Spoiler alert for this week's episode of "The Walking Dead": Daryl cries.
Sunday night the series continued its post-midseason break slowdown with another leisurely paced episode in which Daryl and Beth break into a country club, kill some zombies, decide not to drink peach schnapps and instead raid some redneck's stash of moonshine.
Along the way, Beth grows up a little and Daryl learns to let go of his past by setting fire to the former home of the unseen redneck.
You can also close down your "Daryl's Former Occupation" betting pools now, because we also finally learned what it is, though it probably won't surprise anyone. No, he wasn't a priest or a circus clown or even a former CEO. He was a drifter. He did odd jobs while he followed his big brother Merle around from town to town. Why that was teased out the way it was is a mystery still to be solved.
This episode, titled "Still," avoided thrilling cliffhangers and breathtaking plot twists in favor of a more focused, character-driven narrative in which Beth tried to assert her growing sense of adulthood by looking for her first alcoholic drink.
"I know you think this is stupid," she tells Daryl at one point. "And it probably is. But ... I don't care."
That shot with Beth alone on camera speaking to Daryl is framed in such a way that she could actually be speaking to us, the audience. Yes, Beth, we do think this is stupid. But, hey, you're doing it anyway.
While we haven't gone back to do a comparison of every previous season, "Still" is by far the least compelling episode of Season 4. The personal revelations aren't surprising (didn't we already know that Daryl had an unpleasant childhood?) and the action feels recycled (yet another zombie waits in the dark for people to walk a little too close to him).
While an episode like this may work in the overall design of the season, a breather before we reunite everyone in this new settlement, it felt like a lot of padding. We realize not every episode can, or should, be a thrill-a-minute roller-coaster of plot twists. But a short cable drama season can't afford too many side trips like this one.
Here's hoping the story gets back on track next week.
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