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This is ABSOTIVELY POSILUTELY the last part of the series-wide theme stuff, I don't care how long it gets, because this is ridiculous. (... Plus, damn it, 5.01 has now aired, and I want to watch it, but if I do before I finish this it's only gonna jam up my brain with even moar thoughts and nobody needs that. And here I thought it was such a smooth move to finally get on with watching S4 only like a month before S5 started. For future reference: Not. Smooth.) For the season-specific stuff, I will catch up with S3 & 4 ... later.

Warning: I said A LOT and I mean A LOT.



Injuries, appearances, actions indicating connections between characters:
Here we examine the way that various resemblances between characters are used to draw attention to the ways they are resembling one another (it's like ~magic~), and thus provide us with key similarities and differences to compare as reference points in gauging the character, what they do, and the paths they are on, on top of being tangible, visible signs that symbolise the intangible, invisible damage they've incurred along the way.

The core thread of resemblance between two characters the show develops is of course between Rick and Carl, as Carl grows into the path his father is blazing for his sake (and, as kids will, sometimes tries to push ahead of, because clearly they know better, Dad). Carl gets shot in the left side, right where Rick's exit wound is (Rick being shot through, from behind, whereas Carl's bullet was slowed by being shot through the deer, and didn't penetrate too deep); he is the same bloodtype and gets several transfusions from Rick to keep him alive (Carl had wanted to give blood for Rick but wasn't allowed), sinks into unconsciousness but like Rick does come back from it. At which point Rick bequeaths him his sheriff hat:
Carl — Hey. I'm like you now. We've both been shot. That weird?
Rick — Yeah, I think your mother would rather hear we've got the same eyes, so let's keep that between us.... Since you're in the club now, you get to wear the hat. Didn't you know? *puts it on him, it's too big, they laugh* We'll pad the rim tomorrow, so it sits better.
Carl — Won't you miss it?
Rick — Maybe you'll let me borrow it from time to time.
Carl — C'n share it.
Rick — Hey. Sleep now.
Carl — Love you, Dad.
Rick — I love you.
Carl — *settles down with the hat still on*
Rick — *goes off, considers his badge, lays it down*
(2.04)
(Symbolism! Metaphor! Also note, there is no giving of watches from father to son in this relationship.) S3, when Rick has everything on lockdown, until it all starts to fall apart, doesn't see much development until Carl takes it upon himself to lay down the law with the teenage enemy soldier – being the judge, jury and executioner just as he had urged Rick to be with Randall – prompting an even bigger attempt by Rick to walk it back in S4; the sheriff hat isn't a farming hat! Upon losing Judith and the prison, with Rick weak and insensible from the injuries he sustained, Carl forges out for more supplies for them (while nursing an epic YOU SUCK YOU DO EVERYTHING WRONG I DON'T NEED YOU ANYMORE DAD grudge), and in the process manages to recreate the three-walker pile-on (being pinned by the first two he killed and struggling to headshot the third climbing over them) that happened to Rick when he and Shane first took Randall "18 miles out" to release him; however, in doing so, Carl uses up all of his bullets so that the later walker almost – but didn't! – get him (got his shoe!). Thus, when he thinks Rick has died and turned, reaching out to take hold of him, Carl finally picks up the Python (is this the first time he wields his father's signature gun? I wasn't keeping track of that but I have a strong feeling it would be) ... and discovers he absolutely cannot bring himself to use it, even to save his own life (and even though he had just recently scoffed at Joe Jr's note and inability to put down Joe Sr).

