Welcome back to Talking the Walk: WEEK FOUR! After week three’s made-you-look faux climax between Shane and Rick, I wasn’t sure what to expect from last night’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner.” Not in the nail-biting sort of sense, but in more of a “Hey, Walking Dead, our bus here is sleepily drifting into the breakdown lane and we’ve already had too many bathroom breaks,” sort of way. Last night’s episode let us know that for at least 15 minutes, The Walking Dead is, in fact, capable of having both hands on the wheel.
Unsurprisingly, those 15 minutes occurred at the very end of “Judge, Jury, Executioner,” leaving us with three quarters of an episode’s worth of Olympic class wheel-spinning. Randall, the survivor from the bar standoff, caves under Daryl’s interrogation techniques (“Good Cop”/”Hunting Knife Cop”) and reveals that he had no allegiance to the murdering and rapin’ crew that shot at Rick and co. back the bar. Fearing that Randall could still lead those guys back to the farm, the group agrees to kill Randall. Oh, except one person: Our favorite, wise, old budinski, Dale. It’s easy to like so many of the Walking Dead characters, Dale included… but also like many of the characters, Dale’s been one note for so long that no matter how great the performance, it’s likely to produce yawns. So forgive me, Dale, for checking my email and playing “Words with Friends” while you made the rounds, trying to drum up support for the “let’s not kill random dudes” bill.
The other star of the show was young Carl, who, as it turns out… is kind of an asshole. He sneaks into the barn where Randall is being held, tells a grieving Carol that that believing in Heaven is for booger brains, and steals one of Daryl’s guns to prod a trapped walker in the woods. WTF, kid? Lori was eager to dole out chores last episode – perhaps she should bump “knowing where my 10 year old son is during a zombie fallout” closer to the top of her own to-do list.
Spare minutes were packed with the usual odds and ends. Hershel finally accepts Glen as a suitable… suitor for his daughter Maggie, even gives him a pocket watch. Seems premature, Hershel, but whatever, it’s the apocalypse. Rick mulls over the killing of Randall with Lori (THRILLING), while Shane makes a Survivor-like alliance proposition to Andrea for stealing leadership from Rick.
Oh, Shane. If only it was as easy as going down early during a tiki torch maze race.
And then there were the 15 minutes! The whole group finally gathers to decide Randall’s fate and poor old Dale hasn’t convinced even one single soul to back him against the execution. Jeffrey DeMunn, who plays Dale, puts a five star effort into every episode (and is great in other roles… check him in Hollywoodland) and is fantastic in this scene, even with repetitive material. Dale’s always been able to reach down and pull hope out of the other characters during the group’s darkest hours. Here, though, he realizes he’s hit the the wall, he’s lost their ear, and he’s devastated. It gave me pause. “Man! This guy’s really acting his ass off right now!” I thought. “What a great showcase scene for DeMunn!” I thought. “I wonder why this is happening now?” I thought. Stupid me. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!
Later that night, some of the episode’s seemingly tedious details come tragically together like a slow motion car crash. Rick, Shane, and Daryl are finally ready to punch Randall’s ticket… just as Carl wanders in to watch (Dammit, Lori!). It pauses Rick and, surprise surprise, he doesn’t go through with it.
Meanwhile, despondent and wandering on his lonesome, Dale comes across one of Hershel’s missing cattle gutted open and still mooing (raise your hand if you jumped off your couch and yelled “Zombie Cow!?”)… only to get ambushed by the same walker Carl left alive in the woods (DAMMIT, LORI!). The company comes to the rescue… but it’s too late, Dale is mortally wounded and once again they have to put down one of their own. It’s as heart wrenching as a show about zombies can get, the entire company in tears as they watch kindly old grandpa of their troupe die a horrible death, the man they realize was right.
Dammit, Walking Dead! I thought I didn’t care anymore! Even Shane was upset. EVEN SHANE! -sobs into pillow-
Word on the street was that this week, AMC accidentally spoiled a major season 2 death (WAIT, only click this link if you’re comfortable with the spoiler). For those of us (me included) who have avoided it, the question now remains… was Dale that death? Or is there another? I have my theories, but we’ll see.
I’m going to leave it at that folks… the emotions, the tears, they’re still flowing. A lot to process over the next week. BUT HEAR ME, RICK: your endless flip-floppery does not go unnoticed! Shane’s campaign for leadership now, more than ever, has traction. Time to step it up. You only got two more hours of bloody, roaring, imperfect television to do so.
See you in seven!
Rob is an accomplished screenwriter and has worked in the industry for several years. He blogs about film at his website, “Heroes are Boring”.