This review contains spoilers.
2.11 Judge, Jury, Executioner
A cold opening drops us right into the prison barn, where the lovely and talented Daryl is beating the ever-living undead crap out of Randall (Michael Zegen). Presumably, this is to uncover some information about Randall’s group of 30 rapey friends, but it’s also because Daryl’s the show’s token survivalist redneck, and we know they’re all experts at 24-style shakedown torture. As it turns out, Randall’s group is larger and better-armed than Rick’s, so perhaps letting Randall go is bad. Or maybe it’s the last chance the group has to prove that they’re not as terrible as Randall’s group seems to be.
Meanwhile, Carl wanders around the farm in a daze, going from scene to scene, generally being inappropriate, getting in everyone’s way, and being the most obnoxious little proto-sociopath left on the planet. Which, stunningly, makes Carl the most realistic only child on television.
Dale is the group conscience. He always has been, but now he’s really working overtime to get people to look at things his way. After all, Dale just doesn’t want to stay alive, he wants to stay alive and civilized (making him the anti-Shane in more ways that one). Dale knows that everyone’s afraid, but he’s not going to let civilization die without a fight, or at least a spirited debate in Hershel’s living room in the spirit of 12 Angry Men mashed up with Grumpy Old Men.
That’s right, The Walking Argument is back! Shockingly, it’s better than ever, in the sense that Dale’s position and reason for that position makes sense. This may be the first time in a long time that the show’s ethical debates were actually well done.
A lot of this credit has to go to Angela Kang, who was one of the staff writers on the brilliant departed Terriers. The scenes of characters talking with one another were mostly good this week, which is a huge step forward for the show. It’s just a shame that first-time director Greg Nicotero only got one really big gore scene to handle, considering his special effects prowess as the show’s FX guy. To his credit, it’s brilliantly handled.
I actually like Michael Zegen, which means that Randall won’t live very long in this environment. That’s how the show works; I’m stunned Norman Reedus made it this long on the show, since he’s one of the better actors on the program at the moment.
This episode was strange in the sense that Carol (Melissa McBride) actually gets to do some acting other than being sad or morose. Hershel and Glenn have a nice father/boyfriend conversation in which Hershel reveals that he actually a) knows Glenn’s name and n) seems to like the kid. It was very touching, and it was nice to see that Hershel’s seeming racism when Glenn first showed up was simply irascibility.
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale also got to do a lot this week, as he’s the group’s meddling old conscience and is trying like crazy to save some possibly dangerous stray. His scene with the group where they debate the fate of Randall is some of his best acting on the series, and he summons an impressive amount of passion and conviction for his lines. The sheer amount of energy he puts into that particular scene, with the blinking back tears, really elevated the material and made something that shouldn’t really matter to the home viewer into something meaningful. This is probably his centerpiece moment, and it’s fitting all things considered.
This is the kind of debating the show needs to be having. If you’re going to debate morals, have a legitimate stake in the issue. Have it mean something, not just have it be esoteric. If there’s no a reason to be having a debate, there’s no reason to have it. Whether or not Beth lives or kills herself doesn’t really matter, because it’s not going to affect the group in any real way (aside from giving Lori more housework). Deciding on whether or not to kill an ostensibly innocent man after putting in all the work to save his life and patch him up is pretty heavy for a television show.
It’s also exactly the kind of argument that would break out in a zombie scenario. After all, this week’s show proves that no one is safe – even on Hershel’s farm – while reinforcing that actions, however minor, have consequences (ahem, Carl). With Randall, if you kill him, the group may still find you and might be more angry because you killed a friend. If you keep him alive, he may become a Daryl-style asset or he may betray you. If the other group finds you, he may be an asset in the since that he could testify to your favor.
There are a lot of roads that this storyline may travel down, and with only a couple of episodes left this season, it may have repercussions for the show’s future.
Read our review of the last episode, here.
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