The Walking Dead S05E08 Recap: Coda

beth pix pencil 2A plan to rescue Beth and Carol from Grady Hospital is in place. During last week’s episode, “Crossed,” Rick, Daryl, Tryeese, Noah, and Sasha had captured three hospital cops in order to negotiate for Beth and Carol’s release, though Sasha foolishly let Officer Lawson get away. Michonne, Carl, Father Gabriel, and Judith were left at the church, which seemed fairly secure until Father Gabriel decided to saw out some floorboards and escape the church. Amongst GREATM we saw the beginnings of some forgiveness for Eugene, who did wake up. Uncertainties remain: where will GREATM go, and will they remain six-strong? One thing we have learned from Season 5 of The Walking Dead that stays with us, is that in the post-apocalyptic world, you are not safe.

“You are not safe. No matter how many people are around, or how clear the area looks. No matter what anyone says, no matter what you think. You are not safe. It only takes one second. One second, and it’s over. Never let your guard down, ever.” – Rick Grimes, “Strangers” (S05E02)

You are Not Safe

Lawson is running from Rick. Yes, you better run, Lawson. Run faster. Though we were upset during last week’s episode, “Crossed,” when Lawson knocked out Sasha and escaped, now we kind of feel sorry for him. He just wants to stay alive, after all. Rick starts following him in a police car and uses the loudspeaker rick kills lawson pix pencil 2to tell Lawson to stop. Lawson doesn’t stop. Rick drives up behind him and hits him with the police car, knocking him to the ground. Why didn’t Lawson just stop? Lawson is yelling for help, telling Rick that he broke his back.

Rick: “Didn’t have to be like this. You just had to stop.”
Lawson: “I couldn’t. I don’t know you. But I think… I think I’m getting the idea.”
Rick: “You just had to stop.”
Lawson: “Take me back to the hospital. I did it for your friend.”
Rick: “Not after this, no. Can’t go back, Bob.”

Bob tells Rick he’s been out here too long. Rick shoots him.

During the last episode, “Crossed” (S05E07), Father Gabriel had pulled up the floorboards in his rectory in order to get out of the locked-down church. Father Gabriel has walked to the school where the Termites had been camping out. There is still a mass of walkers inside the school, pawing at the windows. He finds a bible with “Mary B.” inscribed in it. Then he finds what is left of Bob’s barbequed leg. He is starting to freak out, drawing the attention of the trapped walkers. gabriel pix pencil 2They get worked up and manage to break through the glass. To bad they didn’t do that when all those cannibalistic Termites were sleeping outside the school. Father Gabriel limps away as fast as he can, making his way back to the church with a crowd of walkers following him. He runs up to the front door of the church, calling for help. Michonne and Carl hear him from inside, but the church is closed up tight and Carl can’t remove the board securing the door. It’s not clear why Gabriel didn’t come back through the hole he had created in the church floorboards, from which he had originally escaped. Probably because he’s a moron. Michonne has to use an axe to let Gabriel in the door, destroying the safe haven they had created inside the church. Though this just proves, once again, that there are no safe havens.

No Matter How Many People are Around

Once inside the church, Father Gabriel tells Michonne and Carl to run to the rectory office, where he had created his floorboard escape hatch. michonne in church pix pencil 2Holding the door as the walkers try to push in, he tells Michonne and Carl to take baby Judith and crawl out from under the church. He repeats what Michonne said to him in “Crossed”—“It’s worth it.” Sorry to break it to you, Gabriel, but you can’t look heroic trying to help the very people your actions put in danger, especially when those people just risked their own lives to save you from walkers you brought to their doorstep. They all make it out of the church, and Michonne jams the church doors closed, trapping the walkers inside, albeit temporarily.

We kind of hate Father Gabriel, but we feel guilty about it because we love the actor Seth Gilliam as Dr. Alan Deaton in Teen Wolf. Father Gabriel should take a page from Alan and man up. It’s one thing to get yourself killed, but stop doing stupid stuff that can get others, including baby Judith, killed as well. If anyone needs Rick Grimes yelling “Stop!” through a loudspeaker at him, it’s Gabriel.

In Atlanta, Rick returns to his group and tells Daryl that Lamson is dead. Rick wants to change the plan, but Daryl says the plan may still work. rick ang captives plannin pix pencil 2Lately, Daryl seems to be in the role of talking Rick off the edge. They talk to the captured hospital cops, Shepherd and Licari. Knowing that Dawn won’t go through with the deal if she believes their group killed Lamson, Shepherd and Licari tell Rick they are going to explain to Dawn that Lamson was killed by walkers, or “rotters” as the hospital cops call the walking dead. This plan requires trusting the people you have kidnapped, which seems like a questionable decision. The assumption is that they all want the same thing. Let’s hope that is true.

