In my world, The Walking Dead’s Season 4, Episode 12, “Still” felt kind of like a limp little paper umbrella topping off the shitty cocktail of a weekend full of feverish, pukey kids, sleepless nights, headaches, and crying jags (both the kids’ and mine).
At one point, it felt like my life was awash in tears, vomit, Children’s Advil, and finally, at the end of the vomit-soaked weekend from hell, my ultimate reward finally came: Coronas with lime, and The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 12, Sunday night, 9pm.
While setting up my laptop and Corona situation in front of the television at around 8 pm, I idly purveyed the red carpet fashions of Oscar night and wondered what was in store for us with “Still.” It wasn’t until about 45-minutes into watching the episode that I realized that the entire episode would be dedicated to exploring Beth’s teen angst and Daryl’s arrested development.
By the end of it, I was re-upping two Coronas at a time…lime, salt, glug-glug-glug…but the Coronas weren’t making it better fast enough.
My ever-discerning WD buddy texted me about thirty minutes into it: Kinda bored with this episode. That was my inital hit as well. My mind has changed about it, and my appreciation has deepened for it, with subsequent viewings. That night, though, I was bored and restless with it.
While I remain fully supportive of Daryl and Beth deepening their friendship and maybe falling in love, I guess I kind of felt about it the way I feel about teen love in general: it’s great and all, but I don’t want to necessarily watch it for more than about 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops…usually.
When teen love is portrayed right in a movie, or on television, it’s awesome. Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freaks and Geeks, The United States of Tara come to mind as examples of television doing teen love right, capturing the newness, beauty and awkwardness of it while being thoroughly entertaining and relatable at any age.
I’m not trying to be a dick here. I know it’s zombie freaking apocalypse, and there isn’t that much room for witty teen banter when peeps are running for their lives…it’s actually an amazing feat that the writers of The Walking Dead have managed to interject as much love, humor, and human moments as they have, four seasons into this story. It’s super bleak subject matter to be dealing with, and the writers manage time and time again to wow us with the depth and complexity of the characters and the human relationships they form with fellow survivors.
Maybe the WD writing team is just giving us a break before they start really kicking our asses. I’m sure that’s it. Knowing Kirkman and Co. (and I really don’t, although I pretend I do…delusional much?), maybe it’s the calm before the storm, the exploration into Daryl and Beth, both as individuals and as partners, romantic or otherwise, which remains to be seen. I do like that Kirkman and Co. have kept the Daryl/Beth potential hookup card held close to their chests, for now…will they or won’t they?
And…do we want them to?
I think, after watching “Still,” the majority of WD fans would support Daryl and Beth as a couple (unless said fans are in the creepy “I am Mrs. Norman Reedus” demographic and can’t stand the thought of Daryl with anyone other than them….those bitches do not like to share).
I don’t know what it was about this episode that left me flat. Maybe we fans are just plain spoiled with such consistent, high caliber writing. I write a freaking blog, for christ’s sake. Who died and made me some kind of expert?
There were many aspects of “Still” that make a strong case for it as an episode. It was truly righteous of Beth and Daryl to survive both the Car Trunk Walker Rave and the Pine Vista Country Club Walkers, find the Shitty Shack and get drunk together on moonshine, work out some personal issues and deepen both their connection and their resolve to carry on. Just because I am not convinced that the episode was the most enthralling television ever doesn’t mean I am not loving those crazy kids…it’s Daryl and Beth, for chrissakes!
And as a WD fan and sometimes sideline reporter, I am also stoked that Norman Reedus and Emily Kinney got to flex their fine young talent in an episode devoted just to their characters…it’s the first time ever that The Walking Dead television series focused an entire episode upon two main characters. Bully for Daryl and Beth in all those regards.
All props aside, I was left feeling like the episode was a bit…long-winded. My WD buddy agreed with me. When we discussed it the next morning, she told me she felt like the whole thing between Daryl and Beth could have been consolidated into about 20 minutes, and that the rest of the time could have explored what was happening with other characters. Agreed.
Now, it’s time for me to make a true confession: Aside from my being bitch-slapped by the stomach flu over the weekend, my ennui with “Still” may also have been due to the fact that my attention has also been swayed, just a little, by the arrival of a new cult classic on the scene: True Detective, and its leading man, Rustin Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughy, and his partner, Martin Hart, played by Woody Harrelson.
