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21 October, 2012

REVIEW: The Walking Dead: Season 2 - Episode 11 "Judge, Jury, Executioner"

My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below:

Season 1:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Season 2:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9 
Episode 10 

A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings.  My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review.  As a result, spoilers will follow.  You have been warned.

Episode 2 of season 3 is set to air live tonight, but, as I stated last week before the season 3 premiere, I'm just going to continue to review each episode in order.

Episode 11 opens with Daryl questioning Randall roughly for information about the group of which he was a member, trying to ascertain what kind of threat they might represent.  Randall says that there are 30 men in the group (there are women and children as well, but only the men go out to scavenge for supplies) and that they are heavily armed.  Under duress, he tells a story about his group raping two teenage girls in front of their father during a scavenging mission, but swears that he took no part and is not like them.  He was only with them for safety, because they took him in and he thought he could do better with them than alone.  Of course, there's no way to know if he is sincere or just lying to save his skin, but what they do know is that the risk of him leading anyone back to the farm is too great to bear.

Everyone is pressing Rick for answers as to what should be done, and he reiterates the same position he had in his conversation with Shane in the previous episode: that they have no choice but to kill him to eliminate the threat.  Dale argues that they can't just kill him out of hand.  He argues that they need a process, to which Rick makes it clear that the safety of the group is his major concern.  Dale argues that just to execute him sets a bad example for Carl.  Rick eventually gives him until sunset to change the minds of the others before the boy's fate is decided at a meeting where everyone is to have a voice.

Dale sets Andrea to guard Randall, fearing Shane might just shoot him if he gets wind that Dale is trying to change peoples minds.  In their conversation, we learn that Andrea used to be a civil rights attorney, but she nevertheless agrees that Randall must die.  She does guard him for Dale's peace of mind, however.

Next, we see Carl pestering Shane about Randall and Shane dismissing him, saying its grown-up stuff and he needs to let them handle it.  Carl goes off resentfully.  Approaching Andrea at her guard-post, Shane begins pushing to forcefully take over control of the group from Rick and the farm from Hershel, though it sounds like he wants to do it bloodlessly.  He tries to convince Andrea to help him. As he's arguing his case, Carl sneaks into the shed to get a look at Randall, who tries to convince the boy to help him get free.  Shane hears them talking from outside and intervenes, however, sending the boy away again.  Carl is visibly upset and more than a little petulant at being dismissed.

Dale spends the entire episode speaking to various group members he believes carry weight in their little community, trying to change their minds.  He tries to reason with Daryl, who is still pulling away from the others, saying the group is "broken."  It turns-out Daryl too has figured out that Shane killed Otis, citing the fact that Shane's story had been to paint Otis as a hero who covered him as he escaped with the medical supplies to save Carl -- the only problem being that Shane returned with Otis's gun.  He says that Rick is not stupid and that, if he hasn't figured it out, it's only because he doesn't want to.  As for Hershel, he too rebuffs Dale.  He is turning a blind eye.  He knows that they are supposed to be deciding Randall's fate, but he wants nothing to do with it.  He does want the danger away from his daughters, however.  Basically, he doesn't feel good about executing the young man, but he knows that he has made so many mistakes because of his convictions that he is opting now to trust Rick's judgement instead.  Eventually, Dale even attempts to change Shane's mind as well.  He says that he knows that they will never see eye to eye, but neither of them is going anywhere, so they might as well talk like men.  Shane finally says that he respects that Dale "has balls" and that, if the group decides to spare Randall, he won't say anything; but he reiterates that Dale is flat wrong and says that when Randall eventually causes someone's death, the blood will be on Dales hands too.

The most mind-numbing part of this episode is young Carl who acts with such reckless petulance that you would think he was a moody teenager already.  In the 40-some odd minutes (no commercials) of this episode, this kid mouths-off to Carol, saying that she's stupid to believe her recently-deceased daughter is in a better place now and, subsequently, gets a "talking to" by Rick who tries to straighten him out (it doesn't take); then he steals a gun from Daryl's gear and goes off into the woods looking for trouble, which he finds in the form of a Walker hung-up in the mud or silt or whatever it is they keep getting stuck in over in the swampy area.  The raucous little miscreant then antagonizes said Walker by throwing stones at it, and then decides that he's gonna pull up his big boy pants and shoot it.  I'm sure you can guess what happens next: he hesitates, and it ends up getting loose and almost eating his annoying little arse.  He gets away, but then proceeds to make his biggest blunder yet: he tells absolutely nobody about the Walker that is now lurking around the property, and that particular bit of idiocy will have huge repercussions later in the episode.  This kid has seriously taken a dark turn since Sophia's death, which is understandable, but I'm beginning to wonder if they shouldn't be keeping him locked-up in the house out of concern for everyone's safety, including his own.

