As I predicted in my sneak peek (read it here), tonight’s episode focused on the exploits of Beth Greene and Daryl Dixon. In fact, they were the only characters for the entire hour, allowing us to learn a whole lot more about arguably the most popular character on the show, as well as about Daryl. Okay, so Beth wasn’t a particular favorite, although tonight’s episode might help change that somewhat. Click through to see what happened after the break.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S04E12, “Still.” Read more at your own risk.>>
We begin at night, the scene shown in last week’s short Promo video. They come out of some bushes onto a road, climb into the trunk of a dead car (after Beth tries to start it), and then tie down the trunk from the inside. They spend a tense night, sounds of thunder and walkers from right outside. From the sounds of it, they had a whole herd following them; but they ride it out, and the next day the area has cleared out. They scavenge a few things from the car, and head off to make camp. Here we see the scenes from the Sneak Peek, with Beth setting up camp, and Daryl hunting food, missing a squirrel, but nabbing a snake. While Daryl hunts, we see Beth appearing to collect dew off of leaves, but she stops to allow a ladybug to crawl onto her finger – she still has something of the child-like wonder that has been slowly drained out of her this season. As Daryl skins the snake, Beth approaches and watches him doing it – their diametrically opposed reactions to nature is telling, and Beth looks grim, setting her mouth. They eat the snake, and Beth says, “I need a drink.” Daryl tosses her the water bottle, but she tells him she needs a real drink, “like alcohol.” Beth heads off alone, and almost runs into four walkers. She manages to distract them by throwing a rock – one almost keeps coming, but then notices the other three walking away, and follows. She turns around, to see Daryl standing there. He takes her back to their small camp, but she’s angry – she doesn’t want a babysitter. She fingers him and heads off again.
Beth comes out into the open at a golf course, Daryl in tow. They head to the clubhouse, passing a sign saying “Pine Vista Golf Club,” a few stray walkers following them. The front door is locked, a body outside; they go around and find the side entrance open. The area immediately inside was apparently an encampment of survivors at some point in the past. Four former inhabitants are now hanging from the ceiling, struggling to loose themselves. They’re tied up – someone hung them here, they aren’t suicides. Several more dead bodies lie strewn about, and lots of clothes and blankets hang from string, apparently dividing sleeping areas that are no longer being used. Beth picks up a souvenir silver spoon, Washington DC on its raised surface. A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps, considering Abraham’s stated mission of getting Eugene to DC? Meanwhile, Daryl scavenges for anything useful. They go further inside, Beth on her quest for alcohol, Daryl being extra careful. She gets ahead, going through plastic drapes (probably separating a food cooler from the front). She sees a bottle of wine on top of a rack, and makes a bit of noise trying to get it down. Just as she does, a walker comes up from behind, surprising her. She smashes the bottle over its head, and stabs it several times with the broken neck. Finally, she gets her knife out, stabbing it in the head. Daryl is behind, watching. She says, “Thanks for the help,” to which he replies, “You said you could take care of yourself. You did.” She looks around at the room; painted on the wall she sees it’s called the “Dogtrot” – and there are several dead bodies lying on the floor.
They come down a flight of stairs, and crawl through some knocked over trophy cases. Daryl uprights a fallen grandfather clock, and grunts when he sees a slogan emblazoned at the top: Tempus Fugit, time flies. Not exactly an uncommon thing to find on a clock, but still telling – they seem to have nothing but time, and yet they are still on the move constantly, unable to relax their guard. They enter the clubhouse shop, and Beth goes shirt hunting while Daryl grabs some cash and matches. There’s one mannequin that isn’t wearing a shirt – its upper body has been replaced with a half-naked torso of a dead woman, a sign around her neck saying, “Rich Bitch.” Something very bad happened here; between the hanging walkers, the “Dogtrot” room, and this obviously hated woman, it appears as though the survivors that were encamped here must have killed each other off. Beth wants to show the body some respect, and Daryl begrudgingly helps her take the woman down. As they are leaving the shop, the grandfather clock strikes the hour: Tempus Fugit yes, and now they must flee as well, as a group of walkers are stirred into action. They get into an open room, and Daryl realizes he’s going to have to take them out. He uses his crossbow to take out one, shoves a second, and then grabs a golf club. Its head gets stuck in a walker’s head, and he has a couple of close calls. He grabs another club, and really goes to town on the last walker, striking it over and over again, finally smashing in its skull, splattering blood and gore all over Beth’s new shirt. She takes it off, leaving behind a still pretty messy yellow shirt beneath, and she goes through a set of doors at the back of the room.
