“This whole zombie apocalypse basically saved everybody’s life,” JB Smoove
It’s still so funny to me whenever I read nasty Tweets about how much people despise an episode of The Walking Dead, especially when their reasoning is something trivial. Those are the people that I want to go back and re-watch the show with and debate it line by line. This show has always been like a homemade lasagna…better the next day.
First and foremost, get caught up by clicking here for a spoiler-filled, detailed recap of the episode.
All set? Let the dissecting begin!
Maybe it was just me, but from the start of this episode the symbolism was coming at us from left and right. From Daryl’s arrow missing the squirrel (a broken arrow won’t fly right…you need to heal Mr. Dixon) to the burning of casa de moonshine. This episode was all about having a purpose and a clear sense of self. The last few weeks, we talked about taking ownership, figuratively and literally. This week was a nice balance to that with the idea of letting go. The episode’s title spoke volumes…. Still. Recently, I discussed how Rick had remained ‘still’ in his station and it had dire consequences not only for him, but for those he cared about. In this episode, Beth and Daryl are finally accepting that same idea. You can’t remain still. To paraphrase Beth, You have to stay who you are, not who you were.
For the record, these recent episodes have tapped into some of my worst fears. Last week, there was the cornfield. Last night, there was the trunk of the car. Not only did that scene frack with my claustrophobia, they added a never ending horde and a thunderstorm. I could have died. And the preview for next week? With the dense fog? Shoot me now. Side note: I am disappointed that in 4 seasons they haven’t experienced true Georgia weather. That we only heard the thunderstorm….brought it a little weak, in my opinion. But, I digress.
Did you notice when Beth and Daryl were climbing out of the trunk, someone had written–probably with their finger in the dust–the number 03 inside? My mind immediately went to Zombieland and Tallahassee, “God bless rednecks!“.
Beth, not content to just sit around camp in silence and wait to die, gave herself a “mission” to find alcohol. It makes sense. On the farm, she still had chores. In the prison, everyone had jobs to do. Not only did it contribute to the well being of the group, but it passed the time and helped the survivors retain a sense of normalcy. Daryl nearly let her go off on her own–he brought her back once, citing, “You had your fun“–but eventually he followed along on her quest, clearly out of some personal obligation to take care of her. An inner promise to Hershel, since he could not save him?
Since the fall of the prison, they have amped up the level of self-forgiveness amongst the ‘adult’ characters on the show. One by one, they’ve each needed to come to terms with something about themselves–who they were, who they are, and who they will become. Meanwhile, the show’s reigning king and queen of ‘youth’, Carl and Beth, have both made their own journeys. Last night, Beth (much like Carl in recent weeks) hit the point where she needed to prove to herself and to the world around her that she is capable. She is strong enough to do this. And just like Carl stopping to go through some kid’s comics or video games, Beth has her innocent moments, wishing on a ladybug for example. They were both trapped in the world of adolescence when the Z hit the fan and never had the opportunities to experience all of those things that most adults have done. Hence, her quest for booze.
The clubhouse at the golf course was genius. Upon first viewing, it was just another gory setting. Watch the little behind the scenes tidbits on The Talking Dead, and go back for a second viewing. The ‘back story’ of the clubhouse is absolutely genius! Think of the clubhouse as being the Titanic, and dude, that ship is sinking fast. According to AMC, the clubhouse experienced a “Class War”. Obviously, a large number of people attempted to use the building as a shelter. Glass on the doors and windows was covered. There were cots and makeshift quarters all over the place. Standard issue crisis center, right? Wrong. Look again. There were wine glasses and empty booze bottles strewn about. Lori went back for clothing and family photos when the world went to crap. These people horded their cash and jewelry. These people also expected to be ‘taken care of’ by the clubhouse employees. The first class passengers were set up in one area, while those lesser privileged folks remained in ‘steerage’. It didn’t take long for the staff to rise and exact some sort of mental revenge. And it was brutal. Everyone was slaughtered. Rich people with their strands of pearls and their golf jackets had been murdered, presumably raped, strung up like animals, and tortured. Take a good look at the corpse bearing the sign labeled “Rich Bitch”. Her eyes looked like they’d been gauged out (speculation) her clothing still ripped open (signs of abuse) and her torso mounted on a mannequin. It didn’t matter who this woman was before the apocalypse, even Beth understood that this was all wrong, hence trying to take the body down. Beth still knows enough to respect the dead. These were people. Her daddy taught her that.
