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Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.11, “Judge, Jury, Executioner”

“The world we know is gone, but keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.”

 I’m going to post one of my infrequent SPOILER warnings for this episode. If you haven’t watched this yet, skip the recap.


For all my complaints about sloppy writing and weak character development, The Walking Dead still manages to surprise me. I held out hope that the survivors might find Sophia alive, that they would see through Shane’s fuckery, that they could do something with the glimmer of interesting buried in Andrea’s character. I certainly didn’t see Dale’s ignominious end coming.

I know that I was one of the few Dale fans in the crowd here, so I’m likely the only one still upset about his death. He was a meddling busy body with a strong sense of moral conviction and a wealth of empathy – things that are in short supply in the survivors’ lives. He meddled because he loved them. He meddled because he needed to protect them. He interfered to keep them from losing sight of the bigger picture. Or the smaller, more precious picture, depending on how important you think humanity is after the apocalypse. Dale is unlikable if you value brute survival over the quality of that survival. He, not Rick, is the polar opposite of Shane’s world view.

Most of the episode is concerned with the fate of Randall, the kid Rick pulled from the fence. After the events of “18 Miles Out,” someone has sent (I’ll guess Shane got to Rick on this point) to interrogate Randall about his camp, and after hearing about their guns and their raping habit, Rick decides the best course of action is to “humanely” kill the kid. Dale is the only one to voice objection.

A lot of time is spent on Dale’s quest to find someone, anyone, who will stand with him and ask to spare the boy’s life. Andrea, the former civil rights attorney, seems the most likely candidate, but she’s been too far traumatized by her sister’s death to see the worth in living any longer. Herschel’s heart and his convictions are newly broken, a fresh wound. Daryl – in one of the big surprises of the evening – refuses to throw in with the survivors anymore, because he knows what Dale hopes isn’t true.

Because he [Shane] killed Otis?… He tells some story about how Otis covered him, saved his ass. He showed up with the dead guy’s gun. Rick ain’t stupid. If he didn’t figure that out, it’s because he didn’t wanna. It’s like I said. Group’s broken.

He even tries to convince Shane, to reach out to that one bit of Shane’s soul left – the part that needed absolution for the incident at the barn. “Killing him doesn’t change that. But it changes us.”

There’s desperation in his voice, in his eyes. Dale wants to save them, so desperately.

The show darts back in forth from the one character with an abundance of empathy, to one who seems to be losing his capacity for it. Carl’s walkabout on the farm, in the dead time while Dale is pleading his case, is both infuriating and illuminating. He sneaks in to see Randall against Shane’s orders and stares at the older boy with dead, cold eyes. He yells at Carol that there is no heaven for her Sophia. He sneaks into Daryl’s camp and steals his gun – which isn’t just theft, but an actual threat to Daryl’s life – and runs off with it.

Taken individually, these are just bratty little kid behaviors. Carl might be excused for them, given that the last time he saw anything beautiful and wondrous, he got shot in the chest. Living like this has got to mess a kid up. But the thing that really got to me was Carl sitting down on the bank in the river and chucking rocks at a walker trapped in the silt. There was something just so cold about it, like throwing rocks at a dog that’s tied up. Walkers are dangerous, but they used to be us. He even taunts it, moving closer and jumping out of arm’s reach, until the walker frees himself and Carl runs away, telling no one he saw a zombie or that he lost a gun.

While Dale begs to save Randall’s life, Carl encourages his father to kill him. It’s not Dale’s argument that ultimately spares Randall. It’s the emptiness in his son.

But don’t you see if we do this, the people that we were, the world that we knew is dead. And this new world. It’s ugly. It’s harsh. It’s survival of the fittest. And that’s a world that I don’t want to live in. I don’t believe that any of you do. I can’t. Please. Let’s just do what’s right. Isn’t there anybody else who is going to stand with me?

The characters in the show who were being pulled towards Shane’s point of view – Andrea and Rick – are the ones who ultimately push back. Rick spares the boy’s life, Andrea argues for it. And Dale doesn’t get to enjoy his victory.

The zombie that Carl taunted finds Dale out in the field. No one is fast enough to get to him before the walker rips Dale’s guts free, so the camp is all there to watch another living person, someone they loved, someone they lived with and knew, suffer in tremendous agony. And they were all so quick to talk about pulling the trigger just minutes before, but they stare at Dale screaming while Andrea pleads for someone to put him out of his misery.

Rick pulls his gun, so much slower than he did for Sophia, like it’s heavier than it used to be, when Daryl puts a hand on his and takes the responsibility. He’s the decent man Dale claimed he was, shouldering a burden to keep Rick from having to take another thing on.  And Dale forgives him, forgives all of them, lifting his head to press it to the barrel of the gun.

It’s no coincidence that the youngest and oldest members of the group have had to be killed. Their past and their future – they didn’t just die. They were put down. Mercy killed. This is a new world now. It’s harsh. And cold. And frightening. Now they have to find their own way.

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

16 replies on “Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.11, “Judge, Jury, Executioner””

I think this does a GREAT job to sum things up; but again I do have to say that I am just so outraged at how T-Dog’s “character” is treated.

I even have to put the quotes up because he is NOT a fleshed out character yet! He’s been around with the Group since the first season now, and we do not even know his real name. Outside of Glenn he is the only person of colour and his voice and opinion just do not matter; even tonight when he got his standard 1 line or less; Dale’s character actually interrupted him and never came back. He is SILENT.

