I’m really starting to like the stripped-back approach that The Walking Dead is taking with regards to its storytelling in recent episodes, stopping the forward momentum of the events of the story to take a few moments with each character to regroup and to get to know anew. I know Daryl has been a force in the show since the very beginning, but how much do we really know him? How much can we really know him? Sure, his relationship with his brother was completely screwed up, but that’s as much as we know really. This week, we get a renewed understanding of just what makes Daryl and Beth tick. We see how their lives have changed since the incident, and how their relationship with each other has evolved since the prison break.
The pairing of Beth and Daryl is interesting narratively because there has always been something there, bubbling underneath the surface. I’m not sure if it’s sexual necessarily, but there’s definitely some level of affection, at least from Beth’s side. Whether or not Daryl sees her as anything more than a child, and Judith’s primary caregiver in the prison, is up for debate, and we get no closer to that after this episode. What we do see, however, is Beth acknowledging that Daryl seems to have (in her opinion) a level of antagonism towards her.
Now, I’m not there with them, of course, but I’ve never gotten the sense that Daryl is hostile towards Beth. They’ve always seemed to have a tacit acceptance of their fate, and that whether they like it or not, they’re together. I think the events of “Still” definitely clear the air between them, if there was any air to clear, but I think maybe Daryl’s hostility towards Beth was an issue invented to give the episode some impetus. That’s not to say it doesn’t work though, or that it doesn’t lead to great performances from both the actors in what must have been a challenging episode.
Beth’s beef with Daryl is that she thinks he’s upset that she, a girl who – up to the zombie apocalypse – had led a reasonably normal life, one that was positively charmed compared to the unending squalor of Daryl’s upbringing, was the one who survived. Not Maggie, not Caroline, no-one else, just her. Pathetic little her. It really makes you feel sorry for Beth because you realize she’s essentally apologising to Daryl for being alive, and for not just dying when she should have. It’s an existential angst that she has to deal with, on top of losing her entire family. As far as they’re concerned, the two of them are the last two people left in the world and, as Beth herself points out, she is definitely going to die first. That leaves Daryl as the last man standing. Daryl as the last remnant of Western culture. Daryl as President of the United States, richest man in the country and crossbow king of the world. So what does he make of all this?