Having your wife eaten by zombies, killing your best friend and having to save your family from cannibals can't be that much fun, especially if you're Rick Grimes who, days away from the season five finale of The Walking Dead, has never looked worse off.
The days of clean-cut deputy sheriff Grimes are long gone - over five seasons Rick's slowly become the zombie apocalypse's anti-hero, despite finally getting back into a police officer's uniform again. Basically, if you thought Breaking Bad was over, think again; it’s just been re-packaged with zombies.
Here’s a look at how Rick went to clean-cut do-gooder to homicidal tyrant (via bearded woodsman) over the space of five seasons. As expected, spoilers follow.
It all starts with Rick as a straight-laced sheriff’s deputy talking women with best friend and fellow deputy Shane Walsh. Rick, we learn, is upset that his marriage isn’t going to plan, but while Shane’s view of women is a bit 'Don Draper', Rick seems genuinely hurt that his wife can sometimes be cruel. Thankfully all these ‘feelings’ are set aside when the duo are called out to a gunfight with a car-full of bandits…
...Which turns out to be a bad idea. Rick’s shot (under the armpit, for some reason) and is knocked out for the count. He wakes up alone in hospital a few weeks later, slightly baffled that the world has been overran by the undead.
After being given the 411 by local resident/zombie-survivor Morgan, Rick stocks up on weapons and rides off to find his family. With his hip holster, sheriff’s hat and new horse, Rick’s every bit the incorruptible, cowboy throw-back hero.
Things swiftly take a turn and a Rick still new to the world of the undead momentarily considers an in-tank suicide after his horse is turned into sausage meat by the horde of angry zombies he naively rode right into. At his lowest point so far, Grimes has a lot to learn.
The first hint of Rick as a tough guy comes when he's forced to overpower Merle Dixon and handcuff him to the roof. It's T-Dog's fault Merle has to saw his own arm off to escape, but Rick seems more than happy to leave him behind. The first hint of 'Ruthless Rick' lurking beneath the polite exterior.
A low point comes when Rick's forced to cover himself in zombie guts in order to help Glenn. Despite the gore, Rick's still the good police officer, doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
Rick is reunited with his family, who just happen to be among the twenty or so people Glenn and T-Dog have been hiding out with. Luckily, Rick has no sense of the eye-rolling his wife Lori will submit him to over the next few seasons, or of how much of a liability Carl The Kid will become.
The remaining episodes of season one's limited run pass with Rick generally being a 'nice guy' and looking out for the group. His mission to return to Atlanta and collect the back of guns he dropped before doesn't sit well with his wife, but Rick puts the 'greater good' over his wife - a precursor to the larger group becoming a family in later seasons.
When the group is attacked and later finds itself locked in the CDC, it's Rick who steps up as their leader, learning confidential info from government scientist Dr Jenner and ultimately saving the lives of the group. As season one ends, Rick is still a hero.
Things don't go well for the group at the start of season two. When Carol's daughter Sophia runs off into the woods, Rick is the man to try and save her, sparking the show's most tedius storyline to date.
To top off an already bad day, Carl The Kid goes and gets himself shot. Taking his son to Hershel's farm, Rick displays obsessive levels of dedication by insisting he alone provides the juice for Carl's endless blood transfusions - a sign of the lengths Rick will go to in order to protect those close to him.
Discovering she's pregnant, Lori admits to Rick that she'd been sleeping with Shane after leaving Rick to die in hospital. She also subtly suggests Rick, you know, kill Shane to make things better. Understandably, Rick is conflicted. Notably, Rick doesn't outright turn Lori down, as he may well have done the previous season.
Rick spends the first half of the season toeing the line with farm-owner Hershel, including making his group camp away from the main house and handing over their guns - almost the opossite of his behaviour at Alexandria in season five. When Glenn discovers the barn is full of zombies, it's Rick who shoots Sophia, a clear blow after episode after episode spent searching for her.
By this point, Rick's discarded his sheriff's uniform and given his hat to the newly-healed Carl - a sign that law and order isn't what it used to be.
After insisting the group don't kill other humans, Rick goes against his own rules by offing two suspicious strangers in a bar in town. It's the first time Rick has killed a human and shows his view of law and order has been adapted to allow killing off any possible threats.
A hostage is taken but Rick refuses to kill him, planning to set him free once he's healed. Shane disagrees with this and also the fact that he's had to stop sleeping with Rick's (pregnant) wife since Rick returned. The two drive off to release the hostage and talk it out.
The trip ends with the two squaring off, with both almost being killed. At the last minute Rick saves Shane, unable to completely disregard his old friend.
The group decide to execute the prisoner, with Rick believing this is the best course of action for keeping them all safe. He hesitates at the last minute, after Carl sees him about to kill a man in cold blood. Rick takes Carl aside for a bonding session and explains that sometimes you just have to kill things.
Rick inches further away from the clean cut sheriff who rode into Atlanta on a horse while Carl is given a weapon and set on his path to manhood (or from annoying child to moody, long-haired teenager).
Later, Rick stabs Shane in the heart before Shane can strike first, lambasting his dying friend for forcing his hand.
It's a defining moment for Rick, especially as it's Carl who shoots Shane once he's re-animated. Eschewing the traditional fishing trip, father and son have now bonded over murder.
