New Show Recap: The Walking Dead 4×12, “Still”

Is there a main character on the show we have spent less time with than Beth? I’d like to say it’s a surprise that WD could go almost three years without a single episode focused on one of their main characters, but to be fair, they’ve been really shit about developing their women until this season. It’s obvious that season 4 has largely been about redressing the issues that fans and critics have loudly complained about and many of those issues involve just how shafted the women have been. Look at both Carol and Michonne, two characters who have grown leaps and bounds in the twelve episodes that have aired. As soon as Beth was paired off with Daryl, it was clear that we were finally going to get some time with Beth.

Or they’re planning on killing her. Could go either way.

Beth starts a fire with a broken car mirror.

I think that WD can do really great character focused episodes – “Clear” and “Inmates” both show this. “Still” is a good episode. It makes sense in the aftermath of the prison destruction. But I’m a bit worried about pacing. We’re four episodes past the mid-season break, and tonally they’ve all been very similar. Sure, at the end of each of them we get the sense that the gang is circling near each other and several of the groups are actively headed in the same direction. But this is the same hole that the show fell into in season 2, dragging out the time on the farm by inserting a lot of (vastly inferior) episodes into the story arc to stretch things out. And unfortunately, “Still” feels like a way to put off having everyone run into each other. Next week’s episode “Alone” focuses on Maggie, Bob, and Sasha, but at least promises more in the way of zombie walker and potential death threats.

But this week was “Still,” so let’s talk about what happened on Beth and Daryl’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure.

Beth Greene We last left Beth and Daryl running away from a herd of zombies, which is right where this picks up, with them spending a tense night hiding in the trunk of a ruined car while the herd stumbles on by. When the coast is clear, they scavenge some interesting items from the wreck and head on down the road til they find a campsite. And then the weird salvage choices make sense – the broken side mirror and piece of glass become a focus for starting a fire. The hubcaps are strung between some trees as an early warning system. We see Beth doing these things – lighting a fire, setting up camp – without any instruction from Daryl, and this is the first important thing we learn about Beth. She’s competent. We had no reason to think she’d be so capable outside the protection of the prison. Most of our exposure to her had been as Judith’s caretaker. On the farm, she was suicidal, but even that plot point was mostly about Andrea, not Beth. Earlier this year, her biggest scene focused on her shrugging off her boyfriend’s death, but nothing ever came of it. That weird dissociation didn’t even put her in the running for Mystery Prison Rat Killer and Budding Sociopath.

Beth drives all of the action of this episode. Daryl barely speaks for the first half, completely incapable of keeping up a lively dinner conversation with a chatty teenager. They leave their camp because Beth insists that she should have her first ‘adult’ drink – her father had always forbidden it, but he’s dead now, and Beth thinks that’s reason enough to find out what the mystery is. It seems like a left field turn of events, but I got it. It’s not like they’ve got other plans, other things to do. They’re not holed up in a house with doors and reading material, like Carl and Rick. Their other option is to sit on the ground and stare paranoidly at the woods, which, frankly, they’ll be doing for the bulk of their remaining years, so why not get a good walk in?

The alcohol runs leads them to a country club with suspiciously tended greens and a club house that feels like a video game level. The club is packed with bodies – it’s obvious that people decided to actively hide at the club – the windows are covered up, there are sleeping areas that are clearly set up for the “haves” and the “have nots,” even though everyone ends up the same shambling corpse after they kick it. The building is just packed with walkers, which gives Beth a couple of chances to prove that she can “take care of herself” as she had angrily assured Daryl. It’s also provides some class commentary on both characters – Daryl scoops up jewelry and piles of money into a fancy backpack when given the chance even though those items no longer have any apparent value. He tries to open an electronic cash register. He shoots darts at photos of dead rich guys and doesn’t even blink at the site of a dead walker who had been obviously murdered, since she had a sign saying “Rich Bitch” driven into her chest. Beth exchanges her dirty prison clothes for a crisp white sweater and a yuppie polo shirt and is deeply upset when they come across the “Rich Bitch” corpse, trying to give the body some dignity even though it’s unlikely anyone would ever see it again.

Beth and Daryl make camp in the woods.

When they finally clear the level and make it to the bar, all that’s left to drink is peach schnapps. Beth putters around trying to find a clean glass to drink out of before starting to cry – anyone who thought this escapade was actually about her having a drink and not about her dealing with her father’s death wasn’t paying attention. If she has the drink, she has to face the reality that Hershel is dead. Even Daryl, not the world’s most enlightened individual, understands what Beth is really getting at, so he smashes the bottle and takes her out to get a “real” drink at a moonshiner’s shed he’d discovered on some unfilmed outing with Michonne.

