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The Walking Dead's 20 most shocking deaths

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The Walking Dead

Television’s deadliest show is back. Season 7 of The Walking Dead arrives on 23 October, and with it comes the promise of at least one bloody, gruesome, and wincingly gratuitous death. While the question of who will be forced to have a face-to-face meeting with Negan’s baseball bat still looms large, we decided to look back at 20 other deaths that really left a bloody stain on the series...

SPOILER WARNING: as you might expect, this article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for all seasons of The Walking Dead. Obviously.

20. T-Dog

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

T-Dog’s defining characteristic seemed to be that he had the name ‘T-Dog’. Rarely given room to develop as a character, the reaper’s scythe seemed to be hanging over him for much of his run. Forever skulking in the background, even his death gets overshadowed – Lori dies in the same episode, and naturally sweeps up all the attention. Still, he went out as a hero, sacrificing himself to save Carol, and getting his neck torn out in a gruesomely heroic fashion.

19. Bud

Walking Dead

Cause of death: RPG

Truth be told, we don’t really get to know Bud. We don’t know his last name, for example. We don’t know his backstory. We don’t even learn about his hobbies or interests. We barely see him for more than about ten minutes, across only two episodes. All we know is that he is a foot soldier of Negan, a member of the Saviours, a motorcycle enthusiast – and that he explodes in a fireball, blown up by Daryl’s RPG, in a death as comically ludicrous as it is air-punchingly awesome. Farewell, Bud, we hardly knew ye.

18. Sophia Peletier

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

You know when you lose something, only for it to show up in your shed? That’s essentially the Sophia sub-plot. Carol’s young daughter goes missing early in Season 2, and the group waste precious hours – and in some cases, lives – attempting to find her. Her revelation as a walker is an emotional blow, and a key turning point for Hershel’s family, who until that point deemed zombieism as a curable affliction akin to a nasty cold.

17. Deanna Monroe

Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

When the metaphorical faeces hits the metaphorical air cooling device at the end of Season 6, Alexandria’s fearless leader gets caught by the herd, and spends her remaining hours offering wise, thoughtful goodbyes to Rick and Michonne before facing the herd alone. One of the show’s most honourable characters thus earns one of its most honourable deaths: her scream of defiance as she takes on the walkers is spine-tingling stuff.

16. Axel

Walking Dead

Cause of death: Gunshot wound

The Walking Dead giveth, and The Walking Death taketh away. Just when you start to warm to a character, just when you think you’re getting under a character’s skin, just when things start going that character’s way, they kill that character off. So it was with Axel (Lew Temple), a redneck ex-prisoner we initially mistrust. But just as he begins to show an amiable side, swapping friendly stories with Carol, he takes one of the Governor’s bullets to the head. The lesson here: don’t get too attached to anyone. Anyone.

15. Dale Horvath

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

Remember way back in Season 2, when Rick and the gang would still have a good old ponder before even considering murdering someone in cold blood? It was Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) – with his sun hat, hawaiian shirt, RV, trademark eyebrows – that was the group’s moral compass, urging them not to head down a darker path. When he died, at the hands of a walker Carl had accidentally disturbed, the group had nowhere to turn to for matters of ethics, and things went dark, fast.

14. Shane Walsh

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Knife stab to the chest

Shane's (Jon Bernthal) behaviour in Season 2 is disturbing, to say the least: adopting a “Look How Crazy I Have Become” buzz cut; muttering to himself about killing people; actually killing people; and ultimately, attempting to kill Rick in order to establish himself as the new leader of the group. It’s this final act of madness that proves to be the straw to break this particular camel’s back. Being forced to murder his oldest friend is an important moment for Rick – not least because, when we see Shane immediately reanimate, the true nature of the walkers is finally revealed to the group.

13. Andrea

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite / gunshot wound

Andrea (Laurie Holden) didn’t exactly inspire an army of fans to pray for her survival. You only had to look at her romantic conquests to see her incisive judgement, or lack thereof: first cosying up to Shane, shortly before he went mad and tried to kill everyone, she then shacked up with The Governor, during which time he was mad and tried to kill everyone. She gains something of a redemption when helping Rick to overtake Woodbury, and earns a dignified death, shooting herself before being reanimated.

12. Karen

Walking Dead

Cause of death: Stab to the head, corpse later burnt

Karen moved from an outsider to an insider fairly quickly, striking up a romantic relationship with Tyreese in Season 4. Her death came as something of a blow, then: after falling ill in the prison, her charred corpse is found one morning. The later revelation that it was Carol who killed her sparks a brutal debate on ethics and utilitarianism in the group, and forces Carol’s temporary exile. It’s certainly a far way off the Hippocratic approach to treating the flu.

11. Merle Dixon

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Gunshot

When Merle (Michael Rooker) is first introduced in Episode 2, he appears to be a straightforward antagonist. Racist, misogynist, violent, and generally just a bit of an asshole, we are instantly predisposed to dislike him. But like everything in this show, there’s more grey to Merle than there is black-or-white. After disappearing early in Season 1, he re-emerges as one of the Governor’s lieutenants, and then achieves some redemption by batting against him. His final moments as a walker, being stabbed by his brother Daryl, makes for a tearful valediction.

