With five episodes left, ‘Still’ took a bit of a time-out to redefine two characters we never expected would interact on anything more than a superficial level. When the prison walls came tumbling down and everyone split up, Daryl and Beth was the least likely duo. Fans worried that the writers were messing up; pairing these two polar opposites in a solitary story arc didn’t exactly work on paper. Though, ‘their’ episode surprisingly worked, owing thanks to a brilliant scene which ends with Daryl in tears and reveals his misplaced guilt and self-blame surrounding the events in ‘Too Far Gone.’ Who knew Beth would be the one to have such a profound effect on the fan-favourite?
In a way, Beth proved to be stronger than Daryl, at least mentally. She had lost much more (that we know of) than Daryl, yet she was the one more able to fight off excessive cynicism; she was the one able to give the duo a purpose and stop them from wandering around aimlessly – even if that purpose was just a good ol’ fashioned alcohol run.
I half-expected the episode to shift to others, seeing as all Beth and Daryl were doing was looking for a drink; but instead we stayed with them the entire episode. This was tedious in some scenes, particularly the whole pointless country club sequence.
The Walking Dead has established itself as a strictly serialised show, and ‘Still’ felt like a stand-alone more so than any episode that has come before it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the ridiculous premise did pay off in the end, but it does slow the pace down a little bit; especially when it was showing signs of speeding up.
It’s understandable that the writers are prioritising the exploration of inner-turmoil and conflict, trying to commit to realism as closely as possible given that these two characters just lost everything that they (along with the rest of group) struggled to build over the past two seasons. And it did lead to catharsis at the end. But, they didn’t necessarily need an entire episode for this to work.
Beth eventually finding her ‘first’ drink in the form of Moonshine, and Daryl’s emotions reaching boiling point – during a game of damn ‘never have I ever’ – led to the aforementioned, explosive scene; with both actors given the opportunity to showcase their talent in a way that neither of them have before. Daryl getting ridiculously offended at Beth’s implication that he looks like the type who has been to prison delivered an effective tension which made up for the first 20 or so minutes. I was thinking that Daryl just may actually get careless enough to get himself (and Beth) killed.
Though, just as the episode seemed to be ending on a high, Beth and Daryl (Baryl?) came up with the brilliant idea of burning their shelter down (that they could have stayed in until sunrise) and wandering off in the dark; while drunk. It didn’t quite make sense, given that these characters aren’t terribly idiotic.
The Walking Dead crew seem to understand that the greatest of TV shows are heavily character driven, and I’m really enjoying this introspective character study that the writers are doing so well. ‘Still’ continued great development, but dragged it out much too long, making this entry the weakest of Season 4b so far; but still far above most other shows on TV.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Walking Dead screens on FX in Australia.