The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 11 Review: The Shot Not Taken

by Ernie Estrella on March 4, 2012 · 10 comments

in Image Comics, The Walking Dead

the walking dead 211 dale

Episode 211 “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”

Now that we’re deep into Season 2 of The Walking Dead, we knew that there would be losses. We were briefly introduced to Otis who was sacrificed by Shane (Jon Bernthal) to save Carl (Chandler Riggs). Halfway in, we lost Sophia in a spirit-crushing manner. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) killed not one, but three living people, and after last week, well, let’s just say that there were many viewers who thought it was Shane’s time to punch his ticket out. So far, the list of deaths has taken the least likely ones out of our survivors and in this 11th episode, “Judge, Jury and Executioner,” we’re left with another shocker. After being teased for an entire episode, Randall was spared and instead, it was the peace loving, gun-babysitting, beatnik-snitch, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), who got his guts ripped to shreds after he stupidly walking out into the night on his own.

the walking dead 211 dale walker

This wasn’t some random zombie. Carl did what boys his age do best–kick a rotting hornet’s nest– and now Dale’s blood is on his hands and he lost Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) gun in the process. No one was bothering that walker, and because he picked a fight he was too scared to finish, Carl is going to have shooter’s remorse for the shot he did not take. Dale pleaded to save Randall’s (Michael Zegen) life, to retain some humanity, but it was he who would be executed, an act of mercy carried out by Daryl. What a beautiful set of circumstances this has left us for a week to ponder.

Did Dale deserve to die? Well, his thoughts on remaining humane were simply naïve. He didn’t have kids; his wife passed away long ago to consider what these 30 other hostiles would bring. We already knew that Tony was scum, looking for women to rape, and if Randall spoke the truth while being beaten to a pulp by Daryl in the opening scene, then his camp is in a far off worse condition than Rick’s group.

the walking dead 211 daryl python

Dale’s death gave a good ol’ smack to Andrea’s face. She was the only one to finally give him some support, a gesture that proves she hasn’t gone off the deep end at all. For all of his meddling, Dale saved Andrea’s life and you in those final minutes she still cared for him despite their disagreements. But at any point in Dale’s final episode did he make any sense?

I wonder what other viewers have to say. Personally I’ve sided with Shane more times than I care to admit, but it’s one thing to say you can make the hard decisions, and another to actually do it. Dale was foolish to think he’d get a majority of support in keeping Randall alive, but he did have a point that killing someone for something they haven’t done, while a preventative measure, makes them look like a threat as much as the people they are fearing coming to the farm.

Dale: Killing him, changes us.

the walking dead 211 rick daryl

With Dale out of the picture, will that change the others? Will Andrea feel a loss with Dale that puts her at odds with Shane? Without the moral compass of the group, party pooping, who will be the one to be the voice of reason? Is Carl’s worsening attitude a sign of where this group is headed?

Dale: It’s a survival of the fittest. That’s a world I don’t want to live in.

Worry-wart no longer, Dale. You were definitely not the fittest. But he was right in this sense, the group is broken and that’s the kind of rat-cage we like to observe. Let’s see how Dale’s death affects the group. We saw how with Sophia’s death, the group’s collective hope seemed to slip away when Rick shot her. By the way, those tough decisions are beginning to take their toll.

EDITOR’S PICK: See who’s been cast as The Governor in The Walking Dead Season 3

The complaints came in, and showrunner Glen Mazzara and his writers should be commended, but I don’t think they should apologize for the pacing in the first seven episodes because it’s all paying off as we ramp up to the finale. Dale wanted to talk things through, but like the viewing audience, this group is done talking and this second half of the season is all about making an event out of each week. The pay off this week is due in large part to the time we’ve spent with Dale and while his words may have fallen on deaf ears, the viewing audience can still relate to what he said.

We’ve been worrying about a few individuals this season too, especially Shane, Daryl, even Rick to a certain degree as he’s realizing that the best decision is sometimes the hardest. But I don’t think anyone saw this darkness taking over Carl and nothing is creepier than a kid with cruel intentions. Why did he want to get close to Randall? Did he want to throw a punch? Kick a man when he’s down? Next we’ll be seeing him pulling the legs apart on a live grasshopper.