Lo and behold, but behind the door is the bar. There are several more bodies in the room, looking almost like a set-piece. There is also a plaque on the wall with several men’s photos – all white, all obviously wealthy, and the connection between the photos and the dead bodies is pretty clear, especially because all of the dead are wearing expensive, although now decayed, suits. Based on this and the Rich Bitch from earlier, it would appear that the conflict may have been class-based, and Daryl knows which side he’s on. He grabs some darts and starts hurling them at the pictures, hatred curling his lips. He likely didn’t know these men, but he knew their type – the kind of men who would have spat on Daryl sooner than give him the time in the pre-apocalyptic world. Meanwhile, Beth has searched the bar, and found only one bottle with anything left: Peach Schnapps. She tries to find a glass, but before she can drink any, she begins to cry – it appears she doesn’t want to go through with it. Daryl looks concerned, comes over, grabs the bottle and smashes it on the floor. He says, “Ain’t gonna have your first drink, be no damn Peach Schnapps.” He tells her to follow, and they leave.
They’re in the woods again, and Beth is trying to figure out what Daryl was before the zombie apocalypse. She guesses he was a motorcycle mechanic, but he refuses to bite, not telling her what he was, but denying that he was a mechanic. They come into a clearing; there’s a small trailer and shed, and he tells her that he and Michonne found this place on one of their foraging expeditions. Inside the shed is a still – hence the name of tonight’s episode, at least in a literal sense (more on that later). He hands her a mason jar half-full of moonshine (see, I’m an optimist), and tells her, “That’s a real first drink right there.” She takes a sip, and tells him it’s the most disgusting thing she’s ever tasted. She moves around, finding a very unusual piece of art: a pink plastic bustier floor decoration filled with cigarette butts. Beth is incredulous – who would ever buy a thing like that? Daryl says his dad would – and for a second, I thought that he meant that this cabin was his dad’s. In fact, he means that this is exactly the kind of place his dad had, complete with kitsch accouterments, a cheap but comfy chair, and even “Internet” – a bunch of newspapers that Daryl holds up with a degree of irony. He’s opening up a bit about his past, but he’s still hesitant. Beth, who’s been trying to get Daryl to drink – she tells him she doesn’t need a chaperone – finally convinces him.
They end up playing a bit of a drinking game – tell on thing you haven’t done, and if the other person has, they have to drink; if they haven’t, the challenger has to drink. Daryl snorts, and tells her he’s never needed a game in order to “get lit,” but he plays along. Almost immediately, a tension shows up between them, and it’s predicated on social class. We find out that Daryl’s never been outside Georgia – Beth takes a drink; Daryl’s never been on holidays – Beth takes a drink; Daryl’s never sang in a choir like everything is great – Beth takes a drink. Her things are more innocuous at first – such as never firing a crossbow – but then she takes a chance, trying to find out more about him. “I’ve never been to jail,” she says. He stares at her. “Is that what you think of me?” he asks, getting angry. They’re both making assumptions about each other based on their expectations, and suddenly we can see a parallel between the dead bodies with the “Rich Bitch” sign, and those in the “Dogtrot.” Daryl, who is obviously a little drunk, gets angrier as he sits, and starts yelling at Beth. He tells her he needs to piss, and he does so on the other side of the room, getting noisier by the moment. This agitates a lone walker that’s been hanging around outside, and he decides its time for Beth to learn how to shoot the crossbow. Outside, he shoots it in the shoulder, pinning it to a tree. He shoots it twice more, getting more and more belligerent with Beth. She goes up to the walker and stabs it in the head, yelling at Daryl that killing them isn’t supposed to be fun. They argue loudly, until Daryl starts to break down – he blames himself for the prison, for not taking out The Governor, for failing to protect everyone. Beth hugs him from behind, holding him, and they both cry. Daryl’s never been this emotional before; of course, the moonshine has more than a little to do with this, but it’s a well-played scene, and marks a transition in their relationship and understanding of each other.
That night, they sit on the porch outside the trailer, drinking a bit more moonshine, although they’ve apparently slowed things down a bit, and are no longer stupid drunk. Daryl smiles wryly and tells Beth, “I’m a dick when I’m drunk.” He tells a story of hanging out with Merle, watching TV at a friend of Merle’s, a tweeker (a Meth addict) who gets upset when a cartoon his estranged children loves comes on. Daryl laughs, they fight, guns get pulled, and Daryl thinks he’s going to die. The situation was defused when the tweeker punched him in the stomach and he threw up everywhere, making Merle and his friend laugh and lower their guns. The story is a lead-up – he tells Beth that this was all he was before the apocalypse: someone who just followed his brother around, a “nobody. Nothing. Some redneck asshole, an even bigger asshole for a brother.” Beth doesn’t judge, but instead opens up herself, telling him how she misses Maggie, her brother Shawn, and her dad. How she had dreams of Hershel growing old, of Maggie and Glenn having a baby, of Hershel being a happy grandfather and dying of old age. She calls herself stupid, but Daryl obviously disagrees – dreams are important, even, and perhaps more so, in this world. He says, “I’ll be gone someday,” to which she replies, “You’re going to be the last man standing. You are.” This gave me a very bad feeling. Things like this simply are not said when the dead are walking the Earth. I sat anticipating either Daryl or Beth to suddenly be bitten by a walker, but nothing happened.
Daryl says they should be getting inside – it’s late – but Beth begins to grin. “We should burn it down,” she says. “We’re going to need more booze,” he replies. We see the two of them pouring moonshine throughout the trailer and shed, dousing everything thoroughly, throwing the mason jars in after the liquid. Outside, Daryl lights a stack of money with one of the matches he took from the clubhouse, and offers the honors to Beth. The trailer catches fire rapidly, and first Beth, then Daryl, finger it. Some walkers are coming, attracted by the noise and light, so Daryl and Beth leave down a moonlit path.
Interestingly, the diorama of the dead at the clubhouse, of the Rich Bitch and the wealthy club members in the bar, all murdered, combined with the dead bodies in the “Dogtrot” (who might they be, but those treated like dogs? Likely the have-nots of the class conflict), works to parallel the struggle that Daryl and Beth have throughout the first two acts of tonight’s episode. Beth, still somewhat sunshine and light even in her depressive, alcohol seeking quest, is contrasted by Daryl’s close-to-the-vest, don’t get too personal redneck facade. She came from a position of privilege, a literal farmer’s daughter who had many advantages, not least of which was a good education, a loving father, and a stable home environment. Daryl had an abusive father, and Merle, a brother that would rather spend his time getting high and hanging out with tweekers, dragging his little brother down into the slime. As Daryl said, before all this happened, he was nothing; but in the night when they drink together, opening up about their hopes and dreams, and their difficult memories, they find common ground: they’re both survivors. And while there are no guarantees that they’ll survive in the long run, they are able to move past whatever hatreds their differences could have fomented; they’re survivors because they can adapt, and they can see the value in each other as human beings, unlike those that killed each other at the clubhouse. Burning down the still and its cabin is one last moment of defiance, a statement about a past that can’t be changed except through immolation, a purification by fire of their relationship and friendship: going forward, it’s a new life for both of them.
The name of tonight’s episode, “Still,” is an interesting play on a couple of things that are going on. On a literal level, it refers to the moonshine “still” Daryl takes Beth to, but on a metaphorical level, it symbolizes several aspects of the struggles they both witness, and have with themselves and with each other. “Still” refers to their emotions, still caught up in their failures: Beth’s to keep her family together, and to realize the dream of a happy grandpa Hershel; Daryl’s in his inability to take out The Governor, to protect the prison and those he had come to love. “Still” also refers to their inability to move forward physically, of being locked down in the same area immediately around the prison – after all, they seemed to know where the golf club was, and Daryl is quite aware of their location, taking Beth straight to the trailer and still. And “Still” refers to the class conflict that led to the massacre at the clubhouse – the people that were holed up there were unable to overcome their old prejudices, were “still” locked in old patterns that no longer held relevance, and thus led to their deaths. By the end of tonight’s episode, neither Daryl nor Beth are “Still” on any of these counts: they’re moving forward, and ready to take on new challenges.
There was some heavy-duty symbolism in tonight’s episode, but none of it was presented in a heavy-handed manner. Even the devices they used to burn down the still – the moonshine, symbolic of the rural poor, and the stack of money, a clear symbol of the wealthy (such as country club members), work into the dichotomy that was set up between Daryl and Beth. The first alcohol that she is going to consume, the Peach Schnapps, is clearly a drink of the wealthy; in stopping her from drinking it, and taking her to a still, Daryl is opening a door into his world for Beth, opening a door in his own emotional armor, whether he realizes it or not. He inducts her into a world she’s never seen before, but by the end, she is accepted – and so is he. They burn down the cabin in an act of defiance, a big finger thrown up at the society that existed before, in which they never would have imagined talking to one another, let alone being friends. I guess there are some good things to come out of the apocalypse, after all.
Steve’s Grade: A
Class of the field for the second half of Season Four so far. Norman Reedus is by far the best actor in the series, and having an entire episode devoted to Daryl was a real treat. His strength made Beth look better than usual tonight, and we got some real insights, and some excellent tension and character development between the two of them.
Postscript: Tonight’s In Loving Memory at the end of the episode was for Sarah Elizabeth Jones. She was a second camera assistant working on the Greg Allman biopic Midnight Rider when she was killed last Thursday, struck by a freight train. The people at TWD wanted to honor her memory.