[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 12. There will SPOILERS.]
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.
'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.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Alone' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: