I have to admit when I read the synopsis for tonight’s episode, I immediately got a sinking feeling in my stomach. As most people know, I love The Walking Dead, and I hate to see any episode that is less than a A+. But, I’m sorry, the description initially made it sound like it was going to be a real sleeper and certainly not the “Daryl-centric” episode that fans were waiting anxiously for. I’m glad to say that I was 100% absolutely wrong, and in fact, “Still” turned out to be one of the best episodes of the series thus far in my opinion.
The premise of the entire episode began with Beth (Emily Kinney) getting on a kick to have her first alcoholic drink — not just wanting a drink but getting almost obsessed over it. Daryl (Norman Reedus) is a survivalist, and his focus is on more practical needs like finding food, even if that food is a very gross-looking mud snake. But, Beth has had enough of Daryl’s jerk attitude and storms off exclaiming:
Okay, enjoy your snake jerky… But, I’m not staying in this suck-ass camp — Beth to Daryl
Pretty stupid, right? Yep, I thought so too, but it turned out to be the contrary and instead, was some of the best character development not just for the underrated Beth but also for Daryl, the character who we thought we knew everything about.
Up until now, the most we’ve seen of Beth has been the depressed teenage girl who slit her wrists (and, for attention only as Daryl accused her of!) and who had gotten to the point of not shedding a tear when a new boyfriend had gotten killed. Oh, and how could I forget — Beth also could sing and was a pretty good babysitter to Judith. Let us all alert the media. So, when she decided to go on a drinking binge, I had assumed it was to simply get smashed and to forget about how horrible the world has become. Hey, I’m a Jack Daniels girl, and if this shit ever were to go down, I’d want to get wasted too — every single day (maybe Bob Stookey and I could have been drink buddies). But, to my surprise, that was not the reason, not even close. Beth, in fact, had become the optimistic (and stronger) one, declaring that Maggie, Glenn, Rick and everyone else were alive until it was proven otherwise. The drinking was just to let the past go and acknowledge her father’s death, since it was Hershel (Scott Wilson) who had always forbade her to drink.
Daryl finally breaks down and gives in to Beth’s drinking game, even to the point of insisting, “If this is your first drink, it ain’t going to be peach schnapps!”. Daryl knows his booze because they end up in a crappy little shack with enough moonshine for a small bar. The best moments of the entire episode are when they are both outside on the back porch drinking together. Ever since “Inmates”, Daryl has been the epitome of negativity and nothing but a buzz-kill, and no one really knew why. He had also been a total asshole to Beth, and while she had been a bit whinny at times, she certainly didn’t deserve that treatment. Underneath it all, it boiled down to guilt. We might remember Daryl had tracked the Governor for a while after the first attack on the prison, but then he stopped. He reasons that if had just continued, he might have been able to kill the Governor, and Hershel along with the other survivors at the prison would still be alive. In Daryl’s eyes, this was just another one of his failures, just like all of the other things he failed to do in his life because he was so hell-bent on simply following Merle around. It took a pretty silly and juvenile drinking game to get through that wall Daryl had built up around him, but Beth finally succeeds and I think their relationship is going to be much better going forward (assuming they both survive).
There was also one other negative aspect of Daryl’s character that was revealed — he’s not a very good leader, at least not yet. When Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) appeared, it was stated that eventually he would become Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) right-hand man. When I saw that, I immediately thought, “What about Daryl? Couldn’t he be second-in-command?“. The answer is “No”, and tonight’s episode explains why. Daryl is a survivalist and a damn good one. If you’re with Daryl, you can be sure you will find enough food to eat and survive, even if it’s a foul mud snake or a squirrel. You certainly won’t starve to death. But, Daryl still hasn’t gotten to the point of being able to step up, make decisions, and lead a group of people. Beth wants to have a plan, to go back out there and find the rest of the survivors. Daryl, well, Daryl just wants to make a camp. Now, I do think Daryl could become a very good leader eventually, but it’s going to take some time to get past just following orders like he did with his big brother, Merle.
The only thing I’m worried about now is just how long Beth will last. Emily Kinney totally owned this episode, and she put out there a true image of who Beth really is, a Beth we never really knew. But, what Beth said at the very end before they burned the cabin down I thought was very ominous — “You will miss me, Mr. Dixon, when I’m gone”. Uh, oh. I couldn’t help but think of the episode “Internment” that was focused on deep character development for Hershel, only to have him beheaded by the Governor two episodes later. Three brand new characters were just introduced, and unfortunately, that means some of the old characters will have to die soon enough. I’m sure Beth is at the top of most people’s list of predictions, but I’m hoping she will hang on for a little longer. After all, we just got to know her!
All in all, I thought this was a top-notch A+ episode. Sure, it wasn’t packed with lots of action and gore, but remember that The Walking Dead is just as much about the characters as it is about the horror. The characters and their deaths would mean nothing to you if you didn’t get the chance to know who they truly were, right? We’ve got only four episodes left in the season, and so, I don’t know if we’ll get another episode like this before season’s end. But hopefully, and especially since several new characters have been introduced, we’ll see more of this going into season five.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.
Most memorable quotes
- If you’re going to have your first drink, it ain’t going to be peach schnapps — Daryl to Beth
- Okay, enjoy your snake jerky. But, I’m not staying in this suck-ass camp — Beth to Daryl
- Golfers like to loosen up, right? — Beth
- I’ve never needed a game to get lit — Daryl
- I may not be like Michonne or Maggie, but I’m a survivor too — Beth to Daryl