Once one of the most popular shows on television, amassing monumental ratings with every episode, The Walking Dead has never had any qualms about killing characters.
After the series earned a cult following, TWD executives developed an inflated sense of confidence and began making decisions that would knowingly incense their massive fanbase. Now they are facing the consequences.
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Sometimes, when a character departs, it can leave the fanbase devastated. Other times, TWD deaths are trivial, barely evoking a reaction from the audience. Both of these cases can be equally damaging to the show; immense ratings are now dwindling and The Walking Dead is starting to show its age.
Let’s explore some of the most beloved characters’ departures that subsequently wound up hurting the show, along with those that have long since faded from most fans’ memories.
10 PAUL “JESUS” ROVIA – COULD CARE LESS
Jesus had been on the show for three years, yet the audience was never really presented with the opportunity to get to know him. Jesus spent most of his time at the Hilltop, serving as a right-hand man to both former leaders, Gregory and Maggie. Jesus was rarely given any kind of substantial arc to speak of, and it was only shortly before his death that he was revealed to be the leader Hilltop.
In the most recent midseason finale, Jesus took a knife to the back from a Whisperer. Unfortunately, although he was a long-term cast member, his death had nowhere near the impact it could have if the writers had taken the time to develop his character properly.
9 MERLE DIXON – HURT
Sarcastic, wise-cracking Merle Dixon was one of the highlights of TWD’s early seasons. There was never a dull moment in any scene that included him.
Michael Rooker’s amusing performance of this vulgar character, combined with Merle’s rocky past and his intriguing relationship with his little brother, Daryl, made Merle Dixon an iconic character.
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His death in the fifteenth episode of season 3 was a devastating one, as Daryl was forced to put down the walker version of his brother. The show has certainly waned since Merle’s departure, and today, with TWD having a vast cast of characters that have no real depth, they could definitely benefit from a character like Merle.
8 ABRAHAM FORD – COULD CARE LESS
Shortly after Abraham’s introduction to the show, a season 5 episode titled “Self-Help” revealed that his family had split from him in the early days of the outbreak leaving him with a note that read, “don’t try to find us”. Abraham later came across their remains in a ditch.
The problem with this was, back then, Abe was a relatively new character. Too new for the fanbase to care enough to want to see his backstory, no matter how tragic it was.
Abraham received sporadic and poorly timed development during his bout on the series, but not enough to shape him into a multi-dimensional character. So, when it was revealed that he was Negan’s (first) victim, it seemed that the only thing fans would miss about Abraham were his humorous remarks.
7 CARL GRIMES – HURT
Carl’s character is (still) the heart of the graphic novels. Is it any wonder then that the majority of the TWD fanbase was outraged when the season eight midseason finale revealed that Carl had fallen onto a walker and sustained a bite that would ultimately lead to his demise in the midseason premiere?
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Carl had been a significant focal point on the show for years; garnering a large fanbase that watched him grow up from the kid who just wouldn’t stay in the house, to a man who aimed to protect his family.
After saying goodbye to Judith and the others, Carl spent his final moments with Rick and Michonne, in a handful of emotional scenes. Killing off Carl Grimes was definitely one of the most questionable decisions TWD writers have ever made, and it sparked considerable backlash as a result.
6 BETH GREENE – COULD CARE LESS
When Beth poked Grady Hospital leader, Dawn Lerner, in the chest with a pair of scissors, fans cringed. And of course, this stunt resulted in Beth’s, frankly, embarrassing death.
Beth had always been little more than a background character until she was given her very own bottle episode in season 5. This was, of course, shortly before her midseason finale death; but “Slabtown“ did very little to make fans care about Beth.
She remained a fringe character to the end, which proves that a bottle episode, in and of itself, will not transform a background character to a fan favorite.
5 MAGGIE RHEE – HURT
Unlike little sister Beth, Maggie (Greene) Rhee has had a major presence on TWD since she was first introduced back in season two. She struck up an endearing relationship with Glenn Rhee when he and the rest of the Atlanta survivors arrived at her father’s farm, and the two quickly became inseparable.
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Over the course of the series, Maggie had several emotional story arcs; from being forced to perform an emergency c-section on Lori to deliver baby Judith, to losing Glenn before she even gave birth to their son. All of this hardship cultivated Maggie, preparing her to become the leader of Hilltop.
When actress, Lauren Cohan, opted to leave TWD, Maggie was given an unceremonious sendoff. For a character that has been a central part of the show for years, the nature of her departure was unmerited for both Lauren and Maggie. The loss of one of the few well-rounded characters TWD had under its belt, will do nothing but hurt the show.
4 PHILIP BLAKE (THE GOVERNOR) – COULD CARE LESS
Introduced early in season 3, the Governor was an interesting villain in the beginning. However, the TWD writers did what they so often do: depend on bottle episodes to develop select characters.
In season 4, the audience was treated to not one, but two consecutive bottle episodes that focused entirely on the Governor. It wasn’t as if these episodes were placed at an appropriate time either; being wedged between intense moments at the prison that involved the characters fans actually wanted to see.
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In the end, watching the Governor get impaled on Michonne’s sword and later shot in the head by his love-interest, Lily, was satisfying. However, by this time, the Governor’s arc had started to feel like some never-ending demise of a horror movie villain. This meant that it mostly came as a relief to know that there would be no more upcoming episodes that would focus solely on this character.
3 RICK GRIMES – HURT
After nearly a decade of leading The Walking Dead, it was time to say goodbye to Rick Grimes early in the ninth season.
TWD has had years of unbridled success and a cast that wouldn’t have left the show for anything. Circumstances are different now, and the series is having to endure involuntary losses, such as Rick’s actor, Andrew Lincoln.
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Drunk on the success that the previous years brought, TWD writers most likely didn’t account for a time when their cast would begin to leave the show of their own accord. Trying to make the best of a bad situation, Rick’s departure became a prominent point of promotion for the ninth season. This proved to be an ineffective strategy that pushed many fans to finally throwing in the TWD towel, with the attitude that it is simply not The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes.
2 SASHA WILLIAMS – COULD CARE LESS
Sonequa Martin-Green did a beautiful job portraying Sasha for four seasons. The fact that the writers squandered what could have been an iconic character was as tragic as her death.
Sasha had a strong presence in season four, after she and her older brother, Tyreese, joined the prison in the preceding season. Being a member of the prison council, she was shown to be quick-witted and resourceful.
After enduring several losses, Sasha became hardened by her grief. The real demise of the character came in her final season, when her entire arc revolved around avenging her (short-term) boyfriend’s death. Unlike many TWD characters, Sasha had actually undergone a notable amount of development before being saddled with her conclusive arc. But in true TWD fashion, all that evolution was thrown out the window by the time she was killed off in the season 7 finale.
1 GLENN RHEE – HURT
…many might say, killed.
Glenn Rhee was the heart and soul of The Walking Dead and, although he was not given anywhere near the screen time he deserved, it was impossible not to love him.
From his unforgettable introduction in the series premiere to his journey through seven seasons of TWD, Glenn was iconic in every way.
It was undoubtedly hard to watch the beloved, dorky, ex-pizza-delivery-boy-turned-husband-and-father-to-be, take a baseball bat to the head. Thus, his death was probably the one that infuriated fans the most. Killing this fan-favorite would prove to be a fatal error, as millions of viewers decided to tune out after this infamous episode.
Glenn’s absence leaves an arguably bigger hole in TWD than Rick’s; the series will never be the same without Glenn Rhee.
NEXT: THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 9: 4 UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AFTER EPISODE 13
Savannah Di Leo