TV Review: The Walking Dead’s ‘Coda’ Is Stark and Emotionally Rich

“I don’t cry anymore.”

Coda, The Walking Dead’s midseason finale, featured the loss of Beth, Maggie’s sister and supporting character on the show. I was surprised at just how much her end hit me emotionally, given that for much of the action this season and the end of the fourth, Beth’s absence wasn’t particularly felt. Her character has gone through some major growing since being reintroduced in “Slabtown” as an unwilling ward in Grady Memorial. She’s killed people, not innocents of course, but awful people, that even Dawn said were no big loss. I admit I’ve been struggling with Beth’s motivation in her attempt on Dawn’s life, which results in the loss of both women. Part of Beth’s growing up was seeing the selfishness in this new world, which was the lifeblood of how the Grady group worked. The real question is did Beth snap when she finally saw the depth of Dawn’s machinations for control or was this planned? Did she hide those scissors as a precaution or with intent?

Any worthy television death is measured, not just in how it impacts the audience, but how it is felt among the characters. When the group witnesses Dawn (accidentally? reflexively?) shoot Beth, there’s an immediate shock and disbelief. I lost it when Daryl steps up and takes Dawn out while fighting back tears and Carol coming to his side in the background. Then Maggie’s alternate elation at the news of Beth being found and then seeing her body carried out was almost too much.

With the exception of the previous two episodes, The Walking Dead has been having a spectacular fifth season. The pacing and momentum has been stronger than ever and we’ve been seeing some compelling character work on behalf of the writers and actors. Rick is entering a moral grey place, very reminiscent of the Governor, that he teeters in and out of this year. Running Bob down with the police cruiser only to but a bullet in his head is cold, but it’s also calculated. But then Rick allows the trade to take place in that claustrophobic hallway where anything could happen. Is this the trust and hope he still carries? Andrew Lincoln is delivering Emmy worthy this year, looking as though he’s dived fully into character with that shaggy, dirty beard and beleaguered looks and line delivery. Another shout out goes to Norman Reedus and the subtleties he brings to one of my favorite characters, Daryl Dixon. His character arc has been so rich, especially this season, where he;s moving from being reactionary to more thoughtful and seeking nonviolent solutions. Reedus conveys it all brilliantly, so much so that when you take in the show as a whole so far, his performance easily stands out. And we must recognize Melissa McBride’s kickass Carol, who’s had some awesome moments this season. She does an incredible job with what she’s given, but I’d love to see more sides of her character now that she’s back with the group.

It’s going to be a LONG wait for February, when The Walking Dead resumes, but given the strength of this season, it looks to be worth the wait.

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