TV REVIEW It's Judgement Day
"Judge, Jury, Executioner"
Writer: Angela Kang
Director: Greg Nicotero
THE ONE WHERE Dale tries to convince the rest of the group not to execute their prisoner, Randall. Oh, and then dies.
VERDICT It’s hugely satisfying to see The Walking Dead recovering its mojo – this is the second cracker of an episode in a row. It’s so good, in fact, that it doesn’t matter that it all takes place within the confines of that damn farm and its surrounding woods.
Of course, you can’t really go wrong with an episode like this, where people struggle with the thorny issue of justice in a post-apocalyptic world. Even Survivors (both the recent remake and the ‘70s version, which generally specialised in dull kitchen-table discussions of crop rotation) got some corking material out of that scenario. But still, praise is due. Dale’s impassioned speech is extremely powerful, and beautifully played. Along the way, there are some lovely little exchanges too: Hershel giving Glenn his blessing (and his daddy's pocket watch); Carl talking back to his Dad; Dale taking on the seemingly impossible task of trying to change Shane's mind.
Sure, it’s a slow-burn episode, but for once this slow build-up pays off, building real nerve-jangling tension. That tension becomes almost unbearable by the time Rick and Shane take Randall to the barn for his execution. Watching him beg for his life is difficult to watch. (Sons of bitches really drag it out, don’t they? It’s worse than the judges on The X Factor …) And the manner of the resolution is really quite clever: it’s not words that change’s Rick’s mind, but being confronted with what his son is turning into.
Then there’s the death of Dale: so sudden, so unexpected, and so damn arbitrary. It’s another reminder (alongside the continuing survival of Shane) that in this series, nobody’s safe; how long they survive in the original comic means nothing. The fact that it’s indirectly Carl’s fault, because the zombie came into camp after him, is the decomposing cherry on the cake.
IN THE COMIC (SPOILERS!) Dale lasts all the way until issue 62 before being bitten by a zombie, and finally dies in #66.
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE Is T-Dog ever going to get something interesting to do again? Or even, y'know, a couple of lines of dialogue?
SPECULATION The fact that it’s Andrea, of all people, who comes around to Dale’s way of thinking is a real surprise. Maybe her alliance with Shane isn’t as firm as it seemed to be after all?
And what if Shane is right? What if Randall does exist, and brings down his people on the farm? Here’s another thought: Randall’s people aren’t in the comic, and we know that the key role of The Governor, the ruthless ruler of Woodbury, has been cast, but in the comic he doesn’t turn up until issue 27. Perhaps the plan for the TV version is that Randall’s people are actually led by The Governor (and we skip the prison altogether)?
BEST LINE Carl channeling Richard Dawkins: “Heaven is just a lie, and if you believe in it you’re an idiot!”
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
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The Walking Dead airs in the UK on Friday nights on FX .