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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
• 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.