The Season 7 midseason premiere of The Walking Dead ended on one of the show's famous cliffhangers: Rick and his crew were once again facing a seemingly insurmountable threat, surrounded on all sides by strangers toting some serious weaponry. What was strange about the situation was Rick's reaction to it; even though they've all been dealing with so much lately that one more problem almost feels like too much to handle, Rick didn't crumble. Instead, he grinned. What could that possibly mean? Could he recognize those people? Does Rick know the new Walking Dead group?
Rick could have been smiling because he spotted the missing Father Gabriel in the crowd or just because he was finally ready to fight after months of playing it safe, but neither seemed to be the real reason for his sudden good cheer. Rick wasn't smiling because the group was familiar to him, either; according to Andrew Lincoln, the new group is "not like any other community [Rick has] met before." The new group is definitely new: neither the audience nor the characters have met them before, aside from the odd glimpse of the boat owner's boots as he stalked Rick and Aaron back to Alexandria. And because they're new, there's no way to know what to expect from them.
Only time will tell if the new group is open to making friends, though all those weapons seem to indicate that they're not. However, it would be in Rick's best interest to find a way to win them over, because they have the numbers and the weapons he so desperately needs for his growing army. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Scott M. Gimple says, "All these people aren't just a threat; they're an answer... A whole new world is discovered. It's a cool turn of the story."
The new group is still a mystery. Their identities and intentions are unknown, so things could go either way with them. Either they could prove useful to Rick by helping out with the upcoming battle against Negan, or they could be detrimental to the cause. They might be good guys, but they could just as easily be bad guys — or just ambivalent guys who aren't interested in joining the fight in a war that has nothing to do with them.
The most interesting thing is that all of these huge, unique communities manage to stay hidden until the exact moment Rick needs them. No one's running into each other at the supermarket or the gym on The Walking Dead. Unless they hear the call for battle, everyone seems to keep to themselves.