Spoiler-Free Recap, “Still” – B-
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was no doubt a delight for Daryl Dixon fans as it focused entirely on him and Beth as they attempt to survive alone in the woods. While I’m sure there are many viewers who chafe at the episodes wherein one storyline takes the stage, it’s definitely much needed time that we need to spend with these characters. At the same time, I did find myself growing a little impatient with pacing in “Still.”
Minor Spoilers Ahead
“Still” is another quiet episode of The Walking Dead that makes its characters and the way they navigate through the world the focus of the story. Following Beth and Daryl as they go in pursuit of her first alcoholic drink, “Still” gives us a deeper look into the inner lives of these two very different characters. While Beth’s relentless optimism grates on Daryl’s nerves, it’s also the only thing keeping her from falling apart and giving up on life. When she looks at him, though, she sees an emotionless automaton; but detaching from the situation is Daryl’s survival tactic. Of course, these disparate ways of dealing eventually bring the two into contention with each other.
Not surprisingly, though, the core of both their unhappiness is the fact that they’ve lost their safe haven and their makeshift family. It’s just the two of them now, so all their dirty laundry is suddenly out in the open for an airing. Daryl doesn’t want to let Beth down, but experience has taught him that she’ll die eventually, and he’ll just blame himself. Beth doesn’t understand why she’s still there, even though better people than her (Maggie, Michonne, Sasha) are now gone, but she’s also determined not to succumb to the despair that led her to attempt suicide back in season two.
As a teenager trying to deal with growing up after the apocalypse (and the loss of her entire family), it’s difficult to look at Beth and not see the whiny, privileged “bitch” that Daryl rails against when she tries to coax him into opening up. Sick of humoring her, he curses her instead, pushing Beth just to make her feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. As far as he’s concerned, her determination to get on with life without giving up is the fantasy of a young girl who doesn’t understand anything.
For Beth’s part, every needling question is meant to force Daryl into some kind of emotion, and she does eventually get what she’s looking for when he finally breaks down and admits that he blames himself for everything. The Governor found them because Daryl gave up on searching, and in turn convinced Michonne to stop looking. If he’d kept up the hunt, maybe he could have saved everyone. If he’d kept looking, maybe Herschel would still be alive. It’s this unreasonable (but understandable) guilt that shows Beth that Daryl isn’t emotionless—he just can’t bear to think about his mistakes and not feel responsible for the deaths of the people he came to care about.
The way that Daryl vacillates between annoyance with Beth and a desire to protect and shelter her mirrors the inner struggle that he’s been dealing with for the entire series. Having others continually ask him what he did before is such a sore point because he wasn’t anything before. Admitting to Beth that he was just a stupid redneck who followed his older brother around is painful, and he doesn’t want her to see him that way because of the very fact that he still thinks he’s that person. Moreover, despite Merle’s many (MANY) faults, he misses his older brother and the camaraderie they shared, which only makes him feel worse about himself. Beth, on the other hand, sees that part of him as a good measure of his strength and why he’ll outlive all of them. Unfortunately, her quiet conviction that Daryl will be the last person in the world still standing is more melancholy than uplifting.
On somewhat of a tangent, I enjoy shows that put a little bit of thought into the titles of their episodes, and The Walking Dead does put in that effort from time to time. Usually the titles are pretty straightforward, but “Still” provided a few double meanings that I had fun unpacking. First, the stillness of the beginning as Beth and Daryl attempt to hide and avoid the notice of the walkers. They need to stay still just to survive. Second, finding the moonshine still so that Beth can have her first drink. Finally, the almost peaceful stillness they find in their drunken conversation, trying to come to terms with all the pain they’ve experienced in such a short time.
What did you guys think of The Walking Dead this week? How do you feel about Daryl and Beth after everything they went through together in this episode? Share your thoughts below!
“Still” – B-
The Walking Dead: Season 4 Episode 12, “Still” aired March 2nd, 2014 on AMC.