Rick's gunshot wound:
Other than Carl, we have Jim bit in the exact same place (S1); Daryl arrow-perforated right through, from the back, although more superficially, further to the side (S2); Morgan shot by Carl from the front (in the vest! like the first shot Rick took! didn't penetrate!) in the exact same place (S3). If it's a one-per-season pattern ... you could include Michonne stabbing The Governor right through, from the back (S4), although that was further in – nearly in the middle, although the angle it was filmed at skewed it slightly to the left side, too – and, unlike the others, lethal pretty much straight away. Which ... it's obviously a pattern, but I can't quite get a read on what the deeper connection might be with them. So, let's take a look at what we've got: Morgan and Jim were the earliest, closest analogues as regards Rick's core concern (lost wife and young kid(s)); The Governor was the closest, dark analogue of Rick we've yet seen; and then Daryl is ... Daryl. Family-wise, Jim was wracked with guilt at failing his, getting away because walkers were too busy eating them; Morgan (who, by the way, like Rick is seeing dead faces, but couldn't get Rick on the walkie talkie, only static, where Rick had a lot more luck(?) on the prison phone (hi Jim!); meanwhile, Michonne admits to Rick that she talks to her dead boyfriend (who, we later learn, was one of the walkers she kept on a leash in punishment for his guilt and failing of their son) ... and, wait, while we're at it, Jim:
Rick — We'll be back on the road soon.
Jim — Oh, no. Christ. My bones – my bones are like glass, every little bump, God. This ride's killing me. Leave me here. I'm done. Just leave me. I wanna be with my family.
Rick — They're all dead. I don't think you know what you're asking. The fever – you've been delirious more often than not.
Jim — I know, don't you think I know? I'm clear now. In five minutes, I may not be. Rick, I know what I'm asking. I want this. Leave me here. Now that's on me, kay? My decision. Not your failure.
(1.05)
)
anyway, Morgan – was wracked with guilt at failing to kill his walker wife, and failing Duane (who "turned") when she came and bit him, and he is now obsessed-beyond-rationality with the need to "clear". (Carl, who had recently shot his mother in the head before she had a chance to turn, and would finish out the season gunning down the teenage boy who he, rightly or wrongly, judged to be a threat, having internalised that enemies they didn't kill when they have a chance invariably turned on them, gets this:
Carl — Hey!
Rick — Carl –
CarlMorgan!... I had to shoot you. You know I had to, right?
Morgan — *nods*
CarlI'm sorry.
Morgan — ... Hey, son. Don't ever be sorry.
(3.12)
)
Daryl ... is Daryl? In any case, not an analogue. Bloody hell, contra-themed wild card pattern-breaking bastards. Okay, so he's also the only one whose wound wasn't inflicted on him by anyone else, but directly by his own weapon/choices. (And his hallucinated family member – which he quickly worked out wasn't real – though lost, was still alive, not to mention gave useful advice/aggressive trash-talking pep talk, and Daryl firmly declared that he and Rick had done right by him, not guilty for not being able to save him, and finishes by deciding he's better off with Merle gone, and running the hallucination off.) If we're following the responsibility-guilt thread, that season he took upon himself the responsibility (/Rick's failure) for bringing Sophia back safe from the woods, and also responsibility/guilt for delivering the mercy kill to Dale:
Rick — That thing you did, last night....
Daryl — Ain't no reason you should do all the heavy liftin'.
(2.12)
The Governor, meanwhile, refused to acknowledge actual guilt for absolutely anything he was responsible for, and in the final confrontation placed the blame for it all on Rick. And ... once Michonne was through with him, had lost the wall of dead faces in fishtanks he'd installed to sit and stare at, his dead daughter he kept on a leash/talked to/cared for, and finally his life. SO I GUESS THERE'S THAT. Now to be on the lookout for whether S5 contributes another one to the pattern, and track how responsibility-failure-guilt-mental break might be interacting with Carl following his father's path.

The Governor's loss/impairment of an eye:
Is the secondary major injury-resemblance thread, both broader and shallower in scope. In the aftermath of the Woodbury raid, Glenn's sporting a black right eye, while The Governor's destroyed right eye is covered in white gauze; both are lashing out wildly in anger (Glenn at the violation of Maggie, The Governor at losing the "daughter" he was trying to protect), both wanting to go and inflict damage on the other camp, irrational and blind to the damage their behaviour is doing to their own people. The Governor acts on his rage, Glenn (eventually) responds to Maggie's need for him to see her; Glenn's eye heals up, The Governor replaces the temporary bandage with a permanent black patch (and later gets to lose another "daughter" whose innocence and protection he took on as his driving motivation). (I haven't been noting it unless feeling especially snarky, but basically, any time you think to yourself, golly, that seems symbolic, the answer is WHY YES. Rick and Carl have "the same eyes"? WHY YES.)

Also? the stray mutt that came back a second time, that Daryl goes to let in without looking to check, was missing its right eye (and Daryl loses Beth to fates unknown). He then goes on to turn a blind eye (who doesn't love a pun? Nobody on this show, it seems; what's that, Tyreese? You think lightning might have been what started that fire in the distance? Lol good one) to the signs of how bad Joe's "merry band" really was, where it only took one mention of little girls from Randall – whose left eye was swelling closed from Daryl's working-over – for Daryl to clue right in (and let loose). (Len, who made the "little ones" comment regarding Beth, also winds up getting worked over, and killed. Ed? Do you have something to add? Cos I can't hear you over your massively busted left eye you sorry fucking sack of shit.)

Tyreese can't stop lashing out over the murder of Karen, can't see the danger of pushing Rick too far, and Rick gives him a swollen-shut left eye for his trouble – but Tyreese recovers and winds up with the care of the all the prison's remaining little girls, doomed as that still mostly ended up. (Rick loses control and beats him so hard he sprains his own hand; Daryl only bloodied his knuckles on Randall and, obviously, isn't the one to kill him, just gives a calm report of his findings to the group, both of which suggesting that contrary to however Daryl's performance appeared, he did not actually ever lose control.) After the fall of the prison and Rick's beating – and choking – at The Governor's hands, Rick, who'd deliberately looked away/backed down from the dangers of this world, is left with ... a swelling-shut left eye (among other things, such as what looks like cracked ribs where his gunshot wound was; and loses his infant daughter, and later has his son bodily pinned down by guys who clearly do not distinguish between little girls and little boys).

