AMC’s The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween 2010, an adaption of the comic book series of the same name that has made zombies a regular fixture on television screens across the globe for over a decade.
The show started by following sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes of King County, Georgia, as he attempted to find his family after discovering that the world had been overrun by ‘walkers’ (zombies) while he was in hospital in a coma.
British actor Andrew Lincoln, then relatively unknown to US audiences, won the role of Rick, joined over the years by an ensemble cast including Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride, Danai Gurira and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
The final series, the 11th, will start airing on 22 August and will consist of 24 episodes. After not having the opportunity to watch the show previously, I’ve caught up with it on Disney+, binging it since it became available so that I can see the final series as it airs.
Warning: spoilers after GIF.
With over 150 episodes broadcast and spanning a timeframe of around 12 years there have been a myriad storylines (remember Hershel’s farm and the prison? What about Gareth and also Woodbury?) and characters during the show’s run. Some characters became instant favourites for me while for some others I just couldn’t get on board with.
S7-present, portrayed by Khary Payton
As Miko once said, ‘King’ Ezekiel is “the man who built a kingdom during the apocalypse”. His vision and theatrical training – as well as pet tiger Shiva – led him to establishing a community built on inspiration quotes and favouring horseback riding as transport. He developed strong relationships with the Alexandrians and Hilltop, refusing to give up on reuniting the communities. The massacre at the trade fair had a devastating effect on the Kingdom; it’ll be interesting to see how his story plays out in the final series.
09. The Governor
S3-5, portrayed by David Morrissey
The Governor was the real first human threat that Rick’s group encountered. He had vision and created a seemingly idyllic community in Woodbury, but underneath that public persona was someone cruel and manipulative. The van loaded with walkers that was driven into the prison was an evil stroke of genius, as was his return to the prison in a tank after Woodbury’s fall.
S6-present, portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Combining showmanship with malice, Negan – like The Governor – successfully established a community but did so in a Mafioso style with his band of Saviours, providing protection to Alexandria, the Kingdom and Hilltop in exchange for a percentage of goods produced. Following the Saviours’ defeat Negan was imprisoned at Alexandria before being released years later by Carol to infiltrate the Whisperers. Several Alexandrians seem to tolerate him now, but will Maggie’s return change that?
S2-present, portrayed by Lauren Cohan
One of the longest serving characters alongside Daryl and Carol, Maggie’s role and significance in the series has continued to grow. After proving herself to be a strong and important part of Rick’s group, Maggie’s headstrong personality and determination developed her leadership skills, and she assumed the role of leader at Hilltop following Glenn’s death and the introduction of the Saviours. During the six-year leap she left Hilltop so it will be interesting to see what the final series brings for her as she reunites with her old group.
S1-7, portrayed by Steven Yeun
The second person that Rick owed his life to after Morgan, Glenn was dependable and brave. He put his pizza delivery skills to good use, becoming one of Rick’s go-to scavengers. As his relationship with Maggie developed Glenn matured, and his untimely departure was felt not only by his on-screen friends but with viewers alike. The impact of that continues to have a legacy on Maggie and her present-day motivations.
S4-present, portrayed by Josh McDermitt
Eugene has shown that it isn’t only the physically strongest or most devious who have survived, but also the most intellectual and openly cowardly. His intellect caught Negan’s attention, and he seemed to enjoy his newfound favouritism at the Sanctuary for some time. However, some harsh words from his best friend, Rosita, changed his perspective and he played an integral part in the defeat of the Saviours. During the six-year leap it seems that Eugene has finally settled and is playing an important part in the development of the united communities.
S1-present, portrayed by Norman Reedus
You could say that Daryl hasn’t changed that much during the course of the show, which is quite a contrast to the development of a lot of the other characters. The survival instinct wasn’t new to Daryl, as he had honed his hunting skills from a childhood and adolescence quite different to many in Rick’s group. Time and time again he has shown himself to be a valuable member of Rick’s group and Alexandria as a strong and cunning fighter. His friendship with Carole keeps him connected to the group, but with that seemingly waning, what the final series holds for him waits to be seen.
S1-9, portrayed by Andrew Lincoln
From series 1, episode 1 Rick was driven by the need to be reunited with his family. As that family grew – both biologically and metaphorically – over the course of the show he demonstrated how fiercely loyal and protective he was of it. We saw Rick at his worst and at his best. We saw him make hard decisions and we saw him – albeit briefly – enjoy the fruits of his labour. The days when the prison was thriving at the start of series 4 seem like a long time ago, and it will be interesting to see how Rick’s story concludes – both in the promised film trilogy and whether he makes a reappearance in the final series.
S1-present, portrayed by Melissa McBride
Carol has undergone an incredible transformation since her first few appearances in series 1. She has lost many people close to her during the course of the show – Sophia, Lizzie, Mika, Henry, and Ezekiel – and this has had a profound effect on her. Carol’s fighting skills are fierce and you would be foolish to doubt her ability. She has always considered the group’s wellbeing first and foremost, although her methods have been questioned – namely setting Negan free to assassinate Alpha as well and killing Karen and David to stop the spread of the virus in the prison.
S3-10, portrayed by Danai Gurira
Michonne’s entrance to the show is one of the most memorable: wearing a cape, holding a katana and pulling two walkers that she had made safe (by removing their arms and jaws). Michonne has faced her own demons and is intensely private about her life before, but by the start of series 4 – several months after the end of series 3 – she has integrated into Rick’s group and shown herself to be a skilful fighter and keen scavenger. Her significance in the group continued to grow until her departure to find Rick, ultimately becoming the leader of Alexandria as well as Rick’s girlfriend, adoptive mother to Carl and Judith, and biological mother to their son, RJ.
Hershel Greene, s2-4, portrayed by Scott Wilson:
Hershel took over from Dale as the moral compass of the group, introduced during series 2 when he provided medical support for the group after Carl was accidentally shot. His perspective of Rick’s group changes, and he became a reassuring father – and grandfather – figure to many of the group.
Abraham, s4-7, portrayed by Michael Cudlitz:
If there was one character I could bring back, Abraham would be one I’d seriously consider. While it was slightly disconcerting at first how much he enjoyed taking down walkers, he was a reliable fighter and willing to do anything for the group. Following a longstanding romance with Rosita, it was heart-breaking that when he had finally connected with Sasha, their time together was cut short.
Deanna, s5-6, portrayed by Tovah Feldshuh:
Deanna had a short but impactful presence in series 6 as the leader of Alexandria, a then utopia relatively untouched by walkers. A congresswoman before, she was diplomatic and listened to everyone before making her own judgement.