UK VOD TV review: The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 8 (Mid-season finale)
Zombie Kill of the Week7
Neil Brazier | On 02, Dec 2014
Finally, the tension of the season opener returns in Episode 8 – but, unfortunately, it’s the mid-season finale, leaving us with a three month wait until our next bite.
Season 5’s journey has been rather mixed, almost sedated, as characters are explored, but still The Walking Dead leaves us hungry for more. The episode is titled Coda, but the effects of the mid-season finale will surely not stay finished with Rick and company.
The final scenes of Season 5 Part 1 will have you wringing your hands of sweat. Although the inevitable death of one character does provide the impact needed (and deserved), the whole thing feels like it could have been avoided. It was a stupid move to make by them, one that resulted in an accident and needless retaliation, causing the loss of one of the only people to have actually grown and developed over the past few seasons; someone who was once perceived as weak but has grown stronger, as they learnt to live with what the new world threw at them.
Credit must be given to the series for not ending in another gung-ho shootout: the two groups facing off inside the hospital corridor creates claustrophobia with no place to hide. It’s well shot, finding angles in a rectangular passage that you wouldn’t expect, all the while focusing on the unflinching expressions of each party. While the enemy might not have had a chance to develop themselves as someone who needs to be feared, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) mannerisms have you believe it’s there in abundance.
After Terminus, the show’s villains turned to the cops at Grady Memorial Hospital, a confused and non-threatening group whose society was never really explained other than that the strongest survive. There is a standoff between the leader, Dawn (Christine Woods), and another cop looking to usurp power, which reveals some of her dark history, but it doesn’t put her up there with the cannibals or the Governor and none of that threat is really evident now; not since Gorman tried to impose himself on Beth has the Grady group really seemed like an enemy.
Not having such a dangerous or explained foe does cheapen Episode 8’s endeavour somewhat, because there is no emotional attachment to the group. Thankfully, this is recovered in the incredibly tense standoffs both inside and out of the hospital, where one false move will get everybody killed. Even though it is the untouchable Rick offering the bargain proposed last week – the cops they are holding captive in exchange for Beth and Carol – anxiety levels rise, knowing that clumsy Sasha is one of the snipers trusted to protect the groups’ fearless leader.
Elsewhere, the other survivors offer nothing but filler, as Abraham’s group returns to the church. Thanks to Gabriel’s mistake, the tables have turned and the undead find themselves locked in. With the survivors free on the outside, it’s a subtle nod to the season’s ongoing theme of never staying in one place too long (“You keep moving or die,” as Carl said in Episode 7). This does provide a great zombie kill of the week, partly thanks to the position of the camera when it happens, but this group’s story is merely to break up the tension Rick is serving.
The concluding event is just the beginning now that our survivors are together again, but where do they go from here? Washington’s a lie, the church is overrun and an old friend is close on their trail. There haven’t been enough must-see moments in this first half of the season, the balance of violence and character development just not quite right. With the blistering return of pace from the season opener slowly ebbing away, the mid-season finale provides just enough to keep us satisfied – but not enough to fulfill our macabre desires.
The Walking Dead: Season 5 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Gene Page / AMC