The newest episode of The Walking Dead will split you into one of two camps — this was great character development or this hour was wasted by moving the story nowhere…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There are going to be two types of recaps/reviews for Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead titled ‘Still’. I’m going to go ahead and cover both camps so that way readers can see both points of view and decide which camp they would fall under when it comes to defining this particular episode.
At the end, like a ‘choose your own path’ story, I will then reveal which way I leaned without placing judgment on anyone else’s feelings about how they looked at this particular episode. The breakdown seems to go like this — one half of the people I polled or read from Twitter believed this episode was a grand exposition in character development, seeing and showing things about everybody’s favorite redneck Daryl as well as a bit more empathy for Beth, who we haven’t seen a whole lot since the farm days. The other side says this was a painfully boring episode that didn’t move the story along one ounce and with only four episodes to go it feels like we just wasted an hour.
Let’s start with the character development camp:
Daryl and Beth are still lost in the woods, trying to find food and sanctuary after the prison and following their brief time camping together a couple of episodes back. Following a night spent in a car trunk to avoid a herd of zombies, Daryl and Beth end up back in the woods eating rattlesnake and sitting mostly in silence. That is until Beth decides that she wants to have her first drink and whether Daryl wants to sit there and pretend like nothing happened, she’s going to get sauced.
So the pair finds a country club because golfers like to drink, right? Along the way there are a few zombie kills and inside, Beth finally finds a bottle of wine, which she then has to use to kill a random walker inside. Then she finds a bottle of peach schnapps and wonders if this stuff is any good, which Daryl replies it’s not (I tend to agree with Daryl). Beth finds the pro shop and switches out her grungy tank top for a more friendly tax accountant on a weekend getaway look, which is promptly ruined when Daryl goes Tiger Woods on a zombie’s head and splatters her with blood and an eyeball (I think).
This entire scenario leads them to an old abandoned house that Daryl first discovered when out scouting with Michonne. It’s there that he reveals a moonshine still and that’s where Beth will get her first drink. Following a few shots, Beth gets Daryl to play the never have I ever game except in this case it’s just the never game and they start exchanging back and forth with each taking shots. The game ends on a sour note because all day long Beth has been trying to get Daryl to reveal what he did before the zombie outbreak, and one of her questions ends up ‘have you ever been in jail?’. To which he replies ‘is that what you think of me?”
Cue the Dashboard Confessional music as Daryl goes full emo, flailing and screaming, which of course attracts a walker. Outside while shooting a zombie full of holes, he finally lets out what’s been bugging him this whole time — he stopped hunting The Governor and if not for that, maybe he wouldn’t have rolled up and ruined their safe prison home while scattering all of them to the wind. This is after Daryl taunts Beth by telling her that she’ll never see Rick, Carl or Maggie ever again. Beth’s power through all of this is hope and she spreads a little bit of that into Daryl’s heart with a big hug that they share while crying over the loss of those they may never see again.
In the end, Daryl reveals that before the apocalypse he was just Merle’s little brother, getting into trouble and following him from place to place doing basically whatever he was told. Now he’s a different man walking a different path where he can be a leader and a savior. Meanwhile, Beth’s outward cheerfulness to find her last remaining family member is revealed to be a little bit of fright because deep down she probably believes that they are gone forever, but holding onto one ounce of hope to see Maggie, Glenn or any of the others is all that’s tethering her to this world right now.
We learned a lot more about Daryl as well as why he’s been so morose since the attack on the prison. It was also finally revealed what kind of damaging home Daryl grew up in, and the kind of father and brother that molded him into a rough around the edges bad ass, who secretly had a heart of gold hiding underneath a few layers of tobacco spit and moonshine.
Now the counter argument that the story went nowhere…
While Daryl and Beth are traipsing over the river and through the woods to the redneck moonshiners house they go, the story of The Walking Dead didn’t move forward by an inch. Since the series returned a few weeks ago, the group has been splintered and as of yet the only signs that they will ever find each other again is the promise of this town called Terminus, which we’ve now seen on a couple of occasions but we are no closer whatsoever to finding it or discovering if it’s actually a safe haven or another Woodbury.
The episodes being split into groups was maybe understandable through two episodes because there was so much catching up to do, but now we sit four episodes in and at least judging by the preview for next week we are staying in that direction with another hour this time focusing on Maggie, Sasha and Bob with a brief interlude devoted to Daryl and Beth again. The first half of the season was split as well with the initial story focused on the killer flu that was taking out survivors without a single bite and the second part was aimed at the return of The Governor and the final battle for the prison. Some would argue (myself included) that The Governor’s story should have been wrapped at the end of season 3 with the exact same prison battle that took place this season. Regardless, we still got to see a famous scene from the comic come to life on the small screen, which as I stated back then, was the best single episode of The Walking Dead yet.
Four episodes into the return to season 4 and we are no closer to the group reunited, which we know they will all eventually do at some point, and we really have no clue which direction they are going as the season finale bears down on us.
This episode was a painful reminder of the mid-season return where everything was about Carl’s journey into teen angst while we really found out nothing about the bigger picture of the story going on. Daryl has depth now, which is good because for all the popularity he had throughout the series he was about as shallow as a mud puddle when it came to actual exposition of his character. I enjoyed Beth’s role tonight as well as she helped drag him out of the muck and discover why he’s been such a sad puppy ever since the prison was overrun.
The problem is I felt this episode could have been combined with another group story, or part could have been included over the course of all four episodes. The Walking Dead is struggling mightily this second half of the season to tell an entire group story, and it’s suffering because of it. Maybe show runner Scott Gimple’s master plan is to show them all segmented into different groups so by the final episode of the year we see them reunited like puzzle pieces all coming together.
What I believe is happening is a show trying to make up for three seasons worth of character development in a matter of seven or eight episodes. The writers and producers behind The Walking Dead would do good to watch a series like Game of Thrones, who has the largest cast of regulars of any show on television. The story in Game of Thrones sometimes moves at a very slow pace, but because they shift the focus back and forth between characters and plots, it all feels perfectly cohesive. You may go an episode without seeing a featured lead, but it’s never without purpose or meaning.
The Walking Dead is a group show, but these people are meant to be together not separated wandering the countryside. Didn’t they think to have a rendezvous point if a prison collapse happened? None of them are in cars so how far away could they really have wandered in a matter of days? It feels as if the ploy we are being plied with will see the group find each other in Terminus during the season finale with Glenn catching eyes with Maggie in the final moments and they clutch so tight their knuckles almost burst and then we discover the new big bad who will be haunting (or hunting) them in season five. Maybe I’m wrong, but that certainly feels like the way we are heading.