The Walking Dead: 'Judge, Jury, and Executioner' Recap and Review
Damn it, Walking Dead. After last week’s stellar episode, I was so sure that you were finally figuring stuff out, and becoming the show that we all knew you could be. Then you had to go and give us ‘Judge, Jury, and Executioner,’ which wasn’t bad exactly, but was just completely underwhelming.
Let’s talk about that ending first, shall we? (Therefore, SPOILERS if you haven’t seen it yet, although if that’s the case, I’m not sure why you’re reading a recap/review) Anyone who’s read the comic knows that Dale is around for a long time, is in fact one of the main characters, and as such, his death was as much, if not more of a shock to me as it was to everyone else. I respect the show’s willingness to deviate from the source material, and killing off Dale is certainly an unexpected, exciting move. However, Dale’s been so annoying this season that I can’t help but feel like everyone just thought ‘finally!’ when he (finally) bit it. I also had a couple of issues with the death itself, namely the fact that the zombie ripped his guts open with his hands, rather than biting him. If it had been a bite, the decision whether or not to kill him would have been much more intense, as well as resonating more with the previous events of the episode.
I did like that the Carl subplot was what ultimately led to his demise, hammering home the fact that every action has a consequence. Although, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what Dale was doing out in that field in the middle of the night, but whatever.
There were a lot of things about this episode that I loved in concept, and then didn’t really dig the execution of. For instance, I loved that it was another episodic hour, focused around one specific dilemma, (whether or not to kill Randall) but unfortunately it still just led to characters standing around talking to each other. I liked that Dale had one day to convince everyone of his point of view, but we saw a few brief scenes, and then got that big meeting scene that just felt kind of repetitive. I would have preferred to see him talk to everyone at the camp in more depth, and then gotten a simple vote at the end.
I also loved that this episode was all about morality, and the decaying of morals in a zombie infested world, but it all rang a bit false to me. Randall doesn’t seem like a threat to the viewer, but everyone jumps on board the idea of killing him really quickly. Also, after Rick’s whole thing about not leaving him behind, I’m not sure how much I buy Rick deciding to kill him. It was all muddled even more by that weird opening scene where Daryl tortured Randall, and nobody, including Dale, really seemed to mind. It also went a long way towards making me like Daryl less, which isn’t something the show needs, considering he’s one of the only likable characters.
In case you can’t tell, I agree with pretty much everything Dale was saying in this episode, and I love the idea of the characters having to have these discussions and make these decisions. The problem is something that I’ve mentioned before, which is the fact that the characters tend to get boiled down solely to whatever it is that they’re dealing with that week. If the characters had been developed better over time, allowing us to witness their viewpoints, and get to know who they are, an episode like this would have been thrilling, because everyone would have been bringing their own personal baggage into the Randall decision. As it was, everyone’s choice to kill him just felt kind of... arbitrary.
This brings us to the Carl storyline. Showing us how Carl is being affected by this new, frightening world is a great idea, if it were something that we’d been watching build over time. Instead they tried to cram it into a subplot in one episode. I did like that it eventually ended up being the Carl situation that led to Rick sparing Randall’s life, though. That was a good moment, although I felt like it could have been played a little better. I don't know, maybe I’m nitpicking.
The hints of a Shane mutiny were pretty promising, although the promo for next week makes it look like the big conflict is the escape of Randall. I really hope Randall doesn’t turn out to be a shitty dude, forcing our heroes to kill him next week. That’s so much less interesting than if he has to integrate into the group after everything they’ve put him through. It’s amazing to me that our characters can’t see how they’re the bad guys from Randall's point of view. I would say that’s the point of this episode, but I’m not entirely sure if the show wants us to feel that way.
I know, I know, I’m talking a lot of sh*t on this episode, but that’s because I’m frustrated by how much better it could have been. Building an episode around a moral question is a great idea in a show like this, but they forgot to make it exciting. And the big death at the end is hard for me to really judge as part of the episode, having read the comics. I think it made sense thematically, although it really bothered me that no one took the time to tell Dale that they didn’t end up killing Randall before they shot him. That’s kind of a dick move.
Also, T-dog had one line, and Dale interrupted it, which is hilarious.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They need to get off of the farm. The show has gotten stagnant this season, and fallen into this strange rural slump, which is making me miss the excitement of Atlanta. Hopefully in the next two episodes they’ll get moving, and set the stage for a less stagnant season 3. Load back in that RV and get moving, guys. Although, um, you may need to find a new driver.