The Walking Dead: Coda

Beth: “This is it. This is who you are and what this place is until the end.”

Into the fifth season this show can still surprise me and break my heart.

The writers could have given us another blood bath, another irredeemable group of survivors wiped out, but instead they gave us tragedy. Some of the people we would have considered 'normal' and good have been twisted into something else through terrible choices, trauma and loss. Dawn and many of the 'bad' police officers were just regular people trying to do a job, love their families and their friends and get on with their lives. But the world is different now and they've become instruments of coercion and torture. I felt for Dawn as she tried to explain herself to Beth and as she cried out that she hadn't meant to shoot her. I could see what she might have been otherwise. And the same is true for O'Donnell who tries to remind her of who she was and then viciously attacks her to try and save his own life. We have watched this transformation in Rick. He ran down Lamson and then killed him. Yes, Lamson didn't stop but there might have been other ways to deal with him and if Daryl or Tyreese had been there, he might have considered them.

Then there are the 'good' people who have clung to their humanity even as they experienced the same things. Some of the police officers were still 'good guys' and some of our group like Tyreese, Michonne and Daryl still have compassion and mercy in their hearts. I wonder if it will just take more trauma and loss for them to change or if they will hold on to themselves through it all. Of course, Beth was the epitome of this. She knew how things were and could read Dawn and her intentions through the bullshit and rationalizations. She hung on to her humanity and sacrificed herself to ensure that Noah would be free. She knew that she couldn't walk away and leave him there to be Dawn's pet. She was brave and principled and it killed her. I hope that is not all that our group takes away from her death. I hope they see that she still felt that survival was not all there was in this world. I think that Rick may have understood as he refused to stay and asked others if they wanted to join him. I hope so.

The scene at the church was also interesting. There are many times that the writers could have gone down well worn paths. The preacher returns to the church and begs for entry. It would have been just for him to perish like his congregation but Carl and Michonne saved him, risking their own and Judith's life. They also could have chosen to scatter the group again with Michonne and Carl running for their lives but instead they brought back the Washington group and everyone was reunited in Atlanta. It's only mid-season so I was surprised.

The very unusual mid-season cliffhanger is how the group will deal with the death of Beth. Their reactions were very well done. The little shake of the head that Rick gave coming out of the hospital started my tears. Glenn saw him and knew right away but Maggie didn't until she saw Beth and started wailing. That was wrenching and Daryl in tears finished me off. If she had died in a blood bath I don't think I would have been as upset. Will this be true for the group as well? I wonder if Daryl will crack, if Rick will use this to fuel his kill first, ask questions later attitude or if it will pull him up short and remind him to be human, if Noah will blame himself, if Maggie will recover from losing the last of her family. I have a very complex and psychological 'can't wait to see what happens next' anticipation for February.

Bits and Pieces

Rick hit Lamson just like they hit Carol. I know he did it intentionally. I still don't know if they did. One of the officers looked guilty when Rick mentioned it.

I enjoyed watching Michonne in action again with her sword but the fake baby on her back was terrible. And by the way, can that kid sleep through anything or what?

Things I could live without: Rick gutting the walker as he went by. How useful was that? The walker splitting its head open on the preacher's machete.

Officer Shepherd was a smart cookie and a good liar. I hope that she will be a better leader than Dawn.

How lucky is it that Carol is awake and can walk again? Our group now has three injured people, Carol, Eugene and the preacher. Did they take supplies from the hospital or get the preacher a tetanus shot?


Rick: "Can’t go back Bob."

Lamson: "You’ve been out here too long."

Rick: "Shut-up."

Preacher: "I had to see it. I know now. Let me live with it."

Doctor : "We’re surviving here. It’s better than out there."
Rick: "No."


Jess Lynde said...

I'm glad you liked it, Doc, but I was fairly disappointed with this one. The prisoner exchange and Beth’s death felt very clunky to me, and the episode spent way too much time dealing with Dawn and her head space. I would have gladly traded at least two of those Dawn scenes for a few moments between Carol and Beth before the whole exchange took place. I guess they were trying to set up Beth’s choice to confront Dawn over Noah, but it didn’t work for me. Her attack on Dawn felt ill-conceived and incredibly risky. Would Beth really risk the lives of everyone in that hallway just to defy Dawn? She couldn’t possibly have thought stabbing Dawn in the shoulder would take her out. Was she aiming for the neck and missed? It didn’t make sense to me, and didn’t jibe with how smart and sneaky Beth has been this half season. But the writers wanted her to die, so ...

