By virtue of the world losing much of its humanity, first introductions in The Walking Dead never seem to go very well. They're difficult, because at any point the new face looking back at you may be the last one you'll see, and so the world has become kill or be killed - whether the victim has a heartbeat or not.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has made it abundantly clear that meeting new people is not necessarily high on his 'to do' list - and that was before the group had stumbled upon the prison. It's a terrible truth, but in this new world, a survivor is as much a threat to the wellbeing of the living as the reanimated corpses shuffling about.
'When the Dead Come Knocking' is a subtle nod to the episode's theme of introductions in a hostile world. Michonne (Danai Gurira) greets the group with the same amount of apprehension they (Rick, mostly) have at her arrival. She could be walking right into another Woodbury situation, but that hole in her leg offers her little choice. Meanwhile, Rick seems intent on seeing how many walkers this stranger can dispose of before she's overtaken, but Carl (Chandler Riggs) pulls the trigger on whether or not the group plans to help the sword-wielding stranger.
There's a palpable tension in the air when Michonne crosses paths with the rest of the survivors for the first time, but the tension is at its highest when the camera reveals Daryl (Norman Reedus) pointing his crossbow at her head. For a split second, the audience is suddenly well aware just who Daryl's brother is, and whether or not there's enough of a family resemblance that Michonne would quickly put two-and-two together. More to the point, however, the concern is just how easily the group's visitor located them, and who may still be after her.
This fear of outsiders and their potential to usurp power and resources - or, simply, their willingness to kill - is what drives men like Rick and the Governor (David Morrissey), but for very different reasons. The Governor displays legitimate concern that a group of (supposedly) ten people (who managed to clear a prison in the red zone, no less), may be headed toward Woodbury in search of their missing comrades. Rick, on the other hand, just wants to take his people back in one piece. Either way, there's going to be one more major introduction before the midseason finale.
Before that, however, Merle (Michael Rooker) and the Governor get acquainted and re-acquainted with Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) through a rather invasive approach. They're prototypical bullies, and although one is a little better at hiding it than the other, the first move is to intimidate and belittle their captives in the hope that yields positive results. When it doesn't, the Governor opts for putting them in a room together and making the threat about the other person's survival. Maggie caves, proving how much Glenn means to her, but this only serves to illustrate just how dangerous relationships can be when others use them as a bargaining tool.
Given the position Glenn and Maggie find themselves in, it's interesting how being a silent observer and loner has served Michonne. Through glower power alone, she had the Governor pegged almost from the get-go (though palling around with Merle is kind of like having a big black mark on your social resume), and despite Rick's initially less-than-gentle approach, a brief glance at the way the group communicated when reunited with Carol (Melissa McBride) told her almost everything she needed to know about these new acquaintances.
In a way, Michonne is a lot like the shotgun-wielding loner the group stumbles across while being chased by walkers in the woods. It'd be safe to guess he survived this long in part because there wasn't anyone for him to look after, anyone to compromise his well being but himself. We've seen plenty of this behavior in Michonne this season, but there've been hints she's just looking for the place where she belongs. At this point, it could go either way for Michonne, but in the end, living in a world where first introductions often prove to be fatal, knowing someone's got your back, and always having theirs may be the last vestige of humanity.
Various other items:
- Did the first Woodbury sentry's rifle barrel look slightly askew to anyone else?
- That was awfully nice of Rick to have a legitimate conversation with his son before running off to rescue Glenn and Maggie. It was also good of him to be cool with whatever name Carl came up with for the baby, considering it could've been a lot worse than Judith.
- Show of hands: Who wants to know what Milton's (Dallas Roberts) next move would've been if the zombie Mr. Coleman raised his hand?
The Walking Dead will air its midseason finale next Sunday with 'Made to Suffer' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview for the episode below: