In last week’s episode, we bounced between the different groups of scattered survivors with a strong focus on Abraham’s newly introduced gang. This week, things focus in on Daryl and Beth as they attempt to survive a deadly combination of wilderness and awkwardness. Is it good?
Close Calls and Quarters
The episode begins with Daryl and Beth on the move from a group of walkers. They eventually come across a car, which leads to Beth living out nearly every woman’s fantasy as the pair locked themselves in the trunk overnight.
As the thunder and moans of walkers rumble by, Daryl stays focused on keeping watch while Beth tries to remain quiet. At dawn, the pair heads out and makes camp. Beth proves to be decently adept at camping, managing to build a camp fire without matches. Daryl, on the other hand, predictably proves to be even more of a badass at the activity, skinning an enormous snake to cooking it up for dinner.
This becomes the basic routine for the survivor odd couple: Beth helps, Daryl does more, and neither speaks unless it’s necessary. That all comes to a screeching halt, however, when Beth adamantly declares that she’s ready to get her drink on.
Due to her (now headless/deceased) father’s strict upbringing, Beth was never allowed to drink alcohol. With two homes and two boyfriends in a row getting obliterated, she figures now is as good a time as any give try her hand at self-medicating.
Daryl predictably thinks it’s a stupid idea and refuses to indulge in her desire for teenage rebellion. This leads Beth to scream, flip him off (!), and storm into the woods to search for liquor on her own. Since zombies are attracted to stupid, a group of walkers soon finds her, resulting in Daryl needing to come in and save the day.
After realizing that Beth will end up getting herself killed over her newfound desire to drink, he reluctantly agrees to aid in her quest. Their first stop is a golf course club house, where they find something that would drive just about anyone to start drink heavily: A group of people who had tried to hang themselves before being overrun by walkers were still hanging by their necks from the ceiling, but had now joined the ranks of the undead themselves.
As Daryl digs together some cash he found on the floor (which I really hope he was hoarding for fire kindling and not as currency), Beth comes across of a bottle of wine…which she immediately has to use to kill a zombie.
The pair then moves into the pro shop, where Beth tries on a lovely new cardigan while Daryl takes out a group of walkers. Once the threat has been neutralized (and Beth’s clothes have been ruined by an awesomely timed blood splatter), Beth finds a bottle of Peach Schnapps. This eventually causes her to cry, just like anyone else would if they were forced to drink that stuff.
In all seriousness, Beth’s tears were due to the realization that her first drink was not going at all how she’d imagined it (which I’m guessing involved an after prom party or sorority mixer). I was really hoping at this point that Daryl would pull out a grape Smirnoff Ice and scream “YOU JUST GOT ICED, GIRL!” But alas, he instead smashes the bottle to the ground and declares that no one’s first drink should have to be something as terrible as Peach Schnapps.
Who Got the Hooch?
Daryl leads Beth to the house that he and Michonne had found in the woods earlier. Inside of it is a moonshine distillery, which apparently provides the clearest and cleanest moonshine ever created. The house also reminds Daryl of his old home growing up, which seems to surprise Beth far more than it should.
Beth manages to convince Daryl to have a drink himself. The two of them sit down and begin playing the least sexually charged game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ in history. When Beth’s line of questioning veers into the “lawless bad boy” realm, however, Drunk Daryl’s mood instantly turns sour. He begins ranting and raving at the terrified little blonde, screaming things about never having a pony while dragging her outside for an impromptu crossbow lesson.
In the midst of his screaming, Beth yells back that he should stop pretending not to care about all the people they’ve lost. This leads Daryl to admit that he feels like it was his fault so many people died; if he’d found and killed The Governor earlier, things would be better (and Herschel would still have a head). Beth responds by channeling Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, declaring that it’s not his fault while giving him an incredibly awkward hug.
Fire Water Finish
As the pair sit and drink on the front porch that night, Daryl tells Beth about his past. He shockingly reveals explains to her that used to be a redneck drifter, simply following his brother Merle around and doing whatever he did. Beth responds by declaring that his past doesn’t define him. The pair then decides to cathartically burn down their former lives by setting fire to the moonshine distillery.
The duo flip the burning house the bird as a group of walkers close in on the fire, which I’m sure will be taken care of by the local fire department before it engulfs the entire forest. Oh wait…
I have a feeling that this episode will have two camps: One that absolutely loved it, and one that did not care for it much at all. The folks who loved it will claim that those who didn’t are just brain dead morons, desiring nothing but action while also being too stupid to enjoy a character driven episode.
I am in the camp that did not care of this episode. I’m also a moron, but allow me to explain why a simple lack of zombie kills was not the reason that this episode missed the mark.
First of all, episodes that study the characters are great, particularly when they delve into one as interesting and beloved as Daryl. The problem with this one, however, is that we didn’t really get to see that much of him that we didn’t already know. When Daryl described himself as previously being a “redneck asshole” and a drifter before the zombie apocalypse, I think just about everyone had already settled on that stereotype back in the first season.
Actor Norman Reedus did a superb job showing Daryl finally break down near the episode’s end, but aside from that, did we really learn anything new about the character?
And speaking of the episode’s end, what the hell were they thinking? I mean, I get the symbolism/catharsis of Daryl burning down a house that reminded him of the one in which he grew up. As he and Beth flipped the bird towards the smoldering vessel of their past, John McAuliffe nailed it on the head when he described the scene as a “redneck John Hughe s movie ending.”
But despite the emotional release it provided, lighting a moonshine distillery on fire… in the middle of the woods THAT THEY ARE STILL TRAIPSING AROUND IN… has to be one of the dumbest decisions imaginable. I know that we’re supposed to suspend our belief while watching a show about zombies, but Daryl should still be way smarter than that.
Add in Beth occasionally reaching Carl/Lori levels of annoyance (despite some excellent work from actress Emily Kinney during the latter half of the story), and you have an episode that felt very out of place with rest of the season. We’ve either had major plot shifts (Carol being banished, return of The Governor, etc.) or major revelations (a REAL look into Michonne’s past, Lizzy being psycho, etc.). This one, however, just felt like it spun its wheels despite the presence of two great wheels/characters.