We lose two strong characters in these two episodes of The Walking Dead. In a way, it's like the writers of the show heard everyone's strong hatred for the stagnation of the plot during the first half of the second season, and now they've decided to lump everything together before the season finale hit. I'm not saying that it's a terrible way to make up for the less-than-stellar season, but it does seem to come out of no where.
"Judge, Jury, Executioner" forces the group to make a decision about the fate of the prisoner Randall. Since Shane and Rick failed to leave him out in the middle of nowhere, it's up to the group to figure out whether they should execute him so that he can't tell his other group the whereabouts of the farm or to let him free and risk a war. It's obvious where some of the characters stand, based on their previous comments and stances - Shane wants him dead, Rick can't make a decision, Lori will stand with Rick, Andrea wants what Shane wants, Daryl doesn't really care, and Dale thinks that a murder in cold blood will signify that human civilization has crumbled.
All of this is explored in the episode, although it's kind of unnecessary; if you've been following the show, it will be evident where people stand. Still, it gives the episode an added dramatic tension - if they don't execute him, people might die and it will be Dale's fault, and Shane will probably hate Rick; if they do kill Randall, Dale will definitely leave. The choice is to kill Randall, since most of the group agrees that it's risky to let him live. That puts Dale at a crossroads, and he does decide to leave the group, remarking that he doesn't want to be a part of it anymore.
Along with this comes a long-running problem with Carl, who has struggled with his role in the group. He's not yet a man, but he also feels like he needs to protect the group like his father. In a really bone-headed move, he sets out to find and kill a zombie. What ensues is a bunch of rock-throwing until the zombie breaks free from some mud and comes after Carl. It ends up costing the group Dale, who has set out to leave even though Rick doesn't go through with his execution.
This is actually a good episode fraught with drama, the only drawback being the scenes with Carl. His angst has been getting to me lately, and now he's become some sort of annoying pest that always breaks up the action with some stupid move.
In "Better Angels", the consequences of letting Randall live come into play. Shane's pretty pissed, since he had a feeling that Rick wouldn't be able to go through with it. Everyone misses Dale, even giving an Office Space-style montage to him by beating on as many zombies as they can find. And Carl confesses to Shane, who brings it to Rick's attention before taking Randall out into the forest, killing him, and then causing a wild goose chase by making everyone think he's made a getaway.
There are a few interesting things about Shane's actions. For one, it's a hasty decision and it hasn't been mulled over by the group, but by the conversation Shane and Randall have before Shane kills him, it's apparent that Randall most likely would have led the other group to the farmhouse.
But I have a hard time believing Shane's quick and bipolar transformation. He seems rather normal throughout this episode until his quick flip-flop. It's not so convincing, especially because The Walking Dead has a tendency to do things extremely slow and this happens incredibly fast. It makes the surprise at the end of "Better Angels" less compelling - I just couldn't wrap my head around the immediacy of Shane's decision.
Still, it's good to see the show moving forward, this time in huge bounds instead of slow steps. Though "Better Angels" isn't the best episode this season, and it's also not the most believable, it does create enough tension to warrant the murder of Shane at the end of the episode. But I can't help but feel like Dale's death was better-paced than Shane's, which is a shame because Shane's death should have more impact than it does.