If we take that the oldest and youngest of the group were representatives of society at large, what does that say about the “non-Whites” still around? Or their utter lack of a voice or even a real character.

I need to get caught up on the show, but I’m not concerned about “spoilers” – quite frankly, the first 2/3s of season 1 were enough to “spoil” the graphic novels for me. I mean, I’ll still watch, when I can get my hands on it – it’s cheesy fun. Zombies always are.

But between the way Andrea comes off on the show (I dread the thought of what they’re going to do with Michonne), and the way its sounds like they’re portraying Carl? Yuck. Maybe it’s a “parent of a young child” response, but to just portray the kid as being fucked up? As @Slaybelle said, using him as a lazy plot device? Please. Having a kid during a zombie apocalypse, the stress of a parent worrying about what that will do to them and trying to protect them from it? That’s some heavy shit. Taunting a walker, rather than just killing it, is… fucked up, yeah – but are they going for some “Children of the Corn” evil kid vibe here or something? Because story-wise, it just seems a bit premature to get into Carl experiencing this level of… dissociation.  Poor Carl.

Dale started the series as my favorite character. I LOVED Dale. They managed to make him so shrill and unlikeable this season, though, that I’m not nearly as upset at his death as I would have been.

AND WHY ARE ALL OF THESE PEOPLE, INCLUDING CHILDREN, WANDERING AROUND ALONE? How much fucking stupidity can one group of people hold?

Carl’s turning into quite the little sociopath. This should be an interesting thing to watch.

Shrill and unlikable seems to have been the go-to emotional state for the writers this season — Andrea in the first half, Lori, Dale, Carol at points, the blonde daughter.

I mention this downthread, but I sort of want to assume the stupidity is tied to their false sense of security on the farm. Except they spent all episode talking about killing this kid because they weren’t safe. One of the real problems with the show is their own lack of internal consistency. Why wasn’t the zombie still feeding on the cow? The show has established that zombies will feed on their prey to the exclusion of all else until the prey is dead — and the cow was moving and moaning. Why didn’t Dale see a zombie in a wide open field? Why wasn’t the zombie moaning at Dale like he moaned at Carl? Why didn’t Shane and Rick get infected last week when they had open wounds on their bodies and were killing walkers at close range?

I was trying to think why Dale annoyed me sometimes. I finally realized after watching this episode that Dale didn’t annoy me, it was everyone else completely ignoring him that was pissing me off. I suddenly felt his frustration, like screaming into the wind, and felt so bad when he died. Andrea was starting to come around, so maybe she’ll pick up the mantle and fight the good fight, but that might be asking too much of her.

I hope it’s a turning  point for both characters, but prior to putting Dale out of his misery, Daryl had tortured Randall and was preparing to execute him before he was distracted by the commotion in the field. He had gone pretty far down that enforcer road in a short period of time. I don’t know if Dale’s kind words are enough to bring him back.

As for Andrea, well, really, anything could happen with that character and I wouldn’t be surprised. She must have been the worst civil rights lawyer in the world, BTW.

You know, I never disliked Dale. I mean, he got on my nerves sometime with his “holier-than-thou” stuff, but generally speaking I agreed with him. I especially agreed with him when it came to Randall. His death is a loss to the show.

I feel so badly for Carl. Everyone that I’ve talked to about this has dismissed him as a “dumbass” or some such. But he’s a kid and this world has left him fucked in the head. The environment they’re in is not conducive to raising a child. I want to hug him and take him to a psychiatrist.

It surprises me sometimes how cavalier they are with Carl. It’s almost like the adults forget he’s even there until he shows up where he shouldn’t be, like in the barn with Randall, both times. How long was he allowed to roam the woods by himself, when they know for a fact there are walkers out there? With as many close calls as he has had, and they’ve had with others, you’d think there would be a tighter leash on him.

The generous part of me wants to think it’s a deliberate move on the part of the writers, that showing Carl wandering off alone is supposed to show how their society and parenting is breaking down under stress. But I think it was just an expedient way of telling the story. Like the noisy walker sneaking up on Dale out of nowhere.

I don’t think he’s a dumbass, but he’s an obviously damaged child. And the survivors can barely stay alive on an oasis of relative safety, much less deal with the emotional trauma of the zombie apocalypse. If this is the future the suvivors have to look forward to without Dale’s guidance, things don’t look so hot for the human race.

Carl has definitely been through enough to make any child become warped. This has also been exacerbated by the fact that like his mom, he seems to buy into the idea that he is part of the First Family and can do what he wants. He backtalks/sasses Carol and Shane, blatantly disregards his mom, and steals a gun from Daryl. I just don’t think that a Southern child brought up by Rick and Lori would be able to do that so easily if he didn’t  somehow feel some entitlement. When you add this to the fact that he is now the only child in the world, so to speak, you have the makings of sociopath.

I loved Dale, and I sobbed body-racking sobs at the end of this episode. (It’s making me tear up now.) Dale was the moral compass of the group and said something during the episode about how just because their world had changed didn’t mean their humanity had to. The show will be different without him, even for those who just thought him a lookout atop the RV. He was the patriarch of that motley crew, just as Hershel is of the farm family. I’m going to go cry now. R.I.P. Dale.

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