Walking Dead Ep 17 “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”

So last week I commented how replaceable any character besides Shane and Rick are steadily becoming, and this week “Walking Dead” decided to brashly test my hypothesis.  Yes, this week brought a “high-profile” death, sick realizations, but retreated back to more drawn out scenes of jabbering.  After “Judge, Jury, and Executioner,” it will take some convincing of this fan killing off the above mentioned main character was a smart decision, as I’m furious at his undermined portrayal in “The Walking Dead’s” TV run.  I also stated last week I was done comparing comic to screen, but I’m much too worked up by wasted potential to abide right now.  It’s the CDC decision all over again, replacing an already solid story with writing not even circling the comic’s ballpark.  Disheartening really, as I was just beginning to believe this cruel mistress of a show had finally changed for the better.  She’s a real tease.

The synopsis this week doesn’t have to be very involved, because not all that much happened.  Daryl opens the episode by getting information out of the captured boy, detailing Randall’s old camp houses about 30 people with advanced weaponry and a dark side adapting to the new “no laws” mentality.  Group members spend most of the episode debating what to do with their prisoner given the alarming situation, but a surprising majority decision votes to execute the boy for everyone’s safety.  Even Rick agrees.  The only one grasping onto that one last strand of humanity is Dale, who encounters everyone personally in order to sway their wavering minds.
Meanwhile, young Carl starts showing a noticeable change in attitude, losing that boyhood wonderment and replacing it with the animalistic urges growing up in a zombie apocalypse teaches.  Carl starts to become more interested in violence and hopelessness and reuses to put up a bright outlook on life.  He finds a zombie stuck in mud and begins to throw rocks at it, agitating the walker enough to escape the mud and set his sights on Carl.  Luckily fleeing the scene, he gets away from the walker unharmed.
Later, after Dale burns through all his moral quandaries and speeches, Rick calls a group meeting in Hershel’s house to put Randall’s fate to a final ultimatum.  Not even Glenn or Maggie stick up for the boy though and Dale gives one last passionate push, again bringing up how this decision will change lives forever, throwing that last bit of civilization out the window.  Sickened, he agree’s with Daryl’s comment that the group is broken, and wanders off as to not be a part of the execution.
Like a reaper acquiring his next target, Rick and a few of the men take Randall to the barn where he’s to be shot.  The teenager pleads for his life, but we see a changed man in Rick as he keeps the gun aimed right at the whimpering boy.  Just in time for the show, Carl walks into the barn, and encourages his father to execute Randall.  Rick loses it, not wanting Carl to grow up with no morals, and postpones the execution.
Too bad another death is about to occur.  We see a defeated Dale milling around the fields, and watch him stumble upon a mutilated cow still clinging to life.  Startled, he spins around just as the guilty zombie tackles him to the ground.  He screams, altering the others of his trouble.  Dale struggles to fight the undead monster off, but an old man’s strength is no match.  Said zombie rips into Dale’s stomach and tears the skin back, revealing the tasty morsels inside.  Too late are the other survivors, who swoop in to find Dale laying much like the cow only feet away.  No operation can be made, and Daryl puts the group’s elder down with a shot to the head.

Disclaimer: This paragraph is nothing but a rant from a let down fan of the comic.  If you’re just a show lover, can separate the two, or want to avoid spoilers; bravo, but someone has to defend poor Dale’s honor.  No one on the show got shafted more than the wise veteran, who went from comic hero to forgettable background character in the blink of an eye.  Comic wise, he was an emotional rock and always had words of reason, so much so that the 20-ish year old Andrea fell in love with him, both using each other to cope with their losses.  He kept a young girl alive, help her blossom into the sharp shooting vixen, and always could be counted on.  Up until his death, no character had a better grasp of reality.  And even in death, we could accept, because he’d done everything necessary to that point, and we could understand his time had come.  Going out in a blaze of glory, he gives one last grand gesture to the group, freeing them from cannibals pinning down the others in an abandoned church.  Yes, the infected Dale sacrifices himself for the group, and laughs madly as he watches their assailants devour his toxic flesh.  A man amongst men with a complete character arc, expertly written to always make an impact.  Now, jump to the show.  Sure, he gets all righteous one episode, but to this point was just kind of used as that old guy in the background spouting coincidentally timely information.  But episodes would go by without a decent contribution or even appearance from Dale, almost making you forget his existence.  The icing on the sh&t cake for me wasn’t his misuse though, but the lack of emotional connection when I watched him go. Honestly, with his passing, I couldn’t care less.  Dale leaving the show won’t make a lick of difference, as his most important days were behind him.  In season 1, he saves Andrea, who also has a horrible representation to this point in the show.  In season 2, he convinces T-Dawg to push on, another worthless gesture as T-Dawg himself is mainly used as a background prop either found leaning against a tree or sitting on a chair.  The wisdom and humanity has no substance, and it all ends for naught.  I’ll always remember Dale in illustrated form, as to not tarnish the great legacy Kirkman wrote instead of his short-lived TV appearance.  Dale will always stay a hero in my book.  Fin.

Given the circumstances, Dale’s death was quite fitting though.  When slain at that moment, so was everything he stood for, being the only man who still believed there could still be good in the world.  With his death, a fork in the road now exists as well.  Does the group let his idealistic and compassionate thinking live on, in remembrance of the old man?  Will they honor Dale’s memory with decision-making that doesn’t paint the world as hell on earth?  Or will his death put to rest all this mumbo jumbo about “we have to give others a chance” and “we can’t lose grip of the way life used to be.”  Let’s face it, the survivors absolutely live in a new world, and Dale could have been too naive to see it.  By executing Randall, all their safety is ensured at the cost of a boy none have any emotional tie to.  But in the same respect, when that trigger is pulled and the realization is made that life will never be the same again, what is there to live for?  By keeping that hopeful flame alive, people have a purpose to live for.  Accepting Randall into the group shows that cooperation and humanity are still alive, and the opportunity to grow even larger numbers exists.  Randall could be a missing link of sorts, possessing a skill no other group member has, and the risk/reward scenario may be too great to pass up.  But you better believe, no matter what is decided, Dale’s influence will play a part.  If it’s up to me right this very instant, I say his death points Rick in the right direction, especially since he’s been drifting down the path of Shane as of late.

The whole psycho Carl idea is still too underdeveloped to understand I believe, because Dale’s death may have snapped him back.  The child realizes Dale’s murderer is the same zombie he prodded loose, and erupts in tears upon realizing.  His actions had costly consequences, and his outburst could easily be cut down to one episode.  But, depending how season 2 ends, Carl could be a fantastic character to analyze mindset and coping mechanisms while literally being raised in a hellish world.

Well, goodbye old friend.  It’s a shame so many “Walking Dead” “fans” never accurately knew you.  But, whatever, I’ll bite and admit there is some intrigue surrounding Randall’s fate.  At one time in the show, yes, the no brainer decision for Rick is to let Randall live.  But now?  After the bar shoot out?  After the Shane confrontation?  After Lori’s plea?  I don’t know.  If I’m right about Shane zombifying and already with a major death in the books, I’m not sure there’s enough room to hit us with an uncharacteristic Rick move shocker to boot.  Could audiences really handle THREE plot twists in one finale??  Not unless there’s a guest directorial appearance by Mr. M. Night Shyamalan.  Which there should never be.  Ever.


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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