"Walking Dead" recap: A scary new disease, and lots of questions

What's the infection that killed Patrick? Who's feeding the walkers? And why did a baby make Michonne cry?

Published October 21, 2013 1:00PM (EDT)

Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead"              (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)
Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead" (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)

Last night's episode began with a flurry of good questions. Who is responsible for the midnight feedings causing the walkers to press the gates? Does Tyreese talk too much? Why exactly is his new girlfriend playing hard to get? When wearing your internal organs on the outside is de rigueur, who has time for coy? (Her name is Karen, by the way. I had to look it up on on IMDB; I'm not sure we ever heard it. Considering the way the episode ends, that may very well be the point.)

Karen just barely escapes a jugular-ectomy when Undead Patrick is distracted by a noise in the next cell. The sleeping victim's cough is the cause of his demise. Again, considering the events ahead, it's quite a nasty bit of foreshadowing.

More questions arise. Michonne wants to know why Carl no longer wears his dad's sheriff hat. Carl wants to know, from his dad, when he can get his gun back. The latter doesn't matter so much, seeing how Carl quickly proves he's just as handy with a shotgun as he is with a pistol.

The important question is, of course, what brought about the surprise emergence of walkers from within the safety of D Block. We know from last week -- and Rick & Co. soon discover -- that the culprit was Patrick seeking to ease his sudden late night cravings. But the nature of what killed him is still murky. As Daryl asks, in his signature succinct manner, "How does somebody die in the day just from a cold?"

We see what I presume is "The Council" referenced in the previous episode and the decision is made to begin quarantining anyone with signs of illness. Much to Tyreese's dismay, Karen is one of those sequestered. He asks a silly question and gets no real answer: "Now that we know what Patrick died from, we can treat it, right?"

In stark contrast to Tyreese clinging to his doomed romance or even Glen fawning over Lauren in the delicate moments before perimeter check, Daryl and Carol's completely sap-free relationship is perhaps the most romantic interaction this show has to offer. In one of my favorite scenes of the episode, Carol asks Mr. Crossbow, "You OK?" He responds in the only manner appropriate, "Mm-hm. Gotta be."

Carol's capacity for empathy -- and perhaps kindness -- is pretty limited these days. When she chastises young Lizzie for being weak and not being able to stick a knife in her dying father's ear, I can't help wondering what she hopes to accomplish. Lizzie responds with the episode's third silly question, "Why'd they kill Nick?" -- Nick having been dead for quite some time but just refusing to go peacefully.

After Mika's icy assertion that her big sister is "messed up," it's easy to surmise that Lizzie is the one feeding the zombies like Gremlins after midnight. But I don't think so. Looking back to the episode teaser, whoever was doling out rat-snacks seemed to be about as tall as your average walker -- not small like Lizzie. Also, if it was the girl, why not just cater to her pet Nick?

And hey, I have a question: When is Rick going to stop feeling sorry for himself -- and flip-flopping? He apologizes to Daryl for not being any use without his gun. Remember last week when Hershel urged him to carry his weapon? Remember this episode, a few minutes ago, when he denied his son his sidearm? Who knows how long Daryl would have had to bolster his not-so-fearless leader had there not been another attack on the gates followed by some typical walker skull stabbing.

In a quieter moment, Beth Greene poses a question to the newly convalescing Michonne: "All these widows and orphans. But what do you call someone who lost a child? You'd think someone would have given that a name." Personally, I love how this nihilistic, blond babysitter is gradually becoming the show's tragic philosopher. As for Michonne, what's her problem with babies? Or to rephrase: What is it about holding Judith that triggered those tears? Expect to finally get some insight into the grim swordswoman as the season progresses.

Carl and Carol confront each other with a host of pointed questions. "Do you know if Patrick was Catholic?" (My favorite.) Last week, when Carl walked in on Carol teaching the tribe's children how to use weapons, it raised the question of how far these accidental leaders should go to protect their flock. "Did you tell your dad what you saw in the library yesterday?" "Did you tell their parents?" "Are you going to tell them?"

In the end, Carl does decide to tell his dad about Carol's deadly curriculum. Rick chooses to do and say nothing about it. Having just slaughtered a handful of piglets he helped raise to lure a horde of walkers away from the camp, the sheriff may have finally realized that, while farming is pleasant and productive, pacifism is useless at this time. Violence is a permanent fixture in all of their lives. Of that, there is no question.

By Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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