California Literary Review

The Walking Dead Recap: “Judge, Jury, Executioner” (Season 2, Episode 11)

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March 5th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

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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.

Walking Dead Carl zombie S02E11

Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

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.

Rick Lori S02E11

Lori does, in fact, remain out of focus and purposely, frustratingly impotent in this episode. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

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.

Carl zombie S02E11

Undead roulette. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

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.

Dale zombie attack S02E11

Yeah, this happened. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

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?)

Walking Dead group S02E11

Executioner. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

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.

  • Charley

    I have to agree. The most pathetic part of that whole scene was the fact that it was soooo @#%$^ obvious that he was going to turn around and be face to face with the damn zombie.

    So pathetic really. It would have been better for him to stumble over a log or something in the dark as he turns around to get some distance (breaking his ankle or something) and only then get the zombie all over him.

    And the other stupid fact that he was completely unable to use his legs?? Yeah right!

    At least the only stupid little fact (which made sense) was that he got hold of the zombie by its upper arms… but, still giving it access to his guts.

    Yeah… I got tired of the same old bla-bla coming from Dale at times. But IMHO, if they really had to kill someone they could have gotten rid of Carol or maybe even Andrea.

    Another thing that really pisses me off is that T-Dog seems to get less lines every single episode… let alone a chance to shine. All I can remember him saying in this last episode was “What do we do about the body?”… and the only “””action””” was when he ran to get the shotgun (following Rick’s order)….. just $#%@^% pathetic writing!

    A typical “twist” would have been for Randall to escape somehow and save Dale just in time. But then again… Dale will probably just appear in someone’s dream every 4 or 5 episodes LOL. Soooo pathetic!!!!

  • Undead

    I’m tired of the comments by people who have read the “original” comic series and compare it to the TV production. When have you ever known a theatrical performance to reflect exactly what was written in the book? My suggestion, stop watching the show. The Walking Dead is great. I was on the edge of my seat last night. I for one, am glad I didn’t read the silly comics….maybe I will after the show ends it’s run and complain about it.

  • Philip

    Does anyone know the name of the actor who played the zombie that killed Dale?

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Back-Pocket-Popcorn/233673423384041 Matt

    The point of this show is not to have you sympathize with the characters, do you with some? Of course. But what makes this show special is the realism of it. The fact that no matter how much a charater means or doesn’t mean they can be killed at any moment. As much as everyone hates shanes character, hes smart and always in survival mode, thats why he has survived as long as he has. I have never read the comics, but I think in developing a television show it is important to deviate from the comics some to keep people guessing. Any fan of the comics I’ve asked loves how it switches things up. Dales character was keeping the sanity I suppose but he was also dragging the group down. Most people who review this show try and look at like any other TV show and we want the characters we like and dont want the charaters we don’t. This show is not like anything else, anything can happen, but with that said, the smart and crazy will survive longer because they have that in them. This show is the best thing to happen to television and does the best job i’ve ever seen of putting characters in a realistic post apocalypse, zombie infested world.

  • redskull

    Um… you do know that Dale dies in the comic as well, right? The comic you wish the show would follow more closely?

  • Kristin

    Frankly I wish Lori would bite it. Yes,yes I know she does eventually in the comics but I’d rather it happen now then later down the road and Carl he needs a serious butt whooping for pulling these stunts.

  • Julia Rhodes

    redskull – Yes, I know Dale dies in the books. But his relationship with Andrea, the way she wanted him despite his age and his admitted “feebleness,” was poignant to me.

    In general, AMC shows have no real good guys. Breaking Bad and Mad Men both revolve around protagonists whose motivations are not always good, whose choices are often bad…but you sympathize with them anyway, and you can’t quit watching. The characters are antiheroes, if you will.

    The Walking Dead has lost that.

  • Steve from Los Angeles

    Walter White is NOT an antihero. He is decidedly evil now.

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