And by going to the moonshiner’s house, we switch the focus from Beth’s story to Daryl’s. We knew a lot of what Daryl repeats in this episode – he grew up in a really wretched household, his brother used to drag him along to hang out with tweakers, he’s a mean drunk. Everyone in the survivor group always makes a big deal about how mysterious Daryl’s past is because he won’t say what he did for a living, but they ignore that they already know the most important things about him. Daryl thinks he’s not worth shit because he was treated like that his entire life. But he’s a decent person with a capacity for fierce loyalty and deep emotional connections to people who care for him. Carol saw it in him when she told him that he was worth as much as Shane or Rick. And Beth comes to understand this about him after a really disastrous game of “Never Have I Ever.”  Beth doesn’t understand how Daryl can pretend that he’s not hurt after losing everyone from the prison and why he’s not ready to start tracking them down. It’s because he feels tremendously guilty about everything that happens. He should have kept tracking the Governor down. He should have, somehow, been able to stop the massacre. He finally found a decent family, and they got ripped away from him.

Daryl cries while Beth holds him.

After Daryl cries – and Beth holds him! – the pair seem to be on easier emotional footing. Beth confesses that she had a whole fantasy life built up around the idea of the prison, that they could still have a normal, pre-zombie existence that somehow included vacations and picnics and her father dying peacefully of old age.  But just because she realizes that it was a fantasy doesn’t mean she’s given up hope of something better and seeing her sister and the others again. She’s driven by hope. She may be the last person in the group who is.

As one final kindness to Daryl, Beth suggests that they burn down the cabin as a way of killing off Daryl’s old life. And despite the generally poor idea of traipsing out into the walker infested woods in the middle of the night, he agrees to do so.  And they both raise a middle finger to the past.

Random notes:

  • I would love, love to see a story about the rich people camp out in the country club. The bits and pieces of story that Daryl and Beth find were really compelling.
  •  For people constantly scrabbling for supplies and shelter, these survivors are so goddamn wasteful. They burn down a perfectly fine shelter! Someone could have used that! Someone might have wanted to have some moonshine! See also: Bob destroying a massive display of unopened wine bottles, Lori taking all of the world’s existing morning after pills and then vomiting them up, and Glenn not bringing back the tampons on his run into town. Yes, I’m still pissed about that. There aren’t any more tampon makers, Glenn. Who’s gonna be making morning after pills, Lori?
  • Who the hell has been mowing the golf course?

Beth and Daryl give you the one fingered salute

All images courtesy AMC

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[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

15 thoughts on “New Show Recap: The Walking Dead 4×12, “Still””

  1. 1st, the zombie in the Baryl hug picture looks like Matthew McConaughey.

    2nd, I spent almost that whole “I’ve never” game expecting it to fall into “I’ve never had sex,” thinking TWD would use that as an excuse to finally get Daryl laid. Thank God.

    I liked this episode and I really liked what it said about both of them. I’m not a fan of Beth and wouldn’t cry much if she snuffed it next week, so I really felt like her speech about why she was still there was directed at me and fans like me. It made me feel a bit guilty, to be honest, so now I really don’t like her. :-)

    1. Beth to me is like a little Disney cartoon bird, all the way down to the big eyes and the singing. I know they have had her get much more bitter and cynical, and I’m glad that they developed her character, honest I am. But part of me keeps expecting her to get her optimistic worldview back and have her go back to helping Cinderella make her dress.

  2. At least this one wasn’t about Carl. The Carl ep made me want to be eaten by a zombie.

    Maybe I’m weird, but it seems to me that Beth taking care of Judith is a clear indication that she IS competent. How easy is infant care with no modern conveniences, everything is dirty and disguising, no medicine, etc — PLUS zombies? Rick is off having existential crisis after crisis, and Beth took over a job that was not hers to begin with, and maintains (generally) a together attitude once she battled her own demons…and seemingly won. I hate the thought that frowning and killing are the only traits worth having in the apocalypse. Of course, I hope to never find out…

    1. Exactly — she and Carol both took over childcare-related duties, but neither of them are whimpering in the background when things get ugly. Beth’s the one who used a single gunshot to stop an argument, and drove a knife into a walker’s head rather than let Daryl keep shooting it, and CAN defend herself against walkers (and she was shooting back during the massacre). She’s not a front-line soldier, but she can hold her own. Beth’s tough and competent, otherwise she wouldn’t have survived two years and several major catastrophes (okay, part of that is being “out of the fight”). And baby-raising isn’t easy.

      Ugh, Carl. I get that he’s got the zombie apocalypse and he thinks everyone he knows but his dad and Auntie Michonne are dead AND he’s probably hitting puberty right about now, but ugh, Carl.

    2. “Maybe I’m weird, but it seems to me that Beth taking care of Judith is a clear indication that she IS competent.”

      Well, on another show, yes. On a show where their gender relations and gender essentialism has been so fucked up, it just felt like a cop out. “Oh, we have this teenaged girl we don’t know what to do with? And a baby? Let’s go stick them offscreen forever! Girls can’t wait to have babies, right?” I am not convinced there was anything deeper at work than that.

