August 16, 2023
WRITTEN BY: NICK
With the announcement at San Diego Comic-Con that The Walking Dead content is not going anywhere anytime soon, and with Season One of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon coming next month, I decided it was a great time to look back at the 22 seasons of The Walking Dead Universe thus far.
After going through The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Tales of the Walking Dead, and The Walking Dead: Dead City (yes, I’ve watched them all), I realized the best way to write this piece was to shout-out some of the characters (some fondly, some not so fondly) that have graced the screen.
This is a retrospective, so be aware, there will be spoilers!
BEST PERFORMANCE: LENNIE JAMES AS MORGAN JONES (The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead)
The characters in this world go through a lot, but no one has had to endure a more heartbreaking path than Morgan Jones. He lost a son, a wife, and himself, only to leave his original group in the flagship series, join the first spinoff, and have the losses continue to pile up. Along the way, this man has gone from saviour (literal saviour, not Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) group) to basket case to pacifist to badass, and it only works because of the performance of James. Although the writing hasn’t always been on point for Morgan, James has been at the top of his game every episode. He’s the unsung hero of this franchise, and even in weaker seasons like the most recent of Fear the Walking Dead, the stories focused on him are always the most powerful.
HONOURABLE MENTION: JON BERNTHAL AS SHANE WALSH (The Walking Dead)
MOST DESERVING OF A SPINOFF: JUDITH GRIMES - CAILEY FLEMING (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead: World Beyond was a bit of a misfire as it basically told a worse version of the Telltale (video) Games series, which, let me just say, it's a travesty we never got Clementine on the TV side of things. However, the idea of children having to grow up in this world is intriguing. What’s more intriguing, however, is how they’d live as adults having this be the only life they’ve ever known. Enter Judith Grimes. Cailey Fleming gave a great portrayal of the child once known as “Little Ass Kicker,” but with no cure in sight thus far, jumping 15+ years into the future to see the state of things through the eyes of another Grimes would be both on brand for the series and an interesting addition to the franchise.
HONOURABLE MENTION: HEATH - COREY HAWKINS (The Walking Dead)
BEST CHARACTER ARC: CAROL PELETIER - MELISSA MCBRIDE (The Walking Dead)
Even outside of The Walking Dead, is there any other series with a character arc as dramatic as Carol’s? Starting as a meek and silenced mother in an abusive relationship, most wouldn’t have expected her to make it out of Season One alive. However, after the loss of her daughter, a switch is flipped, and Carol makes it adamantly clear she’s a survivor. She’s one of the only characters willing to make the hard decisions, and she shows a level of composure and resourcefulness to make the most of any situation. She may have started as an afterthought, but by the finale, it’s clear that Carol was easily one of the most crucial characters of the series’ run.
HONOURABLE MENTION: ALYCIA CLARKE - ALYCIA DEBNAM- CAREY (Fear the Walking Dead)
PERSONAL FAVOURITE: RICK GRIMES - ANDREW LINCOLN (The Walking Dead)
Rick Grimes is the ultimate family man. Whether you agree with him or not, his intentions were always clear. He did it for Lori (Sarah Wayne Calles). He did it for Carl (Chandler Riggs). He did it for Judith. Did he cross the line? Absolutely. Did he make the wrong choices? You betcha. But these mistakes and the trial-and-error of his character shone a light on his humanity and made it easy to put yourself in his shoes. "What would you do if you were in the Zombie apocalypse?" It's a question we've all asked ourselves, and one that Rick Grimes answers (both positively and negatively) in a multitude of scenarios.
HONOURABLE MENTION: HERSHEL GREENE - SCOTT WILSON (The Walking Dead)
BEST GUEST STAR: JOHN CARROL LYNCH AS EASTMAN (The Walking Dead)
Morgan’s pacifist persona may not have been a fan favourite, but the episode where he learned of these new ways definitely is; that is thanks to his mentor, Eastman. In a world engulfed by darkness, Eastman approaches things with a level of hope and optimism rarely seen at this point in the apocalypse. With his mantra that all life is precious, he teaches a lost and hopeless Morgan these ways, as well as a pretty badass way to use a stick as a weapon. Unfortunately, it takes sacrificing himself to cause Morgan to adapt to these beliefs, but for the short time that Eastman was around, he made quite the impression.
HONOURABLE MENTION: MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES AS DAVE (The Walking Dead)
OVERSTAYED THEIR WELCOME: EUGENE PORTER - JOSH MCDERMITT (The Walking Dead)
Ah yes, the scientist that had the cure. Introduced in Season Four of the main series, Eugene was precious cargo as he had vital information on how to stop the walkers and turn the world back to normal… except he didn’t. The reveal that Eugene was a liar deflated the whole story and character. After that, he just adopted the weasel role of the series. He was constantly in need of rescue due to his lack of street smarts, and he was selfish to the point of putting members of the group at risk multiple times, even going so far as to join The Saviors. He’s eventually redeemed later in the series, but the character just never had legs to continue past a season or two, let alone the series run he was given.
HONOURABLE MENTION: CARL GRIMES - CHANDLER RIGGS (The Walking Dead)
GONE TOO SOON: JOHN DORIE - GARRET DILLAHUNT (Fear the Walking Dead)
To those who bailed on Fear the Walking Dead after a lackluster first two seasons, you missed out on a great third season based in Mexico, as well as the introduction of one of the best characters of that series, Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie. Dorie is a former cop like Rick Grimes, but the two could not be more different. John is a gentle man searching for June aka Laura/Naomi (Jenna Elfman), the woman he loves who ran away from him early in the apocalypse. His pursuit and their reconciliation is the best love story told in The Walking Dead Universe, and like many love stories, it ends in tragedy with Dorie’s death being one of the most heartbreaking in the franchise.
HONOURABLE MENTION: NOAH - TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS (The Walking Dead)
THEY REALLY DROPPED THE BALL ON: PAUL "JESUS" ROVIA - TOM PAYNE (The Walking Dead)
Back in Season Six of The Walking Dead, Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) happened upon a man who displayed probably the best hand-to-hand combat skills seen in the franchise. Jesus was a highly anticipated character from the comics, and he debuted with a bang… but that was really it. This cool, new, ninja-like character was relegated to second-in-command of the Hilltop community, and his physical attributes were rarely taken advantage of. Yes, his death was impactful, but more so because of the Whisperer revelation. Aside from that, it was more a matter of mourning what could have been over what was.
HONOURABLE MENTION: HOPE - ALEXA MANSOUR (The Walking Dead: World Beyond)
BEST VILLAIN: NEGAN - JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN (The Walking Dead/Dead City)
In the history of television, there have not been many character introductions quite like that of Negan. In a span of 15 minutes, he debuted and instantly struck true fear into the heart of Rick's group, dispatching two of them in vicious fashion. What makes his character even more interesting is the question of whether or not he's truly a villain. The evolution he goes through is one of malice and sympathy, with the hope of redemption, and whether he's the villain or the anti-hero, he always uses traits of both to complete his objective. It's what makes Negan one of the most interesting The Walking Dead characters of all, and what makes Dead City work so well. Plus, let's not forget his dialogue and Morgan's delivery of it... *chef's kiss*
HONOURABLE MENTION: PHILIP "THE GOVERNOR" BLAKE - DAVID MORRISEY (The Walking Dead)
Photo Credits: AMC