“This is who you are until the end.”
One of the major themes this show tries to explore is the notion of change. In a post-apocalyptic environment, does survival simply fall into a dull, monotonous routine, or can this world cultivate new behaviors, new attitudes, new relationships? We explore this idea during the conversations between Beth and Dawn in the hospital, and through these ideas, we then take a look at transformation and desires for control hidden under the guise of moral righteousness. These are interesting ideas, no doubt, but the writers don’t have a solid grasp on them or on the characters involved, and “Coda” ultimately stumbles to the finish line as a fairly average midseason finale.
The main problem with the hospital storyline is the fact that all the hospital characters serve more as symbols, as plot points, rather than as actual characters. They’re all very one note, from the villainous guards to Dawn herself, and as a result, Beth’s character suffers a bit as well. It’s clear what the writers are getting at with this dynamic: the idea that Dawn “protected herself” and that she “used people to get what she wanted”, and therefore couldn’t see that she was transforming into the problem herself; she believed herself to be the mediator, but she was anything but. However, her character pretty much serves as Theme Bot #1 throughout her arc, and her storyline never elevates her to character status before it kills her off. The show’s trying something similar with Rick right now–his actions at the beginning of the episode seem to be getting close to Gareth levels, to be honest–and that’s more effective because we know the character.
We also know Beth, which is why it’s kind of disappointing that her final arc is in service of a flimsy theme and a bunch of uninteresting characters. I understand why she feels the need to stab Dawn. I understand that Dawn’s “I knew you’d be back” is representative of a woman who craves control. I understand that Dawn views Noah as merely a possession. However, this is all payoff and weak setup, and the show falls into the trap of “It’s the midseason finale, so let’s kill someone off again!” It’s an effective moment, especially given Daryl’s reaction, but I’m not so sure it’s as effective as it should’ve been.
Ultimately, this has been an improved half season, and now that we have the hospital stuff out of the way, I hope the writers can sit down and churn out more episodes like “Four Walls and A Roof”. For now, though, we end outside of the hospital, with Beth in Daryl’s arms and with Maggie laying on the ground sobbing. Beth’s coda has reached its inevitable close.
-Wow, Maggie remembers she has a sister! It’s hard not to laugh when she starts sobbing at the end, which isn’t Cohan’s fault at all. It’s the writers’ fault for forgetting the character had a sister.
-The fight between Dawn and O’Donnell is pretty cool.
-Okay, so that Gabriel scene–with him banging on the church doors–is kind of on the nose, isn’t it?
-That post credits scene is wonderfully done. I love Lennie James.
-So, how about that Better Call Saul teaser?
-The show returns on February 8, and immediately following that will be the premiere of Better Call Saul. Until then.
Photo credit: AMC, The Walking Dead