- The Walking Dead had highs and lows but always produced standout episodes, even during its weakest seasons.
- The series introduced the post-apocalyptic world perfectly in its pilot episode, setting the tone for the entire show.
- The show continued to create strong episodes even as it lost some of its magic, and its spinoffs have grown and evolved.
The Walking Dead experienced many highs and lows during its run, but throughout 177 episodes, each season managed to produce a real standout episode. By the time the series came to an end, it didn’t manage to attract the same kind of viewership that it did during its peak. At one point, The Walking Dead was one of the most talked about shows on television, and for good reason. The suspenseful nature and gripping plots made it must-watch TV, and The Walking Dead has some of the best character deaths in television history. In its infancy, it competed with the likes of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
As time passed, the show did deteriorate in quality and views. It still maintained a dedicated audience, but it was no longer the powerhouse that dominated the industry. Although the show eventually wrapped up in 2022, The Walking Dead‘s spinoffs have continued to grow and evolve, with two new spinoffs airing since the main show’s finale and another set to premiere in February. Even when the series was arguably at its weakest towards the end of its run, it still managed to make quality episodes. The Walking Dead may have lost some of its magic, but it was always capable of creating strong episodes every season.
11 The Walking Dead Season 1, Episode 1
“Days Gone Bye”
The Walking Dead premiered on November 5, 2010, and launched one of the most successful TV franchises of all time. For a period, the series was the most popular on television and its pilot episode, “Days Gone Bye” was a huge reason for that. The way it introduced the post-apocalyptic world was perfect, with an eerie atmosphere, a constant feeling of dread, and some stellar acting, particularly by Andrew Lincoln. The episode utilized the horror element of zombies masterfully and was the perfect example of blending fear and entertainment. This made The Walking Dead peak television and helped set the tone for the entire series.
10 The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 7
“Pretty Much Dead Already”
Season 2’s midseason finale really elevated The Walking Dead to new heights in terms of its drama aspect. After Carol’s daughter, Sophia, had been missing for most of the season, the dark twist involving her character was completely unexpected. When she showed up as a walker, it was a shocking, heartbreaking reveal that proved how twisted The Walking Dead world can be. The iconic barn scene was made better by how much conflict the episode set up, with tensions and hostility rising throughout the group. “Pretty Much Dead Already” was great at developing relationships and characters, including making Shane one of The Walking Dead‘s best villains.
9 The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 4
Like many of The Walking Dead‘s best episodes, “Killer Within” is filled with loss, tragedy, and action. A seemingly minor villain caused series-defining events by allowing walkers into the prison. The stressful, claustrophobic nature of zombies swarming the survivors’ home proved to be some of the show’s best work. The episode featured a heroic sacrifice from fan favorite, T-Dog, the birth of Rick’s second child, and the death of his wife. Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of grief in this episode was immaculate and performances by Lauren Cohan and Chandler Riggs also stood out. “Killer Within” emphasized that no one was safe in The Walking Dead and that things could change incredibly fast.
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These are The Walking Dead characters with the highest kill counts after season 11 — including characters with 20 or more kills!
8 The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 8
“Too Far Gone”
Midseason finales are easily one of The Walking Dead‘s greatest strengths, but none are as good as “Too Far Gone”. It is one of the series’ best episodes and finishes the Governor arc perfectly. The Governor killed off several major characters in The Walking Dead and his final kill in season 4, episode 8, was hard to watch. Rick’s optimistic speech failed to win over The Governor, who executed Hershel in front of his daughters. The action that followed was tremendous. There was a fistfight between Rick and The Governor, a shootout between most of the show’s characters, and even a tank. This all set up a fresh future for the series.
7 The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 1
Season 5 may be the franchise’s strongest season with plenty of great episodes, including “Four Walls and a Roof”, “Coda”, and “Conquer”. However, “No Sanctuary” was one of The Walking Dead‘s most action-packed episodes and delivered a satisfying start to the season. The group finally reunited in the episode 4 finale. Unfortunately, they were locked up in the stronghold of cannibals. While it seemed there was no way out, Rick’s leadership helped the group fight back. It was ultimately Carol’s help from outside Terminus that caused chaos and allowed the group to escape. This led to heartwarming reunions and highlighted how much Carol had grown as a character.
