After a year and half into the zombie apocalypse, the only humans left are those who are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but those who can learn and adapt quickly and efficiently. With this in mind, what new threats can there be? Bludgeoned and rotting walkers don’t invoke the same terror and panic as they previously did in the earlier seasons, besides the occasional stupid situation that a character gets themselves into every now and then (Yes, we’re looking at you, Carl). This is why the writers took a few new twists and turns in the rest of the season with a crying baby out in the wilderness of a walker’s world and the sons of anarchy in Rick’s temporary house in last week’s episode.
However, what was the horror and fright in this week’s episode? It was if Daryl would let himself live or not. Since its premiere in 2010, viewers have wondered who he was before the apocalypse, yet Daryl has been able to dodge that question again and again until “Still.” In the first few minutes of this week’s episode, we see a common theme that has been popping up now and again in this season; the search for a meaningful life in a day-to-day struggle to live. Daryl can’t seem to find any. He is stern, silent and unresponsive to Beth’s questions in the first few minutes.
We see Beth, though, take a different turn albeit the death of her father. She has seemingly taken up his faith and wisdom and tried to incorporate it into her daily life. In an effort to lift the depression from Daryl, Beth attempts to reach to him but gets no answer, but there are other thoughts spiraling in her mind; She’s never had her first drink. Beth is another example of a child that has lost her adolescence in the apocalypse, much like Carl. Although it was a foolish and dumb mission, it was one that got Daryl off of his butt and moving.
After the duo traveled through the country club of horrors, they remained in a dirty, broken down house for the night where they bonded over some moonshine. We finally learn that before the walkers roamed the Earth, Daryl was floating around Georgia with his older brother, Merle. He didn’t have any occupation or career, but simply followed his brother around like a lost puppy. With this new insight into Daryl’s past, Beth tells him that he was a nobody before, but in the new world, he will be “the last man standing.” I don’t know how any human being can take that. Daryl has already struggled with accepting the death of many of his friends and loved ones, from Lori to Merle, Andrea to Hershel. To be the last man standing in this apocalyptic world is probably not what he wants; he would want to go down with his new family of survivors.
The climax of the episode, however, is when Daryl and Beth finally breakdown. In a glimpse into Daryl’s previous self, we see how he gets offended when Beth asks if he’s ever been locked up. He goes outside, dragging her behind him and demands for her to learn how to shoot a crossbow at a walker meandering outside of their cabin. Beth eventually stabs the zombie in the head, and she yells at him that she isn’t a Michonne or a Carol or a Maggie, but she still is a survivor and that she can contribute just as well as the others.
Up until this point, Beth was a relatively minor and seemingly soft character, unlike her older sister or Michonne. I really enjoyed seeing this insight into her mentality and motivation. Sure, she isn’t a sword-wielding samurai or gun-slinging sheriff, but she has survived this long for a reason.
Daryl’s breakdown takes a completely different turn. He admits that he feels a heavy amount of guilt for not stopping the Governor and allowing him to decapitate Hershel. He tries to take on the role as the group’s protector. He wants every one of them to survive, and would do anything to ensure that the group will live on, like a guardian angel in a world full of death. Daryl may have a hard and rough exterior, but in the inside, he cares immensely about every member of their zombie family.
At the end of the episode, the duo decide to burn down the cabin that reminded Daryl greatly of his cruel and abusive past. In a symbolic way, the two of them are forgetting their old lives and moving into a new chapter. They give the middle finger to the burning house and run into the dark forest before walkers appear.