The Walking Dead season 4 episode 12 review: Still

Review Ron Hogan 3 Mar 2014 - 07:06

Still may be The Walking Dead's best episode in recent weeks, thanks to the talented Norman Reedus...

This review contains spoilers.

4.12 Still

Bottle episodes can be a real mixed bag as far as television as a whole. In the case of a show like Star Trek, which coined the phrase “bottle episode”, they were a much-needed way to save money and use existing sets and actors while still filling an hour of television. For some shows, this is a recipe for disaster. The X-Files produced some of their best episodes when forced into a bottle, but The Walking Dead, thus far, hasn't been the best at this sort of thing. Most of the farm season felt like bottle episodes, and not particularly good ones.

However, when you have a compelling central character, bottle episodes can work really well. For example, take Daryl Dixon. We know very little about him, all things considered, because he's not the kind of character who'll sit down and air out his grievances, nor is he the kind of character who'll make a big speech talking about himself, his goals, and his dreams before dying - Daryl is too popular to die. On the other hand, we've got Beth, who is almost as much of a mystery, who isn't nearly as popular as Daryl, and who apparently has an infinite knowledge of Tom Waits song lyrics.

It's a pairing that really seems to work. They had a few good moments together earlier in the season, and when they went off on their own, it became pretty clear that it was going to create the potential for a lot of dramatic tension. After all, she's a young, impressionable girl, he's the dashing hero who keeps saving the day. He's a brooding loner and she's a bubbly, outgoing girl. He's a killing machine and she takes care of babies. They're like the Odd Couple, except with drastically more likelihood to end up having sex at some point. (Thankfully, they don't. At least, not yet.)

Angela Kang has submitted a brilliant script for this week's episode. No two ways about it, she got a very plumb assignment and she knocked it directly out of the park this week. The slow build of the episode from the opening onward, the way Daryl barely says anything while Beth tries time and time again to get him to open up, the fruitless search for alcohol (only to yield Peach Schnapps, the worst possible thing imaginable), and the inevitable opening up of the locked chest of emotions for both Beth and Daryl was just stunning, both in content and in execution. It's kind of a silly, aimless quest for the two to undertake, but Beth is insistent and Daryl is unwilling to let her wander off to die. Considering the trauma they've underwent, and the fact that as far as they know everyone they've ever loved is now officially dead, why not have a walkabout?

Man, Norman Reedus, huh? Not only is he a fan favourite, he may also be the best actor in the regular cast. This is a really emotionally ripping performance from him, and I think the reason why it works so well is that it builds so slowly. As Daryl goes through his day, you can see him repressing, see him looking twice at Beth, see his patience begin to slip, and when the alcohol begins to take hold and he eventually gives up on Beth's drinking game, he's by turns legitimately scary and legitimately heartbreaking. Full credit for Emily Kinney, too, because she gives him a lot to work with and against, and she's got a harder character in the sense that she's supposed to be the positive one (and it's very hard for positive people not to be annoying to those of us who aren't positive).

Impressively, this is the first episode of The Walking Dead for director Julius Ramsay, who has a short film to his credits and a lot of experience in the editing bay. That's probably one of the reasons why the show moved from scene to scene so smoothly. The fact that it was mostly set in two locations, a moonshiner's shack and a golf course clubhouse, helped keep things appropriately claustrophobic, but nothing was quite as claustrophobic and impressive as the opening sequence. From the smooth tracking shot of the long-dormant car crash to the way the scene with Daryl and Beth crammed in the trunk was shot, it was a very impressive Walking Dead debut.

Even though Daryl and Beth aren't going to die in the beginning of an episode, it's still really scary to behold. The sound design was spectacular. More impressive was the set design, both of the accident scene after the horde passes - great attention to detail in the massing of footprints - and in the abandoned country club, where it's clear that a lot of horrible things happened after Day Z. A bottle episode in the proper location can be an awesomely frightening thing; this is a great example of that.

As far as the closing half of this season of The Walking Dead goes, this may have been the best episode thus far of a pretty good run of television. Then again, I really like Daryl and getting an hour of him, plus some character development, is kind of like a treat. I'd imagine things will change pretty drastically when we get to Terminus, assuming we find it before the end of the season, so it's nice to have a moment to step back and really examine what makes Dixon tick.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Claimed, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan would be willing to drink moonshine with Daryl Dixon, but only if there were no zombies trying to kill us. Then again, if there were, I wouldn't be any safer with anyone else. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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Firstly Daryll missed the perfect opportunity when he golf swung a walkers brain onto Beth's new shirt to use the classic Sean of the Dead line "you've got red on you"

secondly all I could think watching this ep was poor Daryl. having to put up with Beth going through her 'church girls gone wild' phase.