Daryl, who holds himself responsible for losing sight specifically of the threat of The Governor, sports a slightly blackened right eye, which later gets re-administered in the punishment by Joe's group after he offers his life for Rick's in atonement (which is exactly the same kind of beating Rick was giving Tyreese before Daryl grabs him from behind, pulls him off and won't let go until he snaps out of it).... Hm, when he does lash out it's by yelling at Beth and taking shots at a walker (and after he snaps out of it, he doesn't keep Beth from hugging him from behind or try to make her let go); he calls his shots, the last one being "eight-ball", and since he didn't call "fore!" when he teed off on the previous walker but the show did put that four of clubs on the ground next to its head, I'm gonna go ahead and call it (hurr) a sly wink (hurr). (Apologies to everyone who doesn't share my, and apparently this show's, humour.)

If there's a Dixon contra-theme to be rooted out anywhere in all this, it's that Daryl, having grown up on the receiving end of brutal out-of-control lashing out, always remains comfortable, in control and deliberate – clear-sighted, in fact – about the way he uses violence on living people – furious as he was, if he had thrown Bob to the walkers, it would have been because he'd made the decision to. But he does lash out very much beyond his own control in words (Carol, Merle, Beth), and in keeping with that dividing line, it's rare that he bothers with warning or threatening; if he's raising his weapon – or a brace of squirrels – he's preparing to use it. (Bob, take notes. At least when other people threaten Daryl, they have the decency to actually hold their gun to his head.) Merle largely is the same with both violence and words, though far sloppier when drunk/high and with a tendency to revel in the effect of his violence; even the Woodbury fights remain within their controlled/theatrical purpose for specific effect, doubly so when both Dixons are thrown in the ring, despite it being the opposite of The Governor's purpose to have them fight to the death. Given, too, that it's a contra-theme, even if it wasn't already otherwise obvious, we can assume the child abuse they experienced wasn't sexual on top of everything else. Meanwhile, Dixon-approved moonshine-drunk Beth is happy, but not blind, able to see past Daryl's performance to how much he hurts to lose people, including inevitably her (nor is she out of control, doling out hugs instead of fists). Way to get your Dixon contra-theme on, girl!

Further miscellaneous injuries, appearances, actions:
Let's see, what else. (You'd think surely we're getting near the end by now; but ohhhh you'd think wrong. Sorry. And I know there's a bunch of stuff I'm missing as I go, by the way, because every time I do this I keep noticing more.) Well, Carl following in Rick's footsteps – and going out on his own, "not needing" Rick anymore – recreates the three-walker pile-on; Beth deliberately learning to follow in Daryl's footsteps – taking the lead and soon not needing him at all! – recreates getting taken down and injured, but still holding it together and making the walker-headshot from the ground. Granted, she only gets her ankle caught in a trap, and is just enough off-target that the headshot doesn't kill it, instead of dragging her last remaing arrow through her own body and still nailing the shot, but give her a break, she said "soon". Plus, she's only just started.

Speaking of – in the lead-up to Terminus, Glenn completely unexpectedly (to the other guy) knocks a guy twice his size on his ass in one punch; Daryl completely unexpectedly (to the other guy) knocks a guy twice his size on his ass in one punch from the ground; and, surrounded and trapped by a guy twice his size, Rick completely unexpectedly (to fucking everyone) definitely one-ups both his lieutenants. (Ten-ups, maybe. Twenty? Anyhow, the point is, I really wanna get this finished so I can watch 5.01.) And since we're once again back at this little moment of Rick's, let's also take note that the first time he heard a voice following the ringing in his head from a deafening gunshot, it was a live stranger – Glenn – offering his way out; the second time, it was Rick's own dead people – Amy, Jim, Jacqui, Lori – offering their way out; the third time, the only voice that could have been offering him a way out was his own.

The lead-up to Terminus also gave us Rick and Carl going through Joe & Joe Jr's BBQ SHACK, as previously noted, but while BBQ was a bit of a thing in S4, it's also worth noting that in S3 Rick's group of ten first celebrated the taking of the prison around some BBQ, and talkin' crops, and though they've scaled up and expanded to upwards of at least fifty people, they are ... still just hangin' out, having BBQ together, and growin' crops. Whereas in Woodbury, population 70+, with a town festival complete with iced drinks, alcohol, and upcoming arena bloodsports, we learn,
The first time we gathered, there was nine of us holed up in an apartment with spam and saltine crackers. Well look at us now. We've built a place we can call home. May be held together with duct tape and string, but it works! It's ours. I'll take it. So today, we celebrate how far we've come.
(3.05)
One changed in nature, one didn't, both still died. (That could be the refrain for most if not all the matched-pairs on this show.) While we're on Woodbury, the last time Andrea was served scrambled eggs for breakfast, and the topic of what the infection does, scientifically, to the dead brain of the person-that-was came up, the guy in charge was withholding some vital information about the supposedly safe haven she was in, and after being swayed by the guy's rhetoric, she ended up determined to commit suicide (... and yes, she knows how the safety works). The differences in her going through those two cycles creating a very clear picture to see the ways she's changed in the time between them, amidst the ways she hasn't.

