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Last night's episode of The Walking Dead, "Still", began with thunder and ended with fire and somewhere in the middle we learned a little more about what makes Daryl and Beth tick. The episode was a character study and how, even when the world and those around you burn, you should always stay true to yourself.
It also featured a post-apocalyptic game of 'truth or dare' fueled by lashings of moonshine, which proved that a party during the end of the world is not much different from a freshman house party.
But let's not dwell on the merits of booze-fueled parlor games just yet, for now is the time to scratch a little deeper under the surface of "Still" and see what we can find.
Obviously spoilers and speculation to follow, so proceed with caution from here on in.
We're going north
Showrunner, Scott Gimple, revealed a while back that the second half of Season 4 would be littered with clues foreshadowing what's to come on the show and there were a couple of pieces of evidence in "Still" that suggest the action is going to move out of Georgia and into Washington DC.
When Daryl and Beth are sampling the delights of the golf club's 19th hole, Beth comes across a commemorative silver spoon engraved with "The Capitol Washington DC", which she immediately pockets. Later on, while the boozy twosome are engaging in a game of truth or dare, Daryl admits that he's never been on holiday and never even left Georgia. Surely all roads are now pointing north to the capital as the separated groups all converge on the same place.
With the journey north comes the promise of the Alexandria Safe-Zone and then later, Negan. Going north spells danger for all.
More back-story and a subtle parting shot
In keeping with the previous couple of episodes, "Still" was more focused on back-story and character development than zombie mayhem. It was a measured and deliberately-paced episode that gave us insight into Daryl's life pre-apocalypse, while also allowing Beth the room to grow as a character.
We learned that Daryl used to "drift around with Merle" before everything went south and almost lost his life to a 'tweaker' due to a dispute over a TV show. He also partly blames himself for what happened at the prison and is a terrible drunk.
But it was Beth that really stole the show. For most of her stint on The Walking Dead Emily Kinney has been required to do one of three things: look sad, look stoic, or sing - none of which made her a particularly engaging or interesting character.
That all changed during "Still" as Kinney was finally given something substantial to work with and brought out a side of Beth none of us had seen before. Gone is the girl who used to hang around in the background carrying the baby, replaced instead with a nuanced, fully-rounded character of depth and courage.
Kudos to the writers for allowing us to invest more in the second-tier characters. It's going to hurt so much more when they all inevitably die a horribly painful death in the future.
* On a side note, when Daryl criticized Beth during his drunken rant for doing nothing other than sing, I couldn't help thinking the writers of this episode were having a sly dig at previous showrunner Glen Mazzara, who seemed mildly obsessed with highlighting her vocal talents at every opportunity.
Daryl is one of the 99%
The zombie apocalypse doesn't differentiate between the have and have nots. Wealthy flesh tastes the same as any other to a ravenous walker.
It seems that some moneyed types tried to seek refuge at the golf club but somewhere along the line their sanctuary was raided and those responsible were not impressed by the opulence on display. The identity of these slayers of the rich is unknown, but you can be sure Daryl wouldn't have shed a tear for them. He seemed visibly uncomfortable with the (dead) wealth of the clubhouse and blew off steam by chucking darts at the pictures of some of the former members. This is a world in which Daryl was never a part of, he's from the other side of the tracks and he knows it. Instead of boozing on peach schnapps, he takes Beth some place more appropriate - a rundown cabin in the forest stacked full of moonshine, where they get lit and swap stories. The message is loud and clear: in a zombie apocalypse it doesn't matter a dime how much cash you have. Everybody dies the same.
Further points for discussion
- Are the guys that almost ambushed Rick also responsible for the massacre at the golf club?
- Did anybody else think that Daryl and Beth running through the forest and eating snake was an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve?
- I can't help thinking the one-finger salute at the end of the episode was aimed at a certain lavish awards ceremony taking place at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.