The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 8: “Coda”
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Written by Angela Kang
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
While the beginning of The Walking Dead’s fifth season saw the Terminus threat dispatched with extreme prejudice by the group, another foe soon emerged in the form of a competing group in Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, who insisted on an underhanded debt system and an old-fashioned power hierarchy to maintain their version of structure. With Rick and his group capturing three of their police officers and getting ready to square off with Dawn and her force, this week’s midseason finale focuses on the results of that encounter, as well as Father Gabriel’s attempts to make sense of the world outside the church. This results in a strong episode that brings certain character actions to a head in a way that is bound to have long-term consequences for the show.
The theme of fear of change, and an unwillingness to accept the zombie conditions of the world as permanent, is one that has run through the season to date, and it’s interesting to see it come to a head in this week’s episode. While Rick and his group have been continually thwarted in their attempts to find stability and a community, the goings-on at Grady Memorial suggest that perhaps that’s been for the best, a notion that gets reinforced with Dawn’s actions in the episode. In many ways, the antagonists of Grady Memorial represent the scariest foes that the group has gone up against to date. While other opposing forces such as the Governor or Terminus had a clear intent to be evil, Grady Memorial reached its current state simply by doggedly sticking to the status quo. While this may have been previously chalked up to a misguided notion of waiting for the world to revert back to its prior state, Dawn’s words this week clearly indicate that the insistence on keeping things the way they are runs deeper. With her forceful reclamation of Noah, as well as her confession of having killed her mentor to ensure things stayed the same, Dawn established herself as someone with an almost fanatical belief in the established way of doing things, no matter who got hurt in the process. While it remains unclear whether she’s aware that the injuries the wards suffer are inflicted by the police officers, it’s doubtful whether this would have made a difference, as Dawn’s insistence on ensuring the system continues to run was clearly an unshakeable belief, making her the most dangerous person the group has encountered so far.
Father Gabriel’s arc over the course of the season has represented another side of a refusal to accept the world as it now is. While the residents of Grady Memorial used their refusal to maintain harmful power structures, Father Gabriel’s refusal led to him clinging more fiercely to ideas of humanity and right vs. wrong. With the loss of the church, however, as well as a firsthand knowledge of the Terminus cannibals, it’s clear that Gabriel himself has reached a crossroads, and where he goes from here will be fascinating to watch. To date, the only character on The Walking Dead who has had to come to grips with the current situation of the world onscreen is Rick Grimes, who accepts it fairly easily. Father Gabriel, however, has clearly avoided doing so, something he no longer can do, not only because of the zombies, but because of how other humans are behaving as well. Gabriel is poised, however, to take the same journey, with the added benefit of individuals like the group members to help guide him. It will be particularly intriguing to see how Gabriel reconciles his guilt over killing with the necessity of killing zombies. Despite being attacked a number of times, he has yet to actually kill a zombie, escaping being bitten solely by luck, whether it’s a well-placed tree stump, or the readiness of Carl and Michonne. Thus, Father Gabriel’s first kill, and how he deals with the aftermath of emotions, will say a lot about his ability to survive outside the comfort and isolation of his church.
Overall, this is a strong midseason finale for the show. It’s good to see Ford and his group rejoin with the other survivors, and it will be worth keeping an eye on both Ford and Eugene over the rest of the season to see how they adjust to the consequences of Eugene’s lie. As the past few episodes have shown, getting Eugene to DC is the life purpose that has kept Ford going for a long time, but his recovery indicates that hope is not lost for him. Whether Ford latches on to another purpose, or re-dedicates himself to being a valuable part of the team instead will be a large factor in determining the role he plays in the group. As Ford has the knowledge and skills to be a valuable member of the team, his only obstacle will be himself. Eugene, on the other hand, will have to figure out his place now that his deceit is revealed. As he also has certain survival skills, with the support of Tara, Eugene can also become a key part of the group, and how he re-establishes himself and proves his usefulness will be worth keeping an eye on. With Beth’s death this week, Maggie becomes the sole surviving member of the once-large Greene clan, something that is bound to affect her going forward. With Glenn by her side, how she deals with Beth’s death is also likely to be interesting to see, as the certainty of her demise will certainly trigger a different reaction than her absence. Combined with Hershel’s death and her marriage to Glenn, Maggie may begin to think of herself differently, and how that manifests itself is bound to affect the group in some way. Watching Michonne wield the katana to kill zombies for the first time this season brings with it a certain amount of joy. Noah’s apparent departure is sad to see, but how the group recovers from being uprooted once again, as well as losing two of their members in quick succession, will be worth tuning in for once the show returns.
– Deepayan Sengupta