And then, in the 12th episode of the fourth season of “The Walking Dead,” Daryl wept.
That's right. The gruff, arrow-slinging tough guy shed a few tears in “Still.” It was Beth's constant psychological probing and prodding — not to mention a few hearty swigs of moonshine — that kind of softened up the ol' “red-neck a-hole.” It was bound to happen sometime.
When Scott Gimple took over as the 74th showrunner of “The Walking Dead,” there was a lot of talk about how he would bring a different approach to the series — how it would become more contemplative and character-driven. That's exactly what has happened over the second half of Season 4 as we've been repeatedly fed episodes that slow things down to focus on just two or three characters at a time and delve into their psyches.
“Still,” directed by Julius Ramsey and written by Angela Kang, epitomized this approach. Yes, it offered up its share of zombie splattering, but it was mostly a meditation on leaving the past behind, mending fences, bridging class differences and, more or less, smoothing out the imperfections in your golf swing.
In addition to all that, it represented the most amount of camera time ever for the beleaguered Beth. (Now's a good time to ask for that raise, Emily Kinney!).
As we begin, she and Daryl are at it again. They've become like an old, grumpy married couple. They avoid each other whenever they can and they hardly talk over fried rattlesnake lunches. Beth is getting sick of hanging around camp all day. She wants is a change of scenery. And what she really wants is a drink — something Daddy never let her have.
And so she does what grumpy spouses all over America do: Give the middle-finger salute and hit the road.
Of course, Daryl isn't going to let her traipse around on her own, so he accompanies her to the Pine Vista Country Club, where several zombies are loitering in the fairway. (Play through, dammit!). Golfers are big booze hounds, Beth figures, and heads to the clubhouse where she expects to find some liquor.
It becomes immediately apparent that Daryl isn't comfortable in the country club setting — not because there are Polo shirt-wearing corpses and walkers all over the place, but because it reminds him of the things he never had in his life. For some reason, he starts grabbing up all the money and jewelry he can find in the place. Meanwhile, Beth locates a wine bottle, but unfortunately has to bust it open over a zombie's head. Another painful example of good booze going to waste.
Later, Beth locates some clothes in the pro shop and changes into a fresh shirt and white sweater that make her look like a little blonde preppy. But when zombies invade the place, Daryl goes ballistic, teeing off on the undead with a golf club (A 9 iron?). He swings over and over on one hapless walker until a glob of zombie juice plops right onto Beth's new sweater. (We figure that's at least a two-stroke penalty).
Beth finally locates a single bottle of peach schnapps in the bar, where Daryl is flinging darts at photos of the rich white country club members. Beth can't bring herself to drink the peachy goodness and starts to cry. Daryl rushes over, grabs the bottle and smashes it on the floor. He's highly offended that her first-ever drink would be peach schnapps. The horror!
So what's really going on with these two? They head back through the woods, where Beth unsuccessfully tries to get a conversation going. She guesses that Daryl was a motorcycle mechanic in his pre-zombie apocalypse days, but he says it doesn't matter. They come to a cabin that Daryl had previously discovered with Michonne — a cabin that reminds Daryl of the place he and Merle used to live in with their abusive father. They find a crate of moonshine — the kind of adult beverage that Daryl officially endorses for a first drink.
Beth finds the stuff “disgusting,” but she dinks anyway and soon she wants to play a little game with Daryl (What is this, a slumber party?). The object: Take turns reciting things you've never done in you life and get the other person to take a drink if he/she has. Daryl is reluctant, but he goes along.
She: “I never shot a crossbow.”
He: “I've never been out of Georgia.”
She: “I've never been drunk and done something I regretted.”
He: “I've never been on vacation.”
The game continues until Beth makes a statement that offends Daryl. “I've never been in jail,” she proclaims.
“Is THAT what you think of me,” he snarls, before launching into one big never-never rant.
“I never ate frozen yogurt. I never had a pet pony. I never got something from Santa Claus,” he spews. ” ... And I never cut my wrists looking for attention!” (Ooh, that one hurt).
This leads to an episode outside, in which Daryl grabs Beth from behind, forces a cross bow into her hand and demands that she shoot a zombie for target practice. Instead, she wriggles free and stabs the walker. “Killing them is not supposed to be fun!” she blurts. What if, after all, that zombie was her dad?
This leads to an even bigger argument. She accuses Daryl of being shut off and callous. “Nothing matters to you,” she says. “None of the people we lost matter to you.”
Daryl shoots back: “What about you!?” You lost two boyfriends and your entire family and all you can do is “go looking for hooch like a dumb college bitch!”
All this bickering finally leads to some painful introspection and that's when the tears flow. Daryl has regrets. Maybe he could have done something back at the prison to fend off the Governor. Maybe he could have saved some lives. He cries and Beth hugs him. Ahhh.
They come to the realization that Beth is a “happy” drunk and Daryl isn't. He recalls an incident where he and Merle were watching cartoons on TV with a “tweaker.” An argument actually broke out over the merits of the show. Guns were pulled and it looked like the whole thing would end in death, until Daryl was punched in the stomach and puked all over the place — which naturally made the rednecks laugh.
Likewise, Daryl and Beth ease off the acrimony. More talk. More introspection. Basically, the moral of the story is that you “gotta stay who you are” and not worry about “who you were.” (Yes, they accomplished this without the help of Dr. Phil).
Then they get the crazy-fun idea to burn the damn down the damn cabin — the cabin that reminds Daryl of his past. They drench it moonshine, light a wad of cash from the golf course, set the place ablaze and give it the middle-finger salute as an offbeat song by the Mountain Goats plays over the scene. Apparently, “there's going to be a party when the wolf comes home.”
So what did you think of “Still”? Did you find it enlightening? Or did you want more zombie-bludgeoning? Most importantly, are you a happy drunk, or an angry one — and what's your golf handicap?