The second season of The Walking Dead heads into its endgame with yet another strong episode that features the first truly unpredictable and shocking moment of the season (because, let’s face it, we all saw that supposedly shocking  “Sophia moment” coming a mile away last year).  TWD has been upping its game over the last few episodes, and “Judge, Jury and Executioner” is no exception.

Check out our review below…

The Players:

  • Director:  Greg Nicotero
  • Writers:  Angela Kang
  • Cast:  Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Laurie Holden

Episode Title: “Judge, Jury and Executioner”

[Spoilers ahead!]

Just like the last episode, “Judge, Jury and Executioner” centers on two separate plotlines: the survivor’s debate over how to handle Randall, and Carl’s encounter with a zombie in the woods.  Unlike last week, however, the two plot lines collide at the end of the episode in a truly shocking moment.

The bulk of the ep concerns our band of survivors discovering that Randall’s group (the Other Survivors), have raped women in the past, forcing most of the characters to accept the fact that Randall must be executed.  Only Dale dissents, arguing that to judge and execute Randall is to sacrifice everyone’s humanity, which is the only thing that separates them from the zombies.

Meanwhile, Carl  walks into the nearby woods and finds a walker trapped in mud.  He attempts to kill the zombie but fails, and flees when the zombie breaks loose.   Carl escapes to the barn, where he sees Rick, Shane and Daryl preparing to execute Randall.  Rick sees Carl watching, and decides to hold off on killing Randall.  Simultaneously, Carl’s zombie encounters Dale and disembowels him, leaving Dale mortally wounded.  Daryl then performs a mercy killing and executes Dale.

The Good:

  • Dale:  Let’s face it, as good as TWD has been lately, it’s still fairly predictable.  Until last night, that is.  All the main characters, with the exception of, say, the increasingly villainous Shane, have a “CAN’T BE KILLED BECAUSE HE/SHE’S A MAIN CHARACTER” sign above their heads in the bright neon.  All of which made Dale’s death, which has not been hinted at or foreshadowed, all the more shocking and disturbing.  This is exactly the kind of moment that TWD has been lacking and desperately needing—a swift, brutal and shocking moment in which a totally meaningless and violent death illustrates the dark nature of the world in which our survivors now live in.  TWD has needed to raise the stakes for a long time, and Dale’s death just wildly ratcheted up the ante.

The Bad:

  • Carl’s walk:  Look, having the episode’s B-story (Carl’s zombie) dovetail neatly into the A-story (Dale walks away from the group in anger and is mortally wounded by said zombie), was a wonderful moment in which the two storylines intertwined.  That said, it came with a cost, one which I thought had ended once the mystery of Sophia was solved: the “Hey, Let’s Take a Walk in a Forest that We Know is Crawling with Cannibalistic Walking Corpses that Can Smell Our Blood” trope.  I know this is a horror story, and one of the trappings of horror tales are people doing stupid things, but Carl’s solitary walk into a forest crammed with murderous monsters smacked of a writer’s room too lazy to organically bring a zombie into the story to kill Dale (which, considering the fact that the characters are already living in a world in which they are outnumbered by millions of walking corpses, is pretty damn lazy).

Overall:

Season Two just keeps on gaining heat and traction as it speeds along toward its climax.  With just two episodes left, we witnessed a shocking death of a primary character, which raises the stakes for the rest of the cast as the sophomore season winds to a close.  The first half of Season Two may have been an uneven mess, but the second half (despite the occasionally clunky or inorganic moments) grows more and more consistent, satisfying, and shocking as it goes along.  Here’s hoping the momentum lasts to the season finale.

Rating:  7.5/10

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.