Forget the Oscars, AMC’s The Walking Dead is on! While I wasn’t surprised to see the ratings juggernaut unwilling to flinch from its scheduled run against the 86th Annual Academy Awards, I was surprised by the episode itself. And not pleasantly so. I’m all for pairing characters off to more evenly portion out screen time and let their individual stories develop. This tactic can be rewarding when those stories enrich the overall plot arc and draw viewers more deeply into the narrative; however, the inherent risks bubble to the surface when the on-screen characters lack chemistry or when their stories fall flat. Tonight’s episode, “Still”, was unfortunately an example of the latter. Hit the jump for my recap and review.
At this point, it’s a well-known fact that if Daryl dies, we riot. Pairing him up with the young Greene sister, Beth, was certainly an interesting decision, and in my opinion, a no-win one. Daryl’s moody, bad-ass persona plays best when he’s someone’s right-hand man; Rick’s, Michonne’s, even Merle’s. Perhaps that’s why they chose to test him by pairing him with an adolescent attempting to find her own way into maturity. It put Daryl in a position of responsibility and vulnerability, which allowed Reedus to go to some interesting places when finally revealing Daryl’s past ambitions (or lack thereof). It also gave Kinney a chance to further flesh out her character, choosing to rebel/grieve/mature by going off in search of a hard drink to symbolize her journey into adulthood. All good in theory.
But it just didn’t work in this episode. Beth’s sudden desire for a drink was more irritating than endearing. There was no real chemistry between Reedus and Kinney (Does anyone ship them? Do you call them “Deth” or “Beryl”?), so placing an entire episode on their shoulders was a gamble that just didn’t pay off. Even Daryl’s eventual reveal of his former lifestyle – after what was supposed to be a drunken rant, I guess – fell flat. He used to pal around with Merle; nothing more, nothing less. Nothing interesting. For a character created specifically for the television series, they could have done something much more meaningful without fear of stepping on Robert Kirkman’s toes. Their choice, I suppose.
While this episode was way more about character development than any sort of tense action (lowest body count so far with six), there were still some creepy moments scattered about. The cold open had Beth and Daryl hiding in the trunk of a car, in the dark, in the middle of a storm, and surrounded by a horde of Walkers. Pretty hairy stuff, but nothing quite as horrific as what awaited the two at the Pine Vista Country Club. In addition to corpses strewn all about the place in some sort of mass suicide and a few writhing Walkers hung from the rafters with care, there was evidence of other post-apocalyptic activity, namely a corpse propped up like a mannequin with a sign pinned to her that said “Rich Bitch” and a scrawl of “Welcome to Dogtrot” mysteriously adorning one wall. Rather than linger here and clarify those oddities, however, Beth and Daryl moved to more familiar stomping grounds for the Southern hunter/tracker.
This fire hazard of a cabin was a clear stand-in for Daryl’s previous life, though it was also shoehorned in to act as a metaphor for Beth’s immaturity as well. A few jars of moonshine, a game of “Never Have I Ever” and one dead Walker later, the pair decided to burn down their old lives – literally – and move on with their new ones. Again, it all sounds good on paper, but it just felt tedious in motion. To end “Still”, the two raised a one-fingered salute in a big “Fuck you!” to their former lives, but I also felt like it was aimed directly at me for having sat through the previous hour.
Walkers killed: 6
Casualties: A few bottles of moonshine and a “rustic” cabin
Best Kill: Daryl’s golf club kill
Best Effect: Daryl’s golf club kill?
Odds & Entrails:
Beth: “Well, enjoy your snake jerky.”
Beth: “I’m not staying in this suck-ass camp!”
Daryl: “You said you could take care of yourself. And you did.”
“Welcome to the Dogtrot.” – Did I see this one right? My extensive Internet research tells me a “dogtrot” is another name for a breezeway house.
Beth: “Who needs a glass?”
Daryl: “If you’re gonna have your first drink, it won’t be damn Peach Schnapps.”
Beth: “My dad always said bad moonshine could make you go blind.” Daryl: “Well, there’s nothing out there to see anyway.”
Daryl: “I’m nobody. I’m nothing. Just some redneck asshole with an even bigger asshole for a brother.”
Beth to Daryl: “You’re gonna be the last man standing.”
Watch a promo for next week’s episode of The Walking Dead below: