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“The Walking Dead” review: “Still”

still

Last night’s Walking Dead focused on only two of the remaining survivors, Daryl and Beth, who at this point are still out on their own. Titled “Still,” the episode could’ve easily been another slow, boring piece of exposition, as The Walking Dead is still wont to feature occasionally. But instead, “Still” managed to be a rather delicate piece of character work, which gave both its lead performers (Norman Reedus and Emily Kinney) some decent material to work with.

At the beginning of the episode, Daryl and Beth remain camped out in the woods. Out of the blue, Beth decides she needs a drink, having never had one before because her father (the late Hershel) wouldn’t allow it as a recovering alcoholic. Daryl isn’t really into this idea, but after letting Beth wonder off on her own (smart move, Beth) and seeing her almost get killed by a walker, he somberly decides to humor her. They eventually make their way to a golf course, where they navigate through both walkers and regular dead bodies before reaching the bar. The only thing they can find there is a bottle of peach schnapps, but before Beth can take a sip, she starts crying. Unsure of what else to do, Daryl smashes the bottle, and tells her that he won’t let peach schnapps be her first drink (having had peach schnapps, I can say that it would be an excellent first drink, since its fruity flavor goes down with alarming ease).

From there, they head back out to the woods, where they end up at a backwater cabin which Daryl says he found with Michonne some time ago. There, he pours Beth some moonshine (having also had moonshine, I can say that it would be a terrible first drink, since it tastes only slightly more pleasant, than, say, battery acid). After some coaxing, she persuades him to take a drink too, and introduces him to the game Never Have I Ever (aka I’ve Never, or Ten Fingers, or however you refer to it). But when Beth continues to pry into Daryl’s past, Daryl gets upset and storms out. He starts shooting his crossbow at a walker that’s prowling nearby. He pins it to a tree, but doesn’t stop there. He tries to get Beth to shoot it, but she puts the thing out of its misery by stabbing it in the head. This, of course, makes Daryl even angrier. But when Beth confronts him directly, telling him she knows he’s just putting on a front, and that he misses the rest of the group as much as she does, he breaks down crying.

The rest of “Still” finds Daryl and Beth talking about lost loved ones and old wounds on the steps of the cabin. In the end, they decide to burn it down; an obvious symbol of putting the past behind them.

As per usual, I can’t say I found anything surprising about this episode of The Walking Dead. Daryl, who has always been afraid to let others in, and was just starting to before the battle of the prison, was primed to drop his guard a little bit, especially when paired up with the unabashedly emotional Beth. The decision to put these two characters together, who are clearly the opposite of each other in so many ways, was an easy way to elicit dram for the show’s writers, but so far it’s working for me. Just like grouping Lizzie and Mika with Tyreese a few episodes ago, I enjoyed seeing people who might never interact in the normal world forced to rely on each other to survive in this one.

Unlike everyone else, I’ve never been a big Daryl fan, but while his tearful confession that he didn’t do enough to save everybody was predictable, I thought it was also one of his best moments of the series. The story he told about his brother in the last scene was also a good match for Beth’s more directly sorrowful recollections about her family. Again, this wasn’t anything unexpected from Beth, but a lot of her dialog was quite lovely, and it gave her a great moment as well. By the time we get to Daryl’s reveal that he didn’t do anything but travel around aimlessly with his brother before the walkers took over (this coming after Beth has been asking him and trying to guess what he used to do the whole episode), I didn’t so much care that it wasn’t surprising, because it made sense for the character at that moment.  The decision to have them burn the house down as music (“Up the Wolves” by The Mountain Goats) plays to highlight what our heroes have been through could’ve easily felt cheesy, but coming off such a cathartic scene, it actually seemed like the right choice for the end of this episode.

“Still” also took care to point out the psychological devastation tied to putting down walkers over and over again. We see bodies hanging in the golf course, which barely phase Daryl and Beth. Later, they discover a woman’s torso, which someone has fashioned to the bottom half of a mannequin. Around her neck, they’ve also hung a sign that reads “Rich Bitch.” Beth tries to move her, but they ultimately settle for Daryl just putting a sheet over her head. Finally, as Daryl is using one of the walkers for target practice later in the episode, shooting arrow after arrow into him, Beth reminds him that this could easily be her father’s body. The constant mutilation of flesh on The Walking Dead allows for some fun and gory action sequences, yet the show doesn’t always demonstrate enough regard for the fact that these creatures were once human beings. It was nice to see that addressed.

I don’t really have anything else to say about this one. Not a lot happened in “Still,” and it was far from a great episode, but there were a few very good scenes and it gave Daryl and Beth both a chance to shine.