The Walking Dead – now officially one of the most watched shows in cable TV history (beaten only by its recent spin-off) – is back for a sixth season, poised to quench the bloodthirst of its many fans.
In celebration of the fallen survivors (and villains) of everybody's favourite zombie drama, we reflect upon the ten most shocking deaths from the show's 67 episode arc.
Spoilers – not to mention scenes of head-chopping, eye-shooting and, yes, leg-munching – abound.
10 | The Governor
Played by: David Morrissey
When? Season 4, Episode 7: Too Far Gone
It was only right that The Governor – Woodbury's depraved eye-patch aficionado – received a send off befitting of his nature as the most loathsome villain the series has coughed up thus far. Seeking vengeance from his defeat by Rick and co. the season before, The Governor – real name Philip Blake – meets his fate in the form of a bullet to the head from Lily Chambler, shortly after a run in with Michonne’s katana. After decapitating Hershel (Scott Wilson) and almost strangling Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his comeuppance felt bittersweet as hell.
9 | Axel
Played by: Lew Temple
When? Season 3, Episode 10: Home
Axel – a redneck prisoner whom the group meet at the prison – may not have been the most three-dimensional of characters but he was eventually accepted by Rick and viewers alike. Sadly, his growing friendship with Carol (Melissa McBride) was never given a chance to develop due to him being gunned down mid-sentence by The Governor in one of the series’ most unexpected moments. In hindsight, maybe Carol's BFF Daryl was behind the trigger?
8 | Bob Stookey
Played by: Lawrence Gilliard Jr.
When? Season 5, Episode 3: Four Walls and a Roof
Going into season five, The Walking Dead boasted 17 lead cast members which made a death almost inevitable. Let’s face it: Bob was the obvious candidate (his burgeoning relationship with Sasha perhaps sealing the deal). While it was an old-school walker bite that ended Bob, it was the nightmarish events leading up to his demise that earns a place on this list. Abducted by the cannibals of Terminus, Bob wakes up to find them joyfully feasting on his now-missing leg.
7 | Dale Horvath
Played by: Jeffrey DeMunn
When? Season 2, Episode 11: Judge, Jury, Executioner
Everybody's favourite bucket hat-wearing recreational vehicle enthusiast met his fate towards the end of season two – a slow season dubbed by bored fans as "The Talking Dead". With Dale literally ripped apart by a walker that had been led to Hershel's farm by Carl The Kid (Chandler Riggs), it was Daryl who opted to end Dale’s life before he could come back and go for someone else's guts.
6 | Shane Walsh
Played by: Jon Bernthal
When? Season 2, Episode 12: Better Angels
Although every reader of Robert Kirkman's graphic comic series had been anticipating this death from the moment the TV show began, the uninitiated were shocked when Shane – the second lead to Andrew Lincoln’s Rick – was killed off. Having viewed the apocalypse as an opportunity to hook up with his best friend Rick's wife, Shane spent the majority of his two season arc slowly losing his sanity. The crunch came when Shane lured Rick into the woods with murder in mind, only to have Rick plunge a knife into his heart. That he reanimated revealed the twist that, regardless of how the characters die, everyone is infected with the same virus and will become a walker no matter what.
5 | Lori Grimes
Played by: Sarah Wayne Callies
When? Season 3, Episode 4: Killer Within
The show’s third series showed it meant business early on with an episode that culled numerous characters (including the mostly silent T-Dog - R.I.P). But it was the death of Lori, husband of Rick and mother to Carl, that proved the shocker. Going into labour as a horde of zombies invade the prison (one of TV's most inconvenient turn of events), Lori eventually dies in childbirth, but it’s a shot to the head courtesy of her son which puts the proverbial nail in Lori’s coffin – not to mention the unexpected departure of the series' female lead.
4 | Lizzie & Mika Samuels
Played by: Brighton Sharbino & Kyla Kennedy
When? Season 4, Episode 14: The Grove
One of television’s most consistently shocking shows delivered a dose of the disturbing in the latter stages of its fourth season. With the prison group separated, it was the climax to this standalone episode, featuring Carol, Tyreese (Chad Coleman), baby Judith and young sisters Lizzie and Mika, that presented the chilling moment: Lizzie – whose attachment to the walkers had been glimpsed in previous episodes – murders her younger sister in an attempt to prove that she will still be the same sweet girl as a zombie. Carol goes on to kill Lizzie, believing her to be too dangerous – and mentally unhinged – to keep alive. Bleak.
3 | Sophia Peletier
Played by: Madison Lintz
When? Season 2, Episode 7: Pretty Much Dead Already
When Carol's daughter Sophia goes missing after being run into the surrounding Georgian forest by a horde of walkers, it signaled the slowest episodes to date, with much of season two’s opening half focused on the group’s search for her. It isn’t until Shane unlocks the barn on Hershel’s farm six episodes later (yep, six...) that we realise the search had been in vain and Sophia’s true fate is revealed as her zombified corpse stumbles out of the barn. A devastated Carol watches on as a horrified Rick puts her daughter down with a bullet to the skull.
2 | Beth Greene
Played by: Emily Kinney
When? Season 4, Episode 8: Crisis
There was a time when fans may not have been too fussed about Beth dying. All she really did since appearing in season two was sing, carry baby Judith and generally play third fiddle to her father Hershel and sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan). However, thanks to a terrific on-screen partnership with the crossbow-wielding Daryl towards the end of season four, Beth had well and truly earned her place by the time she was taken captive by a crazed police officer at the start of season five. It all seemed to be going well in the mid-season finale when Beth fell victim to a sudden and accidental bullet in the head – a tragic and unexpected scene made even sadder by the other leads crying like babies.
1 | Hershel Greene
Played by: Scott Wilson
When? Season 4, Episode 8: Too Far Gone
The one-legged former farm owner – easily one of The Walking Dead's best characters – was a friendly moral compass to all. How was he repaid? A sword to the neck, that's how. When Hershel and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are captured by The Governor, it was all too easy to assume that Michonne would be the one facing the chop, but, quite frankly, nothing has come close to the shock of The Governor refusing Rick's white flag by raising his sword and hacking away at ol' Hershel's neck. The distraught faces of the onlooking group says it all.
The Walking Dead airs at 10pm on FOX from 12 October
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