Plot: While they’re at a makeshift camp, Beth (Emily Kinney) tells Daryl (Norman Reedus) that she has never had an alcoholic drink before. This prompts Beth to go on a quest to get her first hard beverage. Daryl however is none too pleased with the idea and is uncharacteristically cold towards his friend for unknown reasons.
The Walking Dead prides itself on delivering episodes that focus heavily on a singular character or pair of characters. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has received the most obviously but there have been episodes focused exclusively on characters like The Governor (David Morrissey), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) to name a few. This second half of the season is bound to be ripe with them considering how most of our characters are separated. Despite being a massive fan favorite, Daryl had yet to receive his own character focused episode. He’s had plenty that paid a lot of attention to him, sure, but those were always spaced between subplots focusing on other characters. Thankfully that all changed last night with “Still,” an outstanding episode that focused exclusively on Beth and Daryl and gave the latter his absolute due diligence, along with providing immense depth for one of the last remaining Greene family members.
Having your first drink is a rite of passage that people can experience with unimaginable ease. There is no shortage of alcoholic beverages out there, so when someone takes their first sip of something like wine or beer, it’s not like they had to murder people to receive it. Beth’s desire to finally get her first drink was the big struggle of the night and it was actually an incredibly endearing plot. Beth and Daryl now live in a world filled with chaos. Any semblance of control would be empowering for them as it shows they still have a say on how they live their lives. In a way, you can view Beth’s desire to drink booze as her taking control of her immediate surroundings. She doesn’t have the means to make a new super camp like the Prison or maybe even survive another week, but getting her first hard beverage is something simple enough that she can reasonably accomplish it. And when she finally does, in the form of moonshine no less, you can tell that she’s happy to have that small tether to the life she could have had if zombies never existed.
The idea of hope was at the forefront last night too. When you consider the title of the episode, you’ll see that it was extremely reminiscent Daryl’s desire to remain still after the Prison fell. He seems more than pleased to sit at a makeshift camp eating snake jerky, completely ignoring everything that happened. He’s convinced that everyone from the Prison died in the assault. Beth however retains the hope that they’re all alive and this keeps her moving forward. She won’t stop until she knows for sure the fates of everyone else. Since she has no proof that they’re dead, she persists on believing they’re somewhere out there, probably looking for her and Daryl too. This can all be circled back to her desire to find booze, those little victories that keep people going in this horrible world. It was a really empowering story for a character who, quite frankly, didn’t have much of a chance to exist outside of her singing, crying, and occasional killing.
Throughout Beth’s story we see some hints into Daryl’s current state of mind. He refuses to talk to her, refuses to leave their camp, ruthlessly beats a walker instead of simply killing it, and generally gives off an aura that he doesn’t give a shit anymore. This all comes to a head when they find some classy moonshine and play a typical game of Never Have I Ever. Hey, not even zombies can stop drinking games! Once Daryl gets a bit tipsy, he completely loses it. He starts making noise, yelling at Beth, and literally pisses in a corner. It was a startling turn for a character who women fawn over and who’s face is plaster all over The Walking Dead merchandise. This is all a front though as we later learn that Daryl blames himself for the possible deaths of everyone back at the Prison. He fervently believes that he could have found the Governor long before and prevented the attack. Daryl believes that’s his cross to bear, and it was clear he desperately wanted to keep it all in. Once it comes out though, it was easily one of the most emotional scene’s ever presented on this show. I’d say it was on par with him finding Merle’s (Michael Rooker) zombified corpse.
As I mentioned before, we learned a lot more about Daryl’s past pre-outbreak. We learned that his father was a moonshiner, him and Merle used to hang out with drug addicts, they all lived in a rundown shack, and Daryl never had a chance to simply have fun. He didn’t get the luxuries Beth was likely provided. Though not directly stated, it’s implied that Daryl spent time in prison and probably had to do some horrible things to stay alive in that world. Considering how much of a wild man Merle was, it’s not difficult to imagine Daryl getting caught up in that. This all basically makes Daryl the type of person you would never want to be around in reality. In a world overrun with zombies though, Daryl is the exact person you need to live. He has the necessary skills to survive in harsh environments. The world they used to live in is gone, and as Beth perfectly states, the man Daryl used to be is gone too. People shouldn’t hold his possible criminal past against him because that doesn’t matter anymore. This all makes them burning the moonshine house, a place extremely reminiscent of the home Daryl used to live, a big moment symbolizing Daryl and Beth putting his past behind them. I loved it.
Perhaps my biggest complaint of the night is the fact that the story barely moved forward at all. We opened with Beth and Daryl alone in the woods not knowing where anyone is. We ended in an incredibly similar manner. While these two survivors grew exponentially in terms of character, there was absolutely no forward momentum with the apparent half-season long plot of our heroes coming together. It is a sign of a strong episode though when this doesn’t bring it down too much. I’d prefer to have an episode move the story forward but when you have character development as great as this it’s more or less forgivable.