One of the problems The Walking Dead has is that the writers of the show have created a host of very annoying characters. I’ve never read the comic book series, so I don’t know if they are adapting the show straight from the series or not, but there are a lot of characters that have extremely annoying traits that make it hard for you to root for them over the walkers.
One of the prime candidates for ‘Most Annoying Walking Dead Character 2011-12’ is Dale. It’s not that Jeffrey DuMunn is a bad actor (He has appeared in all four of Frank Darabont’s movies to date), it’s just that Dale is a pompous ass, who feels that he has to protect the group’s humanity and keep them civilised despite there being an apparently global zombie apocalypse happening around them. So he’s become the self-appointed voice of reason in The Walking Dead, wary of Shane and angering Andrea by trying to stop her from making her own choices, especially when they are the polar opposite of how Dale feels about them.
In episode 11, a lot of the focus is on Dale, as he can’t believe that Rick has decided that Randall has to be killed to protect the group, and endeavours to persuade everyone else (even Shane), that Rick is making the wrong choice. He seems to be fighting a losing battle, as even Hershel wants nothing to do with the decision, preferring to let Rick make the choice. But while Dale’s humanitarian act is irritating, the truth is that he does have a point about Rick’s choice. After all, it was Rick who decided to save Randall in the first place, after he fell from a roof and impaled his leg on a fence. Randall is part of the group from Philadelphia that Rick, Glenn and Hershel encountered two members of in a bar in town, and the concern now is that if he is released from the farm, he will tell that group of people all about it, and lead them back to the farm for an inevitably bloody showdown.
But if that is the worry, then why did Rick save him in the first place? Randall would have been gobbled up in minutes had Rick left him impaled on that fence, and he and Shane almost got killed when they drove him away from the farm. To make matters worse, Carl is intrigued by the presence of Randall and what his dad is planning for him, and he sneaks into the barn where Randall is chained up to listen to what he has to say. After Shane catches him, Carl wanders off by himself, getting a gun from Daryl’s camp (he’s moved away from the house and the rest of the group, but is giving Randall a right good kicking to get information at the start of the episode), and then stumbling across a walker trapped in mud. He’s scared at first, then gets more confident, eventually pulling the gun on the walker. But it gets free and lunges at him, and he panics, dropping the gun and fleeing.
Meanwhile, the group has assembled in the house to debate Randall’s future, with Dale still desperately trying to change Rick’s mind, but he can’t get anyone to back him, and the decision is made.
A lot of episode 11 is very frustrating. The Randall storyline is a confused and illogical one, and the apparent threat of the Philadelphia group is something that the writers aren’t making enough of. But what saves the episode from mediocrity is a strong and shocking ending that might lead to a huge change in the group dynamic as the season comes to an end. Let’s hope so, because the show needs a new direction and fast.