In the course of six episodes, I’ve only taken, like, a thousand pictures of Rust Cohle…and that’s just of him smoking…
So, there it is, people…I’m cheating on WD with TD…maybe it’s not cheating, but whatever it is that I am doing right now, there are some dark-ass storylines rattling around in my subconscious these days. For the past two weeks, I have basically been white-knuckling it, perched upon the precarious precipice of dim Carcosa…it’s like I am Method-watching these brilliant and disturbing shows, and getting a little demented in the process.
I do the mom/wife thing, go to work, but I am vague, distracted. Many details are forgotten. My friends and co-workers keep asking me if I am ok. I don’t know if I am. I mutter some barely intelligible reply in response, and, if I have the focus, I change the subject . If not, I simply turn away, lost in my thoughts. My dreams have been weird as shit. At the children’s bedtime, I hug them for dear life. I am tweaked, people. These days, I am a junkie for the dark and crazy. So is it any wonder that Daryl and Beth’s after-school zombie special didn’t really do it for me this week around?
But, in the spirit of positivity, and because I am a loyal fan of the WD, here is my The Top 5 List of “Still”:
1) The Car Trunk Walker Rave
It is a dark and spooky night, and a storm is brewing…the camera pans to an abandoned car. The driver’s side door has been ripped off, the driver’s body spilled out from the car onto the road. She has been dead a long time. We hear a rustling from the brush, then we see Daryl, then Beth, emerge from the woods… she runs to the car and tries to start it, to no avail….of course.
At the sound of walkers approaching, Daryl proves his constancy and resourcefulness yet again by quickly opening the trunk of the car and motioning for Beth to climb inside…he follows suit, fashions a quick knot to secure the trunk without closing it all the way, and props the wide arc of the crossbow sideways to prevent the trunk from closing completely. He then aims the crossbow at the small opening, ready to fire if needed. They watch and wait…
The noise of the walkers approaching, and passing, outside the car becomes deafening…it sounds like there are hundreds, thousands outside. Time passes, the storm erupts, adding to the savage caucophany of the walkers. The camera pans on Beth’s face, pale and frightened, and on Daryl’s, as he keeps his crossbow ready, still and watchful as the walkers outside seethe and snarl and hiss.
It is a truly terrifying scene, one of my favorites thus far in WD…The Car Trunk Walker Rave!
My WD buddy texted me, That trunk scene could have been way hotter! Ha! Agreed, but it would have been kind of hard to get things going with all those damn walkers partying outside, even while sharing the tight quarters with Daryl Dixon.
Hey, undead assholes, keep it down…we’re trying to get busy in here!
The next morning, sunlight shines through the tiny opening. It is silent outside, finally…the walkers are gone. Beth and Daryl emerge from the trunk, alive for another day. After stripping the car for anything they can find (bottled water, side mirror, hubcaps, rope), Daryl looks at Beth a moment, turns and walks away while she stands there beside the car…she’s thinking…we can see the look on her face as she begins to form the idea in her head…
2) Beth Needs a Damn Drink
And who can blame her, really? I mean, while it’s pretty fascinating to watch them set up camp (Daryl hunts and skins a rattler while Beth uses the car mirror to start a small fire and drapes the hubcaps low across the trees as a walker-alert mechanism), the rote survival grind has got to be pretty dreary at this point.
Run until you collapse. Hide. Watch. Wait. Hunt and forage for food, water. Set up camp. Eat charred snake and huddle around the small fire. Watch. Wait. Sleep, for like 10 minutes. Hear walkers, run until you collapse. Repeat.
Beth has had enough of this shit. “I want a drink,“ she announces, as she watches Daryl eat rattler by the fire. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look up from his meal, just tosses the water bottle at her and continues eating.
Beth looks down at the water bottle, then back at Daryl. “No, I mean a real drink…as in alcohol.” As this pronouncement fails to elicit a response from Daryl, Beth continues, “I’ve never had one…because of my dad and all…but he’s not exactly around anymore, so…I thought we could go find some.” Still nothing from Daryl…he just keeps going to town on his grilled snake, is silent.
Beth watches him for a moment more. Her mind is made up. She is a teenager on a mission. “Ok,” she says, standing up. “Enjoy your snake jerky.” She walks past Daryl, yanks her knife from the log, and stalks off. Daryl doesn’t look up from his meal.
“Jerk,” she mutters, alone in the woods. A small group of walkers appears in a clearing, and Beth hides behind a tree, lobs a pebble to distract them. When the last walker finally turns away to investigate the noise, Beth whirls around to find Daryl, who has silently had her back the whole time:
As Daryl leads the way through the woods, Beth directs Daryl, “I’m pretty sure we need to go that way to find the booze.” When she steps into the hubcap-alert mechanism, she realizes Daryl brought her back to their little camp.
