal camp at the school he discovered humanizing objects like magazines, playing cards and a bible; all next to a cooked human leg.  He was disgusted.  Here’s to hoping he moves the characters in to new places in the second half of the season, or at least experiences a transition of his own.

The other thing these episodes did well was to give the characters the chance to reorganize and reprioritize now that the mission to Washington D.C. is wasted time.  We’ve already seen that Rosita is capable of being more than just a background character and will likely voice her ideas and opinions from here on out.  There is also the possible question hanging in the air: would things have gone differently had the group followed Rick’s plan to save Beth instead of Tyreese’s “no bloodshed” approach?

Overall, I think that the show wasted a chance for a stronger set of episodes had they decided to play out the battle with Gareth and the people of Terminus instead of moving on to Grady Memorial.  Because the story was so fractured I had a difficult time distinguishing who the main players were in the hospital aside from the doctor and Dawn.  I don’t know who was good and who was bad.  As far as I’m concerned, whatever Beth ‘understood’ at the end of the episode about how things worked she took with her to the grave.  I’m just glad it’s over.

How could it have been better?  Delay the trip to D.C. and instead split the group between two wars at the church.  One on the offensive against the hospital.  On the other front, deal with Gareth and whatever plan for revenge he has.  Now you split your resources between two number one priorities.  That is called a dilemma, and as all screenwriters are taught: dilemma = drama.  The other thing to do is inter-cut the stories in the episodes.  Maybe it is not true to the comic but take a look at the similar structure of The Two Towers.  Had Peter Jackson made that as it was written half of the movie would have been complete boredom leading up to or following a huge battle.

I’m excited to see what the second half of the season brings in February.  The group no longer has a reason to split up and currently has no goals or objectives.  This leaves a lot of room for surprises and less of a chance for a story that poorly delivers on expectations.  The tag at the end of the episode gave us another look at Morgan Jones, who is on the trail of Rick.  The last time we saw him he had pretty much lost his mind after the death of his son.  That is a reunion worth seeing.

What were your thoughts about the episode and first half of the season?  Leave your comments below.