10. Denise Cloyd

Walking Dead

Cause of death: Arrow

Like many residents of Alexandria, Denise (Merritt Weaver) frequently struggled with fear of the outside world. In the Season 6 episode Twice As Far, Denise seemed to be finally overcoming her anxieties, giving a big grand speech about “facing my shit” – when she suddenly takes an arrow to the eye, and dies mid-sentence. It’s certainly one of the show’s most startling deaths, particularly in the way she continues to talk while collapsing. (In the comics – spoiler alert! – it’s Abraham who suffers a Battle-of-Hastings-esque demise.)

9. Tyreese Williams

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

Tyreese (Chad Coleman) always seemed impervious to death. As handy with a hammer as with a shotgun, his towering, tree trunk frame dispatched walkers and humans with ease – though, as a gentle giant of sorts, he avoided killing the latter. Ty’s downfall, bitten by a child zombie, seemed more senseless than most (surely a man of his size could have just casually flicked him away?), but the character at least got an entire episode to say his farewells in a series of hallucinatory cameos before shuffling off this mortal coil.

8. The Governor

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Samurai sword/gunshot to the head

Philip ‘The Governor’ Blake (David Morrissey) was always such a monumental bastard that his death seemed inevitable. A true psychopath, with a grisly penchant for keeping heads in jars, it really was only a matter of when, not if. His final moment – skewered by Michonne’s trusty blade – was perhaps not the most dramatic way to go, relatively speaking. But his death was a significant turning point: marking the end of the prison era, and bringing peace to Rick’s gang for, oooh, a good five or ten minutes.

7. Lori Grimes

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Blood loss after caesarean section

The Shakespearean tragedy that was Lori’s life met its wretched end in Season 3, and quite frankly, it was about time. Consider this: at the dawn of the apocalypse, her husband appears to die. She embarks on an affair (with Shane), only for her husband to re-appear. Her son is shot. She becomes pregnant – father unclear – and her husband grows increasingly distant. Finally: she dies on the floor of a prison, her belly cut open with an anaesthetic-free caesarean section. After a life like that, the sweet embrace of death must seem like a holiday.

6. Jessie, Sam and Ron Anderson

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bites

“The monsters are coming. They will tear you apart and eat you up.” Carol’s charmingly sinister words ring in young Sam Anderson’s ears as he walks through a walker horde while sporting a stylish bedsheet caked in zombie guts. Fear grips the young boy. The walkers can smell it. In an eventful three minutes, the entire Anderson family disappears into zombie oblivion – as does Carl Grimes’ right eye, and with it his ability to perceive depth, or wear 3D glasses effectively.

5. Bob Stookey

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker bite

It’s not often that a character on The Walking Dead gets to enjoy their death. But Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) makes the most of his demise. Things look fairly bleak when we find the former alcoholic being eaten alive by the Hunters, the cannibals who run Terminus. But Bob’s manic laughing reveals a grisly truth: he has been bitten by a walker, and they have been eating “tainted meat”. The lesson here: prudent meat preservation should really be properly observed – even among cannibalistic psychopaths.

4. Hershel Greene

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Samurai sword to the neck

Team doctor; wisened father figure; magnificent beard-wearer. Hershel (Scott Wilson) grew from being a stubborn contrarian to an invaluable member of the team and a firm fan favourite. Which made his death, at the hands of the Governor, all the more shocking. The fact that it was one of the more savage death scenes – having a sweet old man’s head half-severed from his neck – only made it more painful to watch.

3. Beth Greene

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Gunshot to the head

Beth (Emily Kinney) spends most of Season 5 in Grady Memorial Hospital, under the oppressive eye of Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods) – leader of the least enjoyable Police Academy sequel ever. In the mid-season finale, Beth is finally offered the chance to return to her people, via a tense prisoner exchange. Things seem to go smoothly. But that should have been your red flag, right there: things never go smoothly in The Walking Dead.

2. Noah

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Walker horde

In a show hardly lacking for gruesome deaths, the unfortunate end of Noah (Tyler James Williams) achieves a gutter punch blow. We hadn’t got to know the character very long, but he left a favourable impression; that he had to die due to the cowardice and stupidity of Nicholas rubs salt in the zombie bite. If you think his death (torn apart limb-from-limb by a zombie horde) was brutal enough, spare a thought for poor Glenn, who is forced to watch his friend die through the window of a revolving door, like some gruesome Victorian peepshow.

1. Lizzie and Mika Samuels

The Walking Dead

Cause of death: Gunshot to the head / stabbing

Breaking the unwritten rule of television that decrees never to depict a child’s death, the extraordinary Season 4 episode The Grove goes one better, killing two tykes in one fell swoop. After the prison fallout, Carol and Tyreese find themselves as foster parents to orphaned sisters Lizzie and Mika; when the former cheerfully kills the latter, innocently assuming her sister will return as a cuddly zombie, Carol has no other option. Her parting words – “just look at the flowers...” – is the most ominous thing ever said about horticulture.

Season 7 of The Walking Dead debuts on AMC in the US on 23 October, before arriving in the UK on Fox the following day.