The Walking Dead may feature some of the worst parts of human nature in its apocalyptic narrative, but it also features some of the best: the loyalties, loves, and friendships that form as a result of good men and women fighting side-by-side with one another for survival.
Former series lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) experienced several life-altering friendships throughout his nine seasons on the show. These friendships strengthened and changed him along the way, and though some met a tragic end, others still continue to present their effects on the series to this very day.
Rick’s friendship with Jon Bernthal’s Shane Walsh was complicated, to say the least. The two were childhood best friends turned partners on the police force, inseparable until the fall of civilization. The two were driven apart irreparably, however, after Shane’s affair with Rick’s wife Lori, leading to a falling out that would leave Shane dead after attempting to take Rick’s life.
Though Rick was forced to kill Shane in self-defense, it was clear that doing so broke his heart. Even after all they had been through, Rick still thought of Shane as his brother and mourned his loss in his own way thereafter. Had the world never fallen, the two would doubtlessly have continued their decades-long friendship in peace and harmony.
Khary Payton joined the cast of The Walking Dead early in the seventh season as the illustrious and overly theatrical King Ezekiel, leader of the community known as the Kingdom. First dealing exclusively with Morgan Jones and Carol Peletier, Ezekiel would eventually become a close ally of Rick’s during the Savior War.
Though he initially declined Rick’s initial petition to unite in a war against Negan and the Saviors, Ezekiel eventually became a crucial piece in the alliance’s victory. Upon joining Alexandria and Hilltop in the war, Ezekiel proved to be a valuable ally to Rick, and one of the few who could sympathize with the hardships of leading a community.
Michael Cudlitz’s Abraham Ford was a force to be reckoned with in his time on the series, and, despite his death at the hands of Negan in the season 7 premiere, remains a character that fans are desperate to see more of in Tales of the Walking Dead. Nevertheless, it is his time in Rick’s group that made Abraham the fan-favorite that he eventually became.
Though Rick’s and Abraham’s goals at their first meeting didn’t entirely align, the two forged a strong bond before too long. Abraham soon became Rick’s “strong-arm,” fulfilling his every command without hesitation. Rick also soon came to appreciate Abraham’s unique linguistic stylings, a rare sequence of levity in a forlorn world.
Ross Marquand’s Aaron is one of the few original Alexandrians still remaining on The Walking Dead to this day. First discovering Rick’s group in season 5, he led the near-dead survivors to his home, which welcomed them with open arms. In many ways, Aaron is the only reason that the show’s main cast has survived as long as they have.
Though Rick initially didn’t trust Aaron’s promises of a peaceful life at Alexandria, it wasn’t long after joining the community that Rick came to respect and appreciate his bravery and compassion. The two would often partner up on supply runs, forming a brotherly bond that kept both alive long enough to achieve their common ends.
One of the most important friendships that Rick ever formed on The Walking Dead was with Hershel Greene, played by the late Scott Wilson. First appearing in the show’s second season, Hershel allowed Rick’s group to remain on his farm as they searched for the missing Sophia Peletier. As time went on, Hershel and his family became integrated into the group, expanding Rick’s found family.
In their time together, Hershel became Rick’s closest advisor, always doing his best to keep the weary leader on the straight and narrow path. Hershel’s death in season 4 was a key event in the transformation of Rick Grimes, sending him down a dark path of rage and regret. As time went on, however, Rick returned to the tenets taught to him by Hershel, honoring his memory as best he could.
Lauren Cohan has long been an integral cast member of The Walking Dead, playing Maggie Rhee. Ever since her first appearance in the show’s second season, Maggie has proven to be one of the best survivors in this post-apocalyptic world and has even led two separate communities, though both reigns ended in tragedy.
It didn’t take long for Rick to come to respect Maggie’s spitfire method of communication and propensity to get her hands dirty when necessary. Rick had so much respect for Maggie, in fact, that he once promised to follow her once the Savior War had ended. While they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, there was a clear abundance of respect between these two fast friends.
Melissa McBride is one of the few cast members from The Walking Dead‘s first season that remains on the flagship series to this day. Playing the fearsome Carol Peletier, McBride has in many ways become the matriarch of the series, as well as one of its most interesting characters.
The friendship between Rick Grims and Carol Peletier was perhaps one of the most shocking things to ever happen on The Walking Dead, as the latter seemed highly likely to be killed off of the series early on. Nevertheless, Carol eventually proved to be the ace up Rick’s sleeve on a number of occasions, often single-handedly saving the group at their lowest moments.
Steven Yeun enjoyed a six-year tenure on The Walking Dead as one of its most popular characters, Glenn Rhee. Glenn was often the picture of moral character in a world that had forgotten what such a term even means. Upon his death in the season 7 premiere, TWD changed forever, sorely missing his calming presence.
Glenn was one survivor that was very dear to Rick’s heart. It was he who found Rick in Atlanta, leading him to the group of survivors that included his wife and son, a series of events that kicked off the entire series. It was also Glenn who stood by Rick’s side for years, never wavering in his loyalty to the man he respected as a leader and friend.
Despite being a character original to the television series, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) quickly became The Walking Dead‘s most popular character by far, beginning as an uncontrollable wild card and eventually developing into a bona fide leader. His arc over eleven seasons of the series has proven to be one of the best in the franchise.
Rick and Daryl’s friendship remains one of the most heartfelt in the entire series, with the two beginning at odds after a less-than-friendly encounter between Rick and Daryl’s brother Merle, but eventually forging an unbreakable brotherhood unlike any other. Even years after Rick’s disappearance, the event is still something Daryl is working through, showing just how profound an effect the former sheriff had on the youngest Dixon brother.
Danai Gurira was a force to be reckoned with as the fearsome Michonne, whose tenure on TWD extended from the third season all the way through the tenth. The character’s unparalleled skill with a sword quickly made her a fan favorite, also catching the eye of Rick Grimes himself.
After spending several seasons cultivating an adorable friendship, which included Michonne becoming a mother figure to Rick’s son Carl, Rick and Michonne eventually began a romantic relationship that would last until Rick’s disappearance in season 9. In their time together, the two experienced some of the happiest years of their lives post-apocalypse, proving that life goes on even after the world ends.