The Walking Dead episode, “Judge, Jury, Executioner,” is regarded as a life-altering moment in time for the series.
This is when The Walking Dead said that not only is everyone’s life at risk, but that the sanctity of what each person holds dear hangs upon a single silk thread. What we have is the fight between Rick and Shane from the previous episode spread throughout the group.
Let’s get the little niggling things out of the way first. Carl is a stupid kid, not only for telling Carol she’s an idiot for believing in heaven but also because he’s just a kid. While not a fan of the character on the show, it’s hard to blame him for what happened at the end of the episode.
How in the world can Rick and Lori, or anyone at the camp, let a child wander about in the woods? He’s going to do really stupid things, get in the way, and be a nuisance. Kids do that because they’re curious and unaware of the true meaning of their actions. So, let’s blame the adults for this one.
“I ain’t like that. You gotta believe me.” – Randall
The Walking Dead episode starts with Daryl torturing Randall in the barn, and we learn a little about the group the kid was with.
They rape teenage girls, kill people, and have automatic weapons. Clearly, this is not a stable and reasonable group, but Randall claims he was there just to survive, to be with other people. One can get behind that idea, but it’s also curious as to why he would try to argue his way out of a death sentence by saying he’s not like the people in his group. That just seems silly.
Of course, it doesn’t matter what Randall says for himself. The decision to take his life has nothing to do with how good of a man he may be but rests solely in the hands of people who have to weigh their own survival against their humanity.
It’s a topic repeatedly explored in this season of The Walking Dead, and it now grows into an earthshaking problem- one it appears Daryl has seen coming for some time.
“The world we knew is gone, but keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.” – Dale
And that’s where Dale comes in, once again being the voice of reason. He wants there to be a discussion, for those who choose to let Randall be killed to understand that what they don’t do makes them just as culpable as the man pulling the trigger.
When the group is under threat, what line is left to cross once they murder a kid who committed no crime? To Dale, that’s a world of lawlessness and chaos. This episode brings this notion of what do we do with our humanity when society crumbles to a crescendo.
Amidst the din, as Dale incredulously looks to his friends for a glimmer of sanity, we see a man have his spirit crushed.
”This group is broken.” – Dale
The decision is made and Rick, Shane, and Daryl set out to kill Randall. They make the kid kneel and plead for his life, and then Carl shows up. But Rick is unable to kill a man in front of his child.
So mere moments after they decide to murder, the group is now going to hold Randall as a prisoner. And now to tell Dale the good news…
Now here’s where The Walking Dead proves that a properly used zombie is far more interesting than zombie gore simply for funsies. This episode had an utter lack of walker action, but the final moments showcase why this show can tell this story like no other.
As Dale slowly approaches an injured cow, only to discover the creature eviscerated, it’s a chilling moment because we know what this means. A walker is nearby.
Then the attack happens and we watch as everyone is running to find Dale. Instead of Dale doing something disgusting and brutal to survive, or maybe Shane saving the day with a boot through the walker’s chest, Dale is the one who gets mutilated.
The zombie rips open his chest and is about to chow down when Daryl arrives, but it’s too late. There’s no saving Dale.
So Daryl takes Rick’s gun, points it at the man’s head, tells Dale he’s sorry, and shoots. But there’s a brief moment where it looks like Dale leans toward the gun, almost giving his consent to take a life. His life.
In the history of The Walking Dead, this episode stands out for ending one of the show’s most beloved characters and proving once again that no one is safe.