Daryl has a few shining moments early on in the clubhouse. When Beth gives him attitude for not rushing to her rescue while being attacked by a walker, he says, “You said you could take care of yourself. You did.” Daryl also instinctively begins looting the dead. Surely he knows these things have no value anymore. But this goes deeper. In his ‘past’ life, Daryl was one of those steerage people. He, too, despised the Rich Bitches of the world. They had it all and he had squat. That’s why he and Merle committed so many crimes against them. But, in time, that instinct to rob the rich falls way to filling up on bubble gum swiped from a candy dish on the counter. He can’t even throw a dart properly; after all, it is a gentleman’s sport (Norman Reedus would go on to joke about this on The Talking Dead).
As they moved from the one sector of the clubhouse to another, did you notice the area near the kitchen and supplies marked “Welcome to the Dog Trot”?
By definition, a dogtrot is a passage that links two parts of a house. Go ahead. Feast on that. Let it simmer inside you for a moment. That one phrase symbolized both the separation of classes in the clubhouse as well as the episode being a link between the two worlds that are Daryl and Beth. Thoughts? Another nice touch was the Latin inscription on the Grandfather clock that Daryl stopped to read: Tempis Fugit…. “Time Flies”
Much like Michonne in the last episode, Beth finds time to change into some clean clothes. Yes, it’s the apocalypse. Yes, a white cardigan was a bad choice. But she is clearly trying to hold on to something. What girl wouldn’t want to feel clean and pretty if given the opportunity. A polo shirt and cardigan looked more mature and respectable to Beth than some layered tank tops she probably picked up at the junior’s section of the Walmart. Her new duds don’t last long, though, as the clock begins to strike, drawing the walkers in to where they are. Daryl runs after Beth, but in one telling moment, makes a different choice. He slows to a stop (watch his face change there) and he turns around to face whatever is coming. Hell, he even begins to enjoy doing it, as evidenced by the way he was toying with them. In weeks past, Daryl would have put each one down quickly and efficiently. But not in this moment. Right there, he stabbed on in the eye and sort of dug around a bit. He kicked. He shoved. He went to town with a golf club. The final walker that he took down, Daryl actually stood on and beat to a pulp, avoiding all head shots until he was finally ready to end this therapy session. And when he did, that suckers head exploded all over Beth and her cardigan.
The two of them finally find the booze, though Beth is processing too many feelings to even open the bottle and begin drinking the nasty ass peach Schnapps. “All I wanted to do today was lay down and cry. But we don’t get to do that. Beat up on walkers if that’s what makes you feel better. I need to do this,” she said. Daryl smashes the Schnapps and takes Beth to a cabin he and Michonne had once found, so that they can drink real alcohol. Moonshine.
Daryl explains that the condition of the house is all too familiar to him, yet toasts, “Home sweet home.” After a while, Beth–who is clearly rocking her first buzz–teaches Daryl how to play the drinking game I Never. “My friends played. I watched,” she said. Talk about an analogy for both of their lives pre-ZA. During the game, it becomes evident to Daryl that Beth isn’t playing. She’s fishing for information. She is trying to learn about Daryl’s previous life and prove or disprove her own preconceived notions about who he is/was. Watch his face when she says, “I’ve never been to jail...”
Suddenly, his pulse is beating a bit faster. He lifts his gaze to her and begins to shoot daggers at her with his eyes. His little nervous chew-the-inside-of-your-mouth tic amps up a notch. He is obviously offended and pissed off. Turns out he’d never been to jail. Beth doesn’t believe him, as evidenced in her surprised reaction. Cue the real Daryl Dixon in 3…2…1…
What I am about to say, I say completely unapologetically: This is the best Daryl episode since Season 2.
