'The Walking Dead' - 'Still': If Whiskey Don't Kill Me, Lord I Don't Know What Will
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'The Walking Dead' - 'Still': If Whiskey Don't Kill Me, Lord I Don't Know What Will

By TK | TV Reviews | March 3, 2014 | Comments ()


There have been a number of different storylines over the course of these four seasons of The Walking Dead, but these past few episodes have been a wholly different way of digging into each character, and overall it’s made for some solid television. By scattering the group, we’re allowed a level of focus and in-depth character development that was heretofore unavailable. As an added bonus, the idea of mixing up the more unlikely groupings, those who previously didn’t have much contact, has allowed for a newfound freshness.

This hasn’t worked consistently — the episode with Rick and Carl was a fumble, and Maggie, Bob and Sasha’s story had a few hiccups as well. This week’s episode, “Still”, focused solely on Daryl and Beth — an unlikely duo if there ever was one — and while it took a bit of goofery to get them to where we could appreciate the journey, it was one of the more enjoyable episodes (even if it didn’t drive the overall story forward much).

And it started with sheer, raw terror. Daryl and Beth, silently frantic in the dark, locking themselves in a trunk of a car to survive, and for a day and a night, simply enduring. The idea of trapping yourself in a rusted metal box as the walkers pound and scrape and scratch for hours on end is one of the more intense scenarios that any of them have had to endure. This episode, as well as “Inmates” did an excellent job of showing just how desperate things have been for them — this time, after getting out, we found them scavenging, salvaging, searching for anything that could be useful, that could get them through the next few hours. It’s one of the first glimpses we’d be granted into Daryl, using everything for something, be it weapon or trap or tool.

It’s shortly thereafter that the episode stumbled, as Beth’s seemingly random search for booze is born out of neither logic nor need, and feels like little more than a child’s petulance. Similarly, Daryl’s silence and dead-eyed stares are in some ways understandable, but also started to feel excessive and contrived over time. Neither’s actions made much sense, but perhaps that was the point of it — each was sinking into despair, each lapsing into a sense of loss and confusion and futility. But Beth’s abrupt quest for liquor was bordering on silly at times (even when one made the link to Hershel, it still rang hollow), and though she may have even admitted as much, as a plot device it never quite worked.

Motivations aside, the remainder of the episode actually worked well, providing a headily emotional gamut of experiences. The country club that they come across was nothing short of a vision of despair, full of bodies and hanged walkers, the trappings of twisted and broken humanity in every room. And for every kindness, there was some form of gruesome terror to accompany it. For every clean item of clothing Beth finds, there’s a splatter of blood as Daryl seethes in rage and takes it out on the dead. For every trinket found, there’s a defiled body, and for every effort to cover it up to maintain some semblance of humanity, there’s another scene of slaughter. Much like the house that Michonne and Carl found, something terrible happened in that playground for the idle rich, and it’s just one more reason to give up hope.

And so, after weeping over a bottle of peach schnapps, and hurling darts in a fury, and eventually giving in, Daryl leads her to the moonshiner’s shack, and it’s there that the episode shone the brightest. Emily Kinney isn’t the strongest of actors, and to be fair, Beth isn’t the most intricately written character, but she did easily her best work here. Over time, the wide-eyed innocent shtick has grown a bit tiresome, but we could look past it simply because of the absolutely fantastic work done by Reedus as piece by piece, through increasing revelations, we see just what kind of world Daryl came from, and just what kind of man who was, what he became, and what he’s in danger of losing. In those moments — a silly game, a temper exploding, and Daryl finally caving in — everything is laid bare, and he is shown raw and ragged and guilty and filled with self-loathing. In the end, it became a contrast of hopeful versus hopeless. And that final moment, with them defiantly burning the house down… it may have seemed stupid, but hell, in an episode full of bad decisions, it strangely worked.

In “Still”, the road that the writers set them on at the beginning wasn’t the smoothest or most logical, but the payoff of those final emotional scenes was worthwhile. Tangentially, I’d like to thank the writers for avoiding what could have, in the hands of lazier scribes, descended into cliched sexual tension. They smartly and rightly played it straight and kept their relationship as simple comrades, survivors, and friends. The bumps of the awkwardly scripted motivations were overcome by a solid finish, and while we didn’t really make progress in the grander scheme, this was a stop worth taking.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Peter Schmidt

    That song is overdue for Walking Dead.

    Let me eat when I'm hungry

    Let me drink when I'm dry

    Two dollars when I'm hard up

    Religion when I die

  • Nadiney

    I love this one, weirdly. As much as I normally get pissed about episodes that don't move things along, this did feel like it moved forwards, if only for the characters.
    Carl had his catharsis regarding Rick and Michonne seemed to at least sort of work through some stuff. Everyone that can is getting their pressure release.

    I loved the work done by both of them here. Reedus especially. When he's pushed into those hard, dark places he shines. The scene of his flip out tantrum was affecting and quite frightening, how physical he was, how close to being out of control, if not totally out of it. His later admission he's a dick when he's drunk spoke even more volumes about who he used to be.

