2. “Judge, Jury, Executioner”
Season 2, episode 11
“Judge, Jury, Executioner” was a pivotal episode for The Walking Dead. In his book “Guts: The Anatomy Of The Walking Dead” author Paul Vigna listed it as one of the best episodes of the entire series. Like many of Angela Kang’s episodes, it’s a multi-layered approach to storytelling that blends action with heavy moral precepts and character development.
This is the episode where the characters have to decide whether or not to kill Randall, the boy from another group that was left after the shootout at the bar in town. It’s the first time that the survivors have to grapple with the question of the morality of murder in the new world after the apocalypse. Randall is a threat. If he leads his group back to the farm they will all die. But killing Randall in cold blood doesn’t sit well with Rick’s group, especially with Dale.
Shane, of course, wants to kill Randall and be done with it. Rick, after a lot of thinking, agrees that Randall has to die. Even Hershel makes his peace with it knowing that Randall’s death will protect his family as well as Rick’s group. But Dale can’t accept it. He goes from one member of the group to another trying to plead a case for Randall to live.
Ultimately Dale loses, and that causes him a lot of anguish. Dale, as the voice of humanity in the group at that time, is adamant that they can hang onto their humanity even in the ruthless and dangerous world that they live in now. Dale is upset, and he goes for a walk. He is attacked by a walker and gutted. The others come rushing to help him but it’s too late. A regretful Daryl puts Dale down. With Dale’s death begins the trope that the voice of morality in the group is always marked for death.
Also in this episode is another significant moment. Hershel has a talk with Glenn and ultimately gives his blessing for Glenn and Maggie’s relationship. He gives Glenn his heirloom antique pocket watch and tells him “No man is good enough for your little girl. Until one is.” The watch remains a symbol of Hershel and Glenn and that voice of humanity. Now Maggie has the watch and will eventually pass it on to Hershel’s grandchild and Glenn’s child.