43. Daryl’s Meltdown
Episode 412 “Still”
Original Airdate: 3/2/2014
Submitted By: Charlotte Anne
“Still” is an episode that divided the fandom: some loved it, while many felt that nothing was really happening. In any case, having Beth and Daryl team up was rather unexpected and it led to a few memorable moments. In particular, Daryl’s meltdown after he’d had a few drinks and Beth indirectly suggested he might have spent time in jail was quite epic.
Several things make Daryl’s angry rants particularly enjoyable to watch. One, they are quite rare. It’s always a lot of fun when characters who are usually brooding or quiet suddenly get angry and go on a rant (if you’ve seen these other series, think Major André on Turn, or Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire). Daryl was originally introduced as a quick-tempered guy who could easily be triggered, and used to talk quite a lot, but he hasn’t really been that talkative since season 2. His angry outbursts became far less frequent, but also more dramatic as a result.
Two, it’s always interesting to be reminded that Daryl, even though he plays the loner and speaks little, really does pay attention to the others. Just because he doesn’t openly participate in conversations and tends to stay on the edge doesn’t mean he’s not taking mental notes of everything that’s going on. Thus, if anyone is unfortunate enough to piss him off, Daryl just starts throwing at them every little thing that he’s noticed about them. He can hit painfully close to home and get terribly mean – which leaves you feeling bad for the unfortunate character on the receiving end of his rant, but also rather amused at how quickly things have escalated.
Thus, when Beth triggers him, he suddenly starts enumerating every single aspect of Beth’s privileged childhood that annoyed him and made him envious – starting with “I’ve never eaten frozen yogurt” and “I’ve never had a pet pony”, and ending with the hilariously brutal: “I sure as hell never cut my wrists looking for attention!”
It takes poor Beth a few seconds to realize what’s hitting her. She’s basically triggered Daryl by hitting his weak spot: his frustration at the stereotypes people project upon him, combined with his permanent struggle against low self-esteem and guilt.
If you compare this angry outburst to an earlier Daryl outburst directed at Carol back in season 2, the circumstances are very similar: Daryl is feeling guilt over his inability to save someone, and vents his frustration by being mean to someone who has touched him emotionally. In “Still”, perhaps because of the booze, which he says himself makes him act like an “asshole”, he gets more violent as he forces Beth to try and shoot arrows into a walker.
Beth’s own rant spells out, more bluntly, what Carol had already hinted at: Daryl is pretending not to care because he is too scared to let himself feel the pain over the group’s recent losses. However, in what may be an indication that he has grown emotionally since season 2, Daryl eventually snaps out of his angry phase, and breaks down, acknowledging that this is all really about his guilt over losing Hershel and the prison.