Nobody watches The Walking Dead with the expectations of the characters living, but that doesn’t stop us from becoming attached to characters and likewise being devastated when they meet their untimely demise. Six seasons in, with Season 7 just around the corner, and the roster of dead characters is probably long enough to fill a book. With the promise of another character being added to the list of the dearly departed in the premiere, we decided to make a list of the ten saddest deaths (narrowing it down to just 10 was quite the task).
Andrea Harrison wasn’t a popular character, to begin with, but when she found a love interest in the Governor, fans downright hated her. She managed to redeem herself before her death, though, by actively fighting back against the Governor and trying to create a truce that would save both the people of Woodbury and those living at the prison. Her actions came back to bite her in the, well you know what, and she found herself on the receiving end of the Governor’s torture. She put in every effort to save herself, but she fell victim to a zombified Milton. She managed to hold on long enough for her former group to discover her and to take matters into her own hands: “I know how the safety works.” *Cue the waterworks*
Much of Season 2 focused on the search for Sophia, and we were all holding out hope that Carol’s daughter would be found alive and well. Instead, when the fiasco at Hershel’s barn happened, we discovered that the little girl had been amongst the group all along, hidden away in a barn and now a walker. It’s not only the death of Sophia that makes it so sad, but the reaction of the other characters and the loss of hope.
Merle wasn’t a very likable character in Season 1, and you could even say that he was downright nasty and perhaps one of the meanest, and when he was left on the roof not many people missed him. But cut to Season 3 and the discovery that he was alive; still not a nice guy, still not very likable. He was the Governor’s right-hand man, and he did some not so nice things to the group. But his death was still sad because throughout the season he had changed. He had reconnected with his brother and was actively trying to right his wrongs, and when he faced off with the Governor and his army, he lost. The emotional end to Merle’s story, and what makes his death one of the saddest, is Daryl’s reaction to seeing his brother feasting on a body.
Noah was a good guy, and nobody wants to see the good guys go. He had found a family in the group when he discovered that his own family was dead. He was one of them, and he was loved. His death was brutal, and it was directly related to Nicholas’s own cowardice, and watching as walkers devoured him was torture. His parting words to Glenn are perhaps the saddest: “Don’t let go.” And he isn’t speaking of physically letting go of him; Noah had already accepted his fate, but he is reminding Glenn not to let go of his faith in humanity. Even teetering on the brink of death, he was still one of the good ones, and he never let the cruelty of the world beat him.
Tyreese’s death came right on the back of Beth’s. We were given a midseason hiatus to grieve the most recent loss, and we were ready to start fresh even though we were all still reeling from Beth. But it turned out that the showrunners had decided to hit us with a double-whammy and sent us straight into another period of mourning; they added salt to an open wound.
Tyreese had become a sort of source of hope over the course of his time on the show, and with all of the other beacons of hope gone, the role fell to him. He died returning Noah back home to his family, and his death wasn’t quick and painless, it was drawn out throughout the episode. He was haunted by hallucinations of those who had died before him: Bob, Lizzie, Mikah, and Beth, who were gently coaxing him to join them on the other side, but also the Governor, who was crueler. His death, in the wake of all of the other terrible things that the group had endured, sent them down a path of hopelessness.
Seeing a child die on The Walking Dead isn’t easy, but of all of the children who have met their fate on the show, Lizzie’s takes the cake for being the saddest. We knew that Lizzie wasn’t mentally stable, we had been given hints all throughout Season 4, but nobody could have ever suspected that she would kill her own sister all for the sake of proving that walkers are people. Her actions led to a heartbreaking decision and an even more tragic scene. Lizzie was too dangerous to be around others, and abandoning her would be too cruel, which left Tyreese and Carol with only one option and led to the utterance of one of the most famous phrases to have ever come out of the show: “Just look at the flowers.”
Lori was another character that much of the audience wasn’t a fan of, but that doesn’t make her death any less tragic. Set against the backdrop of a walker attack on the prison, thanks to an ungrateful prisoner, she dies during childbirth. She manages a heartfelt goodbye to her son, Carl, which included assurances that he would beat this world and a promise that he wouldn’t let this world spoil him before a heart-jarring “Goodnight love.” Her death stripped Carl of his innocence, as he is the one to put her down before she can turn, and her death haunted Rick for weeks to come.
Dale was the very first beacon of hope to grace the world of The Walking Dead, and there was no way that you could not like him. He was kind, compassionate, understanding. So when he was quite literally gutted by a walker, it wasn’t only hard for us to watch, but it took its toll on the characters, too. He wasn’t ready to die, and you could even argue that he was fighting to stay alive, but his death came in the form of a mercy-killing delivered by Daryl.
Beth’s death came out of left field and happened at the peak of her character development. She was finally coming into her own and realizing and utilizing her strength; she wasn’t just another dead girl…until she was. The days of simply singing and caring for baby Judith were gone, instead replaced by a hardened young woman with a determination to escape Grady Memorial Hospital, a task that would lead to her demise. What made her death even worse was the fact that she was moments away from being reunited with everyone that she loved, and that she died not knowing that her sister was still alive. Add to it the heartbreaking reactions of those who witnessed it, including Daryl who had been fighting to find Beth, and Maggie’s reaction to seeing her baby sister being carried out dead after she had been given hope that she was alive, and you have yourself a true tragedy…one that outraged some fans enough to create a petition to bring her back.
Without a doubt, Hershel Greene’s death is a contender for the #1 saddest death to have ever taken place on The Walking Dead, and one that I still can’t watch without having a box (or two boxes) of tissues nearby. He had a heart of gold and was the father figure of the group. He was the one who kept the group’s humanity in the midst of all of the terrible things happening around him. He kept his faith. He was good down to every cell in his body. But, as is always true on The Walking Dead, being the beacon of hope is a curse, and not even Hershel could escape the inevitable. It happened at the hands of the Governor, in the presence of his daughters, in the presence of Rick who had been fruitlessly trying to negotiate with the Governor. And it wasn’t a peaceful death by any means, not the kind of death that someone as good as Hershel deserved; it was one of the most brutal deaths to have taken place on TWD.
So there’s our list. Season 7 is fast approaching, and I’m sure that whoever kisses Lucille will earn a spot near the top of this list.