The Walking Dead: Still

Beth: “So you want to spend the rest of our lives staring into a fire and eating mud snakes? Screw that.”

We were treated to another slow but thoroughly enjoyable episode. This week it was the Beth and Daryl show in our ongoing who is where series. I actually didn’t initially like the pairing of Daryl and Beth but they were great together. The writers did not take them in a predictable direction although how Beth resists Daryl is beyond me. The beginning of the episode was tense and well-filmed. It made me wonder how you would manage to get through life with such moments of terror and imminent death. But it did not seem that it was those moments that crippled our two. It was moments from the past or the regrets at not being able to prevent loss or the losses themselves that were truly painful.

Beth and Daryl’s story is very different from our other groups. They are desperate and living on very little. It makes it very clear that it is much more difficult to survive as only two. Daryl is just going through the motions to stay alive. He is obviously shut down and unhappy that he is stuck with Beth but still feels responsible for her safety. What surprised me was how astute Beth is in her assessment of the situation and of Daryl. She knows that it is a surprise that she is a survivor and she isn’t willing to just go through the motions. She needs a purpose. She needs to keep really living even if it means that she doesn’t make it. The symbol of her first drink was an interesting choice. In many ways Beth wants to be the badass she never was before and drinking is a symbol of that for her. It was amazing to me that she only watched drinking games. What was more amazing was that I believed her when she said that. Beth may have been the one to initially give up and go to bed but perhaps that was because she had a clearer sense of what the apocalypse meant. She still has that clear sight but instead chooses to get up and go every day to whatever can be meaningful. I liked Beth a lot more after this episode.

I’ve always liked Daryl and we got to know him much better. We learned about his ‘before’ life as a drifter, following his brother around. The story of the episode at the “tweaker’s” house gave us another slice of his life. It sounds like Daryl was never a bad guy (he never went to jail) but he did follow Merle’s lead. In this new world, Daryl has become a ‘somebody’ but that has also brought him pain. He feels responsible for what happened at the prison, for what happened to Hershel. I was upset at Daryl the mean drunk, which seemed to come out of nowhere. This was obviously meant to be his reaction to Beth’s view of him and being in a place like his home. There should never be an excuse for manhandling a woman like that and I was glad that one, Beth didn’t stand for it and two, he moved very quickly into his pain and remorse over what happened at the prison. It was sweet how Beth just held him as he cried. For once, she was the strong one. Then she followed up by talking about how dwelling on the 'before' is poisonous, good or bad. Burning down the shack was a wonderful metaphor for abolishing that past.

I was particularly pleased that the writers didn’t take this pair in a romantic direction. There certainly was a lot of tension between the two of them and they are healthy young adults, living in close quarters, in a terrible situation. The direction they took made more sense because these two aren’t really each other’s type and they work better in a brother/sister fashion. Beth even talked about her overprotective big brother. Maybe over time this might change but a romantic pairing in this episode, even though I expected it, would have been all wrong.

Bits and Pieces

Cross bow arrows don’t last forever. I was glad that they dealt with this and of course there had to be a reason for Daryl missing that squirrel.

It was clever using the mirror and the glass to start the fire. You would eventually run out of matches.

Hygiene is so not an issue but wouldn’t you want to change your clothes when you can just to relieve wear and tear? I did think it said a lot that Beth didn’t bother to change again after being splattered with walker yuck. I have one complaint though. How exactly does her beautiful blonde hair stay so clean? (I know the hair thing has been brought up before – it was just really obvious this week.)

There were some interesting comments on class. Daryl helps with the “Rich Bitch” because it bothers Beth but then shoots darts at the rich men. It is pretty clear that those in power are responsible for this terrible mess.

Is it best to just step back when Daryl is killing walkers? Beth can handle a knife but tends to hang back when Daryl is dealing with walkers. I couldn’t decide if this was a gender thing or just something that it would be smart for anyone to do.

Things I could live without: hanging walkers (I find them particularly distressing although conveniently non-lethal. You finally decide to end it all and escape and you end up like that); Daryl using walkers to deal with his aggression; Daryl being aggressive with Beth.

Quotes

Beth: “I’m not staying in that suck ass camp.” (Gives Daryl the finger)

Beth: “Golfers like to booze it up, right?”

Beth: “All I wanted to do today was lay down and cry but we don’t get to do that.”

Daryl: “Ain’t going to have your first drink be no damned peach schnapps.” I’ve always liked peach schnapps.

Beth: “My dad always said bad moonshine could make you go blind.”
Daryl: “Ain’t nothing worth seeing out there anyway.”

Beth: “I know you look at me and just see another dead girl. I’ve survived and you don’t get it. I’m not like you or them.”

Daryl: “I’m just used to it. Things being ugly.”