    Daryl has always been the most consistent and consistently advancing character. The transition from the old Daryl Dixon to the new has been steady and well paced, and his occasional set backs (his falter in season 2, Chupacabra, when the search for Sofia is wearing on everyone) have made the transition from someone broken to someone recovering from a life of abuse and harshness seem more real.

    His issues seem consistent and the same doubts plague him in new ways as the world keeps throwing more and more shit at them.

    I loved their body language all through as well. Reedus was wound up like a coil, especially in the never-have-I-ever-seen. Beth and her sunshine yellow shirt against all the black leather was on the nose but still worked with the scenery. All the contrasts and the lighting on both of them in the last conversation as well? *sigh*

    It was just lovely, I thought. I can understand why other people didn't enjoy it though. It is sort of frustrating to have the pause in the plot, but after quite a lot of relentless tension it was nice to blow off some steam in a more visceral way than Carl's rant/eat a giant tub of chocolate pudding or Michonne's zombie massacre and monologues (though she killed every second of that).

    I could rewatch this episode more than a few times.

  • SeattleIsInfected

    I was so relieved they didn't play to sexual tension and kept them as two people just doing the best they can and building some trust for each other. I really liked hearing daryl talk about his past, but was it a secret that he didn't really have a job or a title before the apocalypse? I felt like that was supposed to be a reveal, but I always assumed daryl just followed merle around rednecking in the woods.

  • Talk about spinning gold from straw...great review of a lackluster episode. I just can't find anything to make me care about Beth. Even Reedus couldn't save this hour for me.

  • Scott McGregor

    Excellent review. I was also relieved that the writers didn't go for the obvious "newly drunken Beth, makes a pass at Daryl" cliche that I would almost expect from lesser shows. I also groaned at the decision to hide in the trunk of a car, seemed like a bad tactical choice for our favorite redneck ninja. Also, I think I would have stayed in the house until morning and waited to light things up as any wandering herd or potentially harmful humans are probably going to see that fire in the middle of the night. Just my nit picks, but I think your review nailed it: problematic logic structure, but really solid performances. Reedus dug deep for that last scene.

  • meaux_c_m

    "Beth’s seemingly random search for booze is born out of neither logic nor need, and feels like little more than a child’s petulance" Gah, yes, thank you! I was so bloody annoyed at her character for most of this episode (most of the series, frankly), but I couldn't actually articulate why, so instead I was yelling incoherently at the television. (My own search for booze last night was quite successful, thankyouverymuch.)

  • kirbyjay

    The thing that bothered me was that she was still standing after half a glass. Are we to believe that a young and small woman who has never had a drink is gonna be throwing back glasses of moonshine, and not going to be piss drunk and puking everywhere? She hardly seemed like she had a buzz. I guess she is a lousy actress.

  • ed newman

    On the other hand I think it is just as valid to think this episode was terrible.

  • I thought the "hanging walkers" were suicides who didn't know they would come back.

  • Caitlin

    On The Talking Dead last night it was mentioned that the hanging walkers were the result of a class struggle between the country club staff and members, which also explains the "rich bitch" (I believe that's what it said) sign on the walker.

  • TK

    Well, yeah. I didn't mean to imply that people had, you know, strung up zombies.

  • My misread. Not that stringing up walkers wouldn't have utility in certain situations...

  • TK

    Best. Halloween Party. Ever.

  • logan

    Y'know if you put them on treadmills they could produce electricity.

  • logan

    I get that burning the 'Shine Shack was a symbolic of burning the past but they could of just as easy burnt it in the morning. That way they dont have to wander through the woods in the dark with a hunting knife and 3 arrows.
    That kind of small detail bugs me when they are trying to make this show gritty and real.

  • amylu

    I thought the music during this scene was SO. BAD. I really, really, really don't like the way music is being featured so prominently (that is loudly) this season -- with Hershel, with the Governor, with Beth & Daryl, etc. Please tell me it's not just me.

  • Rocabarra

    The volume and song choice here was as jarring as the song they used at the end of Game of Thrones season 3 episode 3 (hoping not to post spoilers so I'll only mention it involved Jaime Lannister). Couldn't agree more!

  • amylu

    I know exactly what episode/song you're talking about because I felt the same way about it at the time. :)

  • I think the music selection has been absolutely impeccable this season. And that includes last night's closing with The Mountain Goats.

  • Snath

    But it was "Up the Wolves" by the Mountain Goats! How can you not love them?

  • amylu

    I can't answer that question. I can only say that I had to mute the television during the scene. Because my ears.

  • They were drunk.

  • DarthCorleone

    They weren't *that* drunk as far as I could tell. In terms of survival, it was an epically stupid decision. But don't worry, everybody. They'll survive. Plot armor, because the writer needed it.

  • Scott McGregor

    Maybe they could work it into the show that it's discovered the walkers won't eat people with a high blood alcohol content. That would certainly liven the show up as people staying wasted would be a normal part of the survival routine.

  • Scott McGregor

    Also, they could have made a crapload of Molotov cocktails with all that shine they dumped. Just sayin'.

  • I like to think that they took SOME alcohol with them. It's a useful thing to have for fighting infection, starting fires, and drowning your sorrows.

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