Meanwhile, there's a pretty touching scene between Hershel and Glenn in which Hershel passes-down a treasured family heirloom, effectively giving Glenn his blessing to be with his daughter Maggie as well as sort of adopting him as a surrogate son of sorts.

Lori and Rick talk again and she tries to convince him to let someone else execute Randall if it comes to that.  Rick, to his credit, says that he has to be the one; it's his responsibility for bringing Randall back to the farm in the first place.  I, personally, agree with this, but I'll even take it further: I believe that, regardless of who brought the threat to their doorstep, it should always be the burden of the leader to see such unpleasantness through to its eventual end.  Anyone who would delegate such a responsibility does not deserve the mantle of leadership.

At the gathering, it is quickly made painfully obvious that Dale is the only one against killing Randall.  They briefly consider just keeping him locked-up, but, in the end, he would represent just another mouth to feed through what will undoubtedly be a harsh, lean Winter.  They also think about letting him work under guard to earn a place among them, but security would always be an issue with him free to move about, even guarded; and then they would also be losing a worker in whoever is spending their time guarding him, instead of working for the good of the group.  Dale argues that if they just kill him, they are effectively abandoning the Rule of Law and civilization as a whole in favor of a "survival of the fittest" scenario that represents a world he doesn't want to live in.  He says that, if they do this, then they are no better than the people of whom they are all so afraid.  Andrea eventually succumbs to Dale's please and agrees that they should try to find another way, but nobody else breaks ranks.  Disgusted, Dale leaves them to decide the method of execution, saying he'll have no part in it.  As he stalks out, he stops in front of Daryl and agrees with his earlier statement, saying, "You're right.  This group is broken."

After nightfall, Rick, Shane, and Daryl take Randall to the barn to do the deed.  They put him on his knees and ask for his final words, in response to which the young man only pleads for his life.  Just as Rick is about to carry out the execution, Carl walks in and urges his father to shoot.  Needless to say, such callousness coming from his young son weakens Rick's already shaky resolve.  He is unable to take the shot, prompting Shane to walk out in disgust.

Daryl returns Randall to the barn as Rick tells the others he has decided to keep the young man in custody for now.  Privately, Rick tells Lori that he couldn't do it because Carl wanted to watch.  Meanwhile, Andrea goes to find Dale and tell him that Rick has reconsidered, at least temporarily.

We flash then to a shot of  Dale who has walked far out into Hershel's pasture, putting some distance between himself and the group in which he is so disappointed (and, especially, from the execution he believes is soon to be carried-out).  He discovers a dying cow, which has been gutted.  Realizing too late that he is in grave danger, he turns, and is set upon by the same Walker that Carl had encountered earlier and failed to warn the others about.  The others are alerted by Dale's screams and Daryl (the first to reach him) kills it, but not before it literally rips open Dale's abdominal cavity, grievously injuring him.

Reaching the site of the attack, the whole group is distraught, seeing Dale eviscerated and dying.  Carl, especially, sees that the Walker responsible is the same one he had his run in with earlier, and the boy is visibly wracked with guilt.  Hershel arrives on the scene, but quickly sees that Dale is beyond his ability to save.  Seeing the their friend is suffering terribly, the group sadly comes to a quick decision, and Rick prepares to shoot Dale in the head.  He hesitates for a moment, however, and, seeing that he is struggling, Daryl takes the gun from his hand and puts Dale out of his misery with a single shot.

This episode was all about issues of morality in a world where none of the old rules apply.  We spend the entire run-time exploring the possibility of executing a prisoner who has yet to actually commit a crime for the sake of ensuring continued security; and, then, at the end, the prisoner is still alive, while the character who has come to represent the moral conscience of the group is dead as the result of a mercy killing.  I cannot help but imagine that Dale's death will have far-reaching consequences, ultimately moving things in a darker direction without his influence among the group to try to keep the others from allowing the world in which they live to fundamentally change them for the worse. 

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