I am actually pretty bummed they killed Beth off. I’ve been consistently picking her in the death pools for years now, but they managed to wait until I actually cared what happened to her to take her out. I’m mostly sad about the lost potential. She’s grown a lot, and it would have been interesting to see how her outlook and harder methods meshed with the group as it is now.

And speaking of lost potential ... I really wish the show had devoted more time to Maggie’s head space this season. She’s been in this awful cycle of having hope dangled in front of her, only to have it cruelly taken away. Between Terminus, DC, and now Beth, she’s had an incredibly rough several days. Not to mention losing her father two weeks ago. But she's been dealing with it in the background or not at all. Which, of course, is a perfectly valid coping mechanism, but they could have done a better job of telling that story to the audience, letting us see that's what was happening with her. If the build up had been done better, the impact of this latest blow could have been even more devastating. Instead, it just seemed like Maggie forgot she even had a sister until Michonne reminded her this week. Hopefully they’ll do a better job dealing with Maggie's emotional state in the back half of the season.

Billie Doux said...

I agree with Jess that I didn't much care about Beth until this season, and even so, I found her death a little underwhelming. Daryl's and Maggie's reactions got to me, though. Dawn was deeply nuts and I wasn't surprised when she went on a power trip and screwed up the prisoner exchange.

Thanks so much for a fall season of great reviews, Sandy! You've been posting them so quickly, too -- I really appreciate it. And what a great shot of the cast.

RB said...

This show just keeps finding new ways to depress me. Beth wasn't my favorite character by far, but her innocence was a refreshing contrast to the world weariness of some of the others. And for her to go so quickly and pointlessly, I could even process it until I saw Daryl and Maggie react.

And it makes me wonder about the show long term. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way close to giving up on the show. But it has me questioning what's even the point? I abandoned the comics because the became, for me, a never ending slog to the next dehumanizing trauma. At one point is continued survival not worth devolving for? I don't normally go for shows with so little hope, makes me wonder why I enjoy it so much.

sunbunny said...

Beth's one of my favorites and I was really upset when I heard that she died (I was also upset when my power went out mid-episode). I still don't totally get what she was trying to do with the scissors, if I'm being honest, but I like that they had her going out doing something brave and trying to help instead of in a walker attack or something (what are the stats on how many characters have been killed by walkers vs. how many have been killed by people at this point?)

She had to have known a jab with the world's tiniest scissors wouldn't have killed Dawn so maybe she knew that doing that would start a fight leading someone with an actual gun to kill Dawn? But again, that's risking the lives of everyone in the hallway and must've known Dawn wouldn't just allow herself to be poked with a pointy object without response.

I loved Beth because she started off as a stereotypical "weak" girl who couldn't fight and was just blandly nice into someone who casually pushes people down elevator shafts. She didn't become a Michonne-esque warrior woman, that would have been pushing it. But could take care of herself and others and she wasn't easily frightened.

Daryl's and Maggie's reactions were definitely the worst of it for me. Particularly Maggie's. She had to watch her father being decapitated from behind a fence and now she lost her sister who she hadn't seen in...months? I'm a little fuzzy on the timeline. Also, she was Judith's main caregiver at the prison and she's never going to get to hold her again and Judith isn't even going to remember her and what do you know I'm crying again.

Jess Lynde said...

I agree with sunbunny that the nature of Beth's strength is what made her become interesting. The way she discovered that she, too, could stand and fight for herself in a way that was largely different from the other ladies was nice. I wish we could have continued to have that in the mix.

Her defining moment for me was her smile when she saw that Noah had gotten away. So I completely understand why she wouldn't be able to then let him resign himself to a fate with that lot to save her. That part made sense to me. It was her approach in this instance that felt out of character.

Ooh, a chance to talk about the timeline! Thanks, sunbunny! It has only been about two weeks since Hershel died and they left the prison. The timing in the back half of Season 4 gets a little hazy, with gaps between episodes and overlapping stories, but it seems like about 7 to 10 days passed between the exodus and Rick's group arriving at Terminus. Some timelines have it at slightly less than that, and it may be slightly more, but not much. This half season has only covered 4 days, and it has been about 17 to 18 months since the global outbreak.

drnanamom said...

