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Monday, March 3, 2014

The Walking Dead 4x12: Still

The more things change the more things stay the same. You can have society collapse, the dead rise and the average life expectancy cut down to an eighth of what it was. No matter what happens, though, certain constants remain. One those constants, apparently, is that underage teens will always seek out alcohol.

This is the first episode, I believe, that focused on only one piece of the fractured group. It simply stayed with Daryl and Beth as they search for and then drink the aforementioned booze. Once they reach the end of their journey they realize they've learned something about each other and themselves. It’s just your typical teenage comedy film…with zombies.

One of the main criticisms levied at The Walking Dead is the lack of character development. Most of the characters have one dimension at most and little-to-no background story. (I mean, seriously, people love Glenn but what do we even know about him?) That’s not to say nobody ever gets interesting character moments but those character moments are usually met soon after with death. Teaching us something new about a character only to kill them off in the same episode is not character development. It’s almost like the exact opposite.

But this season, and this latter half specifically, seems to be intent on correcting this. In Still we learn a little about Beth’s past growing up as Hershel’s daughter and about how she sees herself in the present world. (Shockingly, she doesn't see herself as entirely useful and doesn't believe she’s long for the world.) We also learn about Daryl’s adolescence (which we kind of knew already) as well as the fact that he blames himself for the prison falling. We also learn that he’s a mean drunk. At the end of the episode, after having a good cry, Daryl uses a symbol of society’s past to burn down a symbol of his own.

In the end, there was nothing wrong with this episode. I must say, though, that one of the more fleshed out characters already is Daryl so it seems like a waste to spend more time with Daryl instead of focusing that attention on other characters who are in desperate need of development. On the other hand, who doesn't want more Daryl?

Overall I’m in favor of more character development in The Walking Dead. However, in this latter half of Season 4 it feels like character development has come at the expense of plot. We’re four episodes past the prison falling and the only thing our characters have learned is that there’s a potential safe haven known as Terminus. Some new characters have a vague idea that they can save the world. Those are the only new things that have been brought up in the past four episodes. Character development is good but let’s not have The Walking Dead spin its wheels because of it.

Other Thoughts:
I suppose the whole "Beth wants to get a drink" thing was a combination of her wanting to have some goal other than "survive" and she also probably wanted to reclaim an experience she had lost to the zombie apocalypse. At the same time it really did come out of nowhere. There was probably a better way to transition to it. Like, maybe she sees an empty liquor bottle on the side of the road or...something?

That trunk was a lot more spacious than it looked.

Sad, silent, mopey, solitary, aloof, grunting Daryl is not my favorite Daryl.

If they were in a safe spot, like the prison, I can see Beth trying out alcohol but aren't they a little too vulnerable to be thinking of boozing it up?

So, yeah, a golf clubhouse is sure to have been stocked with booze. However, once you see it had been occupied by a group of people at some point you should probably suspect the alcohol was the first to go.

I'm no fan of peach schnapps but, at the same, it seems like a good starter drink to me.

I didn't realize when Daryl and Beth were having their meaningful dialogue that they were outside until Daryl said they should go inside. Ummmm....yeah you should.

Symbolism and catharsis aside, is it wise to just burn down a defensible structure like a house that could be used by you or others in the future? And if you are intent on doing that, how about waiting until the morning instead of creating a giant commotion and then immediately entering the woods in the middle of the night.

According to Norman Reedus on The Talking Dead the group at the prison had a "zombie" disaster plan but never had a "tank through the front gates" disaster plan. Which is...a slightly better explanation than none at all?

7 comments:

  1. I thought this episode suffered from its predecessors. It was probably the best episode since the prison fell, but as you say, we just feel like we're spinning our wheels here. I'm fairly convinced that this episode will fare better on re-watches, once we know how the tail end of S4 is structured.

    And nothing that ends on a Mountain Goats song can be all bad.

    If they were in a safe spot, like the prison, I can see Beth trying out alcohol but aren't they a little too vulnerable to be thinking of boozing it up?

    Sure, it's risky. On the other hand, if you keep waiting until you're safe to try risky things it could well mean you never get to try them. Beth is clearly coming down on the side of squeezing in as much as possible before her inevitable horrible death, and I think that's a perfectly valid strategy.

    I'm no fan of peach schnapps but, at the same, it seems like a good starter drink to me.

    It's a damn sight more sensible than moonshine, that's for sure. That said, I completely buy Daryl's choice here. That's when you know characterisation is finally working out, when people make obviously idiotic decisions which you can completely understand their reasons for.

    Symbolism and catharsis aside, is it wise to just burn down a defensible structure like a house that could be used by you or others in the future? And if you are intent on doing that, how about waiting until the morning instead of creating a giant commotion and then immediately entering the woods in the middle of the night.

