'The Walking Dead' Review: "Still"

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The Walking Dead’ season 4 brings to life its 12th episode, “Still,” as an unusual request from Beth puts she and Daryl on a unique mission, and the two bond over all they'd lost in the prison's fall.

Last week’s ‘The Walking Dead’ installment, “Claimed,” saw Rick, Michonne and Carl dealing with an unexpected threat to their newfound home, while Glenn awakened to the surprising truth of fellow survivors Abraham, Eugene and Rosita's mission to Washington D.C., so what does the latest episode of season 4 bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 4, episode 12, “Still!”

Late one stormy night, Daryl and Beth emerge from the woods to find a car abandoned by the road, taking refuge inside the trunk for the night as a herd of walkers pass outside. The next morning, Daryl hunts for food (delicious snake!), while Beth sets up their camp and starts the fire. As the two eat in silence, Beth suggests that they find some alcohol, as she’d never drank before. Daryl doesn’t respond, so she sets out on her own, hiding from a small pack of walkers nearby. Daryl attempts to lead her back to their camp, though she angrily insists she doesn’t want to repeat their same rut over again.

The two find an abandoned golf course and country club, with only minimal walkers in the distance, and Beth reasons they might find alcohol inside. Most of the resort’s dead have been put down, save for a few who’d apparently hung themselves, and Daryl gathers any valuables, including money and jewels. Beth finds a wine bottle in the kitchen area, but is forced to destroy it over a stray walker’s head, brutally stabbing it with the shards.

Down in the pro shop, Daryl rights a grandfather clock that had tipped over, as Beth exchanges her dirty clothes for something newer. As Beth looks to take down a dead woman mounted atop a mannequin, the grandfather clock’s chimes bring the nearby walkers, forcing Daryl to take them down with golf clubs, and ruining Beth’s new clothes in the process. The pair finally find the bar, as Beth acknowledges the absurdity of her mission, before finding a bottle of peach schnapps. Beth begins to break down, for which Daryl finally opens up by smashing the bottle, and vowing to find something more appropriate for her first drink.

Daryl leads Beth to a small house he’d found in the wilderness with Michonne, evidently a moonshine distillery with plenty to spare. As Beth enjoys her drink, Daryl declines, instead opting to keep watch. Beth laughs at the tacky décor of the shack, though Daryl recognizes it as something similar to what his father had. With only a lone walker outside to keep an eye on, Daryl agrees to drink with the girl.

Awhile later, Beth attempts to teach Daryl “never have I ever,” in which he admits that he’d never left Georgia or been on vacation. When Beth presumes Daryl had been in prison, or at least the drunk tank like her father, Daryl grows agitated and boorish about her presumptions. When his shouting riles up the walker outside, Daryl angrily drags Beth outside to shoot her first crossbow, forcefully grabbing her and pelting the walker with bolts before she finally puts it down. Beth pleads with Daryl to stop acting like he doesn’t care about all they’ve lost, even as he repeatedly berates her, before Daryl finally breaks down in tears that he hadn’t done enough to stop the Governor from taking away everyone he loved, and the two hug.

Later that night, Daryl recalls how he and Merle once agitated his drug dealer by insulting a cartoon the dealer’s son would watch, which nearly erupted in a violent gunfight until Daryl threw up from a punch to the gut, and everyone burst out laughing. Daryl finally reveals that he had no job before the turn, and instead drifted day to day with Merle, while Beth admits she had thought they could all have had a happy life at the prison, her father and sister included. Beth reminds Daryl that he’d grown far beyond the redneck from a derelict home he sees himself as, playfully suggesting they burn the house down as catharsis.

Daryl and Beth gleefully douse the home in moonshine, setting it ablaze with flaming wads of cash, before giving the blaze the finger, and heading off into the night.

OUR REVIEW:

Well, that was sufficiently weird. Look, it goes without saying that Emily Kinney’s Beth likely represents the least well-liked character of the entire series, whose most memorable storylines to date have included slitting her wrists, losing two boyfriends, and singing to baby Judith. That isn’t to say that Kinney has ever fallen short in portraying the character, only that the writing hasn’t found very much to say about the youngest surviving Greene, and, as a result, ignores her as the plot dictates. Certainly, we can see a bit of strategy behind her placement with Daryl, pairing the clear fan-favorite with the least developed, but their brief appearances in “Inmates” clearly held the least material, an argument only strengthened by the bizarre, apparently frivolous nature of their mission tonight.

So while “Still” should no doubt prove an easy target for critics and impatient fans alike, we might rather suggest that the episode instead hearkens back to the more character-centric approach of the Darabont days. Too often any sense of momentum or character development winds up lost in the shuffle of an endless zombie attack, where “Still” gives Daryl and Beth the most breathing room we’ve seen of any characters in recent memory, giving some incredibly strong material for Norman Reedus, and at least some color for Emily Kinney. Up until now, the character has largely existed for the sake of another body to put in jeopardy, so it’s nice to see a bit of conscious effort in exploring her continued survival, and the emotions Daryl’s pragmatic stoicism brings out in her.

‘The Walking Dead’ doesn’t quite have the same breathing room as a series like ‘LOST,’ which the AMC zombie drama has previously drawn comparisons to, so a quieter hour that allows two soft-spoken characters to actually engage for once feels long overdue. The same polarizations emerged from the premiere as well, dialing down the zombie danger in favor of a more contemplative approach, and we’d expect that “Still” proves equally, if not more divisive with fans. If nothing else, the episode could end up strengthened in hindsight, particularly with Beth’s ominous words about Daryl ending up the last man standing, or that she might not live much longer. It’s a matter of individual taste, but we’re going to give the benefit of the doubt.

If anything, our only real questions lie in the increasingly bizarre structure of season 4’s latter half, which first divided between Rick, Carl and Michonne, only to hit the gas pedal in catching up with every group, before shifting back to Rick’s group and Glenn’s new entourage, now lurching to a crawl with Daryl and Beth. We have to wonder if “Still” might have been better served to air before “Inmates,” given how little seems to have outwardly changed for Daryl and Beth in the interim, but again, the remaining four episodes could craft a stronger balance. For now at least, we’ll simply hold a middle finger high to this smoldering structure, and giddily carry on into the final four installments of the season.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of thrilling zombie killing? Did Daryl and Beth have enough story between them to carry an entire episode? Check out all our other ‘Walking Dead’ season 4 premiere coverage, and join us next week for another all-new episode recap of episode 13, “Alone,” on AMC!

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