The Definitive Ranking of All the Deaths on The Walking Dead

Monday, 20 October 2014 - 7:55PM
Zombies
The Walking Dead
Monday, 20 October 2014 - 7:55PM
The Definitive Ranking of All the Deaths on The Walking Dead

Love it or hate it, The Walking Dead just keeps upping its game when it comes to shock value. Five seasons in, they can still shock us, as they demonstrated last night with the soon-to-be-infamous BobBQ. Bob isn't dead (yet), but he likely will be soon, and when he does, his death will likely go down as one of the most memorable deaths on this gruesome show, based on last night alone. So just to demonstrate that this show has made us more morbid, we've ranked all the deaths from the last five seasons, from the most anticlimactic to the most shocking/disturbing/disgusting/heartbreaking.

 

(Okay, we couldn't possibly rank ALL the deaths on the Walking Dead. If you count walkers, then the body count is probably in the hundreds, not to mention that many characters are literally brought onto the show to die when we've barely had a chance to learn their names. Jimmy? Patricia? Tomas? Who?)

 

20. Andrea

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

If Andrea's death were ranked any higher, it would only be because everyone wanted it to happen. Just like we're less likely to criticize when a character we enjoy comes back to life against all odds, it feels like looking a gift horse in the mouth to critique Andrea's death. But it was idiotic. It should have been tension-filled, since Andrea was trapped with a man who was about to die and start chomping on her, but her inexplicable incompetence just made it annoying (granted, that's consistent with the general characterization of Andrea, but still). When you have a limited amount of time to retrieve pliers from the floor, free yourself, and escape certain death, you don't need to be having a conversation about your journey as a person. She could easily get a Darwin award. 

 

19. Lilly

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Granted, the "rise of the Governor" storyline was probably ill-advised to begin with, and it was difficult for us to care about any of these characters. But the writers still managed to make Meghan's death relatively poignant, and then after all that, we don't even see Lilly's death onscreen? It's almost an afterthought that Tara even bothers to tell us what happened to her, even though she was deemed important enough to kill the most significant villain to appear on the show thus far. Which brings us to the real problem...

 

18. The Governor

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

There were many problems with the way the Governor was killed. First, they dragged it out way too long. Like so many shows that strike gold with a storyline, they took far too long to put it to rest (just think of the third season of Homeland). So while the showdown at the prison was thrilling overall, it had a strange feeling of being a belated third season finale, a half season too late. And then Michonne stabs him. I can get on board with that ending, especially considering that he tried to rape and kill her not too long ago. (Although honestly, I would have voted for Maggie. Between the sexual humiliation and Herschel's murder, that would have been poetic justice.) But then, not only do they drag out his death even more, they have the final blow dealt by a character we've only spent a few episodes with. It could have been worse, but it definitely didn't do justice to one of the show's most interesting characters.

 

17. Amy

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Amy was a sad death, if only because it was the first death of a major, likable character on the show. It was also the first sign that nice, pacifistic people can't survive in this new world. But still, her character had hardly been developed; she had really only been established as a connection to Andrea, and no one likes Andrea.

 

16. Patrick

 

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Patrick's death would rank much higher if the audience had known him a little better, just because it was so sudden. You obviously know that when a character is by him or herself at the end of the episode for no apparent reason, they're probably going to be killed, but on this show you expect it to be walkers infesting the prison. There were no walkers, just a young boy feeling a little sick. He collapses and aspirates on his blood, and we're left to remember that people can die of the flu, even on a sci-fi show. The earthly nature of the threat made it all the more real, and all the more terrifying.

 

15. Dr. Jenner/Jacqui

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Neither Dr. Jenner nor Jacqui were central characters, but both of their deaths were significant to the overall plot and themes of the show. Dr. Jenner was the survivors' last hope (until recently, that is) of some kind of cure, some way to get back to the world as they knew it. With his death, and his whispered revelation, all hope that they could revert back to some kind of functional civilization was snuffed out. And Jacqui, for her part, introduced the idea that life in the zombie apocalypse might not be worth living. She wasn't the first to consider it, but whenever she was mentioned in the series after her death, she always served as a symbol for death as a peaceful alternative to living in this harsher world.

