'The Walking Dead' Season 2, Episode 11 Recap - 'Judge, Jury, Executioner'

'The Walking Dead' Season 2, Episode 11 Recap - 'Judge, Jury, Executioner' They're dropping like flies, aren't they? Seems we've lost more humans lately than zombies.

Now that we're well past the air date, it's safe to talk about the big spoiler of the episode: Dale. This ep ends with our resident nosy moral compass wandering off into a field at night and having his chest cavity torn open by a zombie. Though the group calls Herschel over as soon as possible, there's no way Dale is going to make it through this one.

That brings an important moment for Rick, as he is given the choice to shoot Dale in the head to put him out of his misery. The moment is a loaded one: not only does Rick have to look into the eyes of the man who was telling him all day not to kill Randal and shoot him, but there's the flashbacks of Sophia, the effect on Carl, and the question of whether Dale himself thinks it's right.

That last question is answered as Rick backs off and Daryl takes the gun, and Dale raises his forehead to the barrel as if to give his blessing for the act. The whole sequence is pretty harrowing.

Even worse are the implications for Carl. The kid spent the episode showing his first signs of teenage rebellion: talking back to Carol, playing with a motorcycle, wanting to watch Rick kill Randal, taking a pistol and seeking out a zombie stuck in the mud, and throwing stones at said zombie until it escapes the mud. That zombie ends up being the one that tore Dale open like a baked potato, so Carl (hopefully) feels pretty bad about that.

Up until the last few minutes, though, this episode was a bit of a snoozer. The topic was important: should the group kill Randal in order to protect themselves? Do they have the right to take a life? Does killing the kid, as Dale puts it, make them lose their humanity?

Dale is the only one really sound in his conviction to keep Randal alive, and ends up being a martyr for the cause in the end. It looks from the previews like Rick has made the decision to hold Randal in custody in honor of Dale's wishes.

Here's the interesting part about Dale's death, though, for the show: according to the books, it wasn't really supposed to happen yet. There was a lot of other stuff that happened with Dale's character later on that we never got to see. And as far as balancing out characters on this show... why kill Dale? Andrea has been pretty useless lately, as has Carol. T-Dog is barely even a character anymore. Daryl never existed as a character in the first place.

Of course, Dale has the moral standing to have an impact on Rick's decision, and he's also a character that we presumably care about. At this point, would we be all that sad if Carol or T-Dog died? The former has the religious conviction for us to assume she would be reunited with her daughter, and the latter hasn't had a line of dialogue in weeks.

Perhaps this killing opens up some space for other characters to step up a bit in relevance. Let's hope so, at least. And please, less debate from here on in!