Thirdly. have the walking dead killed the peach schnapps industry? "aint your first drink gonna be no Damn peach Scnapps" classic.

Fourthly. B.J. Smoove on TTD. Hilarious.

the Klan zombies joke had me in stitches

"the fruitless search for alcohol (only to yield Peach Schnapps)".
Peaches are fruit.

Something the comic book would of done in a couple of pages took the show an hour. Enjoyable but worry the show is on the verge of finding itself a little tired.

That and the weed smoke

Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod.
It's becoming increasingly frustrating to sit through this series, this is yet another time I've finished an episode only to wonder why I'm bothering to keep up. The cast are all excellent but the plot and its pacing is in tatters.
The sheer thrill of the quality of the first episode is but a distant memory.
I've been resisting but the Graphic Novel calls me ever onward past this limping production.

I can't believe you liked this episode. I can hardly believe anyone would, though I accept there is a certain kind of fan that will be happy whenever Daryl gets screen time. Honestly, this episode was really, really bad.

So Beth is Bubbly now? Really?

I find that many reviewers have many
misconceptions about this show. Like when they write “The Walking Dead is at its
best when the characters are moving, not confined to one location”. Well, they
were never “moving”. Most of Season 1 was spent in a camp set up in a quarry. 2-3
episodes were them travelling to the CDC where they stayed until it blew up,
then the farm, then the prison/Woodbury. NOW they are on the move, for the last
three episodes which have been a major let down for most people.

Beth was never bubbly, she was suicidal
from the start.

The writers should’ve paired Darryl with
Glenn. Imagine a bottle episode with these two, looking for Maggie and Judith.

Can't believe reviewers enjoyed this episode. We didn't learn anything we didn't already know about these characters. Ever since the prison debacle nothing really makes sense. Seriously, they didn't have a rendezvous spot after all the time they spent at the prison?

Walker's on the 18th Tee

visit GATVERcom to watch the replay of this episode

While I enjoyed the episode for the reasons in the review, I wouldn't call it the best.

Side note. This episode really reminded me of last years 'The Battery' - a film I was lucky enough to see on a huge screen in Leeds Town Hall. That film dealt with the lonely isolation of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse in much the same way this episode did, with a hell of a lot of similar set pieces, but done much better than anything in TWD. I highly encourage anyone with an interest in zombie films to hunt this masterpiece of the genre down. You'll be even more impressed when you find out the writer/director/star made it for $6000 after 9 friends put in $600 each because of their faith in his script.

She was suicidal? Really? I don't remember that at all. Maybe I just completely missed that implication. Was it just the way she acted or was something said or..?

Great episode. Love that it moves the story along and I HOPE THESE FOLKS leave the woods. I don't really care if they find the others... I'd like to see them go on a journey...someone go to the city...gear up and LEAVE GEORGIA....

The other survivor camps is totally interesting....makes me wonder what happened...AND I agree with Beth...BURN IT

ok...but peach snhnapps is disgusting and most likely the reason it remained intact well into the ZA...

I have no idea why I watch this show anymore.......Bored beyond belief. This programme has gone from great to good to bad to worse. Don't get me wrong, great acting from the pair, but you know you're in trouble when you make an episode that will have absolutely no effect on the plotline in future episodes.

Walkers on the South ridge..And Daryl got to use his (3) Ion cannon.

Brilliant Script? Really? I'm sorry, but that is far from brilliant writing. In fact, this episode contained some of the most abysmal character writing it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. This is the type of script I would expect from a 12 year old. Cheesy cornball dialogue and no character development whatsoever. We still know nothing more about Daryl than we did last week. In fact, this episode made me think less of him. This episode was a pile of garbage....such a wasted opportunity....much like the whole show at this point. I'd love to see what this show would be like with some good writers involved. Heck, even some average writing would be better than what we've had over the last 4 episodes. I'm beginning to realise that if this show doesn't depart from the directionless Graphic Novels, then it will never get good. Call me old fashioned, but I like my TV to have good stories and good characters...or even one or the other. With Walking Dead we have neither, yet people still seem to like it.

