A weekly exploration of the gory details in the latest episode of “Walking Dead.”
Something truly horrible and upsetting happened on “Walking Dead” this week. And it’s all Carl Grimes’s fault.
Actually, one could argue that it’s all Rick and Lori Grimes’s fault since they haven’t been demonstrating the most solid parenting skills lately. Granted, the parents of one young Carl — a.k.a. Lil’ Dirty Harry, Zombie Edition — have a lot on their minds, what with Mom fretting about the relationship between the two men who may have fathered her unborn baby and Dad debating whether to execute random guys via hanging.
But can’t they at least pay some attention? Enough attention, perhaps, to keep the kid from wandering off the Hershel U. campus, picking up a dangerous weapon and taunting a zombie who — while extremely slow-moving — is still able to eventually remove his ossified feet from some muddy leaves and haul (again, slowly) his gross old teeth over to the farm?
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Before I delve further into my frustrations with Carl Grimes’s behavior and why he desperately needs to find some positive extracurricular activities to occupy his time, I’d like to say a few words about Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn).
Dale — the moral compass of the “Walking Dead” survivors, the man who argued adamantly for maintaining, at long last, some sense of decency in a zombie-pocalyptic world turned bonkers — got his innards ripped out on national television by the same bug-eyed walker that Carl mocked earlier in the episode. Given that the RV roadmaster spent this entire episode arguing against human sacrifice — not to mention that his guts were splayed all over his torso in a most repulsive fashion — his death was beyond upsetting. In fact, I’d say this was the most upsetting death thus far in “Walking Dead” history.
That’s an astonishing achievement considering that Dale’s attempts to win his fellow farm dwellers to his side of the kill-vs.-don’t-kill-Randall argument became irksome midway through the episode. To be clear, I philosophically agree with Dale. “The world we know is gone,” he rightly told Andrea. “But keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.”
But the way he kept repeating himself, the desperation in his need to persuade others and the fact that he told Carol that by not speaking out, she was essentially killing Randall — well, it all got to be a bit much. (By the way, how hilarious would it be if it turns out that Randall’s real name is actually Henry Gale?)
DeMunn did a fine job of playing Dale, throughout the series and in this episode, especially during his emotional final surrender to the notion that their group is broken. As grating as his advocacy for humane behavior might have become at certain moments, it’s very clear that he was in the right. One of the very first things he said to Rick after hearing about the plans to murder Randall: “Think about the message you’re sending to Carl — ‘Shoot first. Think later.’ ” That warning was pretty prophetic. The only problem is that it was too late to worry about that message; Carl had already received it, largely from Shane.
Which brings us back to Carl, the Miracle Survivor of a gunshot wound who has turned into one of the “Walking Dead’s” biggest advocates for shooting guns at people.
“Do it, Dad. Do it,” he urged his father as Rick pointed a gun at the head of the (seemingly) innocent Randall as he begged for his life. That was only one of several off-putting things Carl did in this episode. The others:
— He called Carol an “idiot” for believing her daughter is in heaven. Look, it’s fine if Carl is an atheist. It’s understandable, even, given the harsh realities he’s been forced to confront. But there is no need to call people idiots. If anyone is going to use that word, it should be Daryl. One of his main reasons for existing on this show is to call people names for the purposes of comic relief.
—He snuck into the barn and gave Randall the stink eye, putting himself in danger and acting like an arrogant prepubescent brat who thinks he’s a big man just because he wears a big hat.
—He kept wearing that ridiculous hat even though it is larger than his entire body. Honestly, I don’t know how Carl keeps his balance at all with that thing on. It’s a wonder he didn’t fall into a pile of muddy leaves and get stuck himself.
— He took a gun from Daryl’s satchel, then proceeded to drop it in the woods. You know that weapon is coming back to haunt somebody, at some point.
—For reasons I still cannot fathom, he decided to play a Rousing Game of Taunt the Zombie. Look, I have never lived through a zombie-pocalypse. I can’t say for certain how I would react to that situation. But I think — think — instinct would suggest that it’s probably not a good idea to stare at a decaying dude in khakis, throw rocks at him and then stick around long enough for him to start chasing me. Because Carl lacked that instinct, Dale is dead. And Carl knows it.
Did anyone else want to send Carl to whatever the equivalent is of the “Walking Dead” principal’s office? Or were you too distraught over poor Dale’s death to start casting blame? And, in a related question, would unleashing our rage at Carl only fuel a sense of ire that Dale, bless him, would have encouraged us to squelch via the better angels in our nature?
By all means, comment on Carl and share your favorite Dale memories by posting a comment.