“What the hell?” Beth yells. “You brought me back! I’m not staying at this suck-ass camp!” And then Beth unleashes the first flip-off of the episode:
Beth whirls on Daryl, when he tries to pull her back, “What the hell is wrong with you? Do you feel anything? Yeah, you think everything is screwed…I guess that’s a feeling! So you wanna spend the rest of our lives staring into a fire and eating mudsnake? Screw that! We might as well do something! I can take care of myself, and I’m going to get a damn drink.“ And with that, Beth marches off, and after a moment, Daryl follows her.
3) The Pine Vista Country Club Walkers
It is indicative of Beth’s youthful innocence that she thinks there is a drop of alcohol left in The Pine Vista Country Club by the time she and Daryl arrive on the scene…what she doesn’t realize is that even on a good day, those rich juicers are probably going to drain the bar dry, let alone their being holed up inside the hallowed walls during the first stages of a zombie apocalypse.
Good luck finding anything to drink in there, Beth.
What Daryl and Beth discover inside the Pine Vista Country Club resembles more of a class-war graveyard than a “bon voyage, life!” party. The floor is strewn with dead bodies lying atop sleeping bags, while walkers dressed in sports coats, dresses and pearls hang, hissing and snarling, from the rafters.
Messages are scrawled on the walls beside piles of bodies, suggesting a grim humor being wielded as viciously as the weapons used to kill the priveleged former patrons of the country club. Welcome to the dugout, reads one message, and Beth is horrified to discover a woman’s corpse, strung up on a mannequin’s stand, with the sign “Rich bitch” around her neck:
Beth tries to remove the body from the stand, but is unable to do so, so Daryl throws a sheet over it to placate her…dark, and hilarious, especially the scene when Daryl drives a walker’s head with a golf club and sends its brains spattering all over Beth’s new white cardigan:
After finding nothing but cashmere and sport-coat swaddled walkers and one shitty bottle of peach schnapps at the Pine Vista, Daryl finally steps up and acts like a real boyfriend. He grabs the bottle of schnapps and smashes it to the floor, tells Beth that her first drink “Ain’t going to be no damn peach schnapps!”
And so, with that, Beth and Daryl bid “hasta la vista, Pine Vista” to the dilapidated country club and head out to go get them some moonshine at…
4) The Shitty Shack of Moonshine and Bad Memories
Daryl takes Beth to a place that he and Michonne discovered, a small cabin that has a moonshine still inside and is stocked with jars full of clear moonshine. “That’s a real drink right there,” says Daryl.
At first, Beth isn’t so sure. “My dad said you can go blind from bad moonshine.” When Daryl replies there’s nothing out there worth seeing anyway, Beth relents. She balks at the first drink, but the second goes down easier. At first, Daryl refuses a taste, saying that someone needs to keep watch. Beth challenges him, “What are you, my chaperone?”
After giving Beth a run-through of the Shitty Shack, which boasts all the comforts of Daryl’s dad’s place (complete with pink plastic bra planter, an old dumpster-picked chair, buckets placed strategically to spit chaw in, and an old weekly for entertainment), Daryl relents and takes the jar that Beth offers him. He goes to the old dumpster chair and has a seat.
“Home sweet home,” toasts Daryl, and takes a drink of moonshine.
Soon, Beth is teaching Daryl the rules of “I Never.” She seems surprised that Daryl’s never played it before. “I ain’t never needed a game to get lit before,” replies Daryl.
“Wait, are we starting?” asks Beth.
Beth starts easy…she’s never shot a crossbow before. She tells Daryl to drink. Now it’s his turn. Daryl pauses, then begins by saying he’s never been out of Georgia…Beth seems surprised by this, but says, “Good one,” and she drinks. Beth says she’s never been drunk and done anything she’s regretted. Daryl drinks, of course. “I’ve done lots of things.”
Daryl says he’s never been on vacation, and when Beth says she’s never been to jail (as a prisoner, that is), Daryl doesn’t drink. He narrows his eyes, asks, “Is that what you think of me?”
Beth protests lightly, replies that even her dad got locked up in the drunk tank, back in the day…she invites Daryl to resume the game, but he tells her he needs to go take a piss. He goes to the other end of the room, smashes his glass, unzips, and begins pissing into a corner.