    Well, for whatever reason, Daryl thinks they should keep moving, so maybe they don't care much what happens to places they've headed from - though it's a fair point. That said, once you decide to burn down a building I think doing it at night is an awesome plan. You'll draw zombies from miles around into one place - where hopefully they burn to death - whilst you hightail it. Hell, I think it's the sort of thing survivors should be doing anyway. Raid a place, pick it clean, burn that bitch down.

    (It would also be helpful in a situation in which your enemies have been slain and your friends are missing and might need a signal.)

    According to Norman Reedus on The Talking Dead the group at the prison had a "zombie" disaster plan but never had a "tank through the front gates" disaster plan. Which is...a slightly better explanation than none at all?

    "Goddammit! Rick was very clear that if dead people flooded the prison we should rendezvous at the farm. But it got flooded by alive people! That's totally different!

    ...Best just wander around at f***ing random, I guess. Who's for snake à la Daryl?"

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  2. Man, I was so waiting for one of the dead people on the floor of the country club to "wake up" as they were moving through.

    Also, if this were a better show (or at least one more concerned with plot), then a previous episode would have shown some other segment of the cast seeing the fire started by Beth and Daryl in this episode, as a way to connect the various groups while still keeping them separate.


    I mean, seriously, people love Glenn but what do we even know about him?

    Yeah. I love Glenn because he's usually the only character with a good head on his shoulders as far as living in a zombie apocalypse is concerned, but you're right that we know very little about him beyond "loves Maggie, respects Hershel, relatively not an idiot".

    If they were in a safe spot, like the prison, I can see Beth trying out alcohol but aren't they a little too vulnerable to be thinking of boozing it up?

    Indeed. My sense of logic had a lot of issues with this, especially once Daryl started drinking too (and thus couldn't protect a drunk Beth as well).

    I'm no fan of peach schnapps but, at the same, it seems like a good starter drink to me.

    Mrs. Teebore said the same thing. Make of that what you will.

    And if you are intent on doing that, how about waiting until the morning instead of creating a giant commotion and then immediately entering the woods in the middle of the night.

    I was thinking the same thing. I didn't have as much an issue with burning it down as I did the timing, especially since they'd been drinking already.

    the group at the prison had a "zombie" disaster plan but never had a "tank through the front gates" disaster plan. Which is...a slightly better explanation than none at all?

    Yeah, as SpaceSquid humorously pointed out, I'm missing the distinction there in terms of the big picture. I mean, technically, they abandoned the prison because the tank allowed it be flooded by zombies, so...six of one? I mean, whatever the plan was, wouldn't you at least try to follow it if you abandoned the prison, no matter the reason? Just on the off chance that someone else didn't take the time to consider the technicality and decided to follow it?

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  3. I was not a fan of this episode in general. But my biggest beef is Beth's reaction to her first taste of alcohol; which happened to be moonshine, the harshest kind of alcohol. No visible sign of recoil, just "that's disgusting... can I have some more?". After that point I had no respect for any of the drunk drama that ensued.

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  4. // Teaching us something new about a character only to kill them off in the same episode is not character development. It’s almost like the exact opposite. //

    An excellent point.

    // I must say, though, that one of the more fleshed out characters already is Daryl so it seems like a waste to spend more time with Daryl instead of focusing that attention on other characters who are in desperate need of development. //

    While this is also a good point, I'm with you more in terms of the latter part — that focusing on Daryl (and Beth) here comes at the direct expense of other characters. Yet since Daryl is such an appealing character, thanks in large part to Norman Reedus' stellar performance, I'd rather take this little bit of win than complain about it; also, we're seeing Beth and Darryl bond rather than being told about how tight they got in the foxhole of this dangerous world like with Andrea and Michonne. The one bit that rang false for me was Darryl's sudden drunk teary-angry "I am now explaining things!" rip into himself for what happened at the prison, which I sort-of hope was Reedus' inability to connect with material that didn't really need to be spoken aloud so literally.

    Overall I really liked this episode. I'm struck by questionable decisions on the parts of both the characters and the writers often enough that I guess I tend to embrace well-done, discrete character vignettes when they appear as the best this show ever gets, and for me this was one of those.

    // "Beth wants to get a drink" ... was a combination of her wanting to have some goal other than "survive" and she also probably wanted to reclaim an experience she had lost to the zombie apocalypse. At the same time it really did come out of nowhere. //

    I didn't mind that it came out of nowhere, at least from our perspective. She was frustrated and channeled that into one of the countless injustices that she could actually do something about. It didn't hurt that she was with not only the best person to have on watch while she got drunk — you'd think, anyway; see below — but someone whom she maybe wouldn't mind taking advantage of her when she did, a subtext that the episode constantly flirted with but never quite brought to the fore.

