The Walking Dead:
Season 2 Episode 11 Review
*Warning: The same old stuff- episode spoilers, mature language, graphic content, etc. etc.- so proceed at your own risk.*
There’s something about episode #11 in a 13 episode season that feels different from 9 or 12. I think it’s that the countdown to something going off is usually from 3. (Except for countdowns from 10; like NASA launches and New Year’s Eve.) When you were a kid you counted to three before you jumped in the pool from the high diving-board or raced your best friend just to know who was faster. In Mario Kart it’s always 3-2-1-Go, and when you were in trouble your parents said things like “If you aren’t over here cleaning this up by the time I count to three I’m throwing away all of your Legos!!” For whatever reason three is the magic number that seems to perfectly fit the interval of time required to prepare for that green light- that jump into the pool.
It’s also this big symbolic deal thing in numerology and mysticism and like, virtually every religion there is.
And it has its own “School House Rock” song all about it.
But coming back and bringing my original point with me; episode 11 feels like the first step in the countdown to dropping the nuke and obliterating everything we’ve come to know about these characters and their world. I know this is episode 3 in the 3, 2, 1- season over, so it should feel that way. I never got that feeling at any point while watching the first season; obviously not when only three episodes remained out of 6 episodes total, but just in general it never felt like this to me at any point. I didn’t have this increasing anxiety that each of the last three episodes is a step closer to devastation.
With that I give you my take on Step #1:
We learn a great deal about all of the main characters in this episode as far as who they really are as people and what they’re capable of. It starts with a bit of the old, squirrel-tossing Daryl coming out to play for a while in order to get information out of Randall, who is chained up in what must be the smelliest barn in history. He bloodies up his knuckles and takes out that giant freaking knife of his to threaten to re-open Randy’s nasty leg boo-boo, but eventually the kid gave up the info. It is not good news. A giant group of heavily armed men who go out “scavenging” for supplies and should the opportunity present itself, occasionally force fathers to watch while they gang-rape his teenage daughters. Oh but Randall would never do such a thing! He never laid a hand on those girls- he just watched.
I think Daryl should’ve saved everyone a whole lot of trouble and just killed the little fucker right there. He’s as much of a rapist as whoever he was with since he let it happen when he could’ve done something to stop it. And I can hear the argument now: “How do you know he could’ve done anything? He was out-numbered and I’m sure they were armed- if he tried to stop them he probably would have been killed!”
Well then he should have died.
If he couldn’t stop them without managing to get killed by them then he isn’t smart enough to survive. If they would kill him or shoot it out rather than stop raping a girl if he stood his ground and threatened to kill some or all of them then he can’t trust them and isn’t really safe with that group anyway. And if they would threaten to hurt/kill the girls or the father or call him a traitor with no loyalty to his own group then he only has two possible futures anyway: become a monster like the rest of them and assimilate or eventually be killed over something awful enough that he can’t ignore it.
I don’t buy that he couldn’t do anything- I don’t think he wanted to do anything. I think he’s sadistic and manipulative and all this talk over being innocent and just trying to survive is bullshit. For those of you who believe in that sort of thing, the Bible claims “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
But my summation of choice for how I see this situation comes in the form of a quote from one of my favorite movies:
“Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” (Btw- 100 Super-Awesome Points to those of you who can tell me the name of the film in the “comments” section! 😉
This notion is important and brought up later in the episode, too.
After telling the rest of the group what he learned (except for the teenage rape story), Daryl, Rick, and all the others were pretty set on executing the guy rather than risking his release. Dale is the lone voice of dissent and convinces Rick to give him until sundown to talk to the other people in the group and look at other options before they kill a person who, for all they know, could be innocent. He has several very impassioned conversations with Shane, Daryl, Hershel, and Andrea before everyone gathers together in the farmhouse living room to have a group discussion and vote.
I particularly enjoyed Dale’s talk with Daryl; it made me happy that someone other than Carol showed they care about him. Saying that he’d have to do more than just move his tent away from the rest of camp if he wanted to “get away” from them was a surprise to me coming from Dale- up until that point I hadn’t realized anyone else actually noticed Daryl as a person, let alone as one they weren’t willing to lose. He still doesn’t think his opinion counts for anything and that no one looks to him, claiming he’s better off on his own. When Dale disagrees and says that he and Rick are decent men while Shane isn’t, I don’t think he was prepared to hear that Daryl figured out what happened with Otis a long time ago and, more importantly, that Rick did too- he just didn’t want to admit it to himself. Daryl says the group is broken. Dale looks a bit broken himself after that little exchange.
