On top of gore, engrossing plots, good-looking people covered in sweat and dirt, and more gore, The Walking Dead has really made the way it introduces characters part of its signature appeal.
Thanks to the comics, many fans already know what new players are showing up and what they will do. Thus, with no surprises to be had, it’s up to producers to give these first appearances a little extra oomph. In many cases, they have. (Did you catch that intro with a tiger a little while back? This is what we’re on about.)
So, just as a rose-tinted look back on this difficult, bloody show, here are a few of our favorite The Walking Dead character introductions.
Jesus, Season 6, Episode 10
Paul (aka “Jesus”) hasn’t yet taken off and become the beloved character he is in the comics (perhaps because he is too much of a comic-book character). Yet, producers were good enough to give him a funny, winking intro as he outclassed and hoodwinked Daryl and Rick. Much like the introduction of Abraham, this debut was weird, wild, and somewhat off tone for the whole series. In a season that saw such brutality and hopelessness around Alexandria, however, it was a wonderful way to let some pressure off. Let’s hope we see more of him soon.
Eastman, Season 6, Episode 4
Eastman is one of the few single-episode characters that managed to leave a mark in under 42 minutes (Paula being another example). What’s interesting about his introduction is not its first few moments, which are fairly innocuous to be honest, but how quickly it moves the story into an uncertain, scary place. Is this guy who’s locked up Morgan in the living room a psychopath? A cannibal? Of course, none of that turns out to be true—but by starting us out on uneven, mysterious footing, the writer’s managed to grab our attention and keep it throughout.
Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene, Season 4, Episode 10
Abraham Ford comes into the world of The Walking Dead with amazing swagger. Actually, that’s not all that different from how he left it, too. In any case, he and is ragtag group swoop in to save Glenn at one of his many low points and then quickly introduce themselves (and a narrative arc) in a way that seems lovably bonkers in retrospect. There was a strong negative response to this introduction at the time (Rosita’s “Tomb Raider” costume bearing the brunt of it). Looking back, though, the three immediately injected a bizarre bolt of color into the series at just the point it was becoming too grim to watch.
Glenn, Season 1, Episode 1
Whether you’re a TWD fan or not, it’s hard to deny that “Days Gone Bye”—the show’s stunning, gripping first episode—is one of the best 67 minutes of television available. Among all the clever moments, and there are many, is the underhand introduction of the series’ most beloved (and now most mourned) characters Glenn Rhee who doesn’t actually appear in the episode, but instead calls out to Rick through a crackling radio. “Hey you…dumbass…Yeah, you in the tank,” does more than introduce us to Glenn. It ends the harrowing first installment of the series on a laugh and marks Rick’s first contact with the cadre of post-apocalypse friends who will define his journey
King Ezekiel, Season 7, Episode 2
Oh, this is something else, isn’t it? After meeting the vicious, homicidal Negan just two episodes before, we’re introduced to a “king” on a throne with a cheery man-at-arms (Jared), a royal comportment, and a tiger. It’s a complete break from the grungy, angry leaders we’ve seen before (The Governor, Owen, etc.) and about as hilarious as it is surreal. Even though she’s putting on a show, Carol’s incredulous, giggly reaction is exactly what the viewer is going through. It’s lovely.
Negan, Season 6, Episode 16
Yes, we viewed him from the waist down well before the season 6 finale, but the moment he stepped out of the camper wielding the barbed “Lucille” and a genuinely charming smile was our first real introduction to TWD’s most legitimate villain so far. Sleek and truly scary, Negan launches into a long, theatrical monologue—or is it a soliloquy?—that starts off a bit absurd, becoming more concrete and terrifying as it goes. It’s rare that a character in any show or movie introduces themselves with so much verbiage, but it works. By the end, you’re not only taking him seriously, you kind of like him. No wonder some people have crushes on the guy.
Michonne, Season 2, Episode 13
A Samurai sword. Two walkers on a chain. A hooded figure. A mystery. Frankly, an intro on The Walking Dead has never been this quick, this explosive, and this good. Matter of fact, it made us actually excited to see the next season of a show that was, frankly, losing a bit of steam. Nothing beats this.