The Walking Dead Watch: Judge, Jury, Executioner

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Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) - The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 11

“One man with courage is a majority,” Thomas Jefferson was once quoted as saying. Courage comes in many forms, from staring down what terrifies you to standing up for your convictions when all those around you disagree. Dale was courageous in this episode; he held strong to his beliefs, withstood the herd mentality and after being torn open by a zombie, had the courage to ask for a quick death.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. That last part, which comprised 97 percent of the episode’s action, didn’t occur until the last two minutes. This is an aberration in the second half of this season, which has moved significantly faster than its first frame. But if TWD’s producers got the memo about quicker pacing, they ignored it for last night’s episode. It must have been for a good reason. It could be because, with only two episodes left, the writers wanted to fit in one last extended debate about post-apocalyptic morality before letting the s— fly.

Let’s start at the beginning. After having “a little chat” with Randall the prisoner, the still-distant Daryl manages to extract the following information: Randall’s group is large, about twice the numbers of our group; they have automatic weapons and as we saw previously, they have no problem shooting on site, walkers be damned. Armed with this information, Rick agrees with Shane that they must execute the lad, a decision that outrages Dale. He appeals to Andrea’s duty as a former civil rights attorney (I say former because no one really has a job anymore) to not stand idly by while the group succumbs to mob mentality, killing a young man in the name of safety.

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After Andrea rejects him — clearly she sees no place for a civil rights lawyer anymore — Dale begins a lonely journey to convince someone, anyone, that killing the young boy is wrong. Randall may (may!) pose a threat, but to Dale, killing someone because you think they might commit a crime means the end of civilized society. He implores Daryl, Shane and Rick to hold on to any shred of humanity left in them.

As he talks to the others, Dale returns to the idea of the group. He tells Daryl that he’s an important member of the group, to which he responds negatively. After everyone essentially votes to kill Randall, Dale says to Daryl, “You’re right. This group is broken.” We’re supposed to believe that our band of weary warriors is special, different from all the others. There’s the fact that they reside at the center of our story, yes, but also that they are a tiny pocket of humanity left in a world that has been fractured. Dale was a large part of that humanity. Early in season one we learned that his wife had a miscarriage and that they stopped trying to have children. He took Andrea under his wing in a sometimes annoying, but fatherly way. He’s the reason she’s alive and she knows it, which is why she is the only member to side with him.

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In the end, “Judge, Jury and Executioner” showed us that the surviving humans can talk about justice and morality till the cows get disemboweled. But when the lone zombie we see in this episode tears open Dale’s stomach, spilling the contents of his body onto the cold ground, we’re reminded that the walkers are the judges, they’re the jury, and this particular one was a most brutal executioner. We’ve seen a lot of zombies killed, and because it’s been a while since we’ve lost a member of the group to a walker, we forget how brutal that end can be. And with the loss of Dale, the avuncular, sometimes annoying, but stalwart moral compass, the group is down more than just someone who could fix cars and was decent with a firearm. They’ve lost a man of courage who always seemed to be in the minority. We can only hope he passed along some of his valor in the end.

Zombie Kill Report: The episode featured one single walker who met his end via a knife through the skull from Daryl. But that single zombie may have done more to change the course of the show than the dozens we saw last week. Only time will tell.

T-Dog Who?: Until the writers give T-Dog something interesting to say, we’re going to track how long it’s been since he’s had anything but a throw away line. As of last night, the count stands at 7 episodes. The last time T-Dog said anything that remotely added to the plot was Episode 4 of this season, “Cherokee Rose” when he helped pull the disgustingly bloated walker out of the well. Oh, last night Rick did yell for T-Dog to grab a shotgun when Dale was attacked and T-Dog nodded and sprinted away. Either give him something to do or kill him off. Please.

So that just happened — love edition: It was almost a touching scene when Hershel gave Glenn his pocket watch, signifying that he’s cool with the whole Glenn and Maggie thing. I didn’t see that coming. Scott Wilson is a heck of an actor and his line about pawning off the watch for a night of drinking he no longer remembers might be as good as we’ll see in this show.

It’s all Carl’s fault: In some ways, last night’s episode was as much about Carl as it was anyone else. Though he lurked at the edges, it was his actions that determined two of the night’s major turns: Dale died because Carl’s curiosity allowed the walker stuck in the mud to break free and Randall lived because Carl walked in on Rick just as he was about to execute the man. There was a sense of Carl trying on the trappings of cold-blooded-ness, attempting to mimic the hardness of Rick and Shane: he aggressively tells Carol that there is no heaven for her daughter to rest in, sneaks into the barn to confront the prisoner and steals Daryl’s gun and tramps into the woods in search of something to shoot. Yet the look on his face when he realizes that he is to blame for Dale’s guts getting ripped open was one of a scared child. Will Carl confess? Will he be forced to when Daryl finds his gun missing? Is his innocence lost forever?

What did you think of last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments below.

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