Last week TVangie addressed the ongoing struggle between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal) as they wrestled with the decision to abandon Randall (Michael Zegen). The zombie waterfall put an end to those plans, prompting a return to Herschel’s (Scott Wilson) farm. This week we explore the fallout, which includes a tragic end to one of our characters.
Let’s bitch it out…(Major spoilers ahead)
Initially as I watched tonight’s episode, I wondered about how to structure this recap. Clearly up until the final moments, everything hinges on the moral quandary that has been brought about by Randall: does the group kill another human being, someone who has done them no harm, in order to protect themselves against a hypothetical outcome? When we first heart Randall’s confession, his chances of survival are not good. Following an aggressive torture session by Daryl (Norman Reedus), the teenager admits that his group is comprised of 30 men who rape and torture teenage girls they find on scouting expeditions. Sounds like a lively bunch. Obviously this is not good news for our group, who then spend the majority of the episode debating whether or not Randall needs to be put down. Regardless of how light you feel the characterizations on the show are or whether they specify too much, this murky grey reflective level of questioning is truly is one area where The Walking Dead excels.
Because the interesting elements in these dramas is not in random zombie attacks, or plagues, or other end-of-the-world phenomena – it is the way that the survivors handle the situation. When the world ceases to be the world we knew, what becomes of us? This is the debate that our characters have when sundown comes and the time to decide what to do with Randall arrives. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) spends the day speaking to various members of the camp to bring them around to his position, but at this point the group is broken (as Daryl suggests) – not only by their divided loyalties between Shane and Rick, but between the old way of living and the new. So it’s no surprise that their collective ambivalence leads to an execution in the barn.
Unfortunately, anyone who’s been watching the previous forty odd minutes also knows that Carl (Chandler Riggs) is going to factor into this decision. Earlier in the episode, the lone remaining child takes a walk in the woods alone (where are the adults again?!) and finds a walker stuck in the mud. The scenes that follow will have a lasting impact on the show moving forward: not only does Carl throw rocks at it as a child might with a bug or a wounded animal, he toys with shooting it. This behaviour is somewhere between a child’s innocence at misunderstanding the danger he finds himself in (at least until the walker gets a foot loose) and a touch of sociopathic desire. It’s clear that Carl believes he’s growing up and able to – as he tells mom Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Shane – “look after himself.” Whether or not he understands the value of human life, however, is less clear.
Watching the episode, it never occurred to me that Dale would become the victim of Carl’s mistake (though I did call it back in early February!). As soon as the walker got one foot free, it seemed clear that it would get the other out, as well, and yet I never believed anyone to be in danger. Thinking back, it’s a fitting end: Rick is unable to pull the trigger on Randall because he can’t allow his son to see him lose his humanity, and the man who is most humane – the one who spends the entire episode arguing on behalf on his fellow man – is the one who loses his guts to a most inhuman creature…because of the actions of a child who teeters on the dividing line.
And so, goodbye Dale. RIP, you last vestige of humanity. As the AV Club elaborates, I’m not entirely sure how much I truly knew the character, but I know that the group is now in more of a questionably murky grey zone than ever before.
- Another sign that Carl doesn’t fully comprehend the gravity of his actions? The way he urges Rick to kill Randall. Earlier in the episode he spies on the chained prisoner with the kind of curiousity only a child can have. At episode’s end, he sees no distinction between the teenager and the walker he left to roam. Only when he makes the connection between Dale’s injuries and the dead walker does he make the connection, and then he cries in Lori’s arms
- It’s also important that Rick is unable to pull the trigger and end Dale’s suffering. I believed that would fall to Shane, but instead Daryl takes responsibility. This makes sense for two reasons: 1) Dale had earlier tried to convince the younger man of his role in the group and 2) Rick was unable to kill a stranger, so clearly he would be unable to kill a friend. Zombie Sophia was dead when Rick killed her, so I’m not counting that.
- Herschel (Scott Wilson) gives Glenn (Steven Yuen) his grandfather’s watch as a symbol that he approves of his relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan). It’s a nice moment amidst the sadness and reflects back on the kinds of tradition the group has forgotten amidst their daily life and death struggles
- Reflecting back on TVangie’s examination of the gendered division last week, I found it interesting that Shane was concerned that Rick and Herschel, as the leaders, would “pussy” out instead of killing Randall. Further proof that Shane is unworthy of shouldering the burden of leading the group.
With two episodes remaining in the second season, where do you think the show will go? Do you think that Carl’s involvement in Dale’s death will come out (before season’s end)? What about Shane’s role in Otis’ death?
The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sundays at 9pm ET.