50 years from now, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) will be the stuff of legend, one of the mythic heroes upon which the new world will build its history. But in this episode, directed by Julius Ramsey, we learn he wasn’t always a hero. We also learn why Beth Greene has more strength than we thought.
We’ve seen other characters speculate about Daryl’s past. Was he a prison guard? Was he a police officer? What type of job did he have before the outbreak? Most characters were sure that whoever Daryl was before the ZA, he was a hero.
But he wasn’t. He was anything but. He clung to Merle’s coattails, such as they were, never bothering to carve out an identity for himself. In an odd way, the zombies gave him freedom. Because of them, he redefined himself and whether by necessity or choice, Daryl became the epitome of a hero.
Heroes still have darkness, though, and Daryl’s is on full display in “Still.” He spends much of the episode ignoring Beth (Emily Kinney) or being cruel to her. Which leaves the audience to wonder what she did to incur so much hate.
Did they sleep together in the haze of grief and Daryl regrets it? Did Beth punch a puppy when none of us were looking? What was it? What would make Daryl be so horrible to a young girl whose father was just murdered?
The answer, as it turns out, is complicated and cerebral. He resents Beth for who she is. Daryl, who grew up without love, resents that Beth had love as a child and still has it now. Beth has lost everything, but still manages to stay centered. She retains her hope and her sense of self, despite all of the horror and gore.
His hatred for Beth’s hope seeps out of him during an abusive drunken rant, where he even mentions Beth’s attempted suicide. He does everything he can to break her down and traumatize the hope out of her.
He doesn’t succeed. In fact, the reverse happens, she breaks him. Beth has her own rant where she owns up to the fact that she’s not a warrior. She’s not Michonne, she’s not Maggie or Carol, but she has her own brand of strength. Her weapons are emotional and mental. In this way, Beth carries her father’s legacy. The world needs people like Beth. We need people of heart and mind, not just people of muscle and strength.
This is what makes Beth and Dary such a great team. Without Beth there to be his emotional strength, Daryl’s inability to deal with his grief and survivor’s guilt would have killed him. Likewise, Beth is learning how to physically survive due to Daryl’s guidance.
They are both evolving as characters and it will be interesting to see how that evolution plays out once they reunite with the rest of the group.
Did this episode redeem Beth for any of you or are you still ready for her to become zombie chow?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.