Yes, it was hinted at before that she was suicidal...I can't remember exactly in what episode. Even Daryl made reference to it in their drinking game: "I never cut my wrists to get attention."
I agree with Kim. It seemed that this was a different character who looked like Beth.

Episode was a big yawn fest and a tad hamfisted. A novice director showed his lack of experience too. Just another bad day for Walking Dead.

For me, this ranks as one of the worst episodes in the entire series. I was bored to death. I didn't see anything I already knew (or had a good guess about).

One of my favourite episodes in the whole show. If you like explosions and big drama, you're watching the wrong show. TWD is about tension and emotional fallout. It's always been about the people - not the zombies.
Fantastic episode & great review.

I was really confused after reading the review but the comments have confirmed what I already knew. It WAS a crap episode and many other people thought that too.

Ooh I thought he was just talking in general when he said that. Thanks!

I loved this episode. I can sort of understand why some people dislike it, as there isn't any big action or many tense moments, but I really thought we got to connect with and understand these 2 characters a lot more. Even with Beth, who has previously been a dull secondary character. Yes, the begging of the ep was slow but it built to a brilliant ending. Hopefully the events of the episode will have lasting effects on Daryl. The powerful end scene with the hut on fire, and that song, felt like there had been some sort of coming of age for these characters.

Daryl himself explicitly says how unprepared they were for the return of The Governor or for something major to go wrong. Carl was furious with Rick for not being more on the ball, blaming him for taking time out and seemingly allowing The Governor to demolish all they had. The thing they couldn't really have planned for was a tank taking down the walls and fences like that. I do understand your point, but it seemed plausible. They felt safe. They needed to let their guards down a little to feel human again... and it was a mistake. A completely believable mistake.

That's not true. There are entire editions of dialogue and character work with the odd cameo from a zombie or two. That's the serialised comic, not the compendiums.

The producers have clearly used the team split to build and strengthen our feelings for certain characters who haven't quite connected, Michonne and Beth in particular. That's why they're taking time out to focus on them instead of just killing them off like expendable extras. So caring more for them is presumably the desired effect for future episodes.

Out of interest and meant seriously... have you ever written TV drama? Or directed it?

Personally I've been really enjoying the last few episodes. Makes a change to everyone scattered, assuming they are alone, having to survive without the safety net of a base. Far more interesting than just being a soap opera in a gloomy grey prison. Yeah it's been slow at times, but it's The Walking Dead, if you're moaning about it being slow how have you made it this far??

I thought this was a great episode of what is often a frustrating series. I found it very moving, but perhaps that's something to do with experiencing loss (admittedly not by zombie apocalypse) in my life. The conversation following the drinking game where Beth talked about the hopes she had for her father and family really rang true to me, it was unexpected in a TV series of this kind. I also think Reedus portrayal of Daryl is sublime, I don't expect that from a character that is essentially an action hero, however flawed. I appreciate this episode divided viewers, I'm firmly in the 'yes' camp though. Last night's episode had a real profundity to it. Many of my pals have given up on TWD because they found the characterisations so thin and unsatisfying, I hope they get to see this episode, to those that hated it, well, I'm sure they'll be more gore and running around in the upcoming episodes (I love the gore and the faster episodes, but I love the slow and the emotional too). What makes my heart sink is that Terminus will turn out to be another apparently cosy safe haven concealing something nasty beneath the surface...

I can understand that, but it's not making me care for the characters any more than normal.....if anything it makes me despise them slightly more!!

Fair enough. People seem to have a massive disconnect with Beth. I feel like they've done everything they can now... and she knows she's not long for this world too. What is great is that this season the characters aren't behaving as bizarrely or inconsistently as Lori or Andrea.

Totally agree. Everyone seems to forget that the comic book is also VERY talky in places too. My only criticism is that Abraham et al feel a little cartoony compared to the existing cast.

On the farm Beth was suicidal, or least she was using this for attention. Andrea even encouraged her to do it, remember? My pont was that she was never bubbly and I have no idea where the reviewer gets it from.

agree with Zaphod. I’m still a bit disillusioned about the show, but more and
more I realize how badly written and acted it is, except for the first season.
This is probably because the episodes are usually directed by special effects
guys and all they want to do is insert as many excuses for make up effects and
goo as possible. However this doesn’t make a show and becomes old fast, and it
has, so now they have to come up with deeper stuff and they just don’t have the
talent for it. Maybe. Then again Kirkman is a pretty decent writer and it’s all
based on his material. Honestly I don’t know why they adapted the show from the
comics instead of simply doing a live action version. It’s working
fantastically well with Game of Thrones. If they don’t blow my mind this Sunday
I may just give up on it and watch reruns of Breaking Bad instead.

