Where do you draw the line between saving your humanity and saving your life? How far will you go to protect what you have? These tough questions are addressed in this week’s episode, Judge, Jury, Executioner (JJE). The Walking Dead doesn’t shy away from these hard topics, instead diving in head first to give us a quiet but moving episode.
Last week, we were given a very focused episode revolving around a limited group of characters, and it was a huge success. This week, the scope is broadened again by including all the characters once more. However, JJE managed to stay pinpointed on three main perspectives that all revolved around a single issue: What to do with Randall?
Our first point of view is one that we’re pretty familiar with by this point, and that is Shane’s. He has won over Rick with his “survival of the fittest” perspective that ends in Randall’s immediate termination. Here again we see that Shane doesn’t necessarily have a wrong idea of how to handle the situation, just a terrible way of getting it across to the characters and the audience. There may be some people out there reading this who think I’m crazy, but think about it. Would you risk your life, your family, and what meager provisions you may have on the hopes that this poorly treated kid won’t want to get his revenge on you?
Our second point of view comes from the bearded fellow that sits on everyone’s right shoulder, the voice of kindness and reason, Dale. He has been one of the smartest and most level-headed characters on this show so far. Some may have thought he was crazy to keep Andrea’s gun from her, but his intentions were in the right place, and he probably saved her life that she has finally decided is worth living. Dale is completely against killing Randall. He thinks that if they kill Randall, their humanity would be lost and they would be changed forever. You might think he’s wrong, and that their survival is more important…that the good for many outweighs the good for one. Here again, we are asked to think about that. If they decide to kill that boy, they are no different than a pack of marauders, except they let their victims come to them instead of seeking them out. Would they decide to kill every stray person they come across, deciding that any outsider is a risk to their group?
Our third point of view is far less vocal. Carl lets us into his world a little, and what we see isn’t good. While he doesn’t say anything about his take on Randall’s situation until the end of the episode, we are shown how this hard new life is effecting his young mind. He’s starting to talk back to the adults, taking things that aren’t his, and wandering around the woods like it’s his very own amoral playground. Shane has become hard and cold after 30 some-odd years of life, where as Carl is getting that mentality at a very young age. Carl’s attitude gives a little more weight to Dale’s plea to save Randall’s life. How can the future of not only the survivors, but humanity as a whole, continue on if the children aren’t taught compassion? If they don’t see it in their daily lives? It makes for a bleak, hopeless world.
Dale is given until sundown to try to convince the other survivors that he is right. He goes through them all one-by-one, trying to change their minds. This gives us a chance to see the varying relationships that Dale has with members of the group, and how those relationships vary from the ones they have with Rick and Shane. Most of these conversations were simple, but incredibly interesting. The exceptions were with T-Dog and Carol. T-Dog was not even offered a scene with Dale, and Carol was annoyingly passive. These two characters haven’t progressed in the least since the beginning of last season. Carol has been condemned by the audience by being too passive during the search for her daughter, and now she angrily wants to be left out of any decision making. At least Dale calls her out, telling her that saying nothing is just as bad as killing Randall herself. T-Dog has been a pretty forgettable character, both by the audience and the writers. When will he start getting screen time? Then again, do we really care at this point if he does? If he does, is it too much to ask that he gets a real name, like a person? They can’t expect us to call him T-Dog until he’s killed off.
Every actor did a great job. They have all been successfully convincing all season. The best scene in JJE was by far the final meeting to discuss Randall’s fate. We were practically holding our breath, unsure ourselves of what the right choice should be. While you may agree that the kid has to go, you secretly were hoping they would let him live — or vice versa. The make-up was still very realistic, and in a surprise twist, ace make-up artist Greg Nicotero took on the added responsibility of directing this episode. Nicely done, sir.
Well, fanboys and girls, let’s talk about the part that broke all of our hearts: saying goodbye to Dale. I was shocked when it happened, though in the back of my head I was unconsciously recognizing the signs. I understand that The Walking Dead TV series is an AMC Original Series that is based on The Walking Dead graphic novels. I get that, I really do. I also get that Robert Kirkman’s vision for TWD was that it should be as realistic as possible… (continued below)
(from above)…and sometimes you have to crack a few eggs. He warned us comic-nerds not to get too attached to any one character, because no one is safe in his zombocalypse world. But Dale? Really? Did Jeffrey DeMunn have some pressing engagement that couldn’t be avoided for another season or two? I doubt it. Why not get rid of T-Dog? I suppose the writers will use Dale’s death as a catalyst for other characters to grow, but it still feels a little premature for his character to leave now over others. Dale has been Shane’s moral counterweight thus far within the group, so it seems someone else will have to step up to the plate, ’cause Crazy is about to loose his sh*t. Sigh.
Regardless, THIS is how you make a “slow” episode. We didn’t need a lot of action in JJE because it was focused around a single topic (instead of multiple minutely progressing plots) and the dialog was genuinely intriguing. I couldn’t believe that the hour had passed so quickly. Maybe loosing Frank Darabont wasn’t such a bad thing? The previous “slow” episodes in season two were occasionally hard to sit through. Hopefully, the writers and producers have figured out that this new formula they are trying is really working. Let’s all get prepared for what the last two episodes have in store for us. Don’t forget to check out the sneak peek of next week’s episode, Better Angels.
I give Judge, Jury, Executioner 4.5 “zombie cows” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite