This week’s episode of The Walking Dead – entitled “Still” – not only gave us backstory on our favorite character, but was also a series first by following just two characters. If you’re not a fan of Daryl or Beth, then you probably didn’t like this episode. On the other hand, if you’re a member of Team Daryl this was the episode every fangirl – and guy – was waiting for. So let’s dive in and see what we can learn about these characters’ pasts and what it might mean for the future.
When we first catch up with Daryl and Beth, we find them escaping from a bunch of zombies and an impending storm by taking shelter in the cramped trunk of an abandoned car. Now whereas a lot of people would be perfectly fine with being trapped in a closed space with Daryl, this was a pretty stupid idea. Sure, they had no other option, but I can’t help but fear what would happen if one of the zombies fell on the hood of the trunk and caused it to slam shut – thus locking Daryl and Beth in there.
Though looking back at this scene – and the ones following – one sees how these seemingly random acts actually prove how intelligent Daryl is. From taking the hubcaps off the car as a warning system to using the side-mirrors to start a fire, Daryl is incredibly resourceful. It’s one of the reason why he’s the badass survivor we’ve come to know and love.
This episode quickly turns into a hunt to find Beth alcohol so she can get drunk – I know. Well it’s mainly Beth on that quest while Darryl follows to make sure she doesn’t get herself killed. Needless to say getting wasted without a stronghold in the end of the world is a bad idea. Hangovers and zombies do not mix – so I’ve been told.
As the episode progresses, we find that Beth never drank when her father was alive – for obvious reasons since Herschel was a recovering alcoholic – but now that he’s gone, she wants to try it. Beth feels this will be a coming of age of sorts to prove that she is an adult now. Coincidentally, it’s not the booze but rather Beth’s actions in this episode that really attest to her coming of age.
She is no longer the helpless little girl she was – well, less like it. She’s been learning from Daryl and has become quite handy at setting up camps and starting fires. Though her real breakthrough moment is how she handles Daryl. She stands up to him and tries to snap some sense into him. Rather than backing away and crying like we saw her do last time around, she is confronting her obstacles.
Daryl’s Heavy Heart:
While at a rundown forest house – complete with moonshine brewery – Daryl comments on how it reminds him of home, which leads to him slowly starting to open up about his past. As the drinks continue, Beth suggests a drinking game while a walker looms outside – always a good idea. During a game of “I Never”, we learn that Daryl has never left Georgia, never been on vacation, and has never been to prison – the last of which shocks Beth. This upsets Darryl and causes him to list off a bunch of other things he’s never done:
“I’ve never eaten frozen yogurt, never had a pet pony, never got nothing from Santa Claus, never relied on anyone for protection before. Hell I’ve never relied on anyone for anything. Never sung out in front of a big group out in public like everything was fun, like everything was a big game! And I sure as hell never cut my wrists looking for attention.” – Daryl
This all leads to a fight – which Beth does not back down from – that ultimately reveals why Daryl has seemed so cold the past few episodes. Daryl holds himself personally responsible for everything that just happened at the prison. He feels that if he had only kept looking for the Governor, then maybe Herschel’s and everyone else’s deaths – remember he thinks they’re the only ones left – could have been avoided.
Once they start to slowly sober up, they joke about how Beth is a happy drunk while Daryl is a “dick”. After this, we finally get to learn what Daryl was before the apocalypse: nothing. He talks of how he used to hang out with his brother and just get picked on. Even when he was sticking up for his brother, he would still get pushed around and laughed at like a joke.
“Just drifting around with Merle. Doing whatever he said we were going to be doing that day. A nobody. A nothing. Some redneck asshole with an even bigger asshole for a brother.” – Daryl
Last Man Standing:
As harsh as it is to say, the end of the world has worked well for Daryl. He finally is able to contribute to a group, feel important, and have people look up to him rather than push him around and make fun. He’s a survivor. This is why Beth tells him that when everything is said and done, he will be the last one standing, that he was “made for this”. Daryl just admits that he’s used to things being ugly. It’s all he knows.
Beth tries to remind him that he did get away from that life, but Daryl doesn’t agree and asks that she keep reminding him that things have changed. Though when Beth says that he’ll be the last one standing and she’ll be gone someday, she does more harm than good. Beneath Daryl’s quick “Stop!” response, lies someone who has a tremendous fear of loss.
Norman Reedus spoke of how he lives with a constant fear of what Beth said. That sooner or later everyone will leave him one way or another. First his brother died and came back before his own eyes. Then everyone he loved at the prison is gone. So when Beth tells him that she’ll be gone one day, that well intended compliment is actually the cruelest thing you could say to him.
While we’ve seen some romantic tension between Beth and Daryl before, this episode did a great job of bringing them closer together. I originally commented on how this could lead to an awkward reunion with Carol – whom Daryl also had some romantic moments with – but I think this episode might have squashed that chapter of Daryl’s life.
We find out here that Daryl has hated his life and wants to distance himself as much from it as possible at the end of the day. Carol and him are far too similar. They both came from abusive situations and have had to become seemingly cold in this new world. Beth on the other hand represents everything that Daryl isn’t – as we could see from his list of things he’s never done which were clearly pokes at what he thinks Beth’s life has been like. Beth could be the fresh start Daryl needs; and Daryl is the strong shoulder Beth needs.
If you watch for just the zombie-killing, then you were probably disappointed by this episode. Though to be honest, you’re watching for the wrong reason. The Walking Dead has always been about more than just a zombie tale with some humans. If anything it’s a drama that just happens to have some zombies in it. It will forever be about the characters; and this episode not only proves why Daryl is such a fan favorite, but also why Norman Reedus is such an amazing actor.
What lies in store for our characters down the line remains to be seen. Will Beth’s predictions come true, or will they end up being nothing more than cruel ironies as she outlives him? Beth is certainly becoming a stronger character bit by bit, but the fact remains the same: If Daryl Dies, We Riot!