tv review – AMC’s The Walking Dead, episode 4.12

‘Still’ was all about Daryl and Beth, still scavenging and out on their own. Daryl hasn’t exactly been talking much after what happened back at the prison and Beth was fed up with the silent treatment: she was going to get herself some booze! Eventually this search for alcohol led to some nice character beats and one of the most emotional scenes we’ve ever seen from Norman Reedus’ silent and mysterious loner. Emily Kinney did some nice work too this episode, but, like always, the writing was a bit wonky, and the actors had to sell sudden and on the nose lines and moments.

The episode opened with a great scene of Beth and Daryl hiding in the trunk of a car. Much like last week’s scenes involving Rick and a bed, we were only shown what Daryl and Beth could see, nothing more. Once agian it made for a powerful and claustrophobic moment. When the duo got out of car we were treated to both of them setting up camp, which included making a fire with a car mirror and a shard of glass, using hubcaps and rope to set up an alarm system, and the skinning and eating of a rattlesnake. During all this not a word was spoken until Beth tried to make conversation at dinner, which made everything look cool, efficient but also strangely mechanical and devoid of humanity. Getting back to the latter was at the center of ‘Still’.

While it was Beth who was on the hunt for a drink, as a rite of passage, proof of maturity, it was Daryl who really changed. After the twosome had found their way to a golf club bar, during which Daryl went berserk on a horde of walkers, Beth found a bottle of peach schnapps. As she explained (multiple times) her father had always kept her from drinking and, presented with the opportunity, she couldn’t take a sip and broke down. Unable to comfort her Daryl smashed the bottle and took her to an abandoned cabin for a real drink: moonshine. The cabin, we learned, was apparently Daryl’s father’s and, hesitantly, he opened up about his past a bit. Beth took this as an opening and during a drinking game she asked questions which triggered an extreme response from Daryl. He dragged her outside and tried to force her to shoot a walker, which she refused. Instead she called out Daryl on his emotional state: the anger, the fear, the pain, the guilt, the sadness. Daryl let it all out and, while the lines were quite cringeworthy, Reedus did a fantastic job with the scene. The pairing of these two characters and actors works wonderfully: they complement each other well. It’s because of them Daryl’s emotional and cruel explosion worked, not because it was consistent with his character (the constant cold shoulder wasn’t either).

They eventual revelations didn’t really shock though. Beth wanted to know all about Daryl’s past, what he did before the walkers happened, but despite the air of mystery, we already knew all there was to know. Apparently Daryl never really had a job but, instead, just drifted around Georgia led by his brother Merle. It did open up a conversation about family and the value of, despite the state of affairs, caring for the good people and things you had and still have. You have to let go of burdens, of everything toxic, because that stuff will only drag you down. While this lesson and the conversation surrounding it in itself weren’t subtle, The Walking Dead writers made sure you really got it: Beth and Daryl burned down the cabin, the past, so to speak.

Gripes aside, ‘Still’ was an effective episode carried by two actors doing a fine job. The question remains: when will Daryl and Beth catch up with others from the prison? Judging from the preview, probably next week. 7/10

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