After escaping the firey, zombie-infected detritus of Hershel's farm, Rick gathers the surivors and steps up to inform them 'this isn't a democracy anymore', spawning a thousand 'Ricktatorship' memes.
After weeks in the wilderness, Rick and co are looking feral and hungry. Deciding against eating dog food to survive, they clear a prison as a single, efficent unit. The walkers now pose no threat to the group of hardened zombie-killers. Rick, clearing the tunnels, machetes a prisoner who 'accidentally' swings for him. Thus begins Rick's 'beige shirt descent into madness' phase.
A few episodes later, Lori dies in the process of giving birth. Despite the face that things weren't going great for them, Rick is understandably upset, especially as he finds his wife's body has been eaten by a walker. He stabs the zombie apart, delves into its stomach, then spends some time making imaginary phone calls in the basement. Not his most rational moment.
But not the last of 'kooky Rick' who spends time wandering outside the prison, unshaven, muttering about 'stuff' and 'things'.
The group's conflict with The Governor eventually brings Rick back into the real world. At Hershel's bidding, Rick heads home to King County to clear out the weapons from the jail. He encounters Morgan, who has since lost his son and his own grip on reality.
Rick is forced back into his leadership role and coldly lets Michonne to drive past a desperate hiker at the side of the road. He also takes a knife wound in his stride and patches himself up, confirming he's now a bona fide 'tough guy'.
Rick and The Governor meet. Acknowledging his deteriotating mental state, Rick steps down from his position as the sole leader, letting his group decide what to do about the threat of war.
After going 'fully automatic' and fighting off The Governor with all guns blazing, Rick leads the Woodbury survivors to the prison, ready to swap war for peace.
Rick turns his hand to farming, but just when he thought he was out, the cruel post-apocalypse world drags him back in. He's forced to set aside his new farmer's gloves and kill his pigs in order to draw the zombies away from the prison walls, just as a mystery illness starts offing people, returning the show to 'Sophia' levels of excitment.
After killing and burning two ill members of the group, Rick outcasts Carol, but not before asking his questions (how many people have you killed?) to a pair of survivors they meet in town.
Upon learning that the two newcomers have been killed, Rick seems more concerned about the watch he leant them. He's not yet slipped into 'full maniac mode', but he doesn't have time for anyone's sh*t either.
Just when things couldn't get much worse, The Governor shows up again and destroys the prison. Rick watches Hershel have his head cut off then dives into action. The resulting punch-up with The Governor leaves Rick at his physically weakest point, with the group scattered, Baby Judith gone, and, crucially, only Carl The Kid for company.
Recovering in a large, untouched house, Rick decides to have some time to himself and cracks open a paperback, a sign that there's still hope. Unfortunately, his relaxation is interrupted by a group of thugs, one of whom Rick is forced to strangle to death in the bathroom. On the upside, he does get a great new shearling leather jacket out of it.
Rick isn't best pleased, when the group (known as 'The Claimers') catch up with him, Michonne and Carl, threatening to kill them all and rape Rick's son. Natrually, Rick rips out one man's throat with his teeth, then stabs another to death as he begs for mercy.
He then spends the night staring off into the distance with a blood-soaked beard. Not the strongest look and quite possibly the beginning of the end for the residents of Alexandria.
After finding himself locked up with the gang at supposed safe haven 'Terminus', Rick informs the group that the bad guys are 'messing with the wrong people'.
It's a ballsy statement and one that's topped by Rick telling the Termite's leader Gareth that he's going to kill him with a red-handled machette, all while Rick, Daryl and Glenn are tied up over a slaughter trough.
Rick goes full Rambo on zombies and humans alike as the group fight their way out of Terminus. Only Glenna and Daryl stop Rick going back to finish off the last of the group, which he then happily does by luring them into a church and unleasing said machette. Most worryingly, Rick's wildman beard seems to hide a smile as he slaughters his former captives.
His bloodlust growing with his beard, Rick has no qualms about offing a police officer presented to the audience as a predominantly good guy trying to get back to his people.
The fact that Rick echoes Gareth's line that 'you can't go back' suggests Rick is well on the slippery slope towards full-blown maniac.
After weeks spent on the road following Beth's death in Atlanta, Rick and the group are nearing the end. Hungry, dehydrated and morally low, Rick assaults and almost tortures Aaron, a spotter who has come to invite them to Alexandria.
Eventually setting aside his suspicions, Rick leads the group there, where he tells the residents that people outside the walls would try and take it over. Rick shaves, dons a dark sheriff's uniform and informs Carol and Daryl that if the Alexandria residents can't get with the programme, they'll just take over. He may resemble the clean-cut law enforcer from the first season, but inside, 'stuff' and 'things' have changed the man with the highest zombie kill count in history.
After making advances towards Alexandria's blonde mother of two, Jessie, Rick learns that Jessie's husband Pete is abusing his wife. In an echo of Lori pointing Rick towards Shane, Carol informs Rick that Pete will have to be killed. Already struggling with life inside the compound, Rick breaks down, fights Pete, shoves Carl away and rants about being the only person who can see how things really are.
It's a throwback to his 'this is not a democracy' speech from season three, but this time, he stands alone as Michonne swings in and knocks him unconcious, setting the stage for a season five finale in which our protagonist is alone, possibly insane, and definitely a danger to the group's newfound sanctury.
The Walking Dead season five finale will air on Fox HD on Sky on 30 March.
Has Rick become the show's villain?