Am I the only person who is a bit confused about why some people are bothering to watch this show.....if you don't like the story, the characters, the writing and the directing then why are you still watching it??
Personally I enjoy the episodes which are more character based and it was good to spend time focused solely on 2 people who in the past haven't really had a lot to say. I do look forward to a bit more high action drama which I'm sure will come at the end of the series but in a human survival story it's good to spend a bit of down time getting to know some of the quieter characters better (like in 'After') and seeing how they survive.

I believe you, I just don't remember at all, but that's on me. Lol. Thanks!

Actually, yes I have. I also studied writing and literature in college, but that's irrelevant. Any intelligent adult TV viewer should be able to tell the difference between brilliant writing and poor writing. Perhaps the in-between stuff is a bit of a grey area. To give you an example, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are both examples of newer shows with BRILLIANT writing. Whether you like them or not you cant argue with the quality of the writing (both plot and character-wise). On the flipside, Walking Dead is completely plotless with completely wooden characters. Even if you enjoy the show, you can't actually tell me there's a plot...and please don't try and tell me that any of these characters has progressed beyond 1 or 2 dimensions (with the possible exception of the Governor, who's now dead).

I thought it was great too.

Does anyone know why there were a lot of dead bodies at the Country Club that didn't turn into walkers? Didn't look like they had been shot in the head or anything, so I was a little confused why they didn't turn into walkers. Thanks!

I really don't get all the negative comments, the second half of season 4 has had more action and zombies than the previous 2 seasons combined. They've also finally ditched the soap opera feel and balanced action and drama successfully.

Thought it one of the weaker episodes. Normally with these bottle episodes we see characters opening up and some development but I learnt nothing new here. Disappointing.

I was frustrated for the first half of it, but the pay-off during the second half was brilliant. I just hope these 2 don't end up together, even after 'getting to know her' I still wouldn't mind if they killed her off.
I'm amazed how badly the female writers of this show writes female characters.

REALLY? I must have watched a different episode as I thought it was pants!

I'm going to have to agree with the majority and that this episode was crap; love this site but don't think this author is much chop. He's not very insightful.

The problem with TWD is simply that there is too much dead screen time. The show really relies on action sequences or major plot developments to be interesting. You compare it to episodes of Breaking Bad. Even in episodes where not much happened, a combination of character development, building suspense, side-stories etc occurred so the show was worth watching. If you missed an episode, even when it wouldn't effect your understanding of what was going on, like when Walt and Jesse spent a whole show chasing a fly, it served a deeper purpose and had a meaning.

On this show, it never does. Pretend you didn't see this episode and went right onto the next one, would it make a difference? Would you have missed out on something? The answer is no.
40min of TV, here's the synopses: Darryl and girl walk in woods, she wants alcohol due to weird psychological issue, they find golf club that is weird, they kill walkers and find abandoned hut, they drink, Darryl expresses guilt about not securing prison, they burn hut.
Now that is what, 10 seconds of reading and comprehensively sums up the episode. If you didn't watch it, by reading that summary, you don't lose anything and can keep watching.

Last weeks episode was better but only because it had heaps of action on different fronts and moved the story forward. The director needs to find a way to really develop a story w/o relying on action.
A good start would be focusing on characters outside the main arc as right now you either have main characters or zombie fodder. When not focusing on action, the show simply focuses on characters doing meaningless things like Rick tending to his wounds ala the 1st episode after the break, or some stupid zombie kill/jump scare.

In fact the first episode after the break sums my point up again.
An injured Rick and Carl are walking. Carl is angry. They go into a house. Rick becomes unconscious. Carl expresses anger that Rick didn't protect them. Carl then realises he needs dad. Michone walks around reflecting on her dead family. She finds Rick.
Again completely summed up the episode with everything you need to know.

Highlighting my earlier point about how the author here sucks is his reference to the second season. That was probably the best season of the show, memorable moments, awesome character developments, tragic losses, characters doing shocking things... And a steady build up to something big. It was everything the last last season and a half hasn't been.

