AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 11: “Judge, Jury, Executioner”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang
* For a review of the previous episode, “18 Miles Out” – click here
* For a review of the penultimate Season 2 finisher, “Better Angels” – click here
The top of this episode begins with Randall (Michael Zegen) being tortured in the barn by Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). He talks about the group he was with before, the savagery they were involved in; includes a very subtle, passing reference to a brutal rape situation. Randall tells Daryl he isn’t like them. Though, how can anyone be sure? In this new world, nobody is what they seem. Nobody.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) informs everyone they’ll have to kill Randall. Knowing about his large group, their weaponry and vicious nature, now the decision is all but made. Unfortunately, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) doesn’t like it. He believes there must be a method, a process, instead of simply sentencing someone to death, as guilt by association. He pleads with Rick for another twenty four hours, to talk with everyone about what should happen. At sunset the decision will be made.
First, Dale goes to Andrea (Laurie Holden). He wants her to guard Randall for now, in case Shane (Jon Bernthal) decides otherwise. Glad to see there is still humanity left in Dale, not willing to just jump in and kill somebody all of a sudden. He wants to keep their human nature. Others aren’t so sold on being “civilized anymore“. Dale replies: “But keeping our humanity? That‘s a choice.” Reluctantly, Andrea agrees to look after the prisoner. But Shane is ready for what’s coming. He isn’t confused in the slightest, nor is he conflicted: murder is his business. Furthermore, his run-in with Carl (Chandler Riggs), who sneaks into the barn and talks to Randall, shows Shane is NEVER going to let go of his time with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). He wants what Rick has; all of it.
Later on, Dale goes to see Daryl (Norman Reedus). The latter has no real problem with what’s about to happen. All the same, Dale tries reaching out. He knows Daryl is a “decent man” and appeals to his better sense, putting in more hints about Otis – Daryl knows Shane killed him, he showed up with the dead man’s gun after all. For his part, Daryl thinks Rick is slightly blind to Shane.
Speaking of Rick, he’s in the barn trying to find a good place for a hanging. Knot tied and everything. He and Lori start looking ahead to the future, the winter specifically. They need to start thinking of warm lodgings and so on. “I know how you feel about the death penalty,” Rick says to Lori, as she wonders if hanging is the best option. She always trust her husband, no matter what. But Rick is still overlooking Shane and the problem of his obsession. It’ll come to a head eventually.
Carol (Melissa McBride) tries comforting Carl about Sophia’s passing, who responds by saying if she believes in Heaven then “you‘re an idiot“. We also get a closer look at Carol. She feels discarded by the group, treated like a crazy person or a wounded grieving mother who will never get over it. True. She can be a valuable member of the group like anyone else, but they all patronize her mostly. Rick has a talk with Carl about what he said, and they have a bit of a real chat for the first time; his son asks about the hanging, but Rick sticks to him having to apologize to Carol.
But Carl wants to strike out on his own. He lifts a gun from Daryl’s motorcycle bag then heads out to the woods. Down by a small creek, Carl finds a walker standing in the open. It turns slowly and stares at the boy, who starts to run. Then he realizes the walker is stuck in the mud. So a closer look is needed.
Hershel and Glenn (Steven Yeun) have a moment together. The older man shows his pocket watch, given to him by his father; he pawned it after a hard night of drinking, then Maggie’s mother bought it back, giving it to him once he got sober. “No man is good enough for your little girl,” says Hershel, “until one is.” With that he hands the watch over to Glenn, a beautiful and touching scene between these two characters. Their bond will also grow stronger, tougher as the series progresses.
Back with Carl and the walker. He’s still throwing things at it, point his gun. He wants to be a man and wants to evolve in this new world. Only he’s still a boy and has things to learn. The zombie gets loose from the mud grabbing Carl by the ankle, sending the boy running. Thankfully he got away. Could’ve easily turned tragic for another child member of the group.
Sunset has come. Everyone gathers to talk about whether Randall ought to be killed, or not. Dale obviously believes it shouldn’t happen. Others approve; even Glenn drops off Dale’s side saying “he‘s not one of us“. Not everybody wants to kill him, but nobody except Dale is adamant about saving the young man. Carol doesn’t want to be a part of the vote, no matter what transpires.
Problem is civilization is collapsing, humanity has become lost. Dale is right. Nobody else sees that, but Dale understands they’re losing humanity quite quick. At a wild rate. They’re becoming the people they are afraid of, those monsters out there on the road they assume will come and pillage the camp. “This new world is ugly, it‘s harsh, it‘s survival of the fittest: that‘s a world I don‘t wanna live in,” Dale pleads with the group. And the only single person to stand by his side in the end? Andrea. He further tries to shame everyone asking if they’ll all watch the execution and nods to Daryl on his way out of the house: “This group is broken.”
So the execution time has come. Rick has Randall blindfolded, on his knees. With Shane and Daryl by his side, Rick asks if he has any “final words“. In the midst of it all Carl shows up and tells him to “do it“. But Rick can’t get the job done with his son watching, he has Randall taken away and tied up again, putting his gun back in its holster.
When Dale goes off on his own there is one of the most tragic scenes yet on The Walking Dead. Had he not been pushed away, disregarded by his group, Dale might live to see another episode. Sadly, he is blindsided by a walker, as he finds a cow torn open and gutted in the field. Dale gets torn open and now we’ve lost yet another good man. So damn busted up to know we won’t get any more Dale in this series. A great character whose time came far too soon. He wasn’t even bit, just disemboweled. If they had a hospital maybe there’d be options. Not out in a field, on a farm, in the middle of the zombie wasteland.
Rick tries to put Dale out of his misery, but can’t bring himself to do it. Daryl does Dale a solid, saying “Sorry, brother” before putting a bullet in his head. Right before it comes Dale nods in solidarity. A heart wrenching, gut churning (literally) scene that took me by surprise. Still does, even after seeing the series over a few times. Worst of all? Carl sees the walker who attacked Dale is the one he didn’t kill down by the water, stuck in the mud. This will only make him feel responsible, which is brutal for a boy his age.
The next episode, Season 2’s penultimate ender, is titled “Better Angels”. Let’s see how this one turns out after a tragic end here.