S2E11: After 10 episodes chock full of philosophical discussions and the physical embodiment of those discussions errupting last week, one would think that The Walking Dead would put a little more money where its mouth is. That’s not to say that I have an issue with Rick’s final decision regarding Randall, the stowaway, during this first episode of March, “Jury, Jury, Executioner.” I don’t even have an issue with the inundation of discussions - the whole point of the episode is to discuss and decide whether or not to kill Randall to keep him from leading his group of blood-thirsty hooligans to the farm. Discussion is paramount. What I did take issue with is the quality of the conversation. We’ve spent all season in dress rehearsal for this insurmountable issue. All that moral ambiguity and constant questioning was preparing our group for this decision: kill or be killed. Yet, when they get here, the quality of the dialogue digresses.
The conversation simply becomes too overt. We find Dale reminding Andrea that she used to be a Civil Rights Lawyer as a sole argument. We’ve got Rick mentioning Lori’s former views on the death penalty. It sounds like a checklist of their former selves instead of getting at the heart of the matter: if they kill this man, their humanity is at stake. The episode finally gets there, but it lopes through this listy place for the first 30 minutes before honing in on emotional core. Of course, once we finally jump over to the mushy side of things, the episode drives that stake in as hard as it possibly can. The final moments are completely, mercilessly vicious.
“The world is gone, but keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.” -Dale
This quote is the nut of the argument that Dale needs to be working with. He’s only got an afternoon to convince the entire group that instead of killing stowaway Randall, they should find another solution. His desperation leads him into logical territory, which is where the dialogue also gets a little dry. Despite his best efforts, he has almost no luck. Even Hershel is in agreement with Rick because he wants to protect his daughters and he made a huge mistake with the walkers.
Daryl continues on his pathy of vicious apathy and accepts the role of torturer to Randall to find out whether the kid’s allegiances lie with Rick’s group or his original group. In the course of the beating, Randall says the group he was with raped a group of teenage girls in front of their father and swears he wasn’t a participant, but the damage is done. Daryl’s message to Rick is that the opposing group is 30 men strong and they’re fully armed. Everyone seems to be settled: the kid has to go for their own safety.
Andrea agrees to watch Randall while Dale tries to convince everyone to change their minds. Shane and Carl show up and he reiterates his concern that Hershel and Rick make the rules but they’re always wrong. His talk with Rick has clearly done nothing - even thought later in this episode Rick tells Lori it’s fixed. Shane all but confirms that his plan is to lock them and wrest control of the group. As he says this, Carl sneaks into the barn and talks to Randall. We’re supposed to be uncertain about Randall, but watching him look at Carl like the child-catcher makes it difficult to sympathize with the prisoner. Shane pulls Carl out and almost shoots Randall right there on the spot. Luckily, Andrea stops him. If Carl saw Shane shoot Randall, it would only speed up his sudden turn towards his apathetic view of death and murder.
“Carl, quit trying to get yourself killed, man.” -Shane
Carl continues his bad streak when he refutes Carol’s claim that Sophia is “in a better place” with “Heaven is just another lie and if you believe it, you’re an idiot.” When Rick confronts him about it, Carl first lies about it. Rick does the fatherly thing, tells Carl to think before he speaks and to make it right with Carol, but the Randall dilemma gives Carl and excuse to question his father’s morality. Is killing Randall doing the right thing? Rick says it can’t compare.
Frustrated with the double standards of his father’s realm, Carl wanders off alone, takes Dale’s gun and happens upon a walker trapped in the mud. He gets closer and closer, just like he tried to do with Randall and experiments with torturing the walker by hitting it repeatedly with stones. The walker eventually breaks one foot free as Carl is attempting to shoot it point blank in the head. It almost grabs him, he loses the gun and manages to escape without being bitten - and without killing the walker. It’s almost Carl’s micro version of what’s about to happen with Randall. First, Daryl tortured him, then Rick will attempt to shoot him.
“This is a young man’s life. It’s worth more than a five-minute conversation.” -Dale
Before they gather for the final vote, Hershel sort of joins the two groups when he tells Glenn that he approves of him dating (if we can even call it that) Maggie and hands him his father’s watch. Could this gesture be enough to get him to let the group sleep in the farm house as the winter rolls in? That’s a question for another episode, but this seems to change Glenn’s mind when it comes time to vote. When Maggie and Hershel stay on the side of putting Randall down, he sticks with them, saying that they have to protect their own over all else. He’s almost become the mouth for the family since Hershel decided he’d keep his mouth shut.
Dale finally gets emotional in his arguement - and I would have preferred skipping all the previous attempts in favor of this truer one. His final argument is the solid one. He makes his appeal: they can’t kill the kid to prevent a crime he might never even commit. If they do it, he says they’re completely relinquishing the world they once knew. All grip on their old reality is gone. He doesn’t want to live in world that’s determined by survival of the fittest, but he’s in that world.
Shane, Rick and Daryl take Randall out in the barn to shoot him. And Rick is about to shoot him when Carl comes in and says,“Do it, Dad.” Hearing his formerly innocent son say that almost kills Rick. In his son’s callousness, he sees that Dale is right. They need to hang onto their humanity, so he has Daryl take Randall back to the shed for the time being. Of course, it’s not a final decision, but an extention of the discussion about how to decide Randall’s fate.
And Dale gets his wish to not live in a “survival of the fittest” setting: he wanders off on his own and sees a cow split open, just as the walker from the forest takes him down and rips his stomach open. The whole group finds him bleeding out and suffering and they have to end his misery. Rick can’t do it, so Daryl takes the gun and does it for him. Just earlier that episode, Daryl was saying the group is broken - they no longer support eachother. Yet, when it comes time to do the hard thing and help Dale, Daryl knows Rick couldn’t live with it, she he takes the shot for him. Perhaps the group isn’t so broken after all. Dale told Daryl earlier in the episode that he’s “good like Rick” and Daryl expresses his dismay at Rick’s inability to see that of course Shane killed Otis to get away when they sought medical supplies at the high school. Daryl is almost a hybrid between Rick and Shane: he’s without Rose-colored glasses, so he can make the tough decisions (like shooting Dale), but he’s not as dark and demented as Shane apparently is. Where this dynamic will lead us is uncertain, but it’s sure as hell going to be messy. Do you think Daryl is ready to be part of the group again? What do you think will happen if they don’t kill Randall? How possible is it that Randall’s group of merciless men will find the farm without or without his help? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.