Beth seems to have taken over Noah’s role of helping Dawn. She is straightening up the office as Dawn works out. Dawn is trying to get in touch in her officers, but Lamson, Shepherd, and Licari are not answering the radio call. beth dawn office pix pencil 2Thinking that they are just ignoring her as they sometimes do, Dawn is not alarmed by their lack of response. After placing the picture of Dawn and Captain Hanson on the cabinet, Beth asks about the Captain. Dawn tells Beth that she will hear stories about the Captain, as well as about her and what she did, but that the part people leave out is that he was her mentor and friend. Dawn tells Beth that Hanson lost his way:

“They risk their lives every time they go out there. It has to be worth it. It has to matter. He lost sight of that. So he lost them. Beth, in this job you don’t need their love… But you have to have their respect. Otherwise, the day is gonna come when you need backup and you don’t have it.”

At the walker-filled church, Michonne calmly asks Father Gabriel where he went. He tells her he went to the school: “I had to see. I had to know.” We sure hope it was worth it, Gabriel. The walkers are starting to make their way out of the church, and Carl asks, “Where do we go?” maggie michonne pix pencil 2Just at that moment, a huge red fire engine drives up and blocks the door so the walkers can’t get out. We love happy coincidences and magical timing. Sure, the cynical, rational part of us grumbles, but the emotional part of us that loves happy endings cheers out loud. As everyone gets out of the truck, there are lots of hugs and smiles. Michonne tells Maggie that Beth is alive. Maggie bursts into tears, hearing that her sister is alive. It’s about time Maggie expressed some emotion about her sister being missing. Tara says, “Let’s blow this joint and go save your sister.” This makes us happy because we always want everyone to be together. We suffer from separation anxiety during the multiple-storyline episodes.

One of the hospital cops, O’Donnell, is verbally abusing the Kris Kringle-looking orderly, Percy, and pushes him over. Beth watches. Seeing her at the end of the hall, O’Donnell asks Beth is she is good with a needle and thread. Dawn is walking by and tells O’Donnell that she needs Beth and tells her to follow.

…Or How Clear the Area Looks

Later, Beth is sitting by the elevator shaft that drops down to the walkers. This was how she and Noah broke out of the hospital previously. Dawn comes to check on her, telling her that Percy is going to be okay. Beth responds that nothing is going to be okay. When Dawn asks her if she is going to jump, Beth tells her she wanted to be alone. Apparently Dawn leaves the key to the elevator exactly where it was when Beth and Noah took it because she doesn’t believe that Beth is going anywhere. Beth responds that Dawn isn’t going anywhere either, saying:

“You… you keep telling yourself you have to do whatever it takes, just until this is all over. But it isn’t over. This is it. This is who you are and what this place is until the end.”

Dawn starts with her guilt-tripping tactics about how the hospital saved Beth and how she has saved Beth twice, despite Beth killing Gorman and Jeffries. Beth argues with her, saying she would never kill somebody. Dawn continues with her manipulation tactics, responding:

“But you did. What do you think would happen if the others found out? I protected you. And we helped that patient. I didn’t have to, I wanted to. But there’s a way things have to happen here. Don’t you get that?”

dawn and odonnell pix pencil 2They hear the door close and see hospital cop O’Donnell standing in the hallway, listening. He confronts Dawn, telling her that people deserve to know who they’re working for, which seems like a bad move on his part. He tells her that the guys are talking and think she is cracking, adding, “This is Hanson all over again.” In response, Dawn pulls a gun on him. She reminds him that she was the one who killed Hanson when no one else could do it. O’Donnell reminds her that they were rookies together, that she knew his wife, and she celebrated with him when his child was born. Dawn responds:

“Don’t. That guy is gone. We’re supposed to protect people. To help them. But look at you. You’re beating the old man. You’re laughing with your buddies about that poor girl getting raped. That’s who you are now.”

O’ Donnell asks who she is now, telling her that after Hanson, she also changed. He charges Dawn and knocks her gun down the elevator shaft. elevator shaft pix pencil 2They start to fight. Beth tries to pull O’Donnell off Dawn, but is unable to. Dawn manages to push him away and he tries to regain his balance near the elevator shaft. Dawn yells to Beth, who pushes O’Donnell into the elevator shaft, where he falls and presumably dies.

