The Walking Dead can be an unpredictable show. Fans never know from episode to episode exactly what will happen or how. If there’s one thing fans have learned to count on going into the show’s ninth season, however, it’s the frequent, often tragic, sometimes graphic, departures of the show’s characters. Saying good-bye is just a part of life during the zombie apocalypse and The Walking Dead has racked up quite a body count over the years.
Sometimes a character’s demise comes as a brutal shock. Something we didn’t anticipate and wish hadn’t happened. Sometimes even when a character's end has been foreshadowed we’ve cringed when it’s finally come because it’s a beloved individual that's leaving the show. It's when characters we’ve spent years investing in and rooting for are painfully taken from us that we become most distraught over how cruel the show can be. These are the times fans are most likely to get fed up with the show and decide to stop watching it. On the other hand, there are those characters we’re happy to see go, whether it’s because they’re a danger to themselves and others, they’re selfish, they’re irredeemable, or they just bug, fans don’t miss them. During season 9 at least two main characters, Rick Grimes and Maggie Greene, are leaving The Walking Dead. Although we don’t yet know how it will happen, it’s likely there will be casualties. Before that, though, we take a look at some of the character departures that hurt the show and those fans welcomed so far.
20 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: SHANE WALSH
Shane was a major presence throughout The Walking Dead’s first two seasons. When the zombies rose while Rick was in a coma, he took it upon himself to protect Rick’s wife and son — and start a relationship with Rick’s wife.
When Rick re-entered their lives, however, his wife quickly went back to him, leading to Shane’s festering jealousy and ever-increasing resentment towards Rick. By the time Rick finally dispatched Shane, it was clear there was only room for one of them to continue with the group of survivors. While it was a relief at the time, many fans have wondered in hindsight what the show would have been had Shane lived and Rick met his maker.
19 HURT THE SHOW: NOAH
Noah only appeared during season 5, but his positive life and terrible passing made quite an impression. Noah enters the story when he befriends Beth Greene in the hospital. After joining Rick’s group of survivors, he does his best to be useful as they took up residence in Alexandria. He even expresses a desire to learn architecture so the community can stay fortified against walkers.
Unfortunately, after getting stuck in a revolving door on a supply run with Glenn and Nicholas, Nicholas manages to save himself in a way that dooms Noah. Glenn tries to save him but he’s helpless to prevent Noah from being set upon by walkers. Noah deserved better.
18 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: SPENCER MONROE
Spencer was the son of Deanna, who was the original leader of Alexandria. Following the loss of his whole family after Rick and his group took up residence in the community, he understandably became resentful of Rick’s leadership. Of course, Spencer was no prince. Sometimes he could be helpful but other times he could be selfish.
By season 7, Spencer was hoping to take over control of Alexandria. Instead of challenging Rick directly, however, Spencer went to Negan to make the case for why he’d be a better leader than Rick. In response to Spencer’s underhanded tactics, Negan took him out in a terrible way. Given the trouble he’d been causing, however, viewers weren’t sad to see him go.
17 HURT THE SHOW: CARL GRIMES
Perhaps more than any other character, Carl Grimes evolved the most throughout the eight seasons he was a part of The Walking Dead. Carl was so young when the zombie apocalypse began that viewers watched the character and the actor grow up on TV.
Despite his heightened circumstances, Carl went through the changes any other child does. The character’s been everything from bratty and annoying at the beginning of the show to mature and upstanding by the time his life ended. Carl was bitten by a zombie attempting to help someone else, a tribute to how much he’d grown and a testament to the positive force he could have been had his life continued.
16 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: LIZZIE SAMUELS
When audiences first met Lizzie Samuels in season 4, she seemed like an average young girl attempting to make the best of the zombie outbreak. As we saw more of Lizzie however, it became increasingly clear that she was disturbed in a way that made her a danger to those around her.
Lizzie came to see the walkers as her friends. She named them and insisted they wouldn’t hurt anyone. While the passing of a child is never positive, Lizzie’s demise became inevitable after she took out her little sister and didn’t seem to understand the problem with her actions. Without other options, Carol took her to a field, tearfully told her to look at the flowers, and took Lizzie’s troubled life.
15 HURT THE SHOW: TYREESE WILLIAMS
Tyreese looked like a beast but was really a gentle giant. He wanted to believe that there was still room for people like him, who preferred peace and mercy, in the walker-infested world. His untimely end came across as a commentary on the fact that this wasn’t the case in the post-apocalypse.
