This week on The Walking Dead, it’s Beth and Daryl’s turn to wander around and find purpose in their post-prison life. At first, “Still” was hard to grasp, with Beth making petulant, rash, and annoying decisions, but it soon morphed into one of the better character medtiations in The Walking Dead‘s history.
The event that will have everyone talking for this episode is the revelation of Daryl’s past. Daryl has been seen as the savior of the group, the angelic protector of the survivors that can do no wrong, the wings on his signature leather vest symbolic of his status as a warrior with a purity of purpose. “Still” postulates that heroism exists in everyone, even a redneck drifter from the fringes of society. Daryl has become a fascinating study of the nature of heroism, a man who rose from the dregs of a society that once would have spit on him to the protector of the last remaining vestiges of that very same society. There is this great incongruity of Daryl ,a man who is almost Neanderthal like at times (like when he chows down on a dead rattlesnake), who can also be almost saintly in his sense of responsibility to his fellow survivors.
Nowhere are these ideas more evident than in Daryl and Beth’s visit to a country club in search of Beth’s first Hershel defying drink. The club was one of the more memorable set pieces since the start of The Walking Dead. The pure, aristocratic setting of the club is offset by almost constant images of death and decay, something Daryl seems to take a perverse delight in. These are people who were so socially above him before “the fall” that they may as well have been a completely different species. Daryl can only look at their corpses with contempt as they are now dead and rotten while he stands tall, crossbow and morals at the ready. The images of Daryl throwing darts at the portraits of the club’s members the same way he fires arrows at zombies was powerful and speaks to the man Daryl was, but it his revelation that he blames himself for the fall of the prison that speaks to the man Daryl is.
Daryl has embraced the role of protector, and even though the Governor’s siege of the prison couldn’t have been prevented, he still blames himself. This is the hero’s burden, the weight Daryl must carry because he defines himself as the protector. He had no meaning in society before, but now, it’s people like Daryl who are all that stand between humankind and oblivion. A hell of a role to fulfill for a former societal cast off, a man who would never even be allowed to set foot in that country club.
As for Beth? Beth seems to be just a cipher to allow Daryl to develop as a hero. She has her own ticks and conflicts, like having to move on from the death of Hershel, but it isn’t an accident that Daryl, the protector, is paired with the most helpless member of the group. Beth’s safety defines Daryl, as long as she is safe, he has a purpose.
But seriously girl, for the love of God, stop wandering around alone, I don’t care how pissy you get.
Zombie Kill of the Week: FORE! The Tiger Woods skull fragmentation with a gold club by new PGA legend Daryl Dixon.