‘The Walking Dead’ Might As Well Make The Best Of It

Published 8 months ago by

Norman Reedus in The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 12 The Walking Dead Might As Well Make The Best Of It
[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 12. There will SPOILERS.]

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As The Walking Dead enters its fourth episode following the destruction of the prison, the series has begun to open characters’ backgrounds, slowly adding to their histories in search of finding something to help color who they are in the apocalyptic present. It’s not that the show necessarily needs to fill in the blanks on any of these characters’ histories; the storytelling of this series doesn’t necessarily rely on knowing the specific ins and outs of everyone’s past, but for episodes like ‘Still,’ it certainly doesn’t hurt.

This is only the second time in four weeks that the series has checked in with Beth and Daryl, and their particular dynamic seems to have sparked something interesting in terms of where the show’s strengths lie under new showrunner Scott M. Gimple. Since he demonstrated a knack for smaller, character-driven stories with the season 3 effort ‘Clear’ – and since taking over the series – Gimple’s been switching back and forth between delivering plot oriented episodes à la the Governor’s storyline, and chapters that’ve been less focused on a particular outcome like the three post-hiatus episodes, which aired prior to ‘Still.’

As far as examining two characters go, Beth and Daryl make for an interesting pair. They couldn’t be more dissimilar from one another, and, for the moment anyway, neither of their plotlines are entirely driven by the prospect of being reunited with the other survivors. For all they know everyone’s dead, and so their narrative exists in a bottle right now, allowing the show to take an hour and give two characters a chance to guzzle some white lightning and come to a few important conclusions about who they are now.

Emily Kinney in The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 12 The Walking Dead Might As Well Make The Best Of It

‘Still’ starts out with the duo doing exactly what’s expected of them: They’re getting by, surviving. But as magical as it is to spend the night in the trunk of broken-down car, wake to scavenge for makeshift tools, and follow that up with a meal of fresh rattlesnake ’round a campfire, there comes a time when a person needs to do more than simply get by. It’s a topic that has been touched on subtly a few times, one that was perhaps handled best by the sense of hope and purpose Abraham Ford’s character – no matter how erroneous the mulleted inspiration for such emotions may be – has brought to the series. Here, however, that sense of living, not just surviving, manifests itself in Beth’s sudden desire to have her first drink.

To be honest, it’s probably not a bad idea for the survivors on The Walking Dead to compose a bucket list. And as long as said list omits the more obvious attractions like skydiving and seeing the Eiffel Tower, chances are, the average survivor will come away with a fairly complete record when the inevitable happens. For right now, all Beth wants to do is take the edge off and have an experience. As she soon finds out, however, there’s no taking the edge off Daryl Dixon; his normally laconic snake-eating self turns into a full-blown apoplectic showcase of latent redneck tendencies, after a few rounds of moonshine-enhanced I Never gracelessly stumbles onto the inherent class division between him and his traveling companion. It soon becomes clear all that great stacks of cash aren’t the only useless thing Daryl’s been hanging on to, though, as a tidal wave of guilt over the death of their friends comes pouring out during a drunken war of words with Beth.

‘Still’ ends with Beth and Daryl symbolically torching and flipping the bird to their past, while moving on to an uncertain future. It’s also indicative of the kind of storytelling The Walking Dead has managed to bring to the second half of season 4. Burning down a ramshackle house full of moonshine doesn’t have a thing to do with anyone’s survival, but it has a lot to do with making that survival feel like it might one day mean something.

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The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘Alone’ @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. I cry foul on those who didn’t like this episode because of its “filler” nature. If the show had genuine mystery ala LOST or BSG then this episode would be frustrating indeed. Most of my tiem watching LOST was spent wishing to myself, “They’ll get to the answers eventually…”

    However, the show really hasn’t had a genuinely mysterious element since season 1. Think about it – aside from the Eugene arc (which, unfortunately, I think is a giant lie), what pressing questions are there? The only pressing question is “What lies ahead at Terminus?” And since the show (and source material) tend to just take us from one failed safe zone to another, I’d much rather see breaks in the formula that allow for sentimental moments and fun zombie massacres.

    Honestly, if you have been watching TWD up to this point, you must have known you were committing to just going with the flow, cuz the show really has not presented a goal outside of Rick establishing a safe zone. And even if the protagonists accomplish that, then we’ll just be watching them grow crops all day.

    Speaking of Rick, I can see why some people want more forward progression with the Rick and Carl arc, but come on… How much frantic-out-of-breath Rick and immature Carl do you really want polluting your Sunday prime time? We all need a routine breather from that.

    Episodes like this aren’t the result of writers trying to figure out how to string along the fans (again re: LOST and some eps of BSG). I really just see this sort of ep as a break from the usual structure, and heck, it gave Daryl tons of screen time. That’s a reward for fans, IMO.

    That being said, I would LOVE for a serious mystery-arc to this show. If I were in the show’s world I would want to survive, yes — but I’d want to find people who know what the heck is going on and latch onto that group. Season 1 was so compelling for that very reason – the CDC pointed us at the French possibly knowing how to fix the problem.

    Come on, TWD, give us some more of that please? If small bands of humans kill every zombie in the world, you still have the problem of people dying and returning as a zombie. Get to the efficient cause, not the secondary one… Until then, we truly are just watching people do laundry.

