This week on The Walking Dead, it’s the Beth and Daryl Show! After splitting up the cast into smaller, geographically disparate groups, the show switches up the formula again and focuses on only two characters for an entire hour. When the audience last sea Beth and People’s Champion Daryl Dixon, they were huddled around the train tracks, after there attempt to track down other survivors ended in a people of dead Walkers. This time, Beth and Daryl are on the run from a Walker horde, and take refuge in the trunk of car. It’s a wordless scene, as the pair latch the door shut and spend the night with weapons pointed towards the outside. The sound is unrelenting, and the spend hours with death only a few inches away. In a series known for it’s excellent use of cold opens, this was one of the best.
In the morning the two leave the trunk and make camp in the woods. Beth starts a fire, while Daryl puts his hunter skills to good use and rustles up some critters. Over a handful of fried snake, Beth decides that she wants to have her first alcoholic drink, which her father never allowed her to do. Daryl seems unmoved, so Beth grabs a knife and heads off in search of booze. It seems a little odd and arbitrary, but she is a teenagers who has had a long couple of days. She doesn’t get very far before a Walker shows up, Beth manages to get away but finds Daryl right at her heels. He leads her right back to camp, cause Beth to yell a little more and give Daryl the finger before they both storm off again.
They emerge from the forest on the edge of golf course, with a large country club in the distance. They enter the building and find a typical scene of zombie apocalypse carnage. Daryl grabs some money before the two head deeper into the building. After some Walker fighting they reach the bar, where the only remaining bottle is Peach Schnapps. Daryl promptly smashes the bottle, explaining the Beth’s first drink aint going be no damned Peach Schnapps.
They leave the country club and head to towards a small house and shack nearby, where they find a crate of good old fashioned moonshine. Daryl explains that he grew up in a house just like this, and knew exactly where the moonshine would be. They settle into game of never have i ever, which starts to go bad very quickly. Daryl, it seems, is a bad drunk. He unloads on Beth, accusing her of being a dumb college girl who wants attention, while she tells him that he doesn’t care about anyone. A Walker is attracted by the shouting and Daryl drags and tries to force to to kill it with his crossbow, as he gets more and more worked up. She stabs it with her knife before Daryl can hurt himself, and Daly confesses that he feels responsible for Herschel’s death, for the attack on the prison, for everything.
This episode finally sheds some light on the past of Daryl Dixon, who before the the zombies uprising, was simply a drifter. He and Merle would wake up, figure out where they were, and then Merle would decide whatever it was they were going to do that day. Like Michonne, Daryl tries to revert to a familiar pattern after the prison’s destruction. He grabs money that’s scattered around the country club, not because he thinks that dollar bills still matter in a Walker-filled world, but because it’s what he would have done before. Without Merle, and without the rest of group, Daryl is lost and confused, and feels like the failure he always thought he was destined to be. In the end, Daryl and Beth use the moonshine and money to light the house on fire, an on-the-nose but effective symbol of Daryl rejecting his past. They give the burning the flames the finer, and set off again.
This episode is unique in the series, it was focused almost solely on character development and pushed the plot into the background. While some might dismiss it as just a bottle episode, The Walking Dead, seems to taking the later half of the season to focus on the characters, action blowout on the prison attack. The show made the wise decision to avoid the easy trap of Daryl-Beth drunken hookup, and choose not to place any labels on their relationship. There are moments of what seems like attraction, put Beth herself accuses Daryl of acting like chaperone, a big brother type. Maybe the point is that Daryl and Beth don’t fall into a easily defined label, and instead the real nature of their relationship is that they are survivors, before anything else.