    Of course, I have to agree that it was colossally stupid of Daryl to get drunk with her.

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  5. // I'm no fan of peach schnapps but, at the same, it seems like a good starter drink to me. //

    Especially, at the risk of sounding chauvinist, for a teenage girl. Daryl should've known that — and maybe he did but also respected either Beth or the experience of the First Drink or both enough to want to take her straight to the moonshine. Like SpaceSquid said, I buy it as being in character for him. I don't buy, to echo Mr. Shabadoo, that Beth wouldn't have a near(?)-comical reaction to a gulp of high-proof country hooch.

    Regardless of how cathartic it might've felt, burning down the house and wandering off into the woods at night was crazy-dumb. Our friend the Cosmic Calamari does have a point here too, though, and I'm totally with Teebore on how if the show were better structured we'd have seen the fire in a previous episode as well as, perhaps, an upcoming one.

    The Walking Dead, however, is easily one of the most weirdly structured shows I've ever seen.

    // According to Norman Reedus on The Talking Dead the group at the prison had a "zombie" disaster plan but never had a "tank through the front gates" disaster plan. Which is...a slightly better explanation than none at all? //

    Nope. I was all but literally scratching my head when host Chris Hardwick described how, yeah, of course the group wouldn't have a plan for the prison to be stormed by a guy with an eyepatch in a tank with a ragtag but heavily armed militia. Under normal circumstances, that would indeed sound ridiculous, but given previous events on the show that is pretty much exactly one of the scenarios the group should've prepared for.

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  6. @Space Squid: " I'm fairly convinced that this episode will fare better on re-watches, once we know how the tail end of S4 is structured."

    I agree. While it seems very slow paced coming off of three previous "quiet" episodes, this one may have been the strongest and, if you're expecting it, could be much more enjoyable.

    "On the other hand, if you keep waiting until you're safe to try risky things it could well mean you never get to try them."

    It's true. As a viewer it's easy to get sucked into "complete survival mode" and forget what it must be like to live like that for 2 straight years.

    "That said, once you decide to burn down a building I think doing it at night is an awesome plan."

    I'm going to have to disagree here. Yeah, you'll draw the zombies to it but that's where you are and they could come from any direction. Then you leave to a wooded area at night which makes spotting the zombies moving towards the house even harder.

    At the same time, this wouldn't be the first time people have made poor decisions whilst being hammered.

    @Mr Shabadoo:

    "But my biggest beef is Beth's reaction to her first taste of alcohol; which happened to be moonshine, the harshest kind of alcohol."

    While it didn't ruin the episode for me, I do agree. Especially since it seems like this wasn't mass produced, widely accessible "moonshine" but the real backwoods stuff.

    @Blam: "Of course, I have to agree that it was colossally stupid of Daryl to get drunk with her."

    Perhaps Daryl felt he was so much of a man that that can handle his liquor and be effective? You'd hope for more self-awareness...but it does sound kind of Daryl-ish.

    "The Walking Dead, however, is easily one of the most weirdly structured shows I've ever seen."

    That's probably because of the approximately one million show runners they've had.

    "Nope. I was all but literally scratching my head when host Chris Hardwick described how, yeah, of course the group wouldn't have a plan for the prison to be stormed by a guy with an eyepatch in a tank with a ragtag but heavily armed militia. Under normal circumstances, that would indeed sound ridiculous, but given previous events on the show that is pretty much exactly one of the scenarios the group should've prepared for."

    Ha! You're not wrong. I probably didn't explain it the best (not that it's much of an explanation to begin with) but the idea was that they had a plan for if zombies overran the place (get to the bus) but weren't prepared for sentient beings attacking them.

    This bring up three points:

    1. It's called a disaster plan for a reason. You're preparing for a "disaster." Even if you expect it to be zombies you know things are going to get chaotic so, regardless, a meeting place should be set.

    2. As you noted, they've already been attacked once by humans! They know the Governor is still out there and they better believe there are other Governor-esque people around so why aren't you planning for an attack by humans?

    3. So the show wanted to fracture the group. That's fine. But it could still be done even if they had a plan. Maybe the meeting place gets overrun by zombies? Maybe, for some reason, people can't reach the meeting place? The show can still do what they want and not make the characters look like complete idiots.

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  7. Yeah, you'll draw the zombies to it but that's where you are and they could come from any direction. Then you leave to a wooded area at night which makes spotting the zombies moving towards the house even harder.

    Fair point; I hadn't really considered the difficulty in seeing things coming your way.

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