Back to the prison, Hershel went out into the field alone to try to talk Rick back in, who was wandering lost and broken and chasing dead family on the outside; when Rick goes into the prison's field alone to try to talk The Governor back down, who is outside with Hershel hostage (who'd also tried to talk The Governor down), Hershel gets to hear Rick bring himself to implore (seeming even to be trying to genuinely believe it himself, as well) for a peaceful, co-existing resolution, offering to share what he has that the Governor wants, ending with:
We let go of all of it. And nobody dies. Everyone is alive right now. Everyone who's made it this far. We've all done the worst kinds of things just to stay alive. But we can still come back. We're not too far gone. We get to come back. I know we all can change.
(4.08)
Hershel smiles, content; The Governor calls lies, and beheads Hershel. And The Governor didn't even know about the time Rick slowly edged forward to surrender his gun to Shane, saying:
Now listen to me, Shane. There is still a way back from this. Nothing has happened here. And we're going to lay down our guns. We're gonna walk back to the farm. Together. Back to Lori. Back to Carl. Put this all behind us.
(2.12)
in order to get close enough to stab Shane right to death.
Damn you for making me do this, Shane! This was you, not me! You did this to us! This was you not me, not me! Not me!
The Governor, feeding Martinez to the walker pit:
I don't want it, damn it! I don't want it! You hear me I don't want it damn it! I don't want it. I don't want it.
(4.07)
(One buzzcutted second-in-command went insane and tried to take it all for himself, the other somehow managed not to go insane and, once in charge, offered to share; both still died! Advisor Milton learned he was wrong about being able to bring back any trace of the person from the walker; Advisor Hershel steadfastly urged that everybody could "come back"; both still died!) After the jugular thing, and Rick then taking the man intending to "claim" Carl (and Michonne) and stabbing the guy from stem to stern:
Daryl — Hey, what you did last night.... Anybody woulda done that.
Rick — No, not that.
Daryl — Summin' happened. That ain't you.
Rick — Daryl, you saw what I did to Tyreese. It ain't all of it, but – that's me.
(4.16)

(If one were inclined to be incredibly bitchy, one might make some kind of super pointed remark about character development here, just to really drive it home. But one has far more self-control than that. YOU MADE ME WRITE THESE POSTS! YOU HEAR ME, DAMN IT? YOU DID THIS!... TO HELL WITH ALL Y'ALL, I'LL DO IT MYSELF! JUST TELL ME WHEN IT'S ON SO'S I CAN GO WATCH IT! ... *cough*) Iiiincidentally, the one character singing the praises of self-awareness is Bob, who had just been shot in the right shoulder, bandaged (which then stops a walker bite, congratulations sir) in much the same way that Rick bandaged his own left shoulder when Morgan stabbed him. Also, in the loss of the prison, and Judith, Rick is shot outside-left thigh; when Michonne shows up at the prison with baby formula before being taken in, and Carl and Rick finish what Andrea started in "bringing her back" from her months-long fugue after losing Andre, she's shot on the outside-right (edit: wait, wrong, it's her outside-left. Ha! nice). Don't really have much more to say about that at this stage – other than this show really likes messing up Rick's left side, whereas his right-side injury, the sprain of his shooting-hand, was the one he did to himself in the course of losing control of his own strength – otherwise just thought it was kinda interesting, and keeping track. Oh, and yep, that was a deliberate repeat of the "what you did last night" phrasing, as Daryl continues to try to help take off some of the weight Rick's having to carry. (These two seriously traded up with their replacement brother figures. Well done, fellas.) And let's round out that long but very incomplete list with: the first deer (carcase) we see was shot and tracked remorselessly by Daryl, and a walker's already taken a big ugly chunk, making all of it completely undesireable in the group's estimation; the second one we see gets shot and gets Carl shot, beginning the end of his childhood innocence; the third one, Mika refuses to shoot, consciously choosing to hold on to her childhood innocence. (Daryl's past = symbolism liek whoa.) Which, oh look, brings us to....

Characters resembling walkers in appearance and actions:
I'm not going to explain or list this because I'm just not, come on. Except, of course, the Dixon contra-theme, because contra. And, well, Daryl, that's why. But, since S4 was so helpful about characters trying to spell stuff out for us, let's give that a shot. So guys, tell us a bit about how Daryl's past = symbolism liek whoa!
Daryl — Hell, I was younger'n her an' I got lost. Nine days, in the woods, eatin' berries, wipin' my ass with poison oak.
Andrea — They found you...?
DarylNah, my old man was off on a bender with some waitress. Merle was doin' another stint in juvie. Didn' even know I was gone. I made my way back, though. Went straight into the kitchen, made myself a sandwich. No worse for wear. 'Cept my ass itched somethin' awful.
(2.03)
Lori — They're ready.... Come on.
Carol — Why?
DarylCos that's your lil' girl.
Carol — That's not my little girl. It's some other ... thing. My Sophia was alone in the woods. All this time, I thought.... She didn't cry herself to sleep. She didn't go hungry. She didn't try to find her way back. Sophia died a long time ago.
(2.08)

