AMC’s The Walking Dead is a show known for its various twists and turns, loosely adapting famous comic book storylines without falling into a step-by-step retelling. With 10 full seasons under its belt and an eleventh well underway, the show has had plenty of shocking moments over the years.
While there are many surprising and unexpected moments in the zombie drama’s record-breaking run, some of these occurrences simply stick in fans’ minds more so than any others, becoming iconic among the fandom, usually for tragic reasons.
Denise, portrayed by Meritt Wever, had a short tenure on The Walking Dead, but was prominently featured in her limited time on the series. Alexandria’s doctor and Tara’s love interest, Denise always rose to the occasion, going on to save plenty of lives, including that of Carl Grimes.
Unfortunately for Denise, the boiling tensions between Alexandria and the Saviors resulted in her unexpected demise. In the heat of a monologue directed at Daryl and Rosita, Denise is shot through the eye with an arrow by Dwight, whose pack of Saviors had snuck up on the group. The moment remains one of the most jarring deaths in the show, seemingly coming out of nowhere.
Morales was somewhat of an enigma among the characters of TWD, as his fate was left unexplored for years. After departing with his wife and children halfway through the show’s first season, the character made a surprise return as a member of Negan’s Saviors in an early episode of season 8.
While rumors of Morales’s return had been circulating among fans for years prior to the actual occurrence, few expected the character to emerge as an enemy to Rick Grimes and his followers. What proved to be more shocking, however, was how quickly he was dispatched thereafter, shot down by Daryl Dixon only moments after his return.
Carol’s Character Arc
Carol Peletier has become a core character in the series and is even one of the only two remaining cast members left from the first season. However, her involvement with TWD was not always so clear-cut, as she was a very different person when she made her first appearance.
When Melissa McBride’s Carol Peletier was first introduced in the opening episodes, it seemed inevitable that she would be killed off before very much time had passed. However, over the years, Carol grew as a survivor in remarkable ways, and ultimately became one of The Walking Dead‘s best characters.
The Governor Decapitates Hershel
Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) was an integral part of the show’s second, third, and fourth seasons, acting as Rick’s moral compass in the midst of crisis and the group’s doctor in times of disease. The character proved himself to be a man who would sacrifice himself for the rest of the group without question, making him a fan favorite until his time was literally cut short at the hands of the murderous Governor.
While many fans may have known that Hershel’s death was an inevitability given the series’s proclivity to killing off morally upright characters, most viewers probably did not foresee the gruesome manner with which Hershel would be dispatched. It was truly traumatizing to see such a kind man callously beheaded before his friends and family, especially as the Governor’s swing failed to finish the job on the first swipe.
Rick Is Taken Away
The Walking Dead fans have had the privilege of watching Rick’s transformation over the years as he struggled with the moral implications of protecting his family throughout a rampaging zombie apocalypse. While Rick was the show’s undisputed main character, he made his exit five episodes into the ninth season.
When it was announced that Andrew Lincoln would be leaving the series, many fans began theorizing as to what that departure may look like, and whether or not Rick would die. When the episode finally aired, it appeared that many fans’ worst fears were realized, as Rick appeared to be killed in an explosion, only for it to be revealed that Jadis and her mysterious benefactors had instead taken him away in a helicopter, a storyline that has yet to be resolved.
Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) quickly established herself as a fan-favorite character in her time on the show, managing to retain her humanity amidst the horrors around her. This made her untimely end in the episode “Coda” all the more tragic when she was unceremoniously shot in the head.
Beth’s death came at the end of a long storyline in which she found herself separated from the group and confined to a community of survivors living in a hospital. In a moment where all seemed to be resolved, she was killed, making viewers’ hearts drop into their stomachs. This moment proved even more heartbreaking when it was revealed that Beth’s sister Maggie was just outside the building, waiting to be reunited with her.
Rick Bites Joe
TWD‘s fifth season pushed its characters to the brink of darkness, showing them on the road after the destruction of their base of operations, where they lose several valued members of the group in the wilderness. Rick, as the group’s leader, endures the brunt of this chaos, all culminating in one truly horrendous act.
After Rick and Carl are attacked by the Claimers, run by a man named Joe, a brawl ensues that nearly results in the two Grimes men losing their lives. Just when all seems lost, Rick makes a final resort in biting out Joe’s throat, killing him. This proved to be Rick’s most gruesome moment, as he came to resemble the very walkers that plague his world.
Everyone Is Infected
The show’s first two seasons operated under the premise that, if someone was bitten by a walker, they would soon die and become a walker themselves. However, this notion was flipped on its head in the last episodes of the second season, when several characters that had not been bitten became reanimated, and Rick revealed to the group that anyone that died would return as a zombie, not just those who were bitten.
This moment changed the show entirely, reinventing the dynamic between the living and the dead, making the delineating line between the two just a bit fuzzier. Things became infinitely more dangerous for the group, and more tragic, as their loved ones that died for any reason were guaranteed to return as a walker if not dispatched early enough.
Carl Is Bitten
Carl Grimes was an integral part of TWD‘s first eight seasons, with much of the story indicating that he would one day take his father’s place as a leader among the survivors of the zombie outbreak. Much of what Rick fought for was done with Carl’s future in mind, which made it all the more horrific when it was revealed that he had been bitten by a walker.
Carl was one of the only characters on the series that seemed to be “safe.” No matter what, he was seen as the one that would make it out alive. Yet, his death was used as a tool by the writers to set the end of the Savior War in place, making his dream for the future a reality. Even so, many fans will continue to miss Carl, as his absence is sorely felt in the following seasons.
Negan’s Second Victim
One of the most anticipated–and most dreaded–moments in Walking Dead history is Negan’s introduction, wherein he brutally beats a member of Rick’s group to death with his barbed-wire baseball bat Lucille. The moment has become infamous among TWD fans for the cliffhanger ending that forced them to wait months to learn who Negan had selected for death.
What proved to be most shocking about this ordeal, however, was not the revelation of Abraham’s gruesome demise at Negan’s hands, nor was it the months-long cliffhanger that preceded it, but rather the sequence in which Negan decides to take a second victim, killing the fan-favorite Glenn Rhee. This infamous moment shocked TWD fans around the world, emotionally destroying the fanbase forever.