I Just… I Don’t Even Know What to Say…
Alistair’s Flummoxed by “Judge, Jury, Executioner” Beware: SPOILERS Abound!
Okay – so… I don’t even know where to begin… well first, let me just give you all fair warning and offer up a Spoiler Alert right off the bat because there was just too much going on in this episode and the what– 4 or 5 people that read this column (?) have probably already seen it and we have way too much to discuss.
Before people get their panties twisted and think that I’m going to sit here and criticize the episode for all the dialogue we sat through – give me a minute – because actually, the dialogue this week was pretty spot on and I enjoyed it, much like last week. That’s not what has me utterly perplexed about last night – let’s break this down before I start confusing all of you even more – forgive my scatter-brainness, it can’t be helped sometimes. The problem I’m having with this show isn’t with the dialogue – it’s the decisions the writers are having their characters make which seem to go against everything about the established story-arc but serve as a back drop to discuss more serious subjects. Basically, in order to bring up heavy stuff like life vs. death and survival instincts vs. human decency in this post-apocalyptic culture – these characters are making some really stupid choices that no one who was actually going through this would do.
Let’s start from the beginning of when the problems from Season 2.2 start and work forward to last night’s crazy ending –
Inherent Plot Problem No. 1 – Randall:
Rick and Hershel saved this guy after he was left behind by his crew when they all got into a gunfight at the town bar and chose to bring him back to the farm to fix him up. (Only to then decide to kill him later, which begs the question, why did they save this guy in the first place?) When Rick and Shane tried to drop Randall off somewhere a week later so he can be about his merry way, Randall admitted that he knows Maggie and Hershel… which means he knows where the farm is.
This is all news to Rick and Shane – but it makes me wonder this: if Randall went to high school with Maggie – why didn’t Maggie recognize Randall in the first place? When he first arrived at the farm he was blindfolded, and I’m going to guess that behind a blindfold, all farms probably look the same. At some point his blindfold had to have been removed, and Maggie and Hershel came into his line of sight. Hershel I can understand not realizing who this kid was, but this is a small town – the high school couldn’t have been that big – as soon as Maggie saw Randall (whether it was when he arrived or later), she should’ve recognized him and told the others that he knows who she is and where she lives. Thereby, Rick and Shane wouldn’t ever have been put into danger by trying to drop Randall off – they would’ve kept him at the farm and debated there what to do with him – and the awesome action we saw last week would’ve never happened, but as great as last week’s episode was, plot-wise it just made zero sense.
Inherent Plot Problem No. 2 – The Grimes:
When this show first began, one of the major themes was Lori’s insistence that Carl keep his innocence. This was somewhat challenged when Rick took Carl out to look for Sophia and Carl was accidentally shot in the chest by Otis. This lead our group to Hershel’s farm, and it made Lori even more protective of Carl than she was before. Not only has Lori been steadfast in her mission to keep some semblance of a normal childhood intact for her son, she’s also been watching him like a hawk. So why the hell was NO ONE watching Carl in last night’s episode?
I do want to toss in that I kind of like the way they’re going with his character – is he turning dark and cold? Is he becoming a sociopath? It’s interesting to watch this adolescent boy becoming a man in a zombie-ridden world – but all of that aside – why the fuck was this kid left to wander through the woods ALONE – when 1. Lori’s never let that happen before, 2. Both Shane and Rick treat this kid like they’re his dad and watch him constantly but inexplicably tossed him off last night, 3. After the whole mess with Sophia it should be obvious to all of the adults in this show that the kids can’t be left alone or allowed to run around in the woods without supervision – really the kids shouldn’t be running around in the woods period, given that Carl was being supervised by his dad when he was shot and 4. Both Lori and Rick were standing there together on the porch discussing Randall’s fate and not once did either one of them look at each other and wonder why the other wasn’t with their son, something I’d expect any parent – zombie-ridden world or not – would want to know. “Hey babe, are you standing here hanging out on the porch contemplating life? Well where the hell’s our kid, then?”
