Hope — or the lack thereof — is a common theme that runs through The Walking Dead. It’s a feeling that resonates with viewers regardless of individual backgrounds. Despite never having been through a Zombiepocalypse, we viewers have experienced hope and hopelessness. When talking to people who don't watch the series, I often hear the argument that for all the action, the main characters' situation is so hopeless, so pointless that there is no reason to watch. Why bother when the characters' lives can merely go from bad to worse?
So, why do we watch The Walking Dead? Why do we care? Do we care?
I can only speak for myself, but I care. I probably care too much. The trials and tribulations of these characters are still captivating to watch — and recap. Therefore, while it's all nice and good that Rick, Carl, and Michonne are relatively okay, I still really, really want to know how the other survivors are doing. (Especially Glenn!) But that's just me.
Daryl and Beth
Beth's journal entry narrates the opening sequence — Daryl and Beth run for their lives through the woods, evading Walkers and putting as much distance between themselves and the Prison as they can. The journal entry was written around the time Rick's group found the Prison. Beth writes of Hershel's optimism, as he hopes they can create a new, permanent home there. She even quotes him proclaiming, "If you don't have hope, what's the point of living?" (Hershel supported the same type of philosophy prior to entering A block to help the sick.) With all of the promise the Prison represents still fresh, Beth muses in her journal, "We can live here for the rest of our lives." It's a touching thought. Too bad Daryl and Beth are actually lying down exhausted in a field as vulture circle above them.
Despite their latest ordeal, and the violent loss of her father, Beth clings to hope. She encourages Daryl to use his tracking skills to find other survivors. Daryl remains silent and unmoving, reluctantly giving into Beth's call to action after she storms off into the woods alone.
He eventually picks up on some tracks, about four or five hours fresh. Rabbit carcasses can be seen inside a nearby log. Next, they find half-eaten grapes on the trail. Ever the optimist, Daryl announces "things went bad." Beth chastises him for not having faith, but he quips, "Faith ain’t done sh*t for us. It certainly ain’t done sh*t for your father." Too soon, Daryl. Beth gives him a death glare that swiftly shuts him up.
They then find two dead Walkers and human blood. Before they continue on the trail, a rogue Walker surprises them. With the power of teamwork, they quickly slay it. Soon after, they arrive at a clearing in the woods — railroad tracks. Beside the tracks, a small group of Walkers feast on human flesh. They don’t recognize any of the dead, but at least one of them was a child. Beth loses it, unleashing the sobs and tears she has kept in since the fall of the Prison. Daryl continues onto the tracks, stopping twice as he realizes Beth is still crying.
That night, Beth uses her journal as kindling for their fire. Her earlier journal entry continues as Beth then wrote, "If this doesn’t work, I don’t know how I can keep going." Beth and Daryl will now need each other more than ever to keep going.
I like the dynamic between Beth and Daryl, something we saw a bit of in the season premiere. I hope it doesn't go in a romantic direction, and that's not just because I ship Daryl and Carol. Daryl no longer has any crutch or touchstone he can go to that inspires him to be a better man, a leader. There's just this hopeful teenage girl. Can Daryl continue to be the man he became? So far, Beth has been doing the real leading. We've seen who Daryl is without Merle, but who is Daryl without Rick, Carol, and Hershel? Who is Beth without Hershel and Maggie?
NEXT: The Next Generation prove their resilience