I'm rather surprised at how one-sided the debate about killing or saving Randall turned out to be.
Sure, I understand the potential dangers associated with this particular newcomer and the threat his group of thirty something could end up inflicting on our cast of survivors. The extremely dark and disturbing story of Randall's "friends" raping those girls, making the family watch, and then just leaving them, was enough to make me think about what a world without rules does to someone. How crooked it can turn them.
And in effect, that's really what this episode tried to bring to light and show that even with our select group of characters, they are just as susceptible to those dangers. Trying to maintain that humanity when all feels lost and survival seems to be the focus isn't as easy as a task as one might think.
But I still can't believe that only Dale, the resident voice of wisdom and reason, was trying to convince everyone to not execute Randall. It was sad, really, watching Dale desperately try to sound out his argument to ultimately no avail. He spoke a lot of truth about the matter, in that Randall may not be that bad guy that they think he is and simply a person who doesn't deserve to die through a five-minute conversation.
Randall has done a very good job of toeing the line on where his morals stand (I like his addition to the show, whether he's good or bad,) but it's hard to watch anyone blindfolded and have a gun pointed at them when we really haven't seen him do anything bad to other people. I'm even amazed that Rick didn't put himself in Randall's shoes. All of the whimpering, crying, and pleading weren't enough to shake Rick from his mission.
The characters really seem to be taking a darker path and the preparation for execution in the barn really enhanced that. To be honest, the characters almost felt unrecognizable. Really? They were going to kill him in cold blood? They felt more like bad guys then so called heroes.
Carl was finally able to knock some sense into Rick, who has become so blinded by saving everyone and making it all okay, that he completely ignored the repercussions and examples made for his son. I don't think Rick could fathom that his kid not only condoned the death, didn't fear it, but wanted to watch.
It was a good realization for Rick, but I wonder what direction the show would have taken if they did end up killing their prisoner.
Although Rick should truly have understood that he needs to be a better parent to his kid. Lori take note. I mean, no one seemed to notice that he was missing? In a world filled with death around every corner, they just let him traipse around like nothing is wrong? How many times does Carl have to get into trouble before someone starts watching him?
I recognize that he's curious and seeing this new found world from his eyes is wildly different from the likes of any adult. From wanting to get real close to Randall to even stupidly getting within arms length of the trapped zombie, Carl puts himself in danger, but he doesn't see it that way. And while it's hard to refrain from yelling at the TV for a character not to do something idiotic like get yourself caught or killed when it could easily be avoided, I am easier in forgiving Carl because he's a kid. Yes, he should have far better sense, but really, where are his parents?
And in a way, Carl had the most impact for "Judge, Jury, Executioner" by inadvertently saving Randall's life and yes, getting Dale killed.
For many fans of the graphic novel, Dale survives a lot longer than he does on this show and I think it's safe to say that it proves that really any character's number can be up. In a way, I half expected it but kept thinking that at the last minute he would be saved. Nope, he literally had his guts ripped open.
And while I think many people might have a problem with The Walking Dead's departure from its graphic novel counterpart, I don't mind. I see them as two separate entities and instead enjoy when references are made to the material source like bringing in Hershel's farm or establishing the Glenn and Maggie relationship. It keeps things fresh for the show without making a verbatim copy of itself.
Yet - while I was truly shocked that A) this wasn't the season finale and the show killed a character and B) they killed Dale for crying out loud! - I'm more disappointed that we didn't get to experience more from Dale than constantly trying to convince everyone about something. I felt like his time came too soon and while his death has more of an impact than Sophia's (sorry, Sophia), there was so much that we had yet to learn about the man with his silly hat and Hawaiian shirt. In a way, he felt more like an outsider trying to prove his way in to the inner circle, but no one really paid too much attention to him other than the fact that he was the old guy with some smarts.
At least when it came down to it, Dale held true to his convictions. He never swayed, he spoke out even when it wasn't the most popular opinion, and he tried to hold onto that sense of humanity for both himself and everyone. He may have died a gruesome death and I'm glad that Daryl was able to put him out of his misery, but he never lost hope. I just wonder with him gone, how that will change the power balance. And what will that mean for Randall?
The second half of season two has done a far better job at moving the show forward and providing an interesting pacing that brings back the tension. This episode was certainly on the right path in continuing to snowball all of the most recent events towards something bigger. I don't think there is going to be a lot of time to mourn Dale's death because I fear for the group that the worst will be yet to come.
Are you surprised that Dale was killed? Should they have killed Randall? Are you enjoying the second half of the season? What's next for Rick and company? Sound off with your thoughts, questions, and comments below!
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.