 

14. T-Dog

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

This show isn't always the best at crafting black characters that aren't tokens, so we didn't know T-Dog as well as we should have when he died in season 3. But his death was still incredibly poignant and heroic, as he nobly sacrificed himself to save Carol and everyone else in the prison, even though it meant dying a horrible death at the hands of walkers.

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

13. Otis

 

[Credit: AMC] 

 

Otis was the point of no return in Shane's transformation into the show's main antagonist. Although it was a terrible situation that had no easy answer, Shane's sacrifice of Otis was unbearably callous, especially since he purposely left him alive to be eaten by walkers while he was completely alert. It seemed far too easy for Shane to just leave Otis behind while he screamed, and when Shane shaved his head, we knew that it was a physical representation of his metamorphosis into a ruthless villain. 

 

12. Randall

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Randall's death was a point of discussion for many episodes before it actually happened. Like the decision of whether to continue searching for Sophia, it was a choice between compassion and pragmatism, humanitarianism or survival instinct. And then, after all that hemming and hawing, his actual death was utterly anti-climactic, with Shane just snapping his neck without a second thought. This act not only showed that Shane was too far gone to be saved, but ultimately was the key to the survivors discovering that they were all infected with the zombie virus. So not only are they metaphorically losing their humanity, but they are literally losing their humanity, as they are slowly but surely turning into walkers. 

 

11. Sam

 

AKA Robin Lord Taylor of Penguin fame! 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Poor Sam and Ana. They were so sweet. It was bad enough when Rick and Carol found Ana's remains, but at least the viewer could hope that Sam got away and learned some survival skills. Then, in the fifth season premiere (only one episode in, and they've already gotten a death on the list), he dies a horrible, horrible death at the hands of the Terminus butchers. In one of the most harrowing scenes of the entire series, the survivors are forced to kneel by a trough as their throats are slit one by one, and the hardcore fan will notice that poor Sam is the first to go. It's even sadder for the fact that it's just a cameo with no dialogue, and Rick either doesn't recognize him or doesn't mention it.

 

10. Merle

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

I wasn't a big fan of racist, redneck Merle as a person (was anyone?), but Daryl is so rabidly beloved, this death still made a significant impact. When Daryl just stumbles on his zombified brother and starts crying, the entire fanbase started crying with him. And then he was forced to kill his brother's flesh-eating corpse through his tears, because putting Daryl through terrible things is the closest the writers can get to killing him without losing half their viewers.

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

9. Shane

 

[Credit: AMC]

 
Shane far outlasted his counterpart in the comics, and it's a good thing, because he became an integral part of the first two seasons. He was the polar opposite to Dale's pacifistic humanitarianism, the foremost advocate of a truly Darwinian philosophy (he probably would have understood Gareth better than any of the other survivors). He had some of the most memorable and thematically significant lines of the series, including, "You can't just be a nice guy and expect to live. Not anymore." He was the devil on Rick's shoulder to Dale's angel, but Jon Bernthal's sympathetic performance and some nuanced writing made the two sides of the ethical debates seem anything but black and white. And, ironically, Rick was ultimately forced to defeat him by becoming more like him. Nothing says ruthless Darwinism than killing your best friend for the "greater good."

 

8. Karen and David

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Karen and David weren't especially important to the audience when they died, but their deaths were extremely disturbing, especially when the full scene is recreated later. Carol took a ruthless utilitarian approach to the deadly infection that killed Patrick by stabbing Karen and David and burning their bodies. Although we can see her reasoning, especially since the virus ultimately killed so many people, the trail of blood, the charred corpses, all the upsetting details of the deaths made us wonder how callous Carol had really become, and whether the ends truly justify the means. This event could have set her on the path to becoming the new Shane, but either because Carol has her head more firmly on her shoulders, or because the survivors have become more inured to moral outrage since the second season, she's instead become a potential new leader for the group.

