Never has a show leapt the shark like The Walking Dead, only to land calmly and tread water for a few seasons before rising above it once more. If you were one of the viewers who persisted with the show through its low times, you received the rewards of the major pay-off that came once the post-apocalyptic series regained its footing.
The first seasons of The Walking Dead lured viewers into emotional, heartbreaking sequences, stunning them with abundant amounts of action and gore, and establishing characters in whom fans were profoundly committed as the storey arcs progressed. Following several dubious middle seasons, the show regained its original allure thanks to reintroduced aspects that kept it fresh and intriguing.
With the apocalyptic show’s 11th season nearing to a close, now is the ideal moment to take a trip down memory lane and compare the past ten seasons to see how they compare. They’re listed in order of worst to finest.
10. Seasons 8
The fight with the Saviors is eventually ended in this season, but the wait was too lengthy, making Negan’s throat slicing and his group’s takedown practically anti-climactic. To add insult to injury, Rick chooses to spare Negan’s life, leaving fans to question what’s next for the figure they thought had reached the end of his usefulness. Carl’s sudden death, so soon after he had finally come into his own as a character, enraged many, especially since he played such a large role in the comics on which the programme is based.
Morales’ reappearance was more perplexing than exhilarating, with most fans scrambling to figure out who he was. Eugene, who had been stumbling along as a proud but hesitant new member of the Saviors, has the season’s lone redeeming moment when he sabotages the munitions that was supposed to take out Rick and his pals. The season, which reviewers and audiences alike deemed the worst on Rotten Tomatoes, also witnessed Shiva’s death, which most fans found terrible.
9. Seasons 7
Fans have already spent months speculating who will face the end of Negan’s bat when the massive conclusion teased in season 6 eventually aired in season 7. It was eventually found to be two individuals: Abraham and Glenn. Many die-hard fans threatened to boycott the programme because of the incident, which was so nasty and gratuitously violent. As a result, it’s no wonder that this season is among the worst. The Saviors’ reign and the group’s plans to strike and take over were overly drawn out, with each episode offering a chance for closure that was never realised. Sasha sacrificed herself for the group, and Jadis proved to be an unfulfilling adversary (her character had far more nuance in the short-lived spin-off series Walking Dead: World Beyond). Fan favourite character Daryl spent much of the season in captivity, Sasha spent much of the season in captivity, and Jadis proved to be an unfulfilling adversary. It was a season in which you kept expecting something to happen but it never did.
8. Seasons 6
Fans learn what Morgan has been up to all this time (presumably learning Aikido and a new way of life that does not include killing), Carl loses an eye, and the Saviors arrive. It’s Negan’s first major appearance, and he’ll go on to be the show’s most engaging villain and the group’s most powerful adversary. He rules the neighbourhood like a mafia boss, taking what he needs and providing safety in return, but only until someone disobeys his commands, at which point he makes an example of them. There was a lot of build-up to a big character death scene, but it wasn’t revealed until season 7 resumed months later, making fans upset and unhappy with the cliffhanger.
7. Season 2
Carol dropping to her knees in despair as Sophia’s zombie body ambled towards the group out of Hershel’s barn remains one of the most scary and dramatic scenes on the show. Much of the season focuses on the gang finding safe haven at Hershel’s farm, as well as the infighting between Rick and Shane, both of whom believe they should be the alpha male to lead the group. Fans will see innocent people slain for the first time, as well as a critical scene in which Carl shoots an undead Shane to save his father, which will turn a proverbial maturity switch in Carl. There’s also the significant news that everyone turns when they die (no one knew this in season 1), which turns out to be a game-changer for the group. This horrible understanding awakens them to the truth that the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. The reveal of Michonne, one of the show’s most badass characters, is arguably the best portion of the season.
6. Season 10
The Walking Dead regained its footing in season 9, and the enthusiasm carried over into season 10. Carol’s mental trauma from losing so many children is finally affecting her, according to fans. She makes a key mistake, trapping everyone in a tunnel and nearly killing Connie. This is the season that had Michonne confined in a room, drugged by Virgil, in a hazy, psychedelic episode. The redemption arc for Negan, who joins The Whisperers undercover, unbeknownst to anybody but Carol, was a hit with fans. Eugene uses a radio to make contact with another group and a potential love interest, igniting the initial rumours about The Commonwealth’s appearance on the show.
Meanwhile, the party meets a strange new figure named Princess, who provides much-needed comic relief to the otherwise dark and ominous play. Fans will also get to witness Negan’s origins and a first peek at the latest villainous organisation, The Reapers, at the end of this season. The season’s tone alternates between high action and slow burn, but it maintains a decent enough balance to keep it interesting throughout.
5. Season 9
The show’s long-running villain had finally been reduced to a shell of his former self. This season also witnessed the apparent death and departure of Rick Grimes, the show’s long-running protagonist, as well as the show’s first big time leap, which takes up six years later. Baby Judith, now a pre-