Spoiler alert: I had to wait an excruciating three days for my Walking Dead fix but perhaps some of you are later still. This week’s review includes several big giveaways if you haven’t yet seen the “Judge, Jury, Executioner” episode.
There’s a Thom Yorke song that shares the same name as the latest Walking Dead episode.
Somehow Yorke’s crooning isn’t melancholy enough to be the anthem for The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 11, “Judge, Jury, Executioner.” This episode serves up the death of a conscience, a Darwinian assertion, and taut suspense that left me feeling sick to my stomach.
Things get off to a quick start, with Daryl going Guantanamo on Randall. The Jack Bauer routine results in some key news: Randall’s people include 30 or so rapists. This is grim stuff, Cormac McCarthy bleak. If any cinematic entity could get away with roasting a baby on a spit, it’s The Walking Dead.
Amid the grim decisions, Dale is still trying to keep it real. “Keeping our humanity: That’s a choice.” We’ve heard this sort of thing before. Just as we’ve heard Shane at the other end of the spectrum: While speaking with Andrea outside the shed, Shane claims the people making the rules are the source of the problems, not him.
Well, the rule-makers are about to be tested.
As Dale sees he will lose the argument over Randall’s fate, he says “Survival of the fittest is not a world I can live in.” Maybe Dale is right to invoke Darwin, but the way things play out, Edward Norton Lorenz, the coiner of “the butterfly effect,” would have been more accurate. The HuffPo found this chain of events clunky; I found them philosophically consistent, because they are in keeping with the pervasive absurdity that drives the fate of these characters: Young Carl finds a gun. The gun gives Carl a false sense of security when he finds a walker in the woods, sunk up to its knees in mud. Carl teases the walker, and the teasing gives the walker the motivation to escape muddy captivity. That walker turns out to be quite the intestine fiend, as Dale discovers the hard way.
This is how Dale is undone: By an unforeseen sequence of events. And bravo for a plot twist that so defies convention. There’s a principle called Chekhov’s gun that, to quote the Russian, goes something like this:
“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”
It’s one of the oldest screenwriting cliches in the book. But not so fast: The gun that Carl finds never goes off, a fact that changes the course of the show.
In the end, Dale cannot live in a survival-of-the-fittest world. He simply doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude (or the steal-plated stomach) that are necessary. Not when there is a walker loose that can tear a hole in your stomach with its hands.
I think we now have a new contender for the title of worst way you could possibly die in a zombie apocalypse.