When Beth tells Daryl to be quiet, Daryl snarls, “I can’t hear you! I’m pissing!” It has become apparent that Daryl has Gone to the Dark Side. He continues his tirade, listing to poor Beth all the things he’s never done: he’s never eaten frozen yogurt, he’s never gotten a pet pony, he’s never gotten a present from Santa! ( 😦 Poor guy…he really did have a shitty childhood!)
Daryl continues his rant, flinging his ire directly at Beth (“I’ve never sung out in front of people before, out in public, like everything was fun, like everything was a big game…I sure as hell never cut my wrists, looking for attention!”)
Daryl’s rant gets the attention of the Shitty Shack Lurker Walker, who starts getting agitated outside and tries to paw its way into the cabin. Daryl continues castigating Beth. “You’ve never fired a crossbow before? I’m gonna teach you right now!” He pulls Beth by the arm, pulls her outside, still yelling, and gets behind her, sets the bow and starts shooting arrows into the poor lurker walker, impaling it onto a tree. Beth begs him to stop, rushes forward and stabs the walker in the head, rekilling it.
“Whadja do that for?” demands Daryl. “I was having fun!”
“No, you were being a jackass!” Beth yells back. She continues to call him out on acting like he doesn’t care about losing the people they loved and cared about…she even calls him out on Sophia, saying that she saw his face when “that little girl came out of the barn, after my mom (as walkers)…you were like me, then,” but now, Beth tells Daryl, he acts like he doesn’t care about anything, or anyone. “You look at me like a dead girl…It’s bullshit!”
Daryl first tries to tell her she doesn’t know him, but he breaks…he blames himself for the fact that he quit looking for the Governor, and the Governor came back, mowed down their fences, and destroyed the life they had worked so hard to create at the prison. He mentions Hershel, that maybe he could have saved him..and Beth rushes to him as he breaks down and hugs him from behind:
Later, that night, Beth and Daryl are sitting on the porch. They are relaxed now, joking about Beth being a happy drunk, while “some people get mean.” Beth looks pointedly at Daryl, who agrees easily, “I’m a dick when I drink.”
Daryl reveals to Beth that before the turn, he was nothing…he was just drifting around with his brother Merle, doing what Merle said they were gonna do that day. Daryl looks at Beth as he admits he was, “Nobody, nuthin’, just a redneck asshole with an even bigger asshole for a brother.”
Beth asks Daryl if he misses his brother, and she talks about how she misses Maggie, her big brother Shaun, and her father…Beth admits that she hoped for a quiet peaceful life for her father, with a grandbaby from Maggie and Glenn, and picnics, and life to a ripe old age, surrounded by people he loved.
“Shows how stupid I am,” she laughs, reaching for her jar to drink. Daryl is sweet as he listens, says, “That’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Beth tells Daryl she wishes she had changed, and when Daryl tells her she has, she disagrees. “Not like you….you were made for the way things are now.”
Daryl counters that he was brought up in ugliness, that it is merely familiar to him, like the shitty cabin they found that reminded him of his dad’s place. Beth tells him that he is not of that, not anymore, and Daryl replies, “You’ll have to keep reminding me, I guess.”
Beth then tells Daryl that one day, she’ll be gone. When he protests, she tells him it’s true. “You,” she tells Daryl, “will be the last man standing.” Poor Daryl’s face when she says this…it’s like she just voiced his worst nightmare.
Beth looks at Daryl and tells him that he’s going to miss her when she’s gone. “You’re gonna miss me so bad, Daryl Dixon,” she tells him with a little laugh in her voice, but it hitches with sadness, too.
Beth tells Daryl that he needs to stay who he is now, and leave who he was behind, and places like the cabin need to be put down, “or they will kill you.”
And then Beth has another great idea…
5) Let’s Burn the Motherfucker Down
And so, they splash the rest of the moonshine around the inside of the cabin, light a stack of bills from the country club on fire, and flip a double bird salute to the burning cabin. Later, motherfucker.
Daryl has a smile as he walks away…whatever happens hereafter, he will most surely be freed from the past…and who knows what the future will bring?
Until next week, gang. Wish me luck with my dark and crazy, and enjoy the playlist…
(All images used in this post are screen caps from AMC’s The Walking Dead, and HBO’s True Detective, unless otherwise specified.)
No Doubt “Just a Girl” (for Beth)
Bittersweet “Dirty Laundry”
Queensryche, “Silent Lucidity” (for Daryl)
Me First and The Gimme Gimmes “I’ll Be There”