With its newfound brisk pace, The Walking Dead is not slowing by even a fraction. If anything, “When the Dead Come Knocking”, the lead-up to the mid-season finale, proved three things. One, that a setup episode doesn’t have to be limp, two, that this show has truly moved on to threats greater than the teeming masses of the undead and three, that the showrunners have finally mastered tension, pacing and dread at a more primeval level that ever before.
In so many ways episode seven was the scariest and most unsettling episode of the show to date but for so very different reasons than “Seed” or “Sick,” this season’s first two episodes which dove headfirst into the horror movie tradition from which this series finds its roots. The tragedy at the prison still lingers and though the cost was high, larger threats have established themselves – ones that place Walkers as second tier fodder for katanas and machetes.
The results of two of the three cliffhanger plot threads from last week’s episode unfold with utterly polarizing results in terms of emotional reaction, though extremely similar ways when it comes to effectiveness. The third satisfyingly caps off the convergence of what have been parallel plot lines since episode three.
Yes, Michonne has made her way to the prison (with the basket of baby formula and other supplies) and after promptly passing out due to blood loss from her gunshot wound she is saved by Carl and Rick and brought into the safety of the facility, if not with open arms. It’s not long before she has to explain why exactly she has baby formula nor is it before she’s stitched up by Hershel and part of the rescue party to get Maggie and Glenn back from Woodbury. Either out of revenge, desire to see Andrea again or simply because of her secret love for dicing Walkers, Michonne is now part of this group.
Relegated to secondary importance in the scheme of what they soon learn transpired when Glenn and Maggie were off on a supply run, was the official return of Carol to the ranks of the survivors having been presumed dead when the prison was again overrun by zombies. The happiness in Rick’s face when he learns is touching, though the quickly-followed realization that Carol had not made it through the birth of little Judith (no longer known as “ass kicker”) thrusts everyone back to reality in a big way.
One thing we still haven’t seen any explicitly stated are any purely romantic interactions between Carol and Daryl, and her return from the dead seemed like an apt opportunity to do so. However, as I iterated, the capture of the seemingly ill-fated lovers at the hands of Merle put more pressing matters on the table than snuggling up on a prison cot and getting frisky hillbilly style.