Sushi for Twelve, $482 plus delivery f The Walking Dead – Episode 4.12 – ‘Still’ Review & Discussion

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The Walking Dead – Episode 4.12 – ‘Still’ Review & Discussion

Like a fine bottle of hooch, this was an episode that I needed to let sit for a little while. I had mixed reactions after watching Still – a character episode that focused exclusively on Daryl and Beth surviving together after the prison fell. It was an episode in which the details were more impactful than the whole. On the first watch, it didn’t go down so well. While I appreciated moments such as Daryl Dixon playing “I never,” I felt it was lacking some substance. On the second, it felt smoother.

First, I'll address what worked well.  This was an example of “when worlds collide.” The episode was filled with all kinds of mismatched pairs like Daryl and peach schnapps, Beth and moonshine, Daryl playing a drinking game, Beth eating snake. I want to know how Daryl knows that peach schnapps isn’t good, by the way. We learned in this episode that Daryl is a moody drunk. Not surprised by this. We also learned that having a real drink was on Beth’s bucket list. The nature of this mission took me a little by surprise given the recency of Hershel’s death, but I suppose it's understandable since her teen years were aborted by a zombie apocalypse.

The two start off not really knowing each other very well. Their round of “I never” serves to highlight their assumptions about each other – and it forces Daryl to take an uncomfortably close look at his life. His assumptions about Beth highlight what he never had – he never left Georgia, he never had vacations. Her assumptions about him get him defensive – Beth guesses that he’s regretted things he’s done while he’s drunk, that he’s been in jail at some point.

The emotional moments shine, and the highlight was seeing Daryl break down over from guilt over not being able to prevent the governor from destroying their group. This episode succeeded in further driving home the sense of loss and grief that the survivors are feeling, believing that the others in their group are likely dead, and most certainly lost to them if they’re not.

Finally, there was some impressive filming in a scene very near to the start, when Daryl and Beth hide in the trunk. The sounds of the walker horde, combined with thunder-like noises, extreme close ups, and low lighting give the scene a nightmare quality. I also picked up on a hint of a horror film vibe later in the episode, as Daryl and Beth make their way through the golf club hunted by zombies – Beth dressed as preppy, wealthy school girl.

Next, what didn’t work so well for me, at least on the first watch, was that the episode relied exclusively on character development. Sometimes this can work well. Last season’s Clear was a brilliant exploration of how the apocalypse has slowly changed a small group of characters. In this case, while the details about Daryl helped round out our understanding of him a little better, and we started to get to know Beth for what felt like the first time, the revelations weren’t strong enough to carry the whole episode. In fact, most of what we learned weren't revelations at all – they were just expansions on what we already knew.

We had known that Daryl had a poor, backwoods childhood, and followed around his drug-dealing big brother Merle. We also knew that Beth had been pretty sheltered by Hershel, and we had learned a few episodes ago that Beth had come to have real hope that the prison might offer a safer future.  We did learn in this episode that Daryl hadn't had much of an identity beyond Merle's little brother before the apocalypse, but did this come as a surprise to anyone?

Comparison with the past

I couldn’t help but compare this episode to the scenes in the season 2 episode Save the Last One, in which Daryl and Andrea walk through the woods looking for Sophia. There were parallels in the two sequences: Daryl is paired up hunting with a blond female very different than himself, both feature dialogue that shed some light on Daryl’s upbringing and his companion's issues, and both feature a scene in which a zombie, or zombies, are found undead, having hanged themselves. To see where Still falls short, let’s take a look at some of the details:

Daryl’s backstory – In Save the Last One, we were told a story by Daryl about how he was lost in the woods for nine days when he was younger than Sophia. He found his way home and no one even knew he was gone – Merle was in juvie and his dad was on a bender with a waitress. The story was colorful (especially a poison ivy detail), the history was new as Daryl was a big mystery at that point, and the tale explained so much through the details about why Daryl was the way he was. Compare this to the story we heard in this episode – that Daryl was hanging around Merle, was getting high midday with a tweaker friend of Merle’s, and got beat up by the tweaker because of a TV show. This does tell us something about Daryl – that he’s reflecting upon his life with Merle and feeling ashamed by it – but it doesn’t have the richness that the earlier story had. Was it worth telling? Of course. Should it have been set up as a detail significant enough to carry an episode? I’d argue no.

The hanging walkers – In season 2, it was a little shocking to see that someone who killed himself to avoid the zombie plague, in an ironic twist, ended up a zombie himself and had his legs nibbled off by walkers. The hanged walkers in this episode were a call out to the earlier episode, but not much more.

The depth - In season 2, the topic of conversation around Daryl's companion focuses on whether Andrea still wanted to kill herself.  In Still, it centered on Beth's determination to drink alcohol.

Other Thoughts:

- Beth comes across a spoon in the country club with the Washington DC on it. Foreshadowing maybe, or a reference to Abraham’s plan introduced last week?
- I wondered whether Beth’s comment about Daryl being the last man standing was either foreshadowing, or would prove to be ironic, if Beth is the one left behind.
- While I did appreciate the sentiment of Beth and Daryl’s resolve to put their old selves behind them – more so after two or three watches than on the first watch – the burning of the hooch house with the music and the middle fingers seemed a little over the top on the first watch. But this was something that grew on me.
- I missed Merle.
- You can eat snake meat! I didn’t know that. Good to know if every I’m starving in a woods full of snakes.
- Nice details with Beth finding a ladybug and Daryl hunting a snake that served to highlight the differences between the two characters.
- The woman Daryl and Beth found hanging, half undressed and labeled “rich bitch,” was a reminder of the violence of the world that’s left - the second in two consecutive episodes.

So what did you think of the episode? Love it, or starting to get antsy to see more movement?