Instead, for whatever reason – Carl was left to himself for pretty much the whole episode, with the exception of being yelled at by any adult that he came across which I’m sure didn’t help matters and only fueled his budding pre-teen angst. Not only did this mean that he snuck into the shed they’re keeping Randall in and may or may not have come close to being hurt (judgment on Randall’s character is still a gray area, given that he admitted to Daryl that the group he ran with had a penchant for raping women but swore he had nothing to do with that and has maintained this whole time that he only has good intentions), but it also meant that he was able to go into the woods unattended, find a Walker stuck in the mud, tease him mercilessly until the Walker was able to get itself free and go after him – and by freeing said Walker Carl directly contributed to the shocking death of Dale at the end of the episode.
These two major problems are what made me seriously dislike last night’s episode. But despite all of this inconsistency – the dialogue really was fantastic. These are the kind of conversations that fans have been waiting for. This examination into what would happen to our sense of morality, decency, and most importantly, justice – when everything as we know it is gone. Dale’s attempts to save Randall’s life – to be the one voice of reason in the midst of a group out for blood – was stellar television. I hope I’m not the only person who watched and thought a little of Twelve Angry Men, because that’s what I felt like I was seeing – a new twist on that argument – instead of getting past whatever stereotypes we may have about others in the name of justice, the question was do we toss away our moral code in the name of survival?
The characters that have gotten very little screen time the past 2 weeks finally showed up: Dale figured prominently as he spent the whole time trying to convince the others to spare Randall’s life, Carol made her usual teary-eyed / angry appearance and I have to admit I’m kind of sitting here sometimes wishing she’d just get bitten already because it’s getting old, T-Dog barely had any lines, and hasn’t for awhile, why is he even here? And Glenn finally showed up to receive Hershel’s blessing to date his daughter Maggie, when it’s already kind of a moot point since Glenn’s acting like he’s in some kind of wide-open dating field and “settling” for Maggie isn’t wise.
The real “side-character” standout continues to be Andrea – who I couldn’t stand last season or the first part of season two, but lately has grown on me. She’s sort of coming of age in front of us – turning away from the hot-headed character of before and shaping into one of the more reasonable members of the group. She’s actually become a good middle-woman to Shane and Rick – she can see the positives and the logic of both men, and is able to reasonably talk to Shane when others can’t. I like where she’s headed, and I liked that last night she was able to put aside her original promise to stand by Shane and see Dale’s logic and support him, even when Glenn turned his back on his friend.
As I said, the episode belonged to Dale, and to Carl as well, although confusingly. Dale shone as the lone voice of reason – whether viewers found it annoying or not – he adamantly defended his position that if Randall is to be executed it should be done after some semblance of a trial, or after someone could reasonably talk to him and ascertain if he meant the group harm. What I loved about Dale last night is that he was the embodiment of the last vestiges of their now fading culture. His position that Randall should be treated fairly goes in line with the American justice system that all of our characters believed in before the outbreak began but that they all now challenge in the name of survival. The discussions the characters had last night were to me, talks that anyone would have if put in the same situation. When law is pretty much wiped out and we’re all left to our own devices, is it still important to put people through due process? Or do we have a duty to our own loved ones to eliminate any and all supposed threats, whether justified or just suspected?
It was a result of the two main plot problems I mentioned above that sadly lead to Dale being killed. Rick’s stupid decision to save Randall, a complete stranger, and bring him back to the farm – risking the safety of everyone else to the point that he then decided to just kill him anyway made zero sense and caused Dale to become angry and try to convince the others that they were making a mistake in wanting to execute Randall. Rick and Lori’s failure as watchful parents lead to Carl stupidly goading on a hungry Walker that took off after him. Then in a continuation of stupid decisions, he returned to the farm and neglected to tell anyone that there was a Walker tailing him. When Dale angrily walked away from the group, unable to witness the murder of a possibly innocent man, he walked right into Carl’s Walker and was ripped apart.
All of this makes me wonder why this group, as a whole and not just Shane, Andrea and Daryl – hasn’t taken up and questioned Rick’s leading abilities. Being the sheriff doesn’t necessarily qualify you to be the de facto leader of a group of survivors. Not only did Rick make a dumb call in bringing Randall to the farm, he made it worse by not being able to carry out the murder once he’d decided that’s what he was going to do. His neglect of his own son directly lead to another member of the group being attacked, and what’s more – when it came time to put Dale out of his misery, Rick couldn’t pull the trigger and my TV husband Daryl had to do it. Robert Kirkman’s comic series may be centered on Rick Grimes, but the writing of the TV series isn’t doing Rick’s character any favors, and frankly I’m tired of him – I may just have to break from the group myself and join Team Shane.