I think he counted on Hershel backing him up since he was such a religious man, but Hershel surprised both Dale and me by saying he didn’t want Randall anywhere near his daughters and that he was leaving the whole thing up to Rick. (Since the guy is a creep and a rapist I’d say Hershel has good reason for feeling the way he does.) Though where he is now compared to where he was when we first met him in the season, Hershel has such vastly different morals and convictions! It’s like all of his confidence has been squashed out and he doesn’t trust himself not to let everyone down again by making the wrong choice, so he doesn’t make any choices and leaves everything up to Rick. This isn’t something he can just shake off, either- meaning Dale couldn’t count on his support to stop an execution of a possibly innocent man on his own land.
Satan was snowboarding in Hell because Dale even approaches Shane to plead his case and *gasp* Shane was actually pretty reasonable about the whole thing. There’s a particularly important bit where in arguing the numbers: 12 of them and 1 of him but 30 of his gang, Dale tells Shane “killing him doesn’t change that; but it changes us.” Killing this one man won’t really make them any safer- it wont make a difference when it comes to the threat of attack by an armed gang- but it will make them less than what they were. It will diminish the humanity of the group in an irreparable way.
However Shane is certain that this is the right choice to make. If they spare Randall- let him join the group, see if he’s useful and maybe even a nice guy- one day he will kill someone, and that will be blood on Dale’s hands. It isn’t a matter of convenience or just being ruthless- Shane truly thinks that Dale is wrong. Yet he agrees to back him up if he can get the whole group to share his opinion on the matter. That’s a whole lot more than I ever would’ve expected from Shane. Honestly that whole conversation was more than I expected from him.
I think maybe Shane’s going to kick it at the end of the season and this is the start of a campaign to make him into less of a psycho and more of a good guy so that he doesn’t die a creep and a villain. I’d even go so far as to say that I think he might die in order to save someone else- like Carl or Lori or my favorite, Rick. That would be cheese-tastic!
I think Hershel is going to bite it as well- though I’ve said that before. Giving the watch to Glenn felt a bit like his character was having his affairs put in order- wrapping up his loose ends in the sense of making sure Maggie has a good man to “take care of her.” One who also cares about and will help her look after her little sister once he’s gone and there’s no one else to do it. At the same time he’s also letting Glenn (and therefore Maggie) know that they have his blessing/approval as a couple, in case he never gets the chance to tell her so outright. It may have seemed a bit lame and contrived to some of you but I thought it was a nice way to cover an important moment in the progression of those three characters.
It felt real, too, because of Steven Yeun’s portrayal Glenn’s surprise and awkwardness and not really knowing what to say or do in that situation. I mean the guy is given a very precious and meaningful family heirloom and he says “thanks” like he was just given a bag of Doritos! I’d have gone with something like “thank you, sir” at the very least! There’s totally no breaking up with her now, either! For all intents and purposes Glenn just got married to the farmer’s daughter, and in this world you have to fight tooth and nail for a divorce- literally- because the only way out of a marriage is if one of you fails to fend off the teeth and nails of the walkers!
Another important character we get a good look into the nature of is Carl Grimes, who’s always somehow in the story and important to it, yet still manages to be peripheral. We see what this world and all this loss and death and violence has been doing to him because you just know it’s gotta be turning him into a little psycho! Virtually all serial killers have violent, abusive childhoods and I’d say that’s not a poor description of Carl’s life lately. He’s been showing little signs of coldness and detachment and this episode we saw some real creep-factor behavior on his part.
First I’d have to mention how he was sitting in the barn, looking down at Randall in chains like he wasn’t a person. Randall starts talking; appealing to Carl’s concern for safety for him and his family, his sense of mercy, and trying to seem like a nice guy. Carl looks at him without a response, as though he couldn’t hear a word the guy was saying. He stared at him the way people who don’t like animals stare at some exotic creature in a zoo- curious and interested but without any emotional involvement or sympathy. He’s so empty in those moments that it seems almost fake for him to be afraid of getting in trouble with his parents when Shane catches him. It’s a great way to show that while he has this morbid, developing darker side he’s still just a kid.