One of – if not the worst
episode yet, very very very poorly directed, Norman is a really good actor but
the direction was awful and its like he didn’t know whether to be angry or sad
and flitted between the 2 without any major flash points

I don’t think we need in season
4 of a program to be delving too far into anyones past, and comparing this to
the way the flashback of michones past was explored it was woefully done. The
girl isn’t the greatest actress but to be fair to both of them the content of
the episode was hard to extract any kind of meaningful performance and that bit
at the end giving the burning building the finger I mean come on! That was like
Dawsons Creek!

They also seem unable to get the
dynamic between Daryl and this girl right, is he the lover/brother/father

I can neither agree with the reviewer's open praise of this episode, nor with some of the comments below proclaiming it to be the worst thing they've ever seen (or words to that effect). Although it had some good character moments, my question is whether this had to be done so slowly and with all the focus on these two. Did we need to see the exploration of the golf club, which went nowhere, in minute detail? And, given that we haven't seen Maggie/Sasha or Tyrese/Carol for a few weeks now, are we to expect that each of those currently separate groups will also have a full episode dedicated to them? As much as I admire the writers for trying to mix things up a bit by splitting the characters up, we've now had four episodes of people wandering about achieving very little from a narrative perspective. My first reaction on hitting the final part of this episode was surprise that it was almost over, rather than an enjoyment of what had come before. I have faith in the show, having managed to rescue itself from the seeming dead end that was this stage of season two, but my patience has limits. Come on, TWD, next week can we finally have one of these groups meet another group - I mean, they're generally all travelling by foot from a single point in vaguely the same direction (having passed many of the same landmarks), so how long can this go on? Also, please feel free to inter-cut between groups when one group is doing something boring/pointless - I really don't need to see a character find new clothes and then get them dirty.

after i played the telltale game,the series seems so shitty


I couldn't believe how bored I was with episode. You cant follow an episode like the last one and follow it up with this?

I was gutted.

She won't be winning any acting awards.

Was it just me, or when she tried alcohol for the 1st time (not just alcohol, but 'Moonshine' that may make you go blind) and said, "Urgh, that's the most disgusting thing ever", her face expression looked like she had just tried water for the 1st time.

Took her about 1 second to have another try.

That scene annoyed me. I know its minor, but it annoyed me.

Did anybody feel any remorse about the demise of those two though?

I gave up watching this show half way through Series 2. It's the most boring, predictable pile of codswallop ever, which is a shame because the books are great. The Talking Dead!

I was like that from ep 2 of the first series.

I can't believe it took you four series to work that out.

Wow, the overall story of The Walking Dead - or lack thereof - seems to wander and aimlessly and slowly as the zombies that it depicts. Rick thinks the house that he, Carl and Michonne have stumbled into is safe, but wait, it isn't. Beth and Darryl do some more bonding, and move on. Glenn is searching for Maggie after they've been split up, like he has done every time they've been separated. It will probably take the rest of the season for the group to finally reunite, and then, guess what? They'll find a place that they think is safe for a while, and then all of a sudden, it won't be and they have to move on. Just like they did with the prison, Hershel's farm, the CDC and the encampment by the lake that they formed in season one.
Seriously, where is this all going? Does this show have any sort of direction? Is there anything new that we're supposed to be looking for? How about any sort of exploration into how the whole zombie apocalypse got started? I really liked the season 1 finale, because the show at least tried to explore that, before chickening out.
Sorry, but this show has become pointless.

Another thing that irritates me (and I am a fan of the show) is the lack of consistency in terms of the threat the zombies pose
for example they see 3 or 4 and panic madly often reverting to bailing eachother out. Yet in other scenes when someone is having a temper fit ala michone or the guy with the hammer (forgot his name) they single handedly take down 20-30 absolutely no issue

I guess that check cleared.

Lori was so inconsistent in S2 that she became unbearable... Andrea's decision to stay with The Gov just defied all logic, but until then she was a great character beautifully played by a great actress. I was actually angry that the writers chose to writer her out in such a mystifying fashion.

Loll! To my credit though, the show is still watched by millions of people, so obviously I'm not the only one. Also, out of the few shows I watch regularly, it's the only one on right now.

Well said Victor. That's the ultimate problem with TWD, it has no direction.

We saw a different episode than you did because that was the most boring hour of tv I've seen in years. This second half of the season has left me questioning continuing with the show.

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