Jenner — It's a person's life. Experiences, memories, it's everything. Somewhere in that organic wiring, all those ripples of light ... is you. The thing that makes you unique, and human.
Daryl — Y'gonna make sense? Ever?
Jenner — Those are synapses. Electric impulses in the brain that carry all the messages. They determine everything a person says, does, or thinks from the moment of birth ... to the moment of death. [...] Everything you ever were, or ever will be ... gone.
[...]
Lori — It restarts the brain?
Jenner — No, just the brain stem. Basically, it gets them up and moving.
Rick — But ... they're not alive.
Jenner — You tell me.
Rick — It's nothing like before. Most of that brain is dark.
Jenner — Dark, lifeless ... dead. The frontal lobe, the neocortex, the human part – that doesn't come back. The you part. Just a shell, driven by mindless instinct.
(1.06)
Daryl — You wanna know what I was, before all this? I was just driftin' around with Merle. Doin' whatever he said we were gonna be doin' that day.... I was nobody. Nothin'.
(4.12)

Beth — Well, something came through here. But the pattern's all zig-zaggy.... It's a walker!
Daryl — Maybe it's a drunk.
(4.13)

Although, as previously noted – when finding his way back from the woods once more, what he's done to survive has made him appear so much like a walker (complete with the walker-style blood-smeared muzzle the show uses when it wants to be really on-the-nose (hurr), though thus far Daryl's still the only living character to look that way because he's actually consumed bloody flesh) that the others can't tell he's alive until he speaks – he still gets shot in the head, and still doesn't stay down. However, if Beth is correct and he eventually is left with (the curse of) being literally the last man standing, he'll hopefully have had enough time to develop some of his own unique, human self-determination to get himself up and moving, because otherwise as we've seen he's just gonna ... sit the fuck down.

(Even alcoholism would do, it kept Bob going! But unlike Daryl's father, mother, and brother, Daryl doesn't even have that for a drive, when he drinks it's clearly just because it's there and he has nothing better to do with himself; his true addiction is someone – anyone – to give him a purpose, to determine what he does, making Joe his equivalent of Bob's "bottle of anything". On a lighter note, at the beginning of S2, Dale and T-Dog search the whole highway traffic snarl, and apparently no one in any of those cars foresaw the urgent need for painkillers and antibiotics in whatever life they thought they were fleeing to; Merle, on the other hand, carries around an entire "kick-ass" drugs stash as a matter of course, mixed in with a whole lot of other little helpers and anaesthetics to get through the damage the Dixons' life deals out.... That's a lighter note, right? Well, it is when played on this show, anyway, with Daryl (exasperated at their stupidity) sharing it out without hesitation to save the life (again) of the black man who left Merle trapped and surrounded by walkers.
Patricia — I'd say Merle Dixon's clap was the best thing that ever happened to you.
T-Dog — Look, I'm really trying not to think about that.
(2.03)
)

One reason I spend so much time on the contra-theme(s) (other than, well, Daryl) is because the stark contrast with the theme(s) makes the progression of both stand out so much more clearly than the progression of the smaller variations within the themes, that Rick and the other characters play out. In other words, the ways in which Daryl breaks pattern serves to delineate the shape of the main pattern itself. (It also helps that it's smaller and contained to the one character, and so easier to dig into more fully. And, well ... Daryl.) Anyway, who wants to talk about deer some more? So by the beginning of S4, the world's devolution toward survival has met Daryl's evolution toward humanity (Merle's death at the end of S3 was a crucial marker of that meeting, marked on either side by Daryl choosing Rick-family over Merle-family in S3.5, and losing Merle's SS-decal bike in S4.0, ie, shedding the item-of-inheritance), to the point where –
Patrick — Uh, Mr Dixon? I just wanted to thank you. For bringing that deer back yesterday. It was a real treat, sir. And I'd be honoured to shake your hand.
Daryl — *pointedly licks his fingers as he always has, shakes Patrick's hand*
Patrick — *looks pleased as punch*
(4.01)
Daryl is baffled what to make of the general adulation, until Carol (who was indeed the first to see he was "just as good" as Rick and Shane, the then leaders of the group) reads the signs for him, of intense gratitude for the provision of safety and care, and tells him to just accept it's going to happen; that makes sense to him, that what he could do for people might be loved. Still not adding up is the love and care Beth expresses for him in spite of what (he feels) he's done for her: lost the life of her boyfriend, and then her father. It's eventually accepted, but only by attributing the worthiness of it to her goodness, since he didn't get to hear her simple explanation to Michonne:
Michonne — When I fell on my ass, they shoulda just left me out there.
Beth — Now that's stupid. We care about you.
Michonne — They could have gotten hurt.
Beth — When you care about people, hurt is kinda part of the package.
(4.02)
or had anyone sit him down and explain that we care about you, dumbass, not just what you do for us. Or that who he is is not just defined by what he does (having always been dictated by who he associates with meaning he is nothing more than who he associates with; the loss of Rick and the prison group regresses him all the way back to the leftover habits from his past, what he was before them, just reacting to his circumstances – survival hunting and camping, and, when dragged into the country club setting, just a redneck asshole, following his brother's lead to hate and steal from the "haves" because they have it (not because he needs it); having consciously shed that, and then losing Beth, he is left with absolutely nobody and nothing). Until finally, at the end of the season, Rick with his flesh-bloodied muzzle (who, in turn, and in his capacity of marking the median progression of change of all the other members of his group, is learning to accept that what he does is part of who he is), sitting side by side with him, explains things:
Daryl — I was hangin' back, gonna leave ... but I stayed. That's when I saw it was you three. Right when you saw me. I didn't know ... what they could do.
Rick — It's not on you, Daryl. Hey. It's not on you. You bein' back with us, here, now? That's everything.... You're my brother.
(4.16)
Daryl's love for Merle, having nothing to do with what Merle would do, means Rick's expression of unconditional love and loyalty for him was put in terms he understood, and came from a man he wasn't just loyal to but whose actions, upon being survival/protection-driven, finally made sense to him, extreme but familiar enough that he could seriously try suggesting that anyone would have done it (feeling as "normal" as, for example, a violent, drunken stand-off with a meth-dealing tweaker who attacked his brother for trash-talking a cartoon show – for the sake of the tweaker's kid who the tweaker doesn't even get to see) in an attempt to return the absolution. So Rick naming him brother was an identity, rather than role, he could accept and truly internalise (life experience = reading the signs). And this also marks the point where the devolution of their world has well and truly crossed over and slowly begun diverging once more from Daryl's average past life experience:
Carol — They're convicts. Bottom line.
T-DogThose two might actually have less blood on their hands than we do.
Daryl — I get guys like this. Hell, I grew up with'm. They're degenerates, but they ain't psychos. I coulda been in there with them just as easy as I'm out here with you guys.
T-Dog — So you're with me?
Daryl — Hell no. Let'em take their chances out there on the road, just like we did.
(3.04)
Glenn — [Merle] had a gun to our heads, you really want him sleeping in the same cell block as Carol and Beth?
Daryl — He ain't a rapist.
(3.09)
So that will be fun to watch to see how they continue to build on that and develop it all. Regardless, Daryl is awesome, always forever, the fucking end.



