THE WALKING DEAD Recap: “Judge, Jury, Executioner”

     March 4, 2012


For my money, the second-most important rule in the “Writing TV Recaps on The Internet” handbook (which, as you know, is “never divulge major spoilers in your opening paragraph”) is probably way more important than the rule that gets the top spot (“be sure to watch at least 30% of whatever it is you’re recapping”), but what do I know?  On the one hand, it seems like it’d be ridiculously easy to prevent such a thing from happening (you proof-read your opening paragraph before you hit “Publish”; if it has even one major spoiler, start over.

the-walking-dead-season-two-posterOn the other hand, Shane died on tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead.  So, in all, a pretty busy week.

Alright, alright:  take it easy.  Before anyone gets their frilly little panties in a wad, let’s confirm what you’ve been suspecting for the past three sentences:  Jon Bernthal’s Shane didn’t really die on tonight’s episode.  That was nothing more than hogwash.  Monkey-business.  Shenanigans.  Tomfoolery (or, if that explanation doesn’t suffice, do this:  pretend we were all playing a weird party game where players have to act out literary devices) (I, of course, personified the “unreliable narrator”).   But a major character did get offed in a pretty horrific “kill” scene.  It just wasn’t Shane.

For the record, you can read the rest of this without worry about actually getting spoiled:  I’m not going to name the character that bit the dust.  I will, however, talk at length about how grisly that sequence was.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves;  let’s go back to the beginning and work up to the aforementioned kill.  Don’t worry, though, this’ll go quick, because a fairly sizable portion of tonight’s script was devoted to either A) people yelling their opinions at each other in close quarters,  or B)  people yelling their opinions at each other in open spaces.

I’ve made a decision:  I’m not even gonna bother talking about any of these water-treading, going nowhere, long-since-annoying scenes anymore.  I’ll cover the plot as it moves along, but I won’t be covering the fourth variation on “Coversation B”  in these recaps any longer.  It’s a win-win:  you don’t have to hear me bitch about it, and I don’t have to expand the energy bitching about it in writing.  Man, I’m getting excited just talking about this.

Now,  you’ll recall that last week’s episode dealt largely with Shane and Rick trying to hammer out their differences once and for all:  there were lengthy, passionate – some of which took place at a literal crossroads (Robert Kirkman must’ve been wearing his “No symbol too obvious!” hat the day they wrote this episode)—a hostage who caused an argument, and a healthy dose of zombie action… but in the end, Shane and Rick to be pretty much precisely where they’d been at the beginning of the episode:  Rick wanting to make Shane see that his wife and kid were not the Kool-Aid for Shane to be getting all up in.  Shane, meanwhile, has perfected the “nodding and appearing to be ‘thoughtful’ while Rick runs his mouth” maneuver (I bet all the Survivors have perfected this trick by now), so he probably ain’t gonna stay outta that Kool-Aid for long.

the-walking-dead-season-2-judge-jury-executioner-image-1Last week’s episode really did feel—across a few key moments—like it might be the episode where Shane checked out for good, but nope:  he kept on keepin’ on.  Generally, I find the show’s willingness to spin its wheels to be the very height of tedium, but last week’s episode didn’t leave me underwhelmed (or “annoyed”, which was my usual reaction during a big chunk of season two’s first-half), largely because—oh, thank God—they finally got the characters off the goddamn farm for more than ten minutes. Amazing, how much difference a change of scenery can make, eh?

Anyway, here’s the important stuff that happened in tonight’s episode (none if it material that had been repeated with slightly different wording in any other scenes that I could recall);  the Survivors debated killing their hostage, they had a big-ass vote where everyone (save Karl) was given the opportunity to have a voice about the decision;  Karl started exhibiting signs of being either really, really mature, really,  really confident, or—and this is the frontrunner—signs of being a raging 9 year-old sociopath.  Oh, and then there was that character death.

All the voting/group meeting stuff I tended to enjoy…except for almost literally every moment that Dale opened his mouth.  I agree with what Dale’s putting forward in a “Perfect World” sort-of scenario, but realistically, brutality is going to rule this brave new world.  I liked the way the Survivors talked about this stuff (the moment where one asks how the hostage will be killed—an attempt to gauge how brutal it’d be—was particularly interesting to me, because it’s precisely the sorta question I might ask), and I think that the show even raised a few points I hadn’t heard raised before (which is shocking in and of itself;  in between the 90-something issues of the comic that I’ve read and every episode of the show I’ve seen, I’m positive that I’ve memorized all five of the “Plot/Conversation” packages currently offered by Robert Kirkman Enterprises.  Some new ideas were explored (however briefly) tonight, and I liked that.

the-walking-dead-season-2-judge-jury-executioner-imageAs for the Karl situation:  Hard to talk about this without getting into the Karl that exists in the comics.  At least, it is for me.  How I respond to the Karl on the show has everything to do with how I respond to the comics-version (or how I don’t respond), and I don’t wanna get into any potential spoiler territory here.  Suffice it to say that we’ve just scratched the surface of the Karl that Karl may become, and it’ll be extremely interesting if the show has the balls to have him appear as a heavily watered-down version of himself.  That’ll be something to see.  Y’know, hopefully.

And then there’s that character death:  Again, I can’t tell you who it was or how the geniuses that created that effect made it look so goddamn effective on camera, but I can tell you the following two things:  For one, I was stunned that the Survivors sat there watching this character bleed out—in a massively painful way, minutes ticking by with nothing happening—and that the character’s suffering was allowed to continue along unabated;  For another, this was a really shocking death for me.  I’d expected this character to hang out for a long, long time (he was still kicking the last time I checked in on the series which was, oh, last month), if not go the long haul…whatever that might mean on this series.  But nope:  this character had been ripped open, and was now just sitting there gurgling through the same throatful of blood, over and over, while everyone  else watches along and refuses to do anything about it.

the-walking-dead-season-two-part-twoI’m curious what you guys think is being said here, with this particular sequence.  I’m also curious to hear what you have to say about Karl.  Dude’s taking baby-steps towards Captain Mc Nuttypants Manor, the cozy little place where all lunatics end up eventually.  With enough time, anyone can cross back over that line of sanity one too many times and just decide that they like it better when nothing ever makes sense.  Can ya blame him?

Of course you can, and we want you to do it in the comments section.  Overall, I think this episode was  an up-the-middle sort of affair:  neither particularly great (save for the final quarter)  nor particularly frustrating (like episodes 3, 4, and 5 this season).  I like that we’re seeing the group speak for itself as more than just Rick, Shake, Laurie, and Dale.  I like that Karl’s character’s getting toyed with (but, man, that kid’s acting?  WOOF), and I liked the spectacular “kill” scene tonight and liked what it might’ve been saying.  At least, I think so.  But enough about me:  sound off with your thoughts below, and tune in again the weekend after next for another double-shot of Walking Dead recappage (next week, I’ll be at South By Southwest).  Here’s my arbitrary-but-still-about-right grade:

My grade?  B+