No Matter What Anyone Says

Beth is sitting in Carol’s hospital room. Dawn comes in. Beth just can’t get away from this woman. Dawn patronizingly tells Beth it’s okay to cry. Beth tells her she doesn’t cry anymore. Dawn tells Beth that she does, but doesn’t let others see it. All this apparent openness with Beth seems to be one of Dawn’s manipulation tactics. Beth tells Dawn that now she knows that Dawn has been protecting herself, not Beth:

“Gorman, Jeffries, O’Donnell… they were problems for you. And now they’re not. And you didn’t have to do the dirty work. That’s how things get done here. Everyone uses people to get what they want. You’re not the ones who have to remember.”

Beth tells Dawn that she’s going to get out, just like Noah. In response, Dawn tells her that Noah will eventually return: “They always come back.” dawn carol pix pencil 2Dawn also tells Beth that she realizes that Beth must know Carol, suggesting that maybe there’s a reason they’re both there. Rather than continuing to use guilt, Dawn switches tactics to telling Beth how important the work they are doing at the hospital is—trying to draw upon Beth’s sense of purpose and meaning. Dawn then says that the deaths of O’Donnell and Gorman were ultimately beneficial, because they hurt other people. Dawn seems very skilled at manipulation, but it doesn’t seem like Beth is buying it.

Tyreese and Sasha are on a roof, scoping the area. Tyreese tells Sasha not to beat herself up about Lamson getting away. We disagree with Tyreese, maybe some old-fashioned guilt and regret with straighten her out. tyreese sasha pix pencil 2Tyreese talks about the fact that he didn’t kill Martin at Terminus, even though he told Carol he had. He says that maybe he should have, but he didn’t. He talks about how Sasha used to copy him when they were little, and maybe they are still the same. Sasha responds, “You’re still the same. And that is good. I don’t think I can be. Not anymore. Not anymore.” It seems as though the incident with Lamson might have woken Sasha up to the fact that —you are never safe.

No Matter What You Think

Rick walks up to meet a police car driving slowly towards them. He introduces himself and tells them he was a deputy with the King County Sheriff’s Department. rick hands up pix pencil 2He tells them he’s there to make a deal: Officers Shepherd and Licari for Carol and Beth. They ask about Lamson, and he tells them Lamson was attacked by the dead before they were able to get to him. When they ask where Rick’s people are, a rifle-shot to a nearby walker provides an answer. He tells them he will wait while they radio in. Rick looks pretty emaciated, and that beard doesn’t help things one bit. Just trim it Rick; that’s all we’re asking.

You are Not Safe

Beth and Carol get ready for the trade. Beth changes out of her orderly gear and into her blood-stained clothes, and hides a pair of scissors in her cast. Carol gets into a wheelchair. Rick’s group and their captives walk into the hospital. The two groups face each other down in the hallway. dawn in standoff pix pencil 2This seems like a huge risk for Rick’s group, coming all the way into the hospital. Is it possible that they are putting too much faith in these people? Perhaps Rick is also a bit blinded by their police uniforms. Symbols are powerful things. Dawn asks where Lamson is. Shepherd tells her that one of the rotters got him, and Lacari confirms he saw it. Dawn says that he was a good man. Does she mean that? They trade hostages. Rick and his group turn around and start to walk out,

It Only Takes One Second—One Second, and it’s Over

Before they have gone more than a few steps, Dawn says, “Now I just need Noah.” Everyone is stunned. beth and dawn in standoff pix pencil 2Dawn explains that since he is losing her ward, Beth, she needs Noah back. Shepherd tries to get involved, but Dawn shuts her down. Rick and Daryl tell her Noah is not staying. In order to prevent any bloodshed, Noah agrees to go back. Beth comes over to hug him. Dawn looks over at Noah and says, “I knew you’d be back.” At that moment, Beth’s whole demeanor changes. She walks up to Dawn and says, “I get it now,” and stabs her with the scissors. Dawn immediately shoots Beth in the head. After a few seconds of shock, Daryl shoots Dawn in the head, then everyone puts their guns up. carol daryl crying pix pencil 2Shepherd yells at everyone to stop: “No! Hold your fire! It’s over. It was just about her. Stand down.” Daryl is crying and Carol has tears in her eyes as she comes over to comfort Daryl. Rick starts to cry as well. After a few minutes, Shepherd offers them the opportunity to stay at Grady. The Doctor adds, “We’re surviving here. It’s better than out there.” Rick immediately says no and adds that he is taking anyone who wants to leave with him.

Never Let your Guard Down

The fire engine pulls up in front of the hospital. The group leaves the fire engine, weapons ready, Daryl carrying beth pix pencil 2and carefully make their way towards the hospital (except for Father Gabriel, who lopes along without a weapon). They only find some stray walkers in their path. They see Rick coming out of the hospital and stand their weapons down. Behind Rick, Daryl is holding Beth’s dead body. Maggie sees Beth and collapses on the ground. It is a heartbreaking scene, with everyone being met with death and despair. Hope is crushed once again.

There is a final scene after the credits. It appears that Morgan is at the school by the church. morgan pix pencil 2He finds a trapped walker and kills it. He makes his way through the cemetery over to the church. Once he is at the church, Morgan provides a sacrifice of sorts at the altar of the church, then starts laughing. Is his laughter scorn, relief, or something else? He finds the map that Abraham left behind for Rick, with Abraham’s message on it. Morgan realizes that Rick is still alive and was here.


It’s hard to lose Beth, particularly since she had become such an interesting character who was able to stand on her own. The scenes of Beth’s death and its aftermath were very moving and provided the opportunity for some excellent acting, particularly by Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus.

coda ending pix pencil 2This season has had a few happy coincidences, such as Carol coming to Terminus just at the right moment, Carol and Daryl meeting Noah in Atlanta, and the fire engine showing up at the church just in time. We don’t object, as they move the plot along and help save our heroes, but the fire engine arrival was perhaps a bit over the top. This mid-season finale brings the group back together again, as they were in the first episode of Season 5—just how we like it.

We suspect this may not be the last we hear of the hospital, because there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what exactly occurred there and what Captain Hanson did that caused Dawn to kill him. If we don’t return to the hospital, perhaps the story will unfold through people that have decided to leave Grady and go with Rick and his group. Though there will still be a few mysteries about the hospital, we are appreciative that we are not ending on a mid-season cliffhanger. Our major storylines have been resolved, providing opportunities for new plots to keep us engaged.

The dialogue between Beth and Dawn provided varied ways to understand how these characters find meaning and purpose in their lives. Dawn believed that her actions at the hospital represented important work for the “greater good.” She tried to bring Beth on board to this philosophy, once she realized that getting Beth to feel obligated towards her was not working. But for Beth, meaningful experiences are generated through human relationships and connection to others, not a sense of community-building or social obligation. Rick and his group try to do what is right to some degree, but they focus on helping each other. Beth’s death showed how deeply caring and humanly connected they remain, despite living in a world where death walks among them every day. We look forward to seeing how this group continues to evolve during the second half of Season 5 of The Walking Dead.

7 thoughts on “The Walking Dead S05E08 Recap: Coda

  1. “It’s hard to lose Beth, particularly since she had become such an interesting character who was able to stand on her own.” Interesting now, but yes, I her this- she started to redeem herself, but she made a fatal flaw with…whatever she planned to do. Seriously, the trade had gone so smoothly, despite Dawn changing one of the conditions. I can’t grasp what Beth expected to accomplish with her admittedly foolish plan. It was a tense moment, but it didn’t help that the show spoiled it by giving us that quick scene of her putting the scissors in her cast. I found Maggie’s reaction similar to how Rick reacted when he realized Lori was dead. Though, Maggie barely mentioned Beth throughout this season, so it’s almost like she suddenly remembered she had a sister- that and she spent the rest of the time trying to reunite with Glenn. Dawn I am mixed on. She clearly lost control of power and while she tried to keep the officers in check, it felt hypocritical for her to call out O’Donnell for what he did when she had no problem using Beth’s head as a target during “Slabtown.”

    There were a fair amount of convenient moments here- the walkers breaking through the school at the moment when Gabriel was there, him finding a Bible, Abraham and company arriving when the battle had ended, to name a few. Good episode, but I don’t feel the writing was as strong as it could have been. Beth’s death will have an impact, but I doubt it’d be the same as, say, Hershel or Lori or even Shane. I’m glad she turned around and started to toughen up, but I just wish she’d been smarter about her plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth’s actions did seem foolhardy. Did she think she was helping Noah? Beth seemed to react emotionally, not rationally, throughout this season. Perhaps all of Dawn’s attempts at manipulation inadvertently turned Beth into a sleeper assassin. It’s hard to make sense of it. That’s a good point about Beth’s death lacking the impact, on either the characters or the viewers, as some of the other deaths we’ve seen.


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