Series overview and season progression:
So! Let's finish this up, by pulling back again from all that nitty-gritty to scan over the show's progression so far. Between the immutable structure of the show itself, and the characters trying to walk their slowly dying world, navigating through the demands of survival and humanity, there are a lot of things they continue to wrestle with along the way. So far, at least, there hasn't been any concrete, universal answers, outside of the way their world is simply shown to function. For example, I heard somewhere that the theme that was stated for S4 was "reap what you sow", but that's actually evident throughout the series (my favourite, very tangible instance of which is Rick sowing Morgan a good, reliable rifle in S1, and reaping an entire arsenal from him in S3). The show is also very, very definite that in a world besieged by death and destruction, nobody can make it on their own anymore (Daryl finally admits to Andrea that, despite appearances, he never could; Daryl's past = symbolism liek whoa). Another thing we see demonstrated, over and over again, whether literally or figuatively, is that the thing you won't let go of is what will destroy you (the thing over which you stop weighing the choices between humanity and survival, beyond which is the "end stage" which no one comes back from (thanks, Dr S!)). Dixon contra-theme: oh, those boys are all over that.
Merle — You're the Farmer. Hershel.
Hershel — And you're the Black Sheep. Merle.
Merle — How'd y'lose it?
Hershel — Was bit.
MerleBit? Y'hack it off yourself?
Hershel — No. Rick did.
Merle — Awful kindly o' him.
Hershel — Saved my life. Gave me more time with my girls. Gave you more time with your brother. Can't put a price on that.
Merle — Yep. Can't put a price on anything, anymore.
Hershel — Found this. In one of the cells. Lost more than the Good Book there, for a while. Lost my way.... "And if your right hand offends you, cut it off. Cast it from you. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish –"
Merle — "– and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." Matthew 5:29-30. Woodbury had a damn fine library. One of the only things I miss about it.
(they actually only quoted v30, using the NKJV translation for the phrasing's added metaphorical oomph with Michonne and then Merle; here's v29 plus context in a more modern translation) (3.11)
Daryl — Hey. I know you weren't runnin' off. Thing is – that trail went cold. You know that, right? If't was any different, I'd be right out there with ya.
(4.03)
Michonne — You were right what you said before. About the trail goin' cold. I don't need to go out anymore.
Daryl — Good.
(4.04)
Beth — How'd you get out of it?
Daryl — Tweaker punched me in the gut. I puked. We both started laughing. Forgot all about it.
(4.12)
Part of the curse of being alone is that other people can get you to let go of what you could not let go by yourself; conversely, only other people can grant you a second chance (a little more time), can hold on to you (even if that clock is still running down); and forgiveness is perhaps the most important letting-go (of what you did) and taking-hold (of you) there is.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12¹

