As the second half of the second season of The Walking Dead winds to a close (only two more episodes after this one, gasp), it seems to be the common consensus that show is picking up speed a little bit. The first half was met with critics (myself included) endlessly droning on about the endless droning on of the shows dialogue, the repeated themes and conversations about the same issues, the lack of action, the episodes that would drag on while accomplishing little. Well, guess what? This episode is heavy on talk and light on action and never resolves the main thing the characters set out to do, and it is damn good because of it.
Yes, there will be critics and comparisons but I will stand by this one being one of the best we’ve seen in the series. Yes last week was a full on zombie fest and this week we just get one, just what we also get is one of the biggest game changers the show has ever tossed out.
We dive into ‘Judge, Jury, Executioner’ (and there will be spoilers) after the jump.
The latest slice of adversity to hit the survivors and the main debate of the episode is what do with Randal. Last week Rick and Shane were just going to drive him out in the middle of nowhere and let nature (zombies) take it’s course. This week? Seems like a large part of the group just want to take matters into their own hands and remove the possible threat he could maybe sorta be. Every character reacts to this situation exactly how you would except. Shane worries the rest will pussy out, Rick debates internally and struggles, Herschel avoids, Lori annoys and Dale stands up for morals and human decency. Oh Dale.
See, Randal knows where the farm is now and the fear is if he is allowed to live and leave he will return to his group with that info. We also learn that this mysterious other group is much more sadistic and violent with a ‘take what we want by force’ attitude for post-zombie apocalypse survival. We also find out they have a lot more fire power than Rick and crew, establishing the very real threat they could be to the well being of the residents of Herschel’s farm (come on… let this be The Governors people.) What doubles the effect of this is how Randal (played by Michael Zegen) comes across as a very genuine and sympathetic character. I almost want him to be redeemed and join the gang full time. At the end of the episode, Randal is still alive and there is even a opening in the team!
Elsewhere, there is Carl. What the hell is going on with Carl? He is becoming a very dark (and insanely stupid) character. In the comics, the events turn Carl into a cold and heartless machine and you slowly see his humanity drain away. Here we see a damaged little boy that is fumbling his way down a dangerous path while every adult around him seemingly ignores what is happening. I am not exactly sure how I feel about this, beyond very uncomfortable. His quick exchange grieving mother Carol came across as creepy and cruel. His strangle little patch out in the words, his stalking/obsession with the captive Randal, that kid is just not right. To top it all off, he taunts a zombie that’s stuck in the mud. Damn it kid, don’t you know what happens when you taunt a trapped zombie?
I will admit, I started to get the feeling something was up with Dale early in the episode. He seemed to be doing his swan song with the captive Randal issue. He long served as the groups voice of reason, always butting into any and everything. As he tore through the group trying to gain support for not killing Randal, you could feel his frustration as it failed each and every time. I guess I should also say I did not in anyway expect him to meet his end here. It came across as a tragic and hard hitting death.
As all the other characters slowly unravel, as everything gets darker and more bleak, Dale seemed to be the last rational person that was clinging to his humanity and trying to remind everyone of theirs. I guess in the end, Dale’s gory and gruesome death might do just that, give the rest of the group something fight for and get back to.
I guess we’ll see.
Next week, ‘Better Angels’ and it looks like the problem with Randal solved itself! Not really.