Dale is dead, and that might be the shake-up we needed, but more on that later. The majority of the episode was taken up by the group debating over whether to kill their young captive, Randall. He revealed, under torture, that his group is about thirty of those wandering kill-bots from The Road, and nobody can take the risk that he’ll go and tell them where the farm is.
In theory, the idea of a debate on the point of no return for civilised humanity is an interesting one. In practice, it’s a series of scenes in which people tell Dale to go away, as he gets more and more hysterical. The Walking Dead, in episodes like these, wants to be like 12 Angry Men, or The West Wing where President Bartlet debates the assassination of a foreign dignitary for the greater good, but everyone just sounds really bored. We’ve been written into another corner, if they kill him, everyone just gets more gloomy, if they don’t, the “what do we do with Randall?” plot meanders on. Dale rants (probably correctly, don’t get me wrong) about the sanctity of human life. Andrea turns to his side, preceding the flood of agreement and… oh, everyone else ignores him and the execution is stopped only by a Carl ex machina.
Carl, at least, is getting more interesting. It’s a bit abrupt, writing-wise, but living in a zombie-covered wasteland is getting to him. He’s coming to realise that every time he’s been told that everything is going to be OK, it’s been a lie.
He wanders off alone into the woods, perhaps in his grief over Sophia, who died after wandering off alone into the woods a few weeks prior. He meets a zombie stuck in the mud, but can’t muster up the will to kill it, or even torture it for information, so he runs away. Mud-zombie returns shortly thereafter to tear out Dale’s innards. So there’s the parallel with the Randall situation, but what’s the point they’re trying to make? If they let him go and he comes good, proof that people are better than zombies? Or he turns on them, so people are no better? If they kill him, that it was justified because puddle of guts? I don’t think there’s much chance they’ll kill Randall, but all of their other suggestions sounded really boring. Except driving him out further, which got dismissed with “you almost didn’t come back last time”. Yeah, because they had a long, noisy fistfight next to a building full of zombies. Perhaps don’t send the two cast members with the most simmering tension. As Lisa Simpson once said, “I don’t understand why we only try ideas once.”
Dale is lunch. I guess that’s an indictment of the world, the last believer in civilised society has died off. There’s not much more they could have done with the character, other than have him complain some more about how everyone is dead inside, and hide guns around the place. It was bold to kill off a major character, particularly when there are so many nonentities around, but I can only hope it doesn’t just lead to more mourning and more conversations about how awful the world is. I do complain about the characters a lot, but it’s not a good sign when I didn’t have an ounce of “oh no, he’s going to die”, but only “finally, something is happening”.