The Walking Dead’ season 5 brings its 8th episode to life with midseason finale “Coda,” as Rick attempts to negotiate with Dawn for the lives of Carol and Beth, only for the conflict to go horribly awry, while Gabriel makes a shocking discovery of his own. Last week’s ‘The Walking Dead’ episode, “Crossed,” saw Daryl returning to the church in search of reinforcements, while Beth covertly worked to plan her escape with the injured Carol. So, what does the latest episode of season 5 bring? Does Rick rescue Beth and Carol from the evil hospital? Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 5, episode 8, midseason finale “Coda”!

Midseason finales of ‘The Walking Dead’ have steadily proven more and more difficult to construct. Last year, the Governor’s final assault on the prison provided an exceptionally cathartic and action-packed climax, one that came with the tragedy of poor Hershel’s death, but there was no getting around the fact that the AMC horror-drama had retread old ground in getting there. The Governor had been spared the axe once, though his return seemed little more than an excused to flesh out the character for an episode or so before bringing him right back to the showdown we’d expected with the season 3 finale.

I’ve made no secret of my disinterest in the Grady Hospital arc, which admirably upped Beth’s role in the main story, but ultimately felt too regressive a turn to provide any forward momentum. Abraham and Eugene’s potential cure had already pulled the main thrust in a different direction, and the sad truth of Daryl’s attempts to rescue Beth is that the tale only offered a scant few outcomes. We know from experience that Rick and the group would never settle down in the hospital, which itself lies within a city long left behind by the narrative, so either everyone would live through a return to status quo, or someone might die. Like the Governor’s return assault, no outcome could offer anything we hadn’t already anticipated.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an emotional blow to lose Beth, and the writers had done admirable work in rewriting the importance of a background character from the first season. But the shocking loss ultimately doesn’t earn anything beyond its face value. Daryl will close himself off emotionally for a bit (again), Maggie almost comically has her sister’s survival ripped away in an instant, and everyone sets out on the road again in search of a new hope, pretty much as they were in the beginning of the season.

The hour itself seemed eager to call back to stronger points of the last two seasons, such as Rick echoing Gareth’s words in his casual dismissal of Bob’s pleas, or Dawn offering Beth her first non-moonshine drink, and later echoing the “Claimed” sentiment between Rick and Noah. So I’m left to wonder if the writing perhaps sought to assign meaning where otherwise little had grown. If anything, “Coda” most tantalizingly raises questions as to whether Rick might be too far gone for whatever comes next, or if Tyreese’s confession to Sasha will pay off in violence toward the latter half of the season.

Additional benefit lies in the fact that Abraham and the others made a timely return to the church, ultimately reuniting all the survivors once again, including the wayward* Father Gabriel. We understood the decision to split the survivors in the first place, ‘The Walking Dead’ playing to its strengths with smaller character dynamics at a time, though it certainly opens up the storytelling possibilities to have all survivors again united under one umbrella, and with no missing teammates to pull anyone in opposing directions.

*It admittedly fit with Father Gabriel’s questions of Gareth’s irredeemable acts, that he’d venture to the school in search of proof toward the group’s cannibalism, but hi, did he miss the part about Bob having a leg severed in the first place? Between that and everything overheard at the church itself during the conflict, what in the world did the character need proven, to endanger Carl, Michonne and Judith’s lives so foolishly?

With Beth gone, hopefully he can at least sing.

Beth has long been a divisive character among the series, alternating between songbird zombie bait and a new target for Daryl shippers, but “Coda” seemingly put the final... well, coda on the show’s uncertainty over what to do with the character. We can admire the effort with which the first half of the season built up Beth’s new circumstances and the ambiguity of the Grady police officers, but like last year’s midseason finale, the ultimate sadness of the hour doesn’t change the fact that things ended up exactly where we’d anticipated them to be in the first place.

An ancillary character bit the bullet in a seemingly pointless slaughter (what was Beth’s endgame in stabbing Dawn with a small scissor, anyway?), and we’ve sullenly hit the road again. Say what you will about Beth’s importance to the series, or the effectiveness of the Grady story at large, but I can’t imagine what ‘The Walking Dead’ had to gain by trading Beth for Noah in such an anticlimactic arc.

Until 2015, then.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Morgan returns once more, in another weird post-credits placement. Too bad the clip glosses over the fact that Morgan now thinks everyone is Washington-bound. Whoops.
  • So... is Eugene okay? His presence within the “previously on” segment made it seem as if his health might still be in jeopardy, though we only saw him asleep in the back, really.
  • What was the significance of the items Morgan placed on the shrine?

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of thrilling zombie killing? Were you surprised by Beth and Carol’s fate? Stay tuned for more coverage of the ‘Walking Dead’ season 5, and join us later for more coverage of ‘The Walking Dead’'s midseason finale on AMC!