Over the years, there have been an exorbitant amount of Walking Dead deaths.
As a matter of fact, almost everyone from the beginning of the series is gone now. And it’s not getting any better with the definitive news that Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) story is coming to an end soon.
It will undoubtedly be the most important exit/death in the series, but there have been several Walking Dead deaths that marked pivotal moments in the show. They were game changers for other characters, kicked off new arcs, and made us realize the ridiculously high stakes in this apocalyptic society.
The revelation of Sophia as one of the barn walkers was a heart-shattering moment. It affected pretty much everyone in vastly different ways.
Carol spent time in mourning before she started to shed her timid persona and become the boss she is today. It affected her later relationships with children to a detriment because she felt the need to push them past their capacity because of her perceived failure to prepare Sophia for this dangerous world.
Daryl went through his own emotional journey after feeling like he failed to complete the mission of finding Sophia alive. His search for her cemented his dedication to the group as he started to see himself as a part of something larger.
Rick and Shane’s already broken friendship was further severed after Shane’s actions at the barn, which set the path toward that infamous field showdown. Shane wasn’t trustworthy before, but this really put him in the antagonist spot as he became more volatile.
Carl was left to grieve the loss of his friend and started doing dumb things like throwing rocks at walkers. And Hershel’s family was forced to accept the truth about walkers after seeing the young girl and members of his family emerge from the barn.
They had experienced adult deaths before, but knowing that an innocent child suffered this brutal death alone really shook the group.
Shane’s death was a pivotal point in the series primarily because of the effect it had on the Grimes family. It emotionally destroyed Rick to kill his best friend, but he also found the resolve to embrace his role as a leader and stand up for himself in the midst of discord among the group.
Before Shane died, Rick was constantly being questioned and undermined by others despite making their safety and security a priority. After that point, he refused to let anyone cause so much unnecessary strife again and became the (mostly) fearless leader we know today.
This death also revealed more about Lori’s true nature to Rick. She previously told Rick to “do whatever it takes” to keep his family safe from Shane and then turned her back on him in disgust after he was forced to kill Shane.
To Rick (and any observant viewer), this meant Lori had much deeper feelings for Shane than she cared to admit. As a result, Shane’s demise widened the emotional chasm in their marriage.
Despite his faults, Shane had a solid relationship with Carl and was often the only adult who was fully tuned into his needs. After Shane’s death, Carl often found himself left to his own devices and his character arc started to blossom as he went down a path of confusion and pain while trying to come into his own as a preteen.
Lori wasn’t a fandom fave, but her brutal childbirth death and final message to Carl brings all the feels. It was the straw that broke Rick’s sanity in a way fans had never seen up until that point.
It was also his first personal loss, which was complicated because he faced the prospect of keeping a child alive who was likely Shane’s biological daughter. Rick was also parsing through his guilt and regret about being emotionally cold to her during the final months of her pregnancy.
His blind walker slaying rage and subsequent hallucinations showed that even the protagonist has the capacity to break down under so much duress. Lori’s death and Rick’s mental fallout also forced Daryl to step up into more of a leadership position, which really kicked off the massive love for his character.
Herschel’s completely unnecessary slaying at the hands of The Governor taught Rick an important lesson — do not negotiate with psychopaths. Herschel’s death kicked off the epic prison battle that led to their safe haven being destroyed and the group’s separation.
It marked the beginning of a time of separation, death, and despair as the group spent extended time on the road. This time was particularly hard on Rick, who lost his voice of reason and faith in outsiders, and Maggie, who was separated from her only remaining living family (Beth) and never saw her alive again.
Glenn and Abraham
Glenn and Abraham’s deaths sparked the greatest turning point in the dynamic of the show. It officially kicked off the All-Out War arc and made Negan the most menacing threat that Rick’s crew had ever encountered in the apocalypse.
Their deaths broke our cowboy boot wearing hero down to a groveling, crying mess as he dealt with immense grief and guilt. The way of life at Alexandria changed and there was a shift in the Kingdom as well as the Hilltop when they made the decision to fight for freedom.
Their deaths even galvanized Carol and Morgan, who were both having internal struggles about staying with a group.
This moment really changed the entire dynamic and feel of The Walking Dead and set Maggie on her path toward becoming the Hilltop leader and wanting to exact revenge on Negan. This is still going to be at play nearly two seasons later as she teams with Daryl against Rick.
And Abraham’s death set up the final (and important) arc of Sasha’s story.
Sasha is the only non-comic character on this list, so she has always been a wildcard. Her death by suicide was extremely sad (who can forget her listening to Donny Hathaway in a coffin?), but it had more importance than the show emphasized at the time.
Until then, everyone was going around in circles and not really making significant progress in fighting the Saviors. But her surprise walker reveal was just enough to stun Negan and give Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom enough of an upper hand to win that battle and kick off the war (finally).
It gave them the moral boost to want to finish this war and finally set things into action after an entire season of the plot crawling at a snail’s pace. And it caused some character growth for Rosita as she began to realize the ramifications of reckless actions.
Carl deserved a better hand than he was dealt at the end. His sudden shift from kicking off war in the season 7 finale to becoming a man of peace just one episode later made no sense.
The walker bite in his side to help save some random dude made no sense. It sucks because there was so much left for Carl to do in this series.
And he really didn’t have to die to convince Rick to not kill Negan. But that’s the “why” the show went with, so this is what we have right now.
Carl’s death was a major turning point for the show, for Richonne, and for the fandom. Carl was the primary reason why Rick has been fighting for safety and security since the beginning.
Yes, he still has Judith, but Carl was a part of the future he envisioned and was the last person he knew from the old world. As Rick’s time ends on the show, his memories and love for Carl will play a big part, which was seen in a preview clip of him looking at a piece of wood with Carl and Judith’s hand-prints.
Carl was the first person who vetted for Michonne in the group and was undoubtedly closer to her than anyone else in the group. She lost her best friend and son and it played a big role in her supporting Rick’s decision to keep Negan alive.
Michonne wanted to honor Carl’s wishes, even if it put her at odds with other members of their group. For many fans, it was the last straw that made them want to stop watching the series.
For others, it is a sad but intriguing departure from the comics that will keep them guessing about how it will all go down. Either way, it was one of the most hotly debated deaths among the fandom and caused a major tone shift in the series to push it down the path of coming together and rebuilding for a new beginning.