In “Judge, Jury, Executioner”, we discover more about Randall’s group – which may plant the seeds for what’s to come in Season Three and the episode wraps on one of the bigger surprises the series has ever had. Click “More” to see our SPOILER-filled review for the newest episode of The Walking Dead.
S2, Episode 11: Judge, Jury, Executioner
Randall is worked over by Daryl and learns about the group he came from. Daryl learns the group is heavily armed and they take whatever they want. Randal tells the story about a scout group who raped a couple girls and left them. Rick learns what Daryl got out of Randall and makes the decision to kill the kid. Dale pleads for Rick to think about what he’s doing. Rick decides to give it until sundown before making a decision. Dale convinces Andrea to keep guard over Randall, and when Shane comes and talks to Andrea about taking control of the group from Rick and taking the farm from Herschel. When Carl gets into the shed where Randall is, Randall tries to convince Carl to let him go. Shane busts in and scolds Carl and sends him off with advice about letting his guard down.
When Dale goes to talk to Daryl about the pending decision, Daryl doesn’t want to get involved. He tells Dale about how he knew Shane killed Otis, and that Rick didn’t want to figure it out. He believes the group is broken. Further proof of fractures in the group comes when Carl mouths off to Carol about the belief in heaven. After getting a lecture about how to properly handle relationships with others, Carl keeps up his trek around the farm. He finds a gun in Daryl’s saddle bag and then comes across a stuck walker in the marsh. He stays to study him while he tosses rocks at the poor zombie. After he gets too close to the walker, he is able to free himself from the mud and lunches after Carl, knocking the gun away from him.
At last, sundown comes and it’s time for the group to decide the fate of Randall. Unfortunately, for the kid, Dale could only sway one person to his side (a surprising switch at that). However, an unexpected guest changes the evening and the group forever.
I’m still in shock over the last moments of this episode, which only adds to the multitude of things that transpired over the full hour. I’ll try to put these things in their proper order. Let’s start with what Daryl found out during his interrogation of Randall. While the most memorable thing that Randall talked about was the unfortunate rape of a man’s two teenage daughters and how they just left the family there without a merciful killing, longtime readers will find everything else he said much more interesting. There was a group with heavy artillery, and they use muscle to get what they want. Add that to the recent news from the series that someone was cast as the Governor, one of the greatest villains created over the last decade in comics, and he has to be talking about the Governor’s gang. It’s a clear cut tease for season three, and in some way, sets a tone for the rest of the episode as an ever present air of dread and bad things to come weighs down on the entire group, but it doesn’t stop there.
The next steps toward what readers expect to see from Carl (and the likelihood that they will keep the ultimate end to Shane in tact), begins a progression that, of instead leading him to be almost a badass in a little kid’s form, turns out to be a horrible outcome. More on that in just a moment. First, Carl’s character has been through some pretty heavy stuff. He thought he lost his father. Then, he gets shot and miraculously survives. He then sees his only friend in Sophia emerge from a barn as a walker only to be gunned down by the father that he originally thought he lost. He’s understanding the cold facts of the world in a light that adults around him can’t. He’s able to put the pieces in the place and see that having to put Sophia down was the right thing to do. When he finds the walker stuck in the marsh, he doesn’t recoil in fear. Instead, he prefers to study and play with him. A child growing up in this environment is likely to more quickly become less afraid of the situation than an adult. He has a much more acute sense of keeping everyone safe than even Rick or Shane does. He doesn’t use emotion to form an opinion. When he sneaks around the barn to watch Rick execute Randall, his cold logic frightens Rick into keeping Randall alive for a little longer worried that Carl is becoming something of a monster.
And that might be true, because…
Carl’s curiosity of the walker stuck in the marsh doesn’t just go badly because he loses a gun he stole from Daryl, but it literally kills reason and hope. What seemed to be almost forgotten when the walker broke free from the mud he was stuck in comes back to haunt the group forever. In the last few moments of the episode, one of the more shocking endings in the series to date (even trumping the heartbreaking conclusion to the Sophia chapter) transpires when the same walker that Carl unwittingly released returns. It kills one of the cattle that had gotten free earlier in the day and sneaks up on an unsuspecting Dale who came to check out the situation with the cow. Dale is successful in not getting bit, but when the walker rips open Dale’s stomach before getting killed by the group coming to Dale’s rescue. When they learn they are too late to save the old man, Daryl puts him out of his misery. And with that, the conscience of the entire group is dead.
The entire episode may have seemed like the Walking Dead’s version of Twelve Angry Men, but there was a greater undertone to all this debate over Randall’s future. For the entire season, the group had been hoping against hope that they would find Sophia, or come together as a group once that turned out to be a lost cause, or keep in the good graces of Herschel, or they would simply be kept safe from whatever group Randall was a part of. It was a constant struggle between hoping they can find safety in a crazy world and giving in and giving up. A little of this could be seen last week when Beth was more than willing to kill herself to ease the pain she had over the loss of her mother and other loved ones from the barn.
However, hope is a thing that cause some, like Shane, to take the proverbial bull by the horns and come at the world head on. Others, like Rick, want to find a middle ground between being a warrior and a politician. Some, like Dale, realize that while the world is changed forever, people don’t have to throw out the morals and ideals of civilization. You might have though Dale was annoying for most of his run on the show, but isn’t exactly what the conscience is – annoying, but almost always right? I’ve long said that I felt Dale was truly the audience’s “way in” for the show. He was seeing things almost like an outsider and less like someone in the thick of the apocalypse. His constant badgering wasn’t to be simply annoying but it’s because he had a unique world view that really could only be held by an onlooker, which just so happens to be us, the viewer peering into the world. He was the one man that tried to keep the group safe, not by using guns and rash or rational thinking, but by holding them together. He didn’t want to believe that the group would have degenerated in such a way that killing a young man out of the mere possibility, no matter how large or small, that he would ultimately harm anyone in the group. His tearful speech when the group tried to come to a decision over Randall’s fate proved his love of them more than anything. He knows how bad things could get if they decide to kill the kid. He knows that they would be walking through a door that they could never go back through or take back. It would only lead to the dissolving of everything that made them good. It was a world that he didn’t want to live in, and ironically, he wouldn’t live long enough to learn that he had won this battle.
With Dale gone, things are only going to get worse for the group, and now that Carl realizes he is at least in some way at fault for the death of the voice of reason, what more will Carl do to try to set things right? With only a couple episodes remaining, it’s hard to imagine how much worse this will get and fast. That’s exactly how important that old man with the fishing hat was to a group of survivors who’s had a real hard time agreeing on anything right now.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Brilliantly dramatic episode with every single character in the cast getting at least one line, which surprisingly, hasn’t happened much in this series’ history. Absolutely shocking ending to one of the more beloved characters in the comics and the conscience of every character in this series.||None. Three episodes in the row and three spectacular scripts full of amazing performances. Two episodes to go for season 2 and no sign of things slowing down now.|