Written by @EllieDangerous
When we first saw her, she’d stepped straight out of the comics; stoic and hard, poised with her katana and flanked by subservient undead. Danai Gurira's Michonne is one of the most hardened warriors in ‘The Walking Dead’, and even after we glance at her past she remains an enigma to us. But we can make a few guesses.

Spoiler Alert
Many of us are pretty happy to identify her by the first trait we ever saw in her: she’s game-changingly different. This is because Michonne is the first to show us something we’d never seen in ‘The Walking Dead’: that zombies can be harmless. Really gross pets, basically. She’s introduced with two walkers on leashes, their jaws and arms removed, dumb and pliant. With these two at her side she’s able to walk among the undead as one of them, disguised by her companions’ mutated docility.

Basically, she’s a damn genius. Michonne’s first move on the show is enough to keep us intrigued for a very long time.

To begin with, we identify her as a silent, inventive survivor with killer sword skills, but then we get hit by flashbacks. As it turns out, diehard Michonne was a museum enthusiast with a normal little family and a life like any of ours. So maybe that’s who she is? Geek, lover, mother? Hints of her past life spring out in her rare smile or her friendship with Carl, but Michonne has gone so far it doesn’t seem right to define her by her memories.

Other characters in ‘The Walking Dead’ can be defined pretty easily. Rick is the determined leader, Carl is the Padawan, Morgan is for peace and Carol is for war. Perhaps Michonne’s identifying feature is her mistrust of others: she finds a friend in Andrea, but doesn’t tell her a thing about herself. Michonne feels safest locked up inside herself, and there’s a part of us that feels she’s right to behave that way. Ice that strong can’t be broken easily.

But it turns out she can be warmed: mostly when she interacts with the kids, Carl and Judith, or when she learns to work as part of a team. She’s letting herself be caring and compassionate in a more open-minded way than Rick. But there’s that unsettling feeling again. Being a lone wolf kept her alive; caring for others might kill her. Warm up this iceberg too much and she could melt. I like this metaphor and I'm keeping it.

Michonne can be a terrifying figure, but the key is that she knows what she’s doing, and she can feel it too. “Have you ever done things that made you feel afraid of yourself afterward?”

It’s hard not to be afraid of someone like that, and consequently intrigued by them. So perhaps her identity doesn’t matter. Perhaps what makes Michonne a good character is that we’re ready to keep guessing.
People with nothing to hide don't usually feel the need to say so.
We're gonna catch up to a lot of things. And we're gonna end them.
I can't stop you. But you can't stop me from helping you.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 26 November 2015

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