On a trip to the walled community where Noah lived, Tyreese is left to comfort Noah after the discovery that the community has been overrun by walkers. While the rest of the group scavenges for supplies Tyreese accompanies Noah to his former house, where he's bitten by Noah’s zombified brother. As he hallucinates characters who’ve gone before him, Tyreese joins them in a strangely peaceful but sad parting.
14 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: ED PELETIER
Fans hardly got to know Carol's husband, Ed, during the first season of the show. Yet fans learned all they needed to know about him from the brief amount of time he appeared onscreen. Controlling and abusive, Ed was a terrible husband to Carol and likely an even worse father to their daughter Sophia.
When he was eaten by a marauding group of walkers, it felt like justice. Getting rid of Ed set Carol on her path to becoming an independent, strong, capable woman who’s able to handle anything that comes her way. Carol’s become one of the most awesome characters on The Walking Dead and she couldn’t have grown the way she did if Ed had stuck around.
13 HURT THE SHOW: MERLE DIXON
Daryl’s older brother Merle was a vile character for most of his time on the show. Horrible to his younger brother and obnoxious to everyone else, Merle had little to recommend him outside of an almost cockroach-like determination to live no matter what.
Merle re-joined the group in season 3 after spending time in Woodbury as The Governor’s enforcer. Initially, it seemed like he hadn’t changed at all. Then something odd happened. To keep the rest of the group safe, Merle attacked the Governor and his soldiers alone, taking out quite a few of them before The Governor got to him. The scene of Daryl putting his reanimated brother down remains one of the show’s saddest, made even sadder by Merle’s bid for redemption.
12 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: GREGORY
When Gregory is first introduced, he is the leader of the Hilltop. Despite the peaceful community he runs, Gregory is quickly revealed to be a coward who has kept his people safe by catering to Negan and hiding behind stronger survivors when things got dicey with the walkers.
When he sides with Negan over his own community, Maggie takes over as the leader and he quickly comes to resent her power. Gregory uses quite a few underhanded tactics to regain his place at Hilltop. Despite being given numerous chances to be a productive member of the community, Maggie eventually decides to end him after he attempts to have her taken out in the first episode of season 9. He will not be missed.
11 HURT THE SHOW: ABRAHAM FORD
When season 6 of The Walking Dead ended right before Negan took a bat to someone’s head, fan speculation was rampant about who would be revealed to be the unlucky character at the beginning of season 7. Many had their money on Abraham, because out of Negan’s potential victims, Abraham’s story seemed to have largely run its course. In addition, he was a liked but not a beloved character. Unfortunately for Abraham, these predictions turned out to be correct.
Abraham could be a contradiction in terms, both reckless and thoughtful, powerful and traumatized. As his end drew near, however, he reached the conclusion that his life could have meaning if it made way for the future. Nonetheless, his end was tragic when it finally came.
10 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: GARETH
According to Gareth, he was a good man even after the apocalypse. He set up invitations around the Terminus compound so people could find their way there and survive. Yet, after the sanctuary was attacked, Gareth and his group devolved in the most terrible way.
Believing the world had become an awful, irredeemable place, Gareth decided he’d be that way too. Instead of helping the survivors that came to Terminus, he and his group started to ruthlessly take them down for food. He finally met his demise at the end of Rick’s machete —a merciless end for a merciless character.
9 HURT THE SHOW: DENISE CLOYD
Denise wasn’t a major character on The Walking Dead, which is probably one of the reasons she seemed like a good choice for a hasty exit. However, her abrupt departure came just as she was starting a relationship with Tara, angering a large faction of fans who saw her demise as an unfortunate example of the Bury Your Gays trope.
Denise accompanied Daryl and Rosita on a supply run to a pharmacy. After attempting to face her fears and take down a walker without help, she’s suddenly hit with a crossbow bolt fired by Dwight — a fate he meant for Daryl. While the move showed the brutality of the Saviors, it was a sad downfall for a character who still had a lot more life in her.
8 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: LORI GRIMES
During the first three seasons of The Walking Dead, Rick’s wife, Lori, had the distinction of being the show’s most hated character. She wasn’t an antagonist, but fans couldn’t stand her for a number of other reasons. Her worst sin, however, was encouraging Rick to take out Shane and then acting horrified when Rick actually did the deed.