I can understand him lashing out at Carol; anger is a stage of grief. I can even understand playing around at Daryl’s campsite while he’s away. There probably isn’t much for him to do and for a young boy Daryl would have some really cool stuff. He’s like the older step-brother whose room you’re never allowed to go into or you’ll get your ass kicked, which means, of course, that you have to see what’s in there so you sneak in while he’s not home & just try not to move/break anything so that he never knows you were there. Only Carl doesn’t seem to get that last part- the not wanting him to know you were ever there part- because while playing with the super-sweet motorcycle that would give Daryl a stroke if he caught him touching, he just pockets a gun that was stashed in there.
First of all, if there’s anyone at camp that you do not want to steal from or piss off, it’s Daryl. Second, you might get away with maybe taking a knife or one of the animal skins, but a gun is something that is going to be missed. Third, that gun was there for a reason- what if Daryl is on his motorcycle and counting on having it to save his ass, then reaches in and finds that someone has stolen it?! Fourth- it’s stealing! What the Hell is wrong with you?! You steal a gun from someone when guns are “worth more than gold” then like a retard, you lose it!
So is carrying a stolen gun to go for a stroll in the woods the substitute for stealing your dad’s cigarettes to smoke with your friends? You know- the stupid shit kids do to feel like grown-ups? Because it didn’t seem like he had any plan in particular in mind while on his little hike. It was more like he wanted to do what the grown men do and not be afraid to go into a dangerous area because he can protect himself with his stolen gun. Or at least that was the idea when he found the walker stuck in the mud.
As soon as he stopped the more appropriate running away in order to do the far more disturbing staring and throwing of rocks I knew that walker was going to get out of the mud and go for him. My other thought was that Carl must really, really, really want to shoot someone/thing. Think about it: if he puts down the walker with a gunshot the whole camp is going to hear it. Not to mention other walkers in the area; aren’t they supposed to be drawn by loud noises?? Everyone is worried about a gang of armed men coming to the farm and attacking them, so if all the adults are accounted for and Daryl gets back from hunting and says it wasn’t him, who do you suppose they’ll think is shooting in the woods? That would surely speed up Randall’s “trial”! Plus for all we know that gang actually could have scouts or something nearby who hear the shot and because of it, find the camp!
But as soon as that shot goes off Lori and Rick will want to know where Carl is and when they can’t find him right away they’ll have everyone searching around camp for him. It’s not going to be possible for him to just sneak back out of the woods without someone seeing him and telling Rick and Lori, who will want to know what he was doing out there. He’ll probably be so excited about shooting his first walker that he’ll tell them everything; including the little detail about how he used the gun he stole from Daryl after he found it while going through his things. But no matter what his parents are going to find out about all of it and then his ass is toast- and none of this occurred to him because he’s a kid and wants to be an adult and he really wanted to shoot something.
He also wants to hear the group debate over the fate of Randall, but he isn’t allowed. That’s a bit of a shame because Dale was simply amazing. Jeffrey DeMunn was captivating, arguing with so much passion and feeling and eloquence. It was like watching the play “12 Angry Men” (or when I was in it “12 Angry Jurors” since there were chicks involved) and Dale is Juror #8- the single “not-guilty” vote trying to convince a room full of people who were so set in their “guilty” verdict that they thought there wasn’t even any need to discuss the matter. Dale pleads so effectively and with such sound arguments that you almost find yourself changing from “guilty” to “undecided” in Randall’s case. Then Carol speaks up, proclaiming that she just wants the arguing to stop and for someone to decide, but either way to leave her out because she wants no part of it.
Dale tells her “Not speaking out, or killing him yourself; there’s no difference.”
Really Dale? Then by your own logic you’re arguing to save the life of a violent sex offender- a man who is, by your definition, a rapist, ephebophile, and a sadist. (Here is where that whole doing-nothing-to-stop-someone-from-committing-an-atrocity-makes-you-just-as-guilty-as-them thing comes in.)
But the only person who heard that story and knows what a piece of trash this guy is won’t say anything and claims not to care: Daryl. Maybe that wouldn’t make a difference to Dale.
No one is in agreement with Dale- not even Glenn who is usually on his side in everything. I thought it was interesting when Glenn says “he’s not one of us.” What defines “us” versus “them” to the group now? It used to be just the living and the dead, but Rick said things changed when the living started trying to kill them too. Obviously Hershel and his people are among the “us” even though Otis was expendable. I’d be curious to hear how Glenn defines the two and when exactly Hershel’s people became a part of the “us” group.
