For a soundtrack while you read, hit play to hear the song from the end of the episode, The Mountain Goats' "Up the Wolves":
I don't know Georgia's legal drinking age, but I motion that it be whatever age Beth is. The farmer's daughter had a hankering for some booze this week, and do you blame her? She lives in a world where the dudes who used to be members of One Direction are probably off somewhere skinning a cow carcass with their bare hands, so what else is a teenage girl to do? Get bombed, that's what. Beth wanted to imbibe her first adult beverage, and that's what set "Still" into motion.
Initially, this premise sounded like the stupidest thing ever, and for the first several minutes after Beth declared she needed a drink, I kept repeating to myself, "This is the stupidest thing ever." The Walking Dead's kid characters have the strangest urges, and suddenly craving liquor might be the weirdest one yet. But over the course of the hour, "Still" transformed the world's most dangerous beer run into a pretty amazing character study about the lives we live and the lives we lived. It was slow, it was quiet, and it ignored roughly 90 percent of the show's cast, but it was a jolt to the structure of the season—hell, maybe even the whole series—because it told an actual story. "Still" was the polar opposite of the ADD-suffering "Inmates" from two weeks ago, which covered four separate groups (Beth and Daryl included) in such a short amount of time that it didn't have anything to say.
I know Daryl Dixon is a fan-favorite character, but please relay my apologies to Dixon's Vixens or Daryl's Ferals or Daryl Dixon's Fixin's or whatever fan group you belong to, because Beth Greene absolutely owned this episode. Since Beth doesn't get the same amount of screen time as The Walking Dead's other characters and the writers haven't found a groove to put her in, Emily Kinney doesn't get much attention as an actress—I had to look up her name—but that should change after this episode. She was fantastic in "Still," sticking up a defiant finger at the challenge of carrying an episode opposite the series' clear-cut favorite and delivering The Walking Dead's best performance since Lennie James returned as Morgan Jones in "Clear." Kinney was magnificent in that final scene where Beth and Daryl were sucking down 'shine while sitting on the porch. Who knew that Beth could do more than sing Irish campfire songs, coo at babies, and shrug off her boyfriends' deaths?
In "Still," Beth's youthful resilience and optimism was framed as a character strength rather than the product of apocalyptic self-deception. Ever since her boyfriend never returned from that supply run and Beth was all, "Whatever," I've had it in my head that the apocalypse had simply thrown her into a pit of emotional detachment. And while I can't say that the Beth we saw in "Still"—so full of hope and determination—was in-line with "My Boyfriend Just Died and I'm Totally Okay With It" Beth, the character wore the new, more uplifting persona much better. Like a yellow polo shirt. Plus, Beth was so poorly defined before "Still" that I don't mind the inconsistency; I'm just glad we got to know her. For as silly as it seemed at first, Beth's hooch quest was more about accepting her father's death than it was getting fall-down drizunk. Letting liquor lick her lips was her way of accepting that Hershel isn't around to tell her "no" anymore, and that she has to venture out on her own and become her own person. And that's something she encouraged Daryl to do, too.
We caught a glimpse of this Beth in "Inmates" during that horrible diary-reading voiceover (which was actually written when the group found safety at the prison and was used to emphasize what a shit show they're in now), and in that same episode, we saw her attitude run counter to Daryl's negativity. But it was wasted in "Inmates" because that episode didn't tell us anything about what was happening beneath the pair's battling shades of optimism and pessimism. Daryl's emo outlook bugged the crap out of me in "Inmates," and he spent that entire hour and most of "Still" acting like a total A-hole to Beth. And now we know why. When you're down in the dumps and some bubbly blonde comes along singing "Walkin' On Sunshine," she's lucky if you don't choke her out by the time she gets to the "And don't it feel good!?" line in the chorus. The fallout from the prison has weighed heavily on Daryl, and he's been wearing it on his arm where his sleeve should be. Beth's insistence that there's still hope in this world—that Maggie, Rick, Michonne, and everyone else are still alive—shined an annoying bright light on Daryl's dumpster time, so he snapped. "You said you could take care of yourself," he said as an excuse when he wasn't there for Beth and she almost got eaten (in Daryl's defense, she was moving too far from him). He called her a spoiled brat. He said he never cut his wrists to get attention. Ouch.
Daryl can saunter around with his bad attitude, his Iggy Pop hair, and that puff of fuzz on his face all he wants, but it was clear in "Still" that he was the weaker of the two, bogged down by guilt over not doing more when the Governor made a house call and feeling responsible for the deaths of his compadres (cheer up, D, they're not dead!). And Beth, spurred on by some moonshine, chiseled away at Daryl's exterior until that weakness was exposed and the truth came out. Daryl was acting like a dick because he feeling inadequate, just like he'd felt all his life because he was a worthless redneck with a drunk dad and a brother who dragged him along to hang out with tweakers.
The apocalypse has given Daryl a chance to erase that old life, and as Beth is fond of saying, he has a job to do: survive. And to survive, he needs hope. And to have hope, he needs to shed his bad memories of the past. In "Still," the past he needed to shed happened to be an actual shed. The ramshackle hillbilly hangout became a symbol of Daryl's pre-apocalypse existence, and in "Still"'s emotionally charged final scene, Beth said let's burn this f*cker to the ground and move on in every sense. So they soaked the walls and floors with moonshine, lit a stack of money on fire, and set Daryl's past ablaze so he could rise from the ashes, reborn. And because the metaphor needed a punctuation mark, Beth flipped the bird to that flaming hunk o' wood, and nudged Daryl to do the same. He did, and the pair walked away renewed.
Of course, it did take some time to get to that point, and much of "Still" was spent on quiet wandering. However, the minutes Daryl and Beth spent exploring the golf pro shop and its surrounding environment built up the tension between them, leading to a more satisfying end. There was nothing complicated about it: "Still" was just two actors doing their thing and occasionally stabbing a zombie in the head. The episode displayed the kind of meaningful restraint (emphasis on meaningful) that other boring episodes of The Walking Dead have failed to achieve. I don't know if future installments of this half-season will continue to focus solely on different groups, like Lost did when it was very effective, but if it means we'll get to keep peeking into the minds of these characters, I hope they do. The Walking Dead takes a lot of heat for being so bleak, but this was a clear-cut victory for both Beth and Daryl. And dammit, it felt GOOD.
– I expect to see some strong reactions to this episode, but if The Walking Dead wants to be a good TV show, this is the direction it needs to go in, right?
– While other big-name dramas get grief over having terrible female characters, The Walking Dead is quietly accumulating a solid cast of ladies. Beth, Carol, and Michonne are all strong women, and I suspect a lot of that has to do with new showrunner Scott Gimple, whose promotion coincided with all this turnaround. I wonder if he could have saved Lori? Haha, J/K LOL he's not a miracle-worker.
– Great direction by Julius Ramsey. "Still" was a good-looking episode.
– I loved the opening minutes of the episode, which didn't have any any dialogue as Beth and Daryl just survived. Their silence really upped the severity of the situation.
– Did Beth say "Enjoy your snake jerky!" or "Enjoy your snake, jerky!"? I prefer the latter.
– Daryl is such a hick that I wondered whether those scenes when he was hunting squirrel were flashbacks. In the meantime? Beth was collecting ladybugs. (I thought she might eat them, too.)
– "Golfers like to booze it up, right?" At least a beer a hole. Anything less and you aren't golfin' right.
– "Ain't gonna have your first drink be no peach schnapps!" Double negative aside, I'm so thankful that Daryl intervened and stopped that travesty before it happened. Definitely Daryl's best save of the series to date.