By Karen Moul
It was another slow week on Herschel’s farm as our little band of survivors hemmed and hawed and argued about what to do with Randall. There is no doubt that Randall’s people are a nasty bunch, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned this season it’s that the living are just as dangerous as the dead. We just wish it wouldn’t take this group two weeks to make every decision.
While Randall was the center of everyone’s attention, the action actually revolved around Dale, who spent the day trying to convince the gang that killing Randall would be a mistake. His role on the show has always been to provide the voice of morality, and he really went for this week.
It was interesting to see how the group responded. Most preferred to let Rick make the tough decision. It’s a no-win situation, because time and again we’ve seen them ask him to lead and then turn on him when things don’t go well, which only feeds Rick’s self-doubt. In these situations, he could take a lesson from Shane. Say what you want about Shane, but right or wrong he makes quick decisions and never doubts himself, always certain that he’s made the right call.
Meanwhile, Carl went on walkabout. As usual, nobody knows what he’s up to, the kid just wanders around the apocalypse unsupervised. And he’s becoming a bit defiant, although it’s probably not unusual for a ten-year-old boy to test his boundaries.
So the kid engaged in a lot of bad behavior this week, sassing Carol and snooping around the barn before going in search of bigger trouble. This scene was beautifully directed by co-executive producer and zombie makeup genius Greg Nicotero, and the highlight was the moment Carl stopped to play with the motorcycle. We caught a fleeting glimpse of the little boy Carl is supposed to be.
And that moment played nicely into Carl’s encounter with the walker. He probably hasn’t seen many of them up close, and his childlike fascination was believable. And it’s not surprising that a kid would underestimate the danger. When Carl escaped unharmed, we knew we hadn’t heard the last of this particular walker but never dreamed we’d see him again so soon.
When sunset rolled around, the group convened at the house and Dale made an impassioned plea to spare Randall and preserve what little was left of the group’s humanity. He doesn’t want to lose the world that they left behind, but is he clinging to a past that can’t exist anymore? Are compassion and humanity luxuries that will get everyone killed?
The tension peaked when Carl came down to the barn to watch Randall’s execution. I thought Dale’s death was a bit heavy-handed and this moment was much more important in terms of Rick’s evolution. Carl was unmoved by Randall’s cries; as child whose family has so far escaped death, he can’t understand what it means to kill. And he is equally incapable of understanding what this decision was doing to Rick, what it meant for him to preemptively execute a man who not yet done anything wrong. And as soon as Carl said, “Do it, Dad,” we knew Rick could never do it. In those three words, all of Lori’s fears about raising children in this environment came true, and Rick saw it and knew that if he wants to protect his son’s humanity, then he must set an example.
Five minutes later, the voice of humanity was dead. Dale was disemboweled by Carl’s swamp walker, and once again the responsibility fell to Rick to make the tough decision, to shoot Dale as he had Sophia. Only this time he couldn’t do it, and Darryl stepped up to do what had to be done. And so a man was killed after all, not out of fear but out of compassion. But I wonder, did Darry
l shoot out of compassion for Dale or for Rick?
Carl recognized the walker and realized what he has done, collapsing into his mother’s arms. He has gotten a small taste of what it might be like to kill someone, to be responsible for another’s death. How will that affect him?
Odd and ends:
- By giving Glenn his grandfather’s watch, Herschel welcomed him into the family. What will this mean when it is time for Team Rick to move on?
- Walkers might be weak and shambling and stupid, but they can tear open a man – or a cow – with one hand. As food becomes scarce, these things are getting hungry and becoming more aggressive.
- Despite becoming more isolated and alienated from the group, Darryl spent much of this episode doing Rick’s dirty work. We’ve been waiting since season one for him to take more a leadership role, is it possible he could take Shane’s place at Rick’s side?