6 The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 9
“No Way Out”
“No Way Out” showcased that even after all the years of survival tricks, walkers still posed a serious threat in The Walking Dead. The episode revolved around walkers breaching Alexandria’s walls and tearing apart the community. Despite the classic walker guts trick, drama still ensued which resulted in the Anderson family being killed off in quick succession. Carl was also shot in the eye, forcing Rick to get his son to the infirmary and the community had to band together to fight the horde. Daryl’s rocket launcher helped even the odds and was one of Daryl Dixon’s best Walking Dead moments, proving this episode had a lot to offer.
5 The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 1
“The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
After The Walking Dead’s controversial season 6 cliffhanger, season 7 responded with a bang. While the “All Out War” arc fell flat, Negan’s introduction was one of the best executed debuts on the show. Season 7’s premiere finally revealed who was on the end of Negan’s bat, with the villain killing two of the show’s most popular characters. Glenn’s demise was one of the saddest deaths in TV history, but made for an infamous episode. Some fans turned on “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” because of Glenn’s death, but it is still one of the show’s most tense episodes with Andrew Lincoln and Jeffery Dean Morgan delivering career-high performances.
10 Walking Dead Characters Whose Deaths Still Haunt Us After All These Years
Throughout its 11-season run, The Walking Dead killed off many characters, yet there are some haunting deaths that the audience couldn’t forget.
4 The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 13
“Do Not Send Us Astray”
Season 8 is one of the least popular seasons in The Walking Dead, but it does contain an underrated gem. “Do Not Send Us Astray” focuses on a tactical battle between the Hilltop and The Saviors, which maximized the show’s creativity. The Saviors attempted to infect Hilltop by attacking them with weapons covered in zombie blood, but the survivors thwart them with well-executed traps. Although the main group fend off the villains, one survivor ends up getting sick through The Saviors’ weapon, infecting many after they turn. This episode stands out as it shows how the survivors were tactically superior, yet their victory was bittersweet as they still lost many lives in the process.
3 The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 15
“The Calm Before”
Having lost a lot of major characters by the time “The Calm Before” aired, there were questions about how much more the show had to offer. Even without some of the big names, season 9’s penultimate episode delivered an iconic episode. The title cleverly disguises this episode as a more peaceful one, especially as the communities come together to form an alliance in the Kingdom. While the episode starts full of optimism, it takes a sinister turn. The Walking Dead successfully killed off multiple key characters at once, giving them heroic deaths while simultaneously creating a horrific scene consisting of all the dead characters’ heads being placed on spikes, sparking a war with The Whisperers.
2 The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 22
Season 10’s bonus episodes were wildly inconsistent. COVID-19 forced restrictions on filming, meaning the number of actors on set was limited. This led to some very poor one-off stories, yet it also ended up providing the best episode in season 10. “Here’s Negan” gave the reforming villain some much-needed backstory. Telling the tragic story of his wife battling cancer during the apocalypse, “Here’s Negan” helped the audience understand why Negan became a villain. While it is hard to forget how evil Negan was in The Walking Dead, this episode allowed Jeffrey Dean Morgan to show his range and flesh out his character, cementing Negan’s place as one of the show’s best survivors.
1 The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 2
“Acheron: Part II”
While The Walking Dead season 11 finale delivered some big moments, it was one of its earliest episodes that was the highlight of the final season. “Acheron Part II” planted the seeds for The Walking Dead‘s first spinoff after the main series, Dead City. It focused on Negan and Maggie having to reluctantly work together despite trying to betray one another. Their relationship dynamic was explored heavily, while the overall setting felt unique to the show. It also further tied the Commonwealth into the show, while introducing the Reapers at the climax. “Acheron Part II” proved The Walking Dead still had some fun concepts to explore, even in its final run.