“This new world is ugly. It’s harsh. It’s survival of the fittest and that’s a world I don’t want to live in.” — Dale Horvath
All the episodes since The Walking Dead returned from it’s mid-season break has shown a change in pace through most of it’s episodes. The first episode since the break looked to continue the much slower pace of the first half of the season but finished off with a literal bang and the two episodes following it up just continued this faster pace to the second half.
“Judge, Jury, Executioner” returns everyone back to the farm and has to deal with the conundrum that is Randall. The farm has become a symbol of the show hitting the breaks instead of keeping pedal to the metal. It happens once more tonight as the bulk of the episode was mostly Dale trying to convince everyone and anyone away from Rick’s decision to kill Randall. It’s a decision we’ve been expecting as Rick readily admitted it to himself and his erstwhile friend Shane in the previous episode that Randall will probably have to die to protect the group and the farm from the unknown group lurking out there.
Jeffrey DeMunn seems to have had a tough time having to play the role of Dale Horvath who was suppose to be the voice of decency and morality in a show that was veering away from such pre-zombie apocalypse notions. It’s a sort of character that will always look out of place in a world written to be lawless and tooth-and-nail survival. Most post-apocalyptic stories will always have such characters to try and keep the rest of the group from becoming savage and amoral. It’s a tough role and made even tougher when those who behave without conscience and without morals seem to look more like hardy survivors while those who try to stay decent end up being shouted down or killed outright for their naivete.
It didn’t help DeMunn that his character seemed to come off as spinning his wheels whenever he tried to speak up to the group about the dark path they’ve been traveling down since the end of the first season. Tonight went a long way to making Dale’s point of view make sense as it did show him as the only person who seemed to be the only one who wanted to hold onto his humanity in the face of apathy and amorality. Whether his ideas and point of view was correct or not doesn’t matter. He was that angel on everyone’s shoulder who was fighting for control of the group’s morality over the devil that was Shane.
While the outcome of the decision to kill Randall wasn’t too much a surprise, Rick may be learning to be pragmatic about his decision making, he still has a soft spot in trying to be a high moral role model for his son Carl and killing Randall wouldn’t be a good way to keep up that illusion. The outcome in regards to Dale was a major surprise and should continue the show’s off-the-rails decision to deviate from the comic book in terms of who lives and who dies and when it happens. Seeing the zombies attacking Dale and with him vainly keeping the snapping jaws from his face made the scene almost being set-up as a way to convince Dale that those who were going to save him were the same people he was accusing of being amoral and inhumane. So, it was a major shock when the zombie remembered it had more than just it’s snapping teeth to kill and decided to use it’s clawed fingers to rip Dale’s midsection open.
As surprising an ending that the Sophia story-arc ended up doing with the character this one with Dale was even more so.
Just like episode 8′s “Nebraska” which started off slow and was much more focused on intellectual and philosophical debates about the right and wrong things, tonight’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner” went down a similar route until an ending that also had a literal ending with a bang. With just two more episodes left in this second season of The Walking Dead Glen Mazzara and his team of writers need to close off this Greene Farm location and find a way to get the group back on the road and have it make sense. I’m much more confident that this new showrunner and writing team will pull it off than the previous regime.
- Dale looks so lost trying to get people to listen to his talk of decency and humanity. Everyone either looks at him like he’s talking crazy or just plain tired of hearing the same litany of why the group needs to retain it’s sense of humanity. Even the one person he thought he had in his corner in Hershel pretty much admits that his convictions in the decent thing to do were mistakes.
- I know it’s getting old, but it’s sort of hilarious watching Dale and Shane trying to sidestep the fact that when it comes down to the bones of it they both want to kill each other.
- Good to see Hershel make a decision about Glenn and his daughter. It’s definitely a much better scene than how it was handled in the comic book.
- It was very surprising to see Andrea suddenly switch gears and support Dale during the group’s confab inside the house. I’m still not sold on her sudden change of heart. I think some of it was Dale’s unwavering conviction and near pleading to the group not to go down a path hey may never recover, but I also think her reaction to Shane’s advice to do some sort of coup over the Rick/Hershel leadership might’ve shown Andrea to what extremes Shane would go to. She might be regretting calling Shane as her good teacher in regards to survival.
- Carl was a major part of tonight’s episode and probably highlighted the very things that screamed “Dumb things TV kids do” for everyone watching the show.
- The dumb things he did sneaking into the barn to get his close look a Randall and then sneaking off with Daryl’s gun off into the nearby creek and finding the zombie might be the only thing people will remember about tonight’s episode, but deeper down Carl was the very symbol of how things were taking an amoral turn for the group that Dale was railing against.
- Carl the tv version looks to be much farther along the path of becoming a sociopath than his comic book counterpart. I think having Shane live past the first six episodes of the show and still alive with season 2 winding to a close has had a much more detrimental effect on the child of Rick and Lori Grimes than in the comic book. This makes the character much more interesting moving forward but it also could blow up in the writers face if they make him too sociopathic and amoral that redemption would be too late for the boy.
- Daryl’s moment in the episode showed him at his worst, badass and best. Worst in how he continues to try and distance himself from the rest of the group. Badass in how he’s able to get the very info about Randall’s group when others from RIck and Shane have failed. Best in how he dealt with Dale and how he may be the one person Rick should listen to moving forward.
- Daryl is not idealistic like Dale, but he seems to be more observant about how the group is doing and handling things than people give him credit for. He’s willing to follow Rick’s lead even if he doesn’t agree with most of it, but at the same time won’t upset the group’s leadership dynamics. The fact that he knew Shane killed Otis but not as guessing, but observing Shane the moment he got back without Otis makes Daryl less the dumb, hick redneck he’s shown to be.
- Some people have been theorizing that killing off Dale was because Jeffrey DeMunn was a Darabont regular thus was going to be on the chopping block because of that professional relationship. If that is the case instead of a creative decision to shake up the show’s group and storyline even farther from the comic book then Laurie Holden should be worried in her role as Andrea since she is also a Darabont regular.
- T-Dog makes an appearance and I think he had one or two throwaway lines. Please, Mazzara and writers just kill him off and bring in Tyrese who at least brings some backstory that could be mined to better effect than what T-Dog has contributed.