    But since the show doesn’t seem to be going the route of finding a solution (I do have hope for the spinoff…), I’m content with just sitting back and enjoying the zombies.

    • I think the issue isn’t so much about specific character progression as it is about a desire for overall narrative progression. This is one area the show has had issues with since Mazarra took over in S2 because they seem to feel both can’t be done simultaneously. In essence, TPTB apparently feel that one can not walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

      I don’t find many taking issue with character development; it’s the stark and complete halting of the narrative for entire episodes to issue forth some ham-fisted character aspects instead of developing (key word there) them in a natural organic way while also giving a sense of flow to the narrative. To propose that people should just accept it or get used to it is disingenuous, to say the least.

      Let us take S1 for instance. While some people have denigrated Darabont’s tenure, one thing he had no problem doing was issue a character oriented episode and still instill a sense of forward narrative movement.

      Tell It to the Frogs (1×03), for instance bookends the episode with Merle’s plight on the rooftop with Daryl’s introduction at it’s core and interspersed with the narrative threads of planning to reclaim the bag Rick left behind, setting the divide between Shane and Lori, delving into the abusive dynamic of Carol and Ed’s relationship, and commentary on gender role regression in such a setting.

      Handled the way these last few episodes have been, this single episode would be more like this: one entire episode of heading back to camp, introducing Daryl, and discussing going back, then leaving; one entire episode of Merle losing his mind with entire monologues on a rooftop; one entire episode dealing with Lori and Shane’s issues; one entire episode on Carol, Ed, and gender issues; then finally the Vatos episode with the original ending of TIttF being attached as the pre-title sequence.

      In that respect, S1 wasn’t compelling because of some long running mystery-arc (CDC didn’t even come into play until the penultimate episode); it was compelling because there was a sense of movement in the narrative as opposed to a sense of stagnation.

    • It’s true that this show has no “mysterious element” as you call it. The show and the comic book so far made no real effort to clear the reason of the zombie epidemic (the TV show much more than the comic book in season 1). There are just some hints … sometimes to move on and open a new reason to do something. But the zombie outbreak is just a setting … Kirkman has no real interest in telling why, just to show the struggle of surviving and being human and being a father and re-building human communities within this framework. Maybe it will change some time.

      I also think it wouldn’t harm the show if there would be more exploring the reasons of the outbreak and what’s left of civilisation/ government … more than in the comic book. But I really thin it harms the show to focus on sidekick characters isolated from the group and the main plot and not moving forward a little bit faster.

      BUT at least the comic book is not just building a safe zone, being destroyed, on the road again and so on … it’s very characters centered and very centered on the development of Rick and his (always changing) group … Negan isn’t the same villain as the Governor and the Hunters story arc had a role to be between The Governor and the Alexandria-Safe-Zone … there is a red line focused on the development of Rick and NEVER did the comic book digress so much and so irrelevant than the TV show with this episode and many others (most of all the Governor episodes). It’s always related to Rick and the group …

      Although TV need adaptation, of course, this and other episodes like this are, in my opinion, fillers for real …

  2. Dunno why but my comments aren’t showing up. But the basic gist of what I have been trying to post is this: The show has no goal in mind except survival. If the characters achieve this goal and set up a really safe fortress, then TWD is really just on a trajectory to show these characters doing their laundry and picking off zombies all day.

    Well that’s boring, so the show has instead elected the formula of taking the gang from one supposedly-but-not-really safe zone to the next. I’m not too far into the source material, but that seems to be the trend for the books as well.

    Now, I accepted this fact after season 2, in which the major hint at the end of season one was totally abandoned – the French might know the cure. (Oh, and I definitely don’t think Eugene is telling the truth). With all that in mind, I continue to watch and just take the show for what it is.

    Other viewers need to either make the same commitment or, yeah, just stop watching the program. Cuz really, at this point the show exists only to give us zombies, and not to give us true hope for a real resolution.

    You either watch the show from that perspective, or you watch in the vain hope that TWD will actually try to find a solution to the pandemic.

    That being said – I like the break in the formula season 4 has offered us. This last episode was great. Daryl clubbed a walker to death, splattering its brains all over Beth – awesome! And I thought Beth actually gave a solid performance (better than Carl, at any rate).

    I hope the spinoff is more solution oriented, but even if it isn’t, I’ll take whatever zombies I can get.

  3. I’m all for “character driven” episodes and focusing on the emotional side of what it’s like for these characters living and more importantly surviving in this world but this episode was a complete waste of 42 minutes…

    What did we learn about Daryl or Beth that we didn’t already know?

    We already knew that Daryl mostly just followed Merle and had a rough home life and we already knew that Beth was mostly sheltered and was just a young girl trying to find herself before all of this.
    All of this we already knew.

    Just the week before with Michonne and Carl the writers showed that they knew how to write a character driven episode. At the end we knew more about both characters and had a bit more understanding about what they have gone and are going through. So now the next time we see them we will better understand their motivations and why they respond a certain way to any given situation.

    This episode though changed nothing and we learned nothing.
    Pointless.

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  5. This was a damn good episode. For me Beth really redeemed herself here. I liked that Darryl called her out on how cold and callous she seemed about her boyfriends death. And that moment at the end of the episode when they burned down the house and gave it the bird. Struck me as defiant and renivigorating for the characters own souls.

    They will survive. They will love and laugh and shed tears of joy once again :)