In my review of last week’s episode, “Claimed“, I complained that The Walking Dead needed to pick up the pace a little more to get where it was going. I still stand by that because much of the story’s progression seemed unnecessary and little more than filler. With Sunday’s installment, “Still”, The Walking Dead tale picks up with events shortly after the action of “Inmates” and once again focuses on Darryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (though only those two this time around without intercutting between the rest of the survivors).
At the beginning of “Still”, we find the two on the run, frazzled and exhausted and forced to take refuge within the trunk of an abandoned car to hide from a horde of walkers. Thanks to some smart craftsmanship on the part of the show, we’re never privy to how many. Instead, we only hear increasing growls from zombies lurking outside the car, the thunder crackling across the sky, and eventual silence. The creative choice to present it in this manner not only saves on budget (which can always be used for something bigger down the road) but also highlights how artistic The Walking Dead has become under the guidance of Scott Gimple and company. Relying almost solely upon the visuals of the scene (the claustrophobic feeling of them wedged in the trunk, the shadows lurking outside, the light shining through the small opening) makes the action even more terrifying than anything the characters might have said.
“Still” provides a lot of back story about both Beth (Emily Kinney) and Darryl–especially the latter of the two–while creating believable conflicts. Through probably the most thoughtful dialogue thus far, we finally learn Darryl’s place in the world before what Beth refers to as “the turn”. He was “a nobody, a nothin’, just a redneck asshole”. But this revelation only comes after the two bicker constantly, revealing truths about themselves and forcing them to confront the reality that things aren’t the way they were.
Near the beginning of “Still”, Darryl catches a rattlesnake, stripping its skin away for the food underneath. As the episode unfolds, that shedding of skin becomes more symbolic as both characters cast away the people they once were, not only prior to the zombie apocalypse, but also even as recently as when they were living in the prison. More importantly, the writers made us care about them as characters, stripping away preconceived notions about who they are and giving the viewers the real meat underneath the stereotypical skin (particularly in the case of Beth, someone who we all thought would have been walker fodder by this point).
Both Reedus and Kinney served up strong, impressive, gut wrenching performances in “Still”. Reedus’ Darryl regrets not being able to save everyone at the prison, Hershel specifically, and, thanks to Kinney’s Beth, slowly comes around to accept that there indeed may be something to live for.
While “Still” evokes the pacing of last week’s “Claimed” in that it sticks with only a few characters, it does so much more to advance the story and that’s largely due to the great script and wonderful performances. I would have gladly watched Reedus and Kinney play off one another for at least one more hour as Darryl and Beth are apt to be dealing with the ghosts that continue to haunt them for some time.
The Walking Dead – ‘Still’ grade: A+