The Walking Dead just lost me again. How many of you out there have read the books? The show has occasionally deviated from the books, but managed to hold its own and wend its way back toward the original plot. Now they’ve taken it overboard and killed the wrong person.
Anyone reading this ought to know by now, but just in case: beware, here there be spoilers.
This week’s episode begins with Daryl torturing the captive Randall, hoping to get some info regarding the pack of hooligans Randall used to run with. Between punches to the face and slices to the groin, Randall tells a story of watching the men gang-rape two teenage girls while their father watched, and then leaving them to fend for themselves. He tells Daryl there are thirty or forty in the group, men, women, and children. But this is how they live now. Yes, this is meant to show us that it isn’t actually the walkers that are dangerous; it’s other people.
Meanwhile, our group of survivors are fast becoming those other people. Rick decides, after a night of contemplation, that the only way to handle Randall is to execute him. He’s a threat to the group, if they keep him he’s one more mouth to feed, etc. So the answer is to murder him.
Dale, already known to be the bleeding heart on the show, begs Rick to give him time to talk to everyone, to make sure everyone feels this is the right step to take. Infuriatingly, everyone he speaks to, from Lori to Hershel, says, “This isn’t my decision.” It is the banality of evil at its very best. “I want nothing to do with making that call, so it’s not my fault.” Andrea timidly speaks up, saying you know, maybe Dale’s right. Glenn backs away. Lori tells Rick basically, “Whatever you think is best, honey.” Are we supposed to sympathize with these people?
While the adults waffle over what to do with Randall and Andrea and Shane plot to overthrow the farm, Carl sneaks around by himself. Excluding him from adult discussions is proving extremely dangerous; that kid is creeping ever closer to the edge of his sanity. After Carol tries to reassure him that they’ll meet Sophia again in heaven, he tells her heaven’s a lie and she’s an idiot. He peers silently at bound, desperate Randall from the loft in the barn, and after he gets caught doing that he finds a walker stuck in the mud and decides to play a little game with it.
When Rick, Daryl, and Shane attempt to execute Randall, Carl sneaks in the door. Cooly, calmly, he says, “Do it, Dad. Do it.” Rick loses his nerve – who could murder a man in cold blood in front of his son? (This isn’t Frailty, after all.) It’s time to rethink this.
Meanwhile, Hershel gives Glenn his blessing out of nowhere. That’s the only part of this episode that doesn’t pertain to its title. Rick is judge, these wishy-washy people are the jury, and Daryl is the executioner. Unfortunately, though, the originally intended execution doesn’t pan out and another one becomes necessary.
Dale is preachy, yes, and his omniscience and meddling has gotten a bit old. But what happens next is not only unnecessary but ruins what was an integral, poignant part of the books. He was a welcome bit of humanity, truly the last shred of old civilization, and one of the better developed characters. And they let a zombie (the very one, in fact, that Carl let go from the mud) tear his guts out.
Here’s a theory: Jeffrey DeMunn, who plays Dale, has been in nearly every movie by Frank Darabont. The Green Mile, The Mist, The Majestic, The Shawshank Redemption. AMC’s firing of Darabont almost certainly wouldn’t sit right with his friends – and DeMunn is undoubtedly Darabont’s friend. I’m going to assume this was the writers’ or DeMunn’s decision, not a plot choice. (Laurie Holden and Melissa Suzanne McBride – Andrea and Carol – also worked with Darabont on The Mist. Maybe Carol’s next?)
I’m pretty thoroughly frustrated at this point. Shane deserves to die, with his crazy eyes and repetitive insanity and propagandizing Andrea. Dale (whose character was, let’s be honest, a little obnoxious sometimes) was the sole character who strove to keep the old world alive. That, one supposes, is the point. The world as we know it is gone, and Dale was the last shred of it. But now how are we supposed to sympathize with these characters?
I don’t particularly care anymore. My disappointment has reached its edge. See you next Monday, and please feel free to share your thoughts.