Often times, people are quick to label ‘The Walking Dead’ as a zombie show. However, the reality of the situation is that it’s a show about the people left over after the zombie apocalypse. While it’s great to see all the zombie killing action week after week, the show (and even the comic, for that matter) wouldn’t be as successful without having unique and interesting people making those kills. And this week’s episode is a prime example of how to build compelling characters.
In the last episode, Rick found himself in a ‘Taken’ sort of situation when some ‘Sons of Anarchy’ looking dudes invaded the house that he, Carl, and Michonne were temporarily inhabiting. We also got to know the newcomers that Glenn and Tara encountered after leaving the prison, Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene, but more importantly, Carl learned a lot more about his mysterious friend Michonne and her life prior to the apocalypse.
Now, another origin story for one of the show’s most popular characters is revealed as we finally discover what it is that Daryl Dixon was doing before the zombie outbreak. For the first time in the series’ history, we only follow two of the main characters for an entire episode as we follow Beth’s quest to have her first drink of alcohol. Along the way, they fight their way through a country club willed with walkers and eventually find a cabin in the woods containing the necessary libations.Nothing brings people together like burning down a house.
In this post-apocalyptic world filled with maniacal governors, ravaging marauders, and a disease that turns everyone into zombies when they die, many miniscule things slip through the cracks like holidays and landmark moments in one’s life. After five seasons, you forget that there are some things that these people will never get to experience. But something as little as having your first sip of alcohol isn’t completely out of the question as long as you’re willing to look for it. Just ask Bob. Anyway, I love the idea that the writers of ‘The Walking Dead’ chose to show us this moment for Beth because she’s someone that we really didn’t know before. It’s a really innocent thing at first and in following along with her and Daryl for this mission, we learned so much about them and their motivations for surviving.
Speaking of the mission, I think Beth saw that her traveling companion was getting down and pretty close to throwing in the towel. The younger Dixon just seemed like he was going through the motions to stay alive. They both needed some sort of purpose, even if it was something as trivial as getting a drink, just to take their minds off of the possibility that they’ll never see anyone from the prison again. To an extent, Beth knew exactly what she was doing when she set out for this goal.
There were some pretty funny moments along the way too. I was a big fan of the country club walker scene where Daryl hits a zombie’s brains all over Beth’s new white cardigan. Then there’s Daryl’s opinion on peach schnapps and watching him play a drinking game typically played by underage kids, which were both pretty fun scenes as well. And along the way, there were some great throwbacks to some moments involving these two that weren’t really explained at the time like Daryl’s reaction to Sophia coming out of the barn, Jimmy’s game where he tries to figure out Daryl’s past, and Beth’s unending optimism, especially when she suggests burning a house down.
Speaking of that drinking game scene, we saw some exemplary performances from Norman Reedus and Emily Kinney. After Daryl got defensive over some of the Never Have I Ever questions, both actors just delivered some of the most powerful moments of the season so far. Up until this point we’ve only ever really seen them as secondary or background characters, but this episode really brought them front and center and added a great amount of depth to both Daryl and Beth.
As a fan of Daryl Dixon (just like nearly everyone who watches this show), I’m always excited to see him featured in an episode purely for how badass he is. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him and Beth as complex people and seeing where they go from here, even if it’s somewhat down a romantic path, which was kinda hinted at in this episode, but totally not necessary to make their dynamic work.
I could really go on and on about how many great things that this episode contained. The performances, the directing, the soundtrack, and the script are just a few things that were hit out of the park this week. When ‘The Walking Dead’ sucks, it really sucks, but sticking around long enough to get quality episodes like this one are almost worth all that time spent on the farm with Carl not staying in the house. When this show is on the ball, it’s really on the ball and I hope that writer’s room keeps churning out excellent episodes like it has been since returning to the airwaves.
‘The Walking Dead’ starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yuen, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, and Danai Gurira airs Sundays at 9:00pm on AMC.