  3. I was glad to see Beth’s character fleshed out, but was disturbed that Daryl manhandled her and got in her face. It was reminiscent of what he did to Carol in Season Two, right down to the aggressive body language. I think it’s consistent with the character, but it’s also telling that he’s still so close to feral Daryl that he uses his physicality like that. Although much improved, Beth is still the most vulnerable of the woman in the group, at least that we’ve seen, and once again, Daryl is being physically threatening to the person who has no ability to fight back, and who is emotionally devastated.

    On a more humorous note, I liked that some of the country club zombies had clearly dressed the part. One was wearing a garish green golf sweater, and another was wearing a blue blazer and khakis, perfect attire for a summer dinner at the club. It was almost too spot-on. I hoped to see a walker with a monocle and top hat, or maybe one in old-fashioned golf breeches and tam hat, but they appear not to have made the cut.

    1. Right? It definitely looked like the Country Club Elite decided that was the best place to stay, due to the golf and booze, and they let enough of The Help stick around so they wouldn’t have to wash dishes or clean toilets.

      And Daryl, Daryl, Daryl. When he’s emotionally okay he’s still fairly distant, and when he’s not he gets a bit assholish. I want to love you more, Daryl, but you’ve gotta stop pushing women around when you’re angry. I saw a comment from Norman Reedus that Daryl is extremely uncomfortable with physical contact, especially in affection, and it makes sense that his way of expressing anger is to bottle and explode (physically abusive father and asshole older brother), but Daryl, that shit’s not okay. Not. Okay.

    2. There were actually several moments where I was really uncomfortable with Daryl’s behavior — partly because it seemed like such a regression to where we first met him, and because Beth is so vulnerable. Beth seemed way more understanding about it than I would have been at her age.

      I loved that Beth put on that crisp little sweater. It was so impractical and so telling about where she came from. And how irritated she looked with walker blood got all over it, pretty much immediately.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this episode — it feels like the overall plot isn’t really moving forward yet, but at the same time we’ve spent some time getting to know both Beth AND Daryl. They do well together, once they got past Beth’s trauma at losing her father and Daryl’s guilt for not saving everyone. And, well, they’re more similar than they seem at first — they both strongly value their loved ones, even if Daryl’s a bit less chatty about it.

    While they’re definitely coming from different worlds (Beth was a privileged but capable teenager who still managed to stay optimistic, Daryl an aimless nobody who just tried to stay under the radar) these two seem to understand each other better. Beth’s rant at Daryl early in the episode (about living in a camp, scavenging and waiting for walkers) is similar to Daryl’s rant at her (her probing questions about his past included assumed prior prison life, her reaction to the cabin, her focus on finding alcohol), but after Daryl reveals WHY he’s so angry, Beth seems to get it. The cabin-burning looked like it was pretty cathartic for Daryl (the cabin represents his past, burning it = fuck the past).

    And I didn’t buy bad-girl Beth for a minute. Not one minute. The only time her “I’m rebelling so I don’t have to deal with trauma” image was even slightly believable was when she suggested playing “I Never” — and quietly admitted she’d only watched friends play or had a soda (I don’t remember exactly). It was very telling that her clothing-replacement moment was from the women’s section, in the most feminine colors available — she’s a girly girl. A tough, capable, resilient girly girl, but she’d be in cute dresses playing a guitar or reading if she could.

    Daryl and Michonne both seemed to feel responsible for the prison massacre, because they’d both found a family. Michonne, however, HAD a family before the world went to shit. And she’d been on her own so long that her instinct after the massacre was to set off alone again, until she realized that she can’t live that way. Daryl had an asshole brother who treated him like shit, but was better than nothing; his new family meant more than Daryl would admit, and he couldn’t process that the massacre WASN’T his fault or that any other survivors would WANT to see him again. Beth helped him see that. They make a good pair, even though that’s not immediately obvious.

    1. I was sort of surprised at how much privilege Beth revealed in her background. Hershel didn’t seem like the ‘vacations and wealth’ sort of guy, but I guess he had a very nice farm, and privilege is relative. I mean, can you get much dirt poor-er than Daryl? But it was basically the most we’ve learned about her in three seasons and it seems like such a pity. She’s certainly a fine young actress and Beth is dynamic we don’t really have on the show already.

      Makes you wonder why Maggie is so focused on getting Glenn back but not on finding her sister, who I don’t think she’s even mentioned.

      1. My guess on Maggie’s determination to find Glenn over Beth is based on where they were “supposed” to be. Glenn still has Swine Flu remnants, and was SUPPOSED to be on the Plague Bus, which is not where he was. I imagine Maggie either assumed or saw Beth run out with someone resilient, or that Beth didn’t make it (and was focused on finding Glenn because he has a better chance of fighting his way out of a bad situation).

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