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.