Spoilers for The Walking Dead –
On a dark and stormy night, Daryl and Beth run from zombies and hide in a car trunk together. Crossbow and knife at the ready, this is the zombie apocalypse, this is survival. If Beth were to sing the Walking Dead version of “Our House,” it wouldn’t be about placing flowers in a vase, but starting fires and making alert traps with scavenged car parts, while Daryl’s aging arrows can’t quite find their mark, and they have to settle for roasted snake. I suppose this is what passes for date night in the end of the world, but Beth isn’t content to stare into the fire for hours and hours. Mourning can have a short half life in The Walking Dead, one of my favorite aspects, and to keep up the musical theme, this girl just wants to have fun. Daryl barely even talks any more, but young and still searching for any kind of hope Beth is sparked by a mission to at least have an adult drink before she dies. Remember that time questing for booze brought down the house on Bob and company? It goes about as well at first here, but Beth proves herself far more capable. She even gets some nice new threads out of the deal, at least until an overzealous Daryl splatters zombie guts all over them.
Without the group Daryl seems to have lost his purpose, he’s even picking up useless money and trinkets. Does he just miss Carol that much? Beth has to break down again before he’s willing to do any more than just humor her, and once he finally comes around, he “ain’t gonna have your first drink be no damn peach schnapps.” He leads her to a moonshiner shack that reminds him of his own home sweet home, and regales her with twisted little tales of his family life while she teases him about his authoritative nature with her. Once she convinces him to join the party, they play a game of never have I ever. Turns out Daryl is a bit of an angry drunk. Alcohol brings out the truth though, and they both have a lot to be angry about. Maybe some losses haven’t been mourned enough, maybe too many events have gone unspoken of. They scream at each other, they let out the thoughts that they’ve been suppressing with their side missions or brooding stoicism. It’s not until the after, that we get one of the truths they’ve held close for a while. What did Daryl do before all this? The answer is nothing. He drifted, hung around his brother Merle when he could, and did whatever nonsense Merle would drag them into. Daryl had nothing before the end. Beth had every little happy hope. Yet they’ve both had to change to survive. As the episode draws to a close, they gleefully burn the shitty little shack and each give it their one finger salute. It’s one of actor Norman Reedus’s most requested poses for pictures, but the defiant gesture looks pretty good on actress Emily Kinney as well!
When the zombies aren’t as scary, you build tension for the viewer by having Daryl frustratingly pass up almost every seeming opportunity to have a good time with the dramatically beautiful Beth/Emily Kinney.
I said this about the last issue of the comic, and it’s coincidentally true here too: If you like these people, you should enjoy this one.