 

7. Woodbury Residents

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Before the third season finale, we knew the Governor was bad news. He was egomaniacal, he was Machiavellian, he was every fascist dictator stereotype under the sun. But he was always calculated, always self-serving, always somewhat predictable to anyone who wasn't as dumb as Andrea. When he abruptly takes out a gun and starts massacring his own people, just because things aren't going his way, the show fulfilled the promise of the sense of unease established by those jars of heads. In that moment, we realized that he's not just a tyrant, he's a truly sick individual, an interesting development which almost justified waiting until the next season to kill him off. Almost. 

 

6. Sophia

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Many were annoyed by the search for Sophia, and I understand why, but I wasn't one of them. The pacing got a little slow at times, but the longer they searched for her, the more you got the impression that all of their hopes for retaining their humanity rested in finding this little girl. And then, not only was she dead when they found her, but she had been dead the whole time, and right under their noses. The death alone was tragic, but the effect on the group was catastrophic, and understandably so.

 

5. Dale

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

If Sophia's death represented a turning point in which the survivors began to question whether this new world order had any room left for compassion, Dale's death sealed the deal. He was the only one who held onto his kindness for dear life, and as a result he served as the group's conscience. His ideological opposite, Shane, told him that because of his kindness, he was "pretty much dead already," and he was right. Dale was gruesomely disemboweled by a stray walker, in a random, arbitrary death that showed he wasn't meant for a post-apocalyptic world. 

 

4. Lori

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Similar to Andrea, I'm not sure anyone was actually sad to see this character go. She and Andrea were probably the show's most hated characters, but Lori was more central to the plot, had closer connections with other characters, and her death was completely harrowing. Pregnancy is like a big cosmic joke, which is why some of the best body horror has to do with pregnancy and childbirth (remember that scene in Prometheus?). Lori effectively commits suicide once she begins to experience complications during labor, telling Maggie to do an impromptu C-section without anesthetic while the prison is besieged by walkers. She dies from shock and blood loss, and her young son shoots her corpse in the head to prevent reanimation. Regardless of how we felt about the character, it doesn't get much more disturbing than that. Except for maybe these next few deaths...

 

3. Joe

 

 

For such a boring character, Rick certainly has tried on many hats. He went from milquetoast policeman to relatively pacifist leader to wannabe tyrant to hippie farmer, and he stayed a hippie until that fateful and horrifying night that Joe and his cronies threatened to rape his son and kill them both. This was the final nail in the coffin, the event that showed Rick that Shane sort of had the right idea, and that he can't expect to be a "nice guy" and protect his family. In what was arguably the goriest death on the entire show, he ripped Joe's throat out with his teeth, cementing his gradual transformation into a stone-cold killer. The biting aspect was also interesting, especially in light of the Terminus/Hunters plotline. Both Rick and the Hunters have literally eaten human flesh, reinforcing the theme that the apocalypse has forced the humans to become smarter, crueler versions of walkers.

 

2. Hershel

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Herschel's death was one of the most brutal of the series. The Governor holds him hostage while Rick pleas for everyone to rediscover their humanity. Herschel gives Rick a proud smile, and we just know he's a goner. But that doesn't make it any less upsetting that the Governor then decapitates him, in front of his daughters, no less. Lori and Joe's deaths might have been slightly more gruesome, or at least more creatively gruesome, but the fact that Herschel was a fan favorite made his death more shocking. (It doesn't hurt that he looks a little like Dumbledore/Gandalf/Santa Claus.) 

 

1. Lizzie and Mika

 

[Credit: AMC]

 

Some thought that this plotline went too far, but I'll say this for The Walking Dead, you know you have something when one of your most affecting episodes comes this late in the game. Sophia, Lori, and Herschel's deaths had approached this kind of darkness, but had never gone to quite these depths. Lizzie had already proven herself to be unstable, naming the walkers, feeding them, playing with them, convinced that they're just "different" or "sick." She also almost suffocated baby Judith, so we shouldn't have been so surprised when Carol found her standing over her sister's dead body with a bloody knife in her hands, but we were. Melissa McBride's acting was top-notch throughout this episode, and her delivery of the line "Just look at the flowers" was devastating. We knew after Sophia that The Walking Dead was willing to kill children, but I don't think I realized they were willing to do it quite like this.

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