Now, before you start bashing me, hear me out. Yes, the man gets better looking by the day. Yes, his arms are to die for. Yes, he was heartbreaking when he thought he’d lost Carol and when he discovered Merle. But the man has been MUTE. I’ve been saying this FOREVER. Daryl is a ticking time bomb. Just as I said Carl had never had a voice, Daryl hasn’t had a voice since Season 2. After Sophia’s demise, the only person who was able to reach Daryl was Carol. But when the farm finally burned down, the man bottled everything inside and slapped a cap on it. He has barely spoken or truly emoted for a season and a half. He did NOT react the way Daryl would upon losing Merle. Up until last night, he hadn’t reacted to losing the prison AT ALL. But, like I’ve said, Daryl didn’t get to time to mourn. He was still processing Carol being banished when the Governor’s tank first attacked. Within minutes, they lost everything. Daryl has been in shock and trapped in sole-survivor mode in the days since. Get a little alcohol in him and piss him off (“I’m a dick when I’m drunk“) and watch out. I LOVE angry Daryl. The way his voice raises an octave or two and cracks, the way he gets right in people’s faces, the way he paces back and forth like a tiger trapped in a cage. Watch the body language. It’s beautiful.
Daryl unleashed everything he’d been holding inside at both Beth and the walker outside the cabin. He went off on her in his own prejudiced version of I Never, hitting everything from her upbringing to her suicide attempt at the farm. Even her singing took a hit. He lashed out verbally, physically, and Beth did something I didn’t expect. She did what Carol did in Season 2: Pushed back. She stood there and barely flinched, even though the possibility of Daryl becoming abusive in the heat of the moment was very real. She went back at him, calling him out on his bullshit, literally, and stood toe to toe with a raging mad man. It wasn’t until Daryl’s true feelings and his guilt came out, accompanied by a from-behind embrace from Beth, did Daryl finally crack. That guilt goes back to the loss of his own mother as a child. He couldn’t protect her (whether or not she deserved it) and it ate at him that he wasn’t home when she burned alive. He couldn’t stop the Governor. He couldn’t save anyone harmed by the Governor. And, in a touching moment, while naming all the people they’d never see again, the first name on his list: Rick.
All Beth wanted this entire episode was for someone to understand and console her. As she said, you can’t just lay down and cry no matter how much you want to. So, she tried to find purpose. Little did she know, her purpose was to be there for Daryl, not vice versa. “You look at me and see another dead girl,” she yelled at him. But Beth went on to tell him–and finally take ownership of for herself–that she has worth. She may not be like Maggie, or Carol, or Michonne, but Beth has a purpose. She has worth and no matter what her contribution is–big or small–the life she is living still matters. Bravo, young lady. I have never liked the character of Beth. But she proved a point. We don’t have to like her. She has to like herself and we have to accept her.
Angry, raging Daryl is so much better than quiet, brooding, taking orders Daryl. I’ve waited patiently for Daryl to return. And he is back (I hope). For you see, while we got to have this therapeutic episode, filled with cathartic moments, we also have some icky foreshadowing.
Beth, in trying to help Daryl free himself from his past as well as leave behind her own, suggests that they burn the house down. The recap link I posted equated it with Jenny’s house in the film Forrest Gump. First, Jenny threw stones at the house; Forrest later had it razed to the ground. For me, my mind went immediately to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Siblings trapped in a life that was carved out for them. They can finally be free….”Match in the gas can…boom boom.”
But Beth had already ruined it with two simple phrases: “You’re gonna be the last man standing” and “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone, Daryl Dixon” (so glad the Cups song doesn’t exist in their universe….I half expected her to start singing as she tapped on empty mason jars). In the history of soapy plot writing, Beth’s prophetic words did not bode well for either of them. I’ve been saying since the start of the season that Daryl and Carol were not going to make it to season 5. I’ve never had a use for Beth. But after watching this episode more than once, to quote Star Wars, “I have a bad feeling about this.” One or both of these characters is going to die. Soon. As in, there are only 4 episodes left this season. Yes, it’s the apocalypse; they all have to die eventually. But, no matter how I prepare myself, I’m just not ready to watch Daryl die. The show will go on without him. But there will definitely be a hole, no doubt.
I just hope that Daryl and Carol get to at least see or speak to one another before either of them goes. And it would be nice for Beth and Maggie to have a moment as well. I’m not feeling to strong about the survivability of Bob or Sasha right now, though I could be very wrong. But Daryl, Carol, and Beth….that grandfather clock is ticking……..
What did you think of this episode (or any from the back 8 thus far)? Any thoughts on what you think will happen in the final four episodes? Feel free to comment below.
Until next week……