*This is gonna be a busy week for me in regards to catching up on everything I planned on watching and reviewing. This review is obviously late, and will be a bit on the short side, but I’d rather post it sooner than later.*
Of all the split up groups in this half of the season, the Daryl/Beth tandem has been the strangest in my opinion. No two characters have been more polarizing (besides Michonne and the Governor, of course,) and after watching their interaction in “Inmates” I couldn’t imagine a scenario where they’d become so much as friends. Here’s where “Still” comes in, as it throws their differences under the fire, and through strong writing and an incredibly tense moment, manages to convincingly bring them together (as friends, of course.)
Daryl, for one, certainly knows how to please a lady in the woods, especially when it comes to providing food by dead mud snake. In that regard, the first half of the episode portrays a similar version of the character as opposed to “Inmates,” as he goes about his business and rejects normal conversation with Beth. It was a little off putting for me to watch because of that, but as their journey goes on it becomes a bit easier to pick his brain. I initially assumed that he was acting like such a turd because he felt as though he had no other choice. That he believed his friends at the prison were dead and all he was worth in this world was a quiet face focused on nothing but survival. And that he also just didn’t like Beth and/or hated her guts. Half of my assumption was actually correct, as he admits later on that he feels responsible for the Governor barging through the prison and creating chaos.
All of this begins to clarify when Daryl and Beth reach an abandoned country club, the setup for most of the gruesome affairs that occurred this week. Beth’s insistence to have her first drink, coupled with Daryl’s negligent behavior, crossed paths with quite the emotional punch when they cleared the vicinity full of walkers. There were many symbolic instances here, from the dead lady with the “rich bitch” sign hung over her neck, to the bottle of Peach Schnapps that Beth was so urgent to try. These moments helped to bring what really troubled them to light, especially Daryl. And what I liked the most from their time in the country club was the last scene in the kitchen, where Beth broke down because she couldn’t even find a clean glass to enjoy her first drink. It’s hard to forget the kind of life she had at the farm before the zombie outbreak, so flashes of spiritual weakness like these are appropriate and perfectly illustrate how happy she was then and the hardships she’s facing now.
As for Daryl, he took Beth’s snap at his unwillingness to let go as a challenge to break her optimism. From the country club to his old stomping grounds, we are introduced to Daryl’s old safehouse for the first time. It is here where he truly lets himself go. So much in fact that at one point in this episode I was afraid he’d end up getting himself killed teaching Beth how to use a bow and arrow in front of a live zombie. The brief intensity of “Still” that I mentioned earlier reared itself very evidently in this second half, as Daryl highlighted his meaninglessness in this life throughout his past as well as the redneck drifter roots he once developed from his father. Anyway, following a simple game of “Never Have I Ever…” with Beth, he loses his cool once their comparisons in personal experiences stretch too far. His eventual breakdown leads to him mentioning his insecurity towards the prison massacre, justifying the cold shoulder he’s been giving Beth. He almost died at one point of his childhood over a stupid dog cartoon, so of course he’d think Beth’s old days involved Santa Claus and unicorns. That’s important to consider because of her contrasting outlook on life after the zombie outbreak.
This here is what makes this week’s episode so compelling. Despite what Daryl thinks of her, Beth is honest enough to speak the truth and put his life in perspective. Her claims that he’d be the “last man standing” and that they both deserve to be remembered for who they are and not who they were came with perfect timing. Emily Kinney was emotionally on all ends of the compass, showing insecurity at the country club and then being unapologetically blunt at the safehouse. But it was all very convincing, and at the end of the episode we’re left with no incentive to find her as snotty, rich-minded, or irritating. I’m glad her character finally got a chance to shine, and now I can honestly say that she’s the type of personality this show needs to keep us enthralled in its cast. And let’s face it: if there were more people like Beth in this world, it’d be way more painful to watch them go out the hard way.
Two more things that I loved about “Still” were the standalones: Daryl’s golf session with the walkers at the country club, and the decision with Beth to burn his old house down. The former was an excellent example of the breach in gore and violence that Scott Gimple’s new direction has endorsed since the premiere, while the latter scene capped off this week’s episode by reminding us that no installment wraps up without symbolically summing up how our heroes have been affected by past events. Also, the subtle alcoholic references treated us to some profound emotional and action-oriented moments beyond Daryl and Beth’s respective breakdowns. An underlying feature of this season, it continues to become a theme of letting go that dangerously threatens the nature of the characters in this show.
With some tough love from Beth, Daryl learns that he’s worth much more in this life than he ever was before. I know this is a topic I didn’t touch on too much, but it’s nice to see that Daryl’s come into terms with who he’s become since the outbreak. He doesn’t know if whether or not the people at the prison are still alive, but he owes it to them to at least search, and I’m sure he feels obligated to do so knowing that they really do care about him if they are. Such character development isn’t too common in most shows like The Walking Dead. So, in that regard, “Still” helps to define what makes this show so great, and everything from the plentiful use of symbolism to the growing relationship between Beth and Daryl become that much more special to watch.
+Beth gives Daryl the reality check he deserves
+The danger of the bottle
+Beth full realized, and easier to root for
+Their decision to burn Daryl’s house down a nice way to move forward from his past