“The Walking Dead” Review-Season 2 Episode 11 “Judge, Jury, Executioner”

Written by Chris Beaulieu March 07, 2012

“Judge, Jury, Executioner” seemed to have all of the elements of an allegory of modern national security. As Daryl finds out that there are 30 men in Randall’s company, through torture, the group decides that Randall should be killed for everyone’s safety. The fear that the group has over these 30 men, who have never been considered up until this point, bears some resemblance to the innate fear that the West now has of the Middle East. Even the story of rape that Randall tells Daryl gives the group justification for demonizing of their new enemies. Randall’s detention undoubtedly has parallels to how the United States handles its prisoners of war, and perhaps even the NDAA, the recent bill that allows the indefinite detention of American citizens.

Carl has a primary role in this episode that resembles the public and infantry who are confused by the war that is being fought. Carl begins by trying to talk to Randall, who tries to paint a portrait of innocence for Carl. Carly is abruptly stopped by Carl and Andrea, who shatter any hope of humanization for Randall; all that needs to be known about the enemy is that he is bad. This results in Carl lashing out at Carol for her belief in heaven, and Rick chastising Carl for his behavior. Carl’s disillusionment with authority leads him to arm himself and tease a walker he finds in the wilderness. At this level, Carl becomes a soldier who has no idea what the enemy is, but only seeks to destroy it.

As Carl receives paternal advice from both Rick and Shane, it is interesting that Shane’s advice becomes more pertinent as the walker that Carl let loose was the one to kill Dale. Carl did not listen to Shane’s advice of not letting his guard down, and (judging from his reaction when he saw the walker that killed Dale) he severely regrets it. Carl may show a show a greater devotion to Shane in future episodes, as he has now seen the damage that occurs when he doesn’t listen to Shane.

The final scene in which Dale tries to convince everyone that Randall shouldn’t be killed plays out like a bad version of 12 Angry Men. Dale repeats the same idea that has been said since the series started: we may live in a savage world, but we can still be civilized. The show has been pretty repetitive on this point, and lately, hasn’t been saying much beyond it. The idea of a shift to savagery is implied in every post-apocalyptic show or movie, and should not be relied on as heavily as it is in The Walking Dead. The only point that Dale makes that comes anywhere near relevancy is when he asks, “how are we any better than those people that we’re so afraid of”, and even that borders on the cliché of “whose really the bad guy”. If the show wants to present anything unique for itself in the already oversaturated zombie genre, it needs to begin asking more profound questions.

Having Dale mercy kill the suffering cow would have been a much more subtle way to end the “Judge, Jury, and Executioner” while keeping its themes in mind, but having him mercy killed works on a different, ironic level. What is most significant about the ending is that we see what has now become the iconic “Rick’s gun barrel shot”, only for Daryl to step in and finish the job for him. In this way, Rick is not the only judge, jury, and executioner, and it is a burden that all of the group members share.

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About Chris Beaulieu

When Chris isn't studying film, reading English literature, fencing, or watching re-runs of Frasier on TV, it's because he's writing awesome reviews for We Eat Films.

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