I understand what everyone is saying about Beth's attempt with a tiny pair of scissors. I don't think she thought she could stop Dawn herself except if she got just the right spot. I just think she couldn't stand to let Noah go back to Dawn. I thought that maybe Dawn was using Noah the way the men were using the ward women - her "Now I get it" made me think that and she couldn't live with herself if she didn't do something. Maybe she didn't think it through and maybe she did and thought a blood bath was worth it to stop what was happening in the hospital. That group wasn't finding a way to live in the new world it was some horrible, twisted reflection of the old world that Beth totally rejected. I also appreciated that the writers made some bold choices in the face of the zombie lovers who often slag the show for not enough action. Yes, they haven't given Maggie or really anyone enough time but for an 'action' show they have done some pretty neat things with philosophy and psychology instead of literally going for the jugular.

Shannon C said...

Beth's death was so upsetting to me, although I agree with what several people have said above, that it's more poignant she died this way than by walkers earlier in the series.

Did anyone watch The Talking Dead afterwards? They had Emily Kinney on as one of the guests and she kept starting to cry when she would talk about being written off the show/losing her job and having to pack up her apartment and move. And basically anytime she would mention another actor from the series she would get choked up about how mud she'll miss working with them. It was heartbreaking, and made her character's death even worse.

Raya said...

I started having a bad feeling for Beth when Michonne told Maggie that her sister was alive. She was so relieved, I couldn't shake the feeling that she was going to be badly disapointed.

I expected Maggie's reaction to be heartbreaking, and it was. Especially when I though about that brief moment of hope she just had.
What I didn't see coming was Daryl's reaction. I was already in tears, but seeing him crying finished me off.

The day before the episode aired, I read an old interview of Emily Kinney. She said she hoped she would get the chance to play a walker when/if her caracter was killed off. Then she admitted it was unlikely because now most caracters take a bullet in the head before they can turn...

Scott Riggan said...

To echo much of what has been written above... For a long time, Beth was a bland secondary character that the writers kept bringing to the foreground without going to any effort to make her interesting. But she started to grow on me last season and throughout the hospital storyline. She was determined to maintain hope even though she was clear-eyed about what a nightmare the world had become.

Beth's was a pointless death, but that's part of the deal when the world has basically ended, right?

The thing that got me most was Daryl.

Marianna said...

FYI, Coda is a term meaning the closing section of a piece of music. I'm guessing it was intended to be a metaphor for Beth's life.

drnanamom said...

Thanks Marianna for the bit about Coda and as I said I agree with everyone else, Beth's death was terrible but the reactions of Maggie and Daryl were heartbreaking.

Elfie said...

Sigh. That was really painful. I'd been spoiled about Beth's death even before her character had been introduced, so I knew it was coming, I knew it was coming so I thought it wouldn't hit me that hard. Boy was I wrong. I'm glad that she didn't get her face ripped off by a walker, but damn I wasn't expecting that sudden shot right to the head. I loved Beth for all the reasons that were mentioned above, she grew into her own character, and she was strong and level-headed after Daryl's training and at the hospital with Dawn, and despite the fact that she was aware about the brutality of her world, she was young and she was hope. Not to mention Maggie's the only one left of her family now.

Someone pointed this out above, but I'm going to agree and repeat the same thing. What is the POINT, in the long run? Sometimes it feels like the writers kill characters off simply for the sake of killing characters off like to overwhelm us or something. It's good when there is a valid reason for a character to go, I just didn't see one for Beth's death and so I'm very upset. It would have been so interesting to see how Beth would have been if she would have survived and made it out of the hospital with her group, how she would react to seeing her sister again, her equation/budding romance with Daryl, and I'm sure she would've been happy to see baby Judith alive and well. Oh, look, I'm crying again... Damn you, TWD writers! That was a gut punch I could live without!

They really need to give us an episode centered on Maggie, her emotional state must be a wreck. Her father and now Beth. Not to mention she probably had to deal with losing Beth all over again after Michonne told her that she was alive. They need to spend some time on Maggie and Daryl in the coming episodes, and on the emotional fallout of this. I really hope this show doesn't end up killing every single freaking character we grow to love brutally for no reason, because then it isn't a show at all, just a depressing series of self-torture. TWD always introduces a character, has us grow to care for them, and then has the character die in a horrific fashion and rip our souls out with it. They really need to stop doing this.

Anyway I'm really looking forward to the next episode. Daryl and Maggie's reactions were on the spot. Everything was left in a quite dismal yet intriguing (plot wise) situation. If I have another complaint, it's that the fake baby looks WAAY too fake. Pfft.