... And it appears that I've taken long enough to get through these posts that Cracked has published another article using TWD as a punchline (and this article didn't even have anything to do with TWD or entertainment media at all!). Bookends! Perfect, just what I needed.
4 percent of people in this country reported having no close friends at all. Another study in the UK found a slightly higher proportion of friendless people, about 9 percent of the population, but that's still a shit-ton of people shuffling sadly through life with no one to discuss last night's shitty episode of The Walking Dead with.
Photo caption: "I know. They just argued with each other for 42 minutes. I'm here for you."
The ironically popular state of friendlessness doesn't mean that anyone can talk about it, though. After all, if you admit you're lonely, people might think you have a reason to be lonely, and then they might choose to avoid you, leading to a downward spiral of loneliness that gets so awful, your life ends up like an episode of The Walking Dead.
Y'all wanna talk about how shitty the episode was and complain about how they only argued the whole time? Talk about what they should have done? Come on over! This here is a safe space. I'll be your friend, we can talk all you like. After all, it does suck to be alone and friendless.²

Hey! Quick question: D'ya reckon I meant what I just said? Or was I just saying it with a charmingly whimsical bone-dry irony, to strengthen my own position? If you, driven by your loneliness and thereby vulnerable in your need, act on my invitation to strike up conversation and human relationship here on this journal with me, are you going to get slapped in the face with the Salmon of Ridicule? (I just made that up. Or did I?) Well, funny you should be wondering that (because I really did make it up, there's no such thing ... maybe ³), because the characters who found themselves caught in the zombie apocalypse through no fault of their own – they didn't ask to be born into this kind of world with this kind of human condition – being potentially terrifyingly friendless amongst the horror and dangers, face a lot more than rejection and humiliation if they make the wrong call. Humans being both the greatest threat and greatest strength of their existence, their lives revolve around fucking Rambo-ing up and kicking zombie FACE!!!!... wait, no. Around individually and collectively trying to work out who is there for them and how to behave in a world that keeps changing, where all their old rules for judging and navigating that – and even themselves – have completely disappeared.

Who's "good"? Who's bad? Does it matter? Carl, interestingly, has shown very little inclination to judge things/people as good or bad; he started out much more concerned with being safe, and has lately been increasingly fixated on "winning" and "losing" – but upon winning a precious chocolate bar in a bet with Michonne, immediately breaks it in half, because they always share. Rick from the beginning has been clear that there are no rules – personal or societal – other than what someone is strong enough to enforce:
Rick — Oughta be polite to a man with a gun. Only common sense.
Merle — You wouldn't. You're a cop.
Rick — All I am anymore is a man looking for his wife and son. Anybody gets in the way of that's gonna lose.
(1.02)
(... Rick and Carl have "the same eyes"? WHY YES.) So then what are the rules? Who's telling the truth? Who can be trusted? Is that the same thing, and how do you tell? Most people agree, roughly, on doing what you need to do, but vary wildly on the very crucial specifics (Lizzie needed to show Carol, after all). But how does that change you? Are you still you if you've done things you never thought you would, or could? And what if someone starts enjoying what they need to do? What do you put your hope in, what do you believe, what are you going to steer by when there is nothing to tell you what to do? What do you hold on to, what do you let go, how much can you carry? (It's a serious piggy-back.) If everyone has to pull their weight, do their job, what do you do about someone who can't? And the most important question of all: WHY?

These are the constantly-evolving, ever-present kinds of questions of life and survival and identity that the characters keep discussing and arguing and having to walk (last one: hurr) their own way through (if that's less than interesting to you, and you want Rambo-ing up and kicking zombie face, watch Shaun of the Dead, it is brilliantly good, and still nods at comparing the survival-progress of matched-pair groups). But since these questions are the ever-present questions of life, only truly resolved upon death on an individual, subjective basis, then how do we track any actual development? Well, I'll tell ya: deliberately-placed bookends sure do help.

So far, fueling the philosophical questions the show has been examining each season as to What is the Point or purpose of living, each season has seen Rick's group (along with whatever partial reflections other groups and analogues give us) progress by their choices and actions through a distinct theme, under which their basic drive is governed by a specific (but eventually inadequate) hope for combined humanity and safety. As noted, this is a devolution, a chaotic downward spiral to more and more basic, still unstable states. Additonally, each season has seen a stage of coming to terms with the fact of change they are all living (or failing to live) through. As near as I can figure, the distinct themes of S1-4 have been salvation, preservation, structural integrity, and claims (and, yes, I really will get to posting about those last two at some point); the choices/actions have been driven by the considerations of (re)connecting (alternatively, (re)turning), (re)supplying, (re)building, and (re)claiming; the thing that represents hope for greatest humanity and safety has been technology/science (the pinnacle of civilisation's achievments), resources (the harvest of civilisation's achievements), walls (the remnants of civilisation's achievements), and community (the basis of civilisation's achievments) – and if I were going to guess, given what they were laying in at the end of S4, the hope for S5 is probably going to focus in some way on the concept of "the mission", but who knows. And finally, the issues of change have been: the world has changed; do we allow ourselves to change; we all have changed; and, can we change back?