Carl: Do it, dad. Do it!

the walking dead 211 carl walker

Carl wanted to watch Rick execute Randall. He thinks it’s stupid to believe in Heaven. The leap a kid has to make at that age to say that is monumental. He’s seen more in a few months that would traumatize anyone. Carl’s experiences have shaped him into boy who’s yet to appreciate life. Being at death’s welcome mat did nothing for Carl to value life. He’s crossed a threshold and may be too young to know how to turn back like Andrea. His innocence is all but gone. Now had he actually killed that zombie, Dale probably would have lived, but he might have further lost what little remains of his humanity. So in a way, another has been sacrificed for Carl.

It’s been a long wait to see Chandler Riggs featured and his performance, his cold stares tell us all that we need to know–that Carl is slowly losing his warmth, his compassion, and ultimately his soul. But his frightened reaction, his regret when he recognized the walker shows that a little boy still remains inside there. Rick and Lori may have to reconsider their parenting (or lack thereof) during their time at the farm–if they want their son back.

the walking dead 211 carl

More Rotten Thoughts
• I’m going to keep beating the drum until T-Dog (Irone Singleton) gets some meaningful lines and actions. Not only was he not given any lines, he barely saw any screen time. Beth (Emily Kinney) had more screen time and more lines. Dale did not acknowledge him and then he was ordered by Rick to fetch a shotgun when the old man screamed out. T-Dog may be the most physically imposing man amongst the survivors, but please, give him a significant role or at least let him go out in a memorable way.

• Carol (Melissa McBride) spoke out unlike any other time, furious that everyone is patronizing her and walking on eggshells around her. Like she said, she lost her daughter, not her mind. Could we see her daughter’s death create a turnaround in her character as well? After losing the only two people that she called her family (albeit one was extremely abusive), she had looked like she might curl up for the rest of the season, but I’m glad she’s refused to give up.

EDITOR’S PICK: See the latest on Frank Darabont’s next TV project and who he’s luring from The Walking Dead!

• Hershel and Glenn (Steven Yeun) shared a moment that makes the belly feel all too warm as they shared their families’ immigration from Ireland and Korea, how immigrants built this country, and how a watch reminds him of how good his wife was to him during his darkest and drunk days. He admitted that he’s good enough for Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and for a good old boy like Hershel, that says a lot.

• The temperature is starting to cool and the house is about to get more crowded. With everyone packing in and walkers finding their way onto the farm, that’s a recipe for one pressure-cooked finale.

Catch the next episode of The Walking Dead Sunday on AMC at 9pm ET/PT and Talking Dead at midnight.

  • Hawkmang

         Great episode. Remember the conversation with Dale and Shane man to man?  Shane tells Dale that he thinks he’s wrong for wanting to keep Randall alive.  In effect, the blood would be on Dale’s hands because he would be keeping a potential threat alive to commit some future menace.  Make the hard decision now to spare undesirable consequences later.  Fast forward to Carl’s meeting with the bogged down walker in the forest.  Carl toys with the zombie and delays taking the shot he should have.  He’s been shown how to use a gun by this point too.  Carl’s hesitancy with the walker came back to haunt him once Dale’s insides started to water the lawn.  At the end of the show I saw how Shane’s dialog with Dale was some serious foreshadowing for his ultimate demise.  In the end the blood really was on Dale’s hands… and face, and shirt…

  • http://twitter.com/ErnieEstrella Ernie Estrella

    Some great thoughts here, kman, thanks for your comments. Not sure if that’s true, (we all have our opinions, none of which are correct or wrong) but certainly the comparisons can be made. We can see metaphors in The Walking Dead in life all around and that’s what makes it such a good show. We can relate to it on several levels even if we haven’t faced an apocalypse like this. I still think Dale was holding on too strongly to “rules” of the old world. Perhaps naive was too strong, but at some point you have to toughen up and unpopular decisions or ones that would seem like the corruption of the soul in the world before zombies. Unfortunately, there are no more rules, and that kind of thinking was eventually going to seal his fate. I’ll admit though that his time was much sooner than I thought and his death will have a profound effect on the rest of the group moving forward since there is no one to question their descent into their loss of humanity. If there wasn’t enough stress on the group, this makes their dynamic even more interesting.