Beth: ‘You’re gonna be the last man standing.” I don’t think Daryl is happy about this possibility.

Song playing at the end of the episode (“Up the Wolves” by the Mountain Goats) - “There’s gonna be a party when the wolf comes home.”

13 comments:

Billie Doux said...

This was the first Walking Dead episode with just two characters, and it was really good. I've always liked Daryl, but this is the first time I liked Beth. She's a lot tougher than she seems. And I loved that she was the one who ended up comforting him.

But Beth. A white cardigan in the zombie apocalypse? Really? :)

Jess Lynde said...

I like that we are continuing to focus on a few characters at a time, and trying to flesh them out a bit, but this episode didn’t do much for me. (I did enjoy reading your take on it, though, Doc!) The opening in the car trunk was tense, but I found the search for booze at the country club boring. The material between Beth and Daryl after they found the moonshine was more engaging, but still left me pretty underwhelmed. (And did not compare favorably to a much better “I Never” game from Lost.) It was good that Daryl got to vent some of his pain, but we didn’t really learn much new about him. We already knew a fair amount about his life growing up and his time with Merle from earlier seasons. But I guess it was good he got a chance to talk about it with someone else. And to grieve for those lost at the prison.

However, I still find Beth less than interesting, and she’s not a character I really want to spend such focused time with. I was actually surprised she survived the episode, because I do pretty much just see “another dead girl” when she’s on screen. Perhaps I’m purposely holding her at a distance, because I’m constantly expecting her to die. Even now, I’m still kind of expecting her to be gone before the end of the season. So why invest?

I thought the “rich bitch” sign was interesting. It reminded me of the signed bodies at the cabin that the Governor, Martinez, Pete, and his brother found. I wonder if there’s a connection.

drnanamom said...

@Billie - yes the white cardigan was a poor choice but I think reflected what I liked about Beth in this episode. She is the kind of girl we make assumptions about, as Daryl certainly expressed in his rant at her, but you shouldn't "judge a book by its cover". Beth has hidden depths and strengths that everyone has pretty much overlooked. She might not survive without Daryl and she might not make it to the end of the season but then again, she might surprise us.

Freeman said...

I liked this episode quite a lot. I've been kinda ambivalent about Beth, but I kinda liked her as she was always sorta that background character that managed to stick around, like T-Dog. Unfortunately now that they properly fleshed her out, it seems only likely she'll go the way of T-Dog. I hope not, her interplay with Darryl was much more convincing than Michonne and Carl.

By the way this whole episode just screwed up my whole shipping chart. I totally expected Beth to say something like "I never had sex." during their game and Darryl wouldn't take a drink. And then my heart would melt.

One of them is gonna bite the dust in the near future because I'm not allowed to have nice things.

Heather said...

Freeman--Aw, shite, none of us is allowed to have nice things. Whenever I'm watching TWD, I think of that line from 'Natural Born Killers' where Mallory Knox says, "There's no escaping here." :)
Love the review. Love having somewhere to talk about this show I inexplicably still watch!
I agree with what everyone said, even the small conflicting points, I can see both sides, and would like to add that the thing that struck me the most was how interesting it is to feature a character who came into their own because of the zombie apocalypse. I think that's brilliant. I am more sold on Beth than ever but still not totally into her. I'd take an hour with any other character over her and I hate that about myself because she really did grow this episode especially when she uttered the words that everyone is thinking... that she's still alive, and that should be worth something and it is! But I still don't really like her.
Also am I totally crass to want more people in general to have sex on this show? This episode was maybe lacking more sexual tension than any episode I can even recall. And there was loads of intimacy! And a drinking game!
Discuss.

Jess Lynde said...

Ooh, discussion! I think lots of folks are getting action on this show. But it seems to me that the characters people most talk about wanting to see hook up have perfectly natural reasons to NOT be doing that kind of thing just yet. Everyone always wants to see Daryl, Michonne, and/or Rick paired up with someone, and yet those are the big three that it seems to me aren’t really ready for that kind of thing at this point.

Rick’s not over losing his wife. She died only 6 or 7 months ago, he’s carrying a ton of guilt about what happened to her and the way they left things between them, and he’s been very focused on his children and his own mental damage. It makes sense for him not be interested in an intimate connection right now.

Michonne’s whole character arc has been about her being extremely closed off and struggling to open up to people. And she’s also still getting over losing someone she loved. She’s finally starting to open up now, so maybe something like that is in her future. But, again, it makes sense to me that she wouldn’t be ready for that kind of intimacy just yet. It’s going to take more time to get there.