Another surprise comes when Andrea speaks up in agreement with Dale, though it doesn’t matter since everyone else is still all for offing Randy. Dale is disgusted and asks if they’re going to watch too; then saying “no, you’ll hide in your tents and pretend we aren’t slaughtering a human being.” I thought that would be an interesting concept; saying that everyone who votes to execute Randall also has to watch that execution be carried out. No one can cast a vote to end someone’s life then pretend they had nothing to do with it while Rick, Shane, and Daryl do the real dirty work. In one of my favorite sci-fi book series the main character becomes a politician and makes some really radical social changes. One of them deals with the death penalty and forces the sentence to be carried out by a family member of the victim. So if a guy rapes and kills a girl & is found guilty, that girl’s mother or father or husband etc. has to be the one to shoot the guy in the head in a public execution. That way the family gets their own brand of justice & the government isn’t responsible. That’s because if the person can’t carry out the execution- if they just can’t do it- then it doesn’t happen.
I think they should’ve done something like that for Randall. Everyone who votes for his death has to watch and has their name put in a hat to randomly decide who has to be the one to do it. I think it may be more difficult for people to vote if they knew it meant they had to watch the kid beg and cry for his life, and even more so if they knew it could possibly mean they had to be the one to pull the trigger. If they can’t stand to see it or can’t make themselves do it, maybe it’s because they know it’s wrong? Personally I wouldn’t have a problem with it- mostly because I would’ve killed him a long freaking time ago- like back when he was Shish Kabob-ed on a fence- without him seeing it coming or asking for a group vote.
He’s taken out to the barn and about to be blown away when probably the only thing that could possibly make Rick stop actually happened- Carl went all uber-creepy and snuck away to watch them kill the guy and urging his dad to do it. I knew there was no chance Rick was doing it then and he tells Daryl to take him away.
Just like I knew something bad was going to happen when I saw Dale out by himself in a field at night.
Sure enough there was a still-living but completely eviscerated cow lying in the grass, which is seldom a sign of imminent safety. Dale turns and is pounced on by the nasty shirtless walker with no eyelids who doesn’t manage to bite him but does tear open his abdomen and create a hubcap sized hole in him before Daryl gets there and stabs the thing in the head.
A few notes/questions on this situation- what made the walker stop eating the cow to creep up on Dale? Shouldn’t he have been in a feeding frenzy and thus distracted? The walkers eating that horse Rick rode into the city on in season one didn’t stop eating in order to chase him, even though you would think human is preferable to animal. In fact that was how he was able to get away; so why did this walker leave his tasty living cow meal when he should’ve been distracted and all up in that shit?
Also, for those who wonder about how the walker was able to rip Dale open like he was a birthday piñata I have a theory that explains that in great detail in my article “Talking The Dead to Death.” Check it out if you’re curious about zombie super-human strength.
And finally; what the fuck was up with Daryl sharpening his knife while he has Randall all tied up and gagged and hanging by his wrists from the ceiling with no shirt on in some secluded part of the barn?? I mean, obviously I know what that’s about but what I don’t get is why that scene is put in there at all? Implying that Daryl is going to torture Randall to death after laying all this groundwork to show that he’s a good man makes no sense to me! I thought the whole thing was stupid, especially since they had him be the one to find him, kill the walker, call for help, and be the one to “put Dale out of his misery” immediately afterwards!
You knew there was no saving him but they needed Hershel there to tell say it and make it true, otherwise he wouldn’t have been there. None of the other people from the farm were present, but every single member of “our” group of survivors was there for Dale’s final moments; even Carl who was told to go into the house. Of course Carl also had to be there in order to see that it was the walker he failed to kill and pissed off enough for him to free himself from the mud- the walker he knew was out roaming the woods and didn’t tell anyone about in order to avoid getting in trouble- that killed Dale, making it his fault. But it was also worth noting that the entire group was gathered together and present when they lost another one of their own. Rick couldn’t bring himself to end his friend’s suffering, so Daryl has a very emotional moment with Dale, who puts his forehead up against the barrel of his gun and urging Daryl to do it, so he says “sorry brother” and pulls the trigger.
Dale was the voice of reason and morality in the group. He kept them from veering too far off course and forgetting the kind of people that they are and want to be- and now his voice is gone.
Their Yoda is dead and strong the temptation of The Dark Side is…
Second step- episode #12- this Sunday at 9.
Not Spending My Life Trying to Conquer Time,
Info/Image Sources: the AMC Press Resource Center, AMC networks
*Sorry for the lack of an image gallery. I hope to upload more episode 11 images very soon, after I finish editing them.*