  • Tay_jordan_2

    :(

  • Stewart 1

    Sorry but Randall should go, maybe not be killed but not
    trusted either, He admitted to the rape of others but denied participation and
    only stated he was there, but he fully helped and participated  in shooting at Rick and the boys. I think
    Randall isn’t innocent at all. Also does anybody find it odd that they’re
    sleeping outside in tents  when there’s a
    barn and a house with active walkers on the property. Could anyone even sleep
    like that, and why is Daryl sleeping at the edge of the woods where they enter
    the property from. I can’t believe ANYONE would do this under those circumstances.
    Also I didn’t like Dale at times and will never know how he KNEW Shane killed
    Otis before he had that conversation with Shane, but really didn’t want him to
    die when he was being attacked. After that I was really pissed off at Carl.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnieEstrella Ernie Estrella

    Herhsel mentioned that some cattle are beginning to wander off the ranch, zombies are making their way in and the marsh is freezing over because the weather is cooling at night time. As for the rations, remember the apocalypse is still under a year old,just a about 3-6 months so they don’t know how bad the situation is, you get greedy when you’ve found something that’s resourceful. But if they’re going off what they learned in the bar, all of the other supposed safe spots are overrun. Not saying there’s a right way to go, but I could understand being selfish in this situation. And then there’s the whole untrustworthy thing.

  • kman

    This entire episode was a metaphor for the post 9-11 world we live in. Do enhanced interrogation techniques … read Daryl torturing Randall … really work? Should we give up all our liberties, basic civil rights and the rule of law because zombies … make that terrorists … might possibly attack us some day? Should we profile certain people because others like them or who were with them … Randall and his gang or, say, muslims … even if we have no proof they’re even threats? Dale wasn’t weak or naive. He was issuing a warning that once you go down the road of lawlessness … even in the noble name of survival … you’re doomed. Killing Randall because the group was scared of what might happen is plain and simply wrong. I’m glad Rick finally saw that, even if it took his own son’s bloodlust to snap him out of his funk. I know some people crave a lot more action in this show, but to me, this was one of the best episodes yet, if not the best. And the irony of the ending was a masterstroke.

  • Valo

     Randall fired at Rick and his people. That is the crime he committed. He can not be trusted. It’s too much to keep someone guarding him and following his every move when all eyes need to be on the farm. Daryl is right just another mouth to feed.

  • SamH

             Despite what seems to be the general consensus, I agree with Dale. I don’t think he should be killed for something the people he was with did. (In these circumstances anyway).

       I don’t think they should let him go and give  him the chance to run away back to his people, but they could keep him as a “prisoner”, and give him ways to help with their daily tasks. For god’s sake, they’re on a farm, with food in towns near them. It seems they should have food for at least 10-20 more people(if they help look for food) If it was necessarry.

       Maybe I’m wrong about the amount of food they could find, but it seems there should be more then enough food to feed one more person.

     
     Oh, and at Parkfitzpat.

     Obviously, you deserve credit for building America. You’re the one who got off your ass and caused the USA to grow and prosper. I doubt America would even be recognizable as the same place it is now if your body wasn’t blessed unto us.

       You’re more important to this country then people who used to live across a span of water. I applaud you for being so humble!

  • Parkfitzpat

    A “good old boy” like Herschel? Oh please- cause we all now only white people can be racist of course! immigrants built this country? Oh God, I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes during that garbage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=673877664 Jameel Aboulhosn

    Of course he made sense. Dale has only ever made sense and he was easily the most genuine and lovable character in the show. That isn’t to say that Shane and Rick aren’t right about doing what it takes to survive. Unfortunately that isn’t how reality works, and no one watching the show can accurately tell the difference between right and wrong, the same way the characters can’t, because we aren’t in that situation. Also unfortunately Dale’s death served a purpose though what purpose that was – I’m not sure. It was definitely irony but to call him naive is offensive, and, generally it’s the naive, do-gooder, excellent moral fiber having people who die in the cruelest (fate wise, not method wise) ways in stories.

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