As for Daryl, he’s always been presented as less than comfortable with that kind of connection. (Like, Freeman, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he has little to no experience in that arena.) Like Michonne, he’s slow to open up to people, and he’s always been very reserved responding to Carol’s flirtations, even though he obviously cares about her. I could see him possibly being ready for a sexual relationship with Carol, after all the time they’ve spent building their friendship, but it would have seemed wildly out of character for him to just jump all over Beth here. They are just starting to develop their connection. Also, Beth may have been hooking up with Zach before he died. So she might not be ready to just move on yet, either (even though she initially tried to act like she wasn’t that invested). He died like a week ago. Maybe they’ll take those two that route later, now that they are becoming more comfortable with each other, but for now I think the lack of intimacy between these two makes sense for those characters. And, like Doc, I'm glad they didn't go there yet.

Freeman said...

I actually have the same line of thinking concerning those three Jess. I'm glad they haven't paired them up with anyone for the sake of doing it. It feels true to their characters. Even though I go on about ships and stuff I always like to keep realistic motivations for them first and foremost.

That doesn't mean I can't want it really bad though, haha!

Heather said...

Yep, yep. I agree that emotionally Rick and Michonne have their reasons for not being engaged in any kind of intimacy at this time. My argument is that TWD doesn't do sexuality very well or often as it could or maybe even should? I actually don't have any skin in this game I'm not shipping anyone in particular. But I think that's partially because of the lack of sexual energy, overt or nuanced. I didn't read the comics... Does anyone know how they deal with zombie apocalypse sex?

Freeman said...

I don't read the comics either but from what I understand people are knockin' boots left and right in the comics. Both Michonne and Rick have had paramours well before this point in the comics as well. Heck even Carl has a girlfriend!

Jess Lynde said...

I don't think Rick did. Unless there was someone else while Lori was still alive. I'm pretty sure at this point in the comics, Lori had just died during the prison exodus. Not 6 or 7 months ago. But it has been awhile since I read the summaries, so I may be mistaken.

I agree that the show doesn't do the best job with sexuality or romantic partnerships overall, mostly just focusing on Glenn and Maggie. And the Governor, for some reason. :) But with a likely scarcity of birth control options, and babies basically functioning like zombie beacons, I can see some strong arguments for not knocking boots left and right in the ZA (not in the biblical sense anyway). At least the from the female perspective. Pregnancy is pretty much akin to a death sentence.

Heather said...

Freeman: Thank you for the update on the comics, and for knowing that people are indeed sexually active.

Jess: "Zombie beacons" should definitely be the new name for babies on TWD for all time going forward. I am laughing so hard after that. It's a great point that you bring up about the stakes being so much higher for women and pregnancy. My god, birth control/the weight of pregnancy on a woman is shitty at best without a ZA going on.

I was listening to a TWD podcast the other day and something came up about viewership that really interested me. As you all can probably surmise or have also heard, the writers have to basically write for two different kinds of audiences which is what makes the show divisive at times. One of the audiences likes the action/zombie/horror genre and the other likes character-driven drama. The way the latter audience is described is 'liking other AMC dramas,' likes smart intellectual material, likes to watch and wonder what they would do in a ZA. Even though I semi-like horror stuff, I definitely fall into the category of those who wonder what life would be like if I lived in similar circumstances, Sometimes I think I just "go there" to re-up every season since TWD world is really bleak and inevitably I find myself reflecting on my masochism at some point in every season. Anyway, recently that got me thinking about the things these characters invest in to keep going or make life worth living on a substantial enough level to get through the day to day. And that got me thinking about the sex thing. And also other things like addiction or in a less heightened way, the ways we actively choose to not engage in certain things in this life _because_ of the society we have all agreed to live in. Like what if society as we knew it was completely redefined or pointless or obsolete. How many of our choices are solely held by social mores/constraints?

drnanamom said...

Great discussion! @Heather, great point about social mores. It would be interesting to find out which social mores still held because they are the ones which ensure that we can continue in communities and not tear each other apart. This show really looks at at least three different streams - those people who bust through the social mores because they barely followed them in the first place, those who followed them before but have decided that they just don't apply anymore and those who are holding on to them tightly to maintain their sanity. It would be interesting to see 10 years down the way how things panned out. I'm pretty sure I would be in the last camp and would seek out community as quickly as possible (assuming I didn't get eaten immediately which is likely).

Heather said...

Doc! Ha. Yes I daydream about becoming a master with a katana or cross bow or hell, even a serrated knife but let's face it, I might not last a day. :)
I think you nailed it--re: social mores and the categories that people fall into once the ZA hit TWD. I definitely watch TV for philosophical fodder and have enjoyed revisiting if it's just society that keeps us sane on a molecular level. :)
And also what an interesting world view for the show to have that community=safety when in truth, human interaction is as tempestuous and dangerous as it gets, imo.
This discussion is reminding me why I watch the show, so thank you, people of DOUX! xo