‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 5.8 “Coda” (10 out of 10) Created by Frank Darabont; Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan; Sundays on AMC.

After some hasty Internet research, I learned that a coda is a musical term that is used to designate the end of a symphonic movement. 

What a perfect title for tonight’s episode. 

From the show’s intensely kinetic overture to the intimately emotional final moments we were treated to one of the most operatic stories in “The Walking Dead” history.

BIG SPOILERS A-COMIN’!

Gabriel Has Issues

Before we get to the juicy stuff, we need to discuss Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) actions tonight.  He’s clearly suffering from some massive, guilt-fueled anxiety—and it’s making him a liability.  It’s difficult to tell whether or not he’s gotten some closure after leaving the safety of the church to see what was left of the congregation, mostly because of his profuse sweating. However, there is some metaphorical weight to the fact that he inadvertently let his zombified congregation into the church so Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) to board them up inside—and that shot that framed a zombie horde beneath the words, “He who consumes my flesh and my blood shall have eternal life” perfectly illustrated how that which was once comforting has become twisted and grueling in the world that our characters now inhabit. 

The Trade

Right from the get-go, we see feet hitting the pavement, efficiently setting the tension for the entire episode. The plan for hostage negotiation went a little awry last week, resulting in the death of Lamson (Maximiliano Hernandez)—Rick (Andrew Lincoln) hasn’t been too keen on second chances lately. Since Lamson’s death threatened the integrity of Rick’s hostage trade, we’re left with some uncertain feelings about the other two police officer’s in Rick’s custody.  Sure, they seem nice and cooperative, but that’s how they all are—right before they shove your head into a window pane.

It’s a problem not unknown to Dawn (Christine Woods), whose character becomes a bit more focused during tonight’s episode. After she and Beth (Emily Kinney) tag-team a duplicitous officer, Beth learns that Dawn’s whole management ideology is based around the fact that things are better in the hospital than they are outside. It’s an idea that she enforces through manipulation and fear, but it’s also an idea that she truly believes in. Which is why when Rick and his team show up to make the trade, she requests that Noah (Tyler James Williams) stay behind.  It’s a sneaky way for Dawn to assert her authority over the situation, and it goes to show how something that was building up to a peaceful resolution can go horribly wrong.

With the visceral grace of a Tarantino film, the scene explodes. In a final act of defiance, Beth jams a pair of scissors in Dawn’s chest, which triggers thirty of the most brutal seconds that I’ve seen on the show. Dawn discharges her gun under Beth’s chin, Daryl (Norman Reedus) retaliates by killing Dawn, and both sides stand disarmed at what has just happened.

These closing scenes demonstrate how good “The Walking Dead” is about creating tension and then releasing it in gushes of emotional acting. Reedus plays Daryl as emotionally restrained for the bulk of the series, so when we see him break down and carry Beth’s body outside—it’s hard to watch. Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) reaction was equally heartbreaking—made more so with Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) mention that Beth was alive and would soon be back with them.

Verdict

It’s episodes like this one that make this show brilliant. All of the violence, zombies, dysfunctional humans, and overall grit serve to emphasize the power of human endurance. These characters continue to go through hardship and tragedy, but what makes “The Walking Dead” cool is that they don’t do it unscathed. They have physical and emotional scars that they carry with them, but, in many ways, that’s what makes us love them.

The season will continue in February, which already seems like it’s so very far away.

Previous Post: Five and Three

Next Post: SuperHeroStuff Cyber Monday Sale!

Tags: Norman Reedus , Emily Kinney , AMC , The Walking Dead