In Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, we hop back to Daryl and Beth, with whom we haven’t checked since the mid-season opener. They aren’t doing so hot, it seems. They perform the simple duties of survival wordlessly, climbing silently into the trunk of an abandoned car to hide from a herd, then making their way down the road. This begs the question of how the walkers can sense humans. There was a scene early in the series where Rick and Glenn, trapped in Atlanta, covered themselves in zombie goo so they could walk among the undead, and Michonne has done the same by using her pets. But can the walkers “smell” living flesh? Do they simply respond to movement?
There is no dialogue for the first seven minutes of this episode. For a 43-minute piece, that’s a lot of silence. Daryl and Beth make camp, each focusing on different aspects of the process. Daryl’s arrows are becoming brittle; he shoots and misses at a squirrel, and the tree’s bark breaks the arrow in half. Beth uses the reflection of the car’s rearview mirror to start a fire, then rigs up the hubcaps to create a trip wire. She lets a ladybug crawl onto her finger, enjoying the feel and look of the tiny red creature. Meanwhile, Daryl kills a rattler and peels its skin off. Mmmm, snakemeat.
Finally, Beth uses the first words of the episode: “I need a drink.” She wants to find some booze because she’s never had any before. When Daryl gives her the ultimate cold shoulder she leaves by herself, snarling that he should enjoy his snake jerky. Daryl follows her silently, then escorts her back toward their place. “I’m not staying in this suck-ass camp!” she cries. “I’m gonna get a damn drink.” Oh, honey. You certainly are a teenager. She leads them to the overgrown Pine Vista Country Club. Inside, they find two hanging walkers (hangers?) and a bunch of dead folks on the floor. The country clubbers’ wealth is evident in the walkers’ jewelry, their prettily patterned silk shirts (now rife with decay); it’s apparent in the dusty champagne glasses and the black employees who died alongside them.
In the country club’s dining room, Beth finds a silver spoon with a carving of the Capitol, Washington, D.C. (A silver spoon, as in “born with!” Get it?) Coincidentally, that’s where Ford is taking Porter; it’s a nice callback. She finally locates and grabs a lone bottle of red wine, but then a walker locates her. She has to smash the bottle over its head and use the glass to slice its face. Our vices matter not. Survival is everything.
Next they tour through the golf shop, where Beth dons an elegant white cardigan and sunny yellow polo shirt. Much like Michonne wearing the starched men’s shirt, the effect is laughable and strange in this dirty, dusty apocalyptic world. In the store’s corner, half an underwear-clad woman is stuck on top a mannequin, blood dripping in rivulets from her sliced torso. Her pearls and elaborate updo give away her class; however, the sign nailed to her chest tells more: RICH BITCH. Beth wants to take her down, give her a proper place to lie. Daryl says, truthfully but coldly, “don’t matter, she’s dead.” His dispassion is too much for Beth, and her over-sensitivity really pisses him off. When the bonging of a grandfather clock brings walkers from all over the compound, Daryl takes them out them one by one as Beth stands by. He swings a nine-iron (I think, I don’t golf) again and again until the final walker, an old man in a green golf sweater and corduroys, falls still, his brains splattered all over Beth’s nice new white cardigan.
Deep in the heart of Pine Vista Country Club, Beth finds the bar. The only thing left among the crushed bottles and dead proprietors is a bottle of peach schnapps. “Is it good?” she asks Daryl. “No,” he replies. Such truth, much honesty (blech). After she starts crying over her stupid peach schnapps (this isn’t the experience she was hoping for), Daryl smashes the bottle. “Ain’t gonna have your first drink be no damn peach schnapps.” And then all the ladies swooned.
“Don’t matter” is Daryl’s response when Beth guesses his pre-apocalypse occupation as motorcycle mechanic. “Don’t matter” is Daryl’s response to everything these days. He brings her to a shiner’s shack in the woods, obviously. “My dad always said bad moonshine could make you go blind,” she says, then takes a drink. It’s the most disgusting thing she’s ever tasted, so she tastes some more. The problem with booze is that makes you dumb, and no one can afford to be dumb in this world.
After he reveals that he recognizes all the aspects of this place, Daryl starts bitterly showing his roots. His folks were shiners who smoked too many cigarettes (then chewed when they had to quit smoking), bought tacky PVC brassiere ashtrays, and sat in camo armchairs getting fat. Beth finally convinces him to join her in white trash reverie, so the two set about getting drunk on moonshine (not a difficult task). An all-advised game of “Never Have I Ever” highlights their class differences (“I ain’t never needed a game to get lit before,” Daryl mutters). Daryl’s never been out of Georgia, he may have spent some time in prison (as a prisoner), and he hates his family. Beth’s so naive, and so lucky, it makes his head spin.
When a progressively drunker Daryl gets belligerent, Beth gives him an impassioned speech about how being afraid is okay; she tells him she knows his strong silence is bullshit. He finally lets go that he thinks she’s an insensitive asshole because she didn’t cry for her boyfriends or her mom. She’s just like some selfish little college bitch expecting him to take care of her. Like Tara, Daryl is also wracked with guilt over what happened at the prison; “maybe I could’ve done something.” She grabs him in a bear hug from behind and he finally cries, his shoulders slumped. (And all the ladies swooned again.) After everyone’s a little calmer, Daryl tells her about his past, that he was nothing but a drifter wandering around after Merle, nearly getting killed hanging out with tweakers. “I wasn’t nobody, nothin’. Some redneck asshole with an even bigger asshole for a brother.”
But you see, guys? That doesn’t matter now. Beth’s white shirt, her vacations and happy family, matter as little as Daryl’s abusive, poor upbringing. They leave the country club behind, then use the moonshine to burn down the shiner’s shack. They abandon their previous selves in favor of the present. It’s the only thing they can do. As the shack burns, they hold their middle fingers high as The Mountain Goats’ “Up the Wolves” plays in the background. It’s all quite poignant.
Last week’s episode ended on an upbeat note; this one did, too. A friend noted earlier in the week on Facebook, though, “Too bad Michonne wasn’t in this episode, and too bad Daryl had to deal with a whiny bitch the whole time.” Sigh. We understand characters are going to deal with the zombie apocalypse in their own ways, but Beth’s way is easily the most obnoxious thus far.
After the defeat of the prison, our cadre of survivors is beginning to find itself again – the writers want to pound this into the audience, for sure. Out with the old you, in with the new you. Although Daryl and Beth aren’t yet pointed in the direction of the Sanctuary, whatever and wherever that is, I’m guessing they will be before long. Next week’s episode is set to take us back to visit Maggie, Sasha, and Bob. With only four more episodes to go, the finale is fast approaching. Will everyone be back together again? Is that completely farfetched?
What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.