Where the show will go next – whether it's going to keep to this structure, and whether it's going to continue the downward swing or stabilise or even start pulling back up – I do not know. (I suspect yes for the first, and continuing down for the second, but really, I'm just here for the ride. Also, rather more loosely, it's interesting to me – considering what's happened each season – that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are: Death, Famine (scarcity), War, and Pestilence. So are we out, now? Do we find something else apocalypty to do? There are bowls and trumpets and beasts and dragons and a bunch of other batshittery in Revelation, but none of them are nearly as high-profile in apocalyptic awareness nowadays, plus, the horsemen have the advantage of being avatars of the scourges that overtake us when the structures of civilisation that limit them break down. Although the Horseman of Death also brings wild animals with it, plus, the horsemen actually are supposed to ride forth in the opposite order, so that might be something to look forward to; or maybe we can just keep cycling through.)

And opening and closing and tying all the threads of each season together? (Not to mention the other, smaller story/character threads – remember those matched-pairs and reiterations?) Bookends. Beautifully symbolic, theme-and-metaphor-bearing bookends, large and small. For just one major example each? S1 goes from Rick able to provide Morgan and Duane hot showers, even with gas and power down for a month because the station's pilot light is still on, to Jenner providing hot showers to the group on the last of the CDC's own power because the world's pilot light for a cure is about to done blow the fuck up. S2 goes from Dale realising the stupidity of complaining about the need for spare parts for the RV while standing in an acre of cars, and all full of (dead people's) supplies, to the group stranded in the middle of nowhere with three vehicles and, as Hershel notes, no food, no fuel, no ammo. S3 goes from the group battling against overwhelming odds to take the prison in order to have a place to safely close out the world, to managing to avoid/survive a battle against overwhelming odds by drawing the enemy in, and then open their doors to the survivors of Woodbury. S4 goes from:
Carl — What's up with Violet?
Rick — Carl, I told you not to name 'em. They, they're not piglets anymore, they're food.
Carl — I just thought, you know, until.... Okay.
Rick — I don't know what's going on with her. Could be sick, could be nothin'.... Feel better ... Violet.
(4.01)
(and all the associated aspects those four pigs represent of the community the group's been able to build), to – after Rick introduces himself, Carl, Daryl and Michonne to Gareth – Gareth herding them by calling them "Ringleader", "Archer", "Samurai", and "Kid".



... Buuuuut I mean, really, what the fuck would I know. These writers can't even develop their characters in any meaningful way. Geez. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, WRITERS.

... Now if all y'all'll excuse me, I've got an episode to watch \o/ ... and, apparently, review.



¹ As far as references-to-literature go, it's probably not surprising that a narrative set in a post-apocalyptic wasting land should include the bible, but if you're going to check it out for that reason, really don't bother with Revelation; Ecclesiastes is what you want (and I'm a little embarrassed that I only now worked that out, especially since I've always liked Ecclesiastes – which probably explains QUITE A LOT about why I like this show and have so much to say about it – but then it's also been a while since I last read it, so, yeah, only just twigged). It's one long musing on Exactly What Is The Point? of life on earth, assuming the imminence of God/eternal life is taken out of the equation (cued by the phrase "under the sun"), given that all things die. Its questions and philosophies are right in the bedrock of the show and what the characters are trying to deal with:
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed —
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors — and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead, who had already died,
are happier than the living, who are still alive.
But better than both is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6
(Thanks, Solomon!) Other than chapter 4, chapter 3 is the most on-point for the show; I mean, there's interesting and relevant stuff throughout, and there's a very vague kind of parallel to the show's progression there, but fair warning: it can get to be a bit of slog, chasing after all that wind.


² If only some genre show could take advantage of their ability to represent and explore the intangibles of the human condition through concrete incarnations and express for us all our deep common human pain inherent in ... oh, wait, that was the punchline? Hoho. Oh wait, it's a running punchline?
So instead of simply saying "Oh" and changing the subject to how much he hates The Walking Dead like a normal person, he'll instead try to push alcohol on the non-drinker like the bad guy in a high school PSA.
Hoho! What jokes, C. Coville. Seriously, what is it with Aussie women sneering at TWD lately? Was there a memo sent out?... Cos CLEARLY, I missed it. I HAVE LET MY AUSSIE SISTREN DOWN. Oh well.


³ Acknowledgements to Douglas Adams, who nicked off with the best fish name for humorous impact (hurr), because he would. Mackerel of Ridicule? Flounder? Barramundi? Eel? Yabbie of Ridicule would have been great in theory, but turn out to be too small to get a good swing going (eels get some wicked reach, but it just doesn't look like a real word when capitalised), and also, scarily painful in addition to humiliatingly painful. And now I have all this Ridicule Fish sitting around. Fish Platter of Ridicule for all!

Comments

( 2 speakses — have a speak )
im_ridiculous
Oct. 16th, 2014 09:29 am (UTC)
I love you and your brain so much.
I am collating my thoughts and I will be back properly as soon as I possibly can.
OMG GET BACK TO ME WHEN YOU'VE SEE IT OMG.

*tackleglomp*

Worth. It. :D
themonkeytwin
Oct. 16th, 2014 10:51 am (UTC)
Lol. Duhuhuhuhuuuuuude. I was eating minestrone soup. Which – at least it's very, very vegetarian. *facepalm*

Insta-reaction already emailed! Working on longform replies to ALL THE THINGS once my head settles down. :DDDD
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