She finally met her demise after going into labor while the prison was overrun with zombies. Isolated with Maggie and Carl, they find a safe space for her to give birth in the boiler room. Lori chooses to sacrifice herself so the baby can live, forcing her son to prevent her from reanimating. It’s a sad exit for a reviled character.
7 HURT THE SHOW: DALE HORVATH
Dale was the group’s moral compass for the show’s first two seasons. While his desire to keep Andrea safe by controlling her wasn’t his best quality, he was also a wise and reasonable counterpoint to some of the more hot-headed survivors. He was willing to fight walkers but cautioned the survivors about exterminating their own kind.
His end came at the hands of a walker Carl had provoked earlier in the day. Carl failed to report the zombie’s presence to anyone, so Dale wasn’t prepared when it attacked him later that night. Dale managed to avoid being bitten but was so badly injured that the only thing to do was put him out of his misery.
6 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: ANDREA
After Lori’s departure, Andrea became The Walking Dead‘s new most-despised character. While she showed flashes of questionable judgment before, it was during her time at Woodbury that things went off the rails for her. She wouldn’t listen to Michonne about Woodbury and refused to leave with her friend. Instead, Andrea took up with The Governor, never suspecting the horror he was causing behind the scenes.
Andrea didn’t learn what The Governor was really capable of until it was too late. Knowing she’d turned on him, he left her bound in a room with a dying underling. Andrea managed to dispatch the reanimated corpse but was bitten in the process and had to off herself before she reanimated too.
5 HURT THE SHOW: HERSHEL GREENE
Hershel was Maggie and Beth’s father, but with his calm and selfless ways, he also became like a father to everyone else in the group. The band of survivors looked to him for approval and to ensure that they were doing the right thing. That’s one of the reasons his death hurt so much.
After The Governor took him and Michonne hostage, we knew it wouldn’t end well for someone. Rick attempted to reason with The Governor, championing the values that Hershel had espoused of peace and reconciliation. The Governor wasn’t having it though and used Michonne’s katana to attack Hershel right in front of his daughters — and to finish the job during the ensuing fight.
4 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: NICHOLAS
Nicholas spent his time on The Walking Dead making all the wrong moves. He repeatedly sacrificed people to save himself from walkers and then lied about it, and he tried to kill Glenn.
In an attempt to redeem himself for his past, he paired off with Glenn to carry out an ill-fated plan to save their group from a horde of zombies. When they end up on top of a dumpster surrounded by walkers, instead of fighting, Nicholas turned his weapon on himself, knocking Glenn into the zombie horde as he fell. A fitting last act for a character who lacked the fortitude for the new world order.
3 HURT THE SHOW: BETH GREENE
When she was initially introduced, Beth seemed too delicate for the post-apocalypse. Her first major act on the show was to attempt to leave a world she judged to be too terrible to continue living in. However, the ordeal left her stronger and more fortified, even optimistic. Slowly, she learned to assert herself and became more adept at surviving.
By the time she found herself a prisoner in the hospital, Beth had a strong sense of who she was and what she believed in. So, when her group attempted to get her back, Beth tried to dispatch her captor before leaving. Unfortunately, Beth met her end instead. An abrupt exit for a character just coming into her own.
2 GLAD THEY’RE GONE: THE GOVERNOR
While the persona The Governor presented was that of a charming, caring leader, in reality, he was merciless, cruel, and prone to unhinged fits of rage that led to the downfall of both his enemies and allies. While other survivors are concerned with saving themselves from walkers, he used the walker uprising as an excuse to take out any human he deemed a threat.
After the fall of Woodbury, it seemed The Governor would no longer be there to torment Rick and the other survivors. Fans were less than thrilled when he re-appeared and took up his old vendettas. He finally departed the show for good after causing a war between his new group and Rick’s, thankfully unable to continue his sadistic ways.
1 HURT THE SHOW: GLENN RHEE
In the history of The Walking Dead, the exit that met with the loudest fan outcry was that of Glenn. He was taken out in the season 7 premiere when his head met the wrong end of Negan’s barbed wire-covered baseball bat. While Abraham was the first to go, Glenn paid the ultimate price after Daryl attacked Negan. The sheer brutality of the scene was too much for many viewers, and quite a few vowed they were done with the show.
Glenn was a big loss. A beloved character who had been there from the beginning, Glenn was an accomplished survivor and upstanding member of the group. There are few character departures that could match the emotional impact of Glenn's demise.