This half-season,The Walking Dead has been favouring small groups of characters filling large expanses of time with comparatively thin storylines. Until now, their least populated effort was the first one with just Rick, Carl and Michonne, but they’re going for broke this week, with a two-hander featuring only Daryl and Beth.
Imagine this has the small cast record sewn up, at least until we get that 45-minute special featuring Tyreese trapped in a toilet cubicle, zombie horde storming by as he strains over a difficult poo. That wasn’t a real spoiler (I hope), but what follows might be.
The complete Daryl Dixon multipack
At least they picked two relatively underexposed characters for this level of scrutiny – Daryl’s had little to do in most of season four, while Beth… has barely done anything in her entire time on the show, even though she’s one of the longer-serving remaining cast. Well, she tried to kill herself at one stage in season two – which is referenced, although not laboured over.
Interesting to get a look at where Daryl’s head is at, and Norman Reedus gets to stretch his acting skills at last. He plays stoic Daryl, terse Daryl, booze-snob Daryl, angry Daryl and even sobbing Daryl until, finally, level-headed hero Daryl re-emerges at the end, as he learns (for the seventeenth time) that he’s more than just a redneck stereotype, no – that was his brother.
Emily Kinney plays her part well too, not as many showcase moments, but she works hard making Beth recognisably human in her grief, yet not a pitiful doormat. The snap from casual chat to high emotion doesn’t feel quite earned, but I guess the introduction of alcohol lets you get away with a lot.
Too Much Happiness – Will Beth die next week?
Most importantly, like many better Walking Dead episodes, it feels like a unit of drama with a beginning, middle and end, rather than just stringing out the subplots a little longer. Also, there’s a nice range of feelings, including an endearing wryness in the face of adversity, rather than just infinite despair.
Predictably, considering the lack of cast, it’s a tad sparse and would maybe have been a more exciting watch if they’d thrown in another storyline to intercut with the Beth/Daryl stuff. Still, the execution of what’s there is largely good, and it’ll be a fun 45 minute interlude for future DVD/Netflix viewers.
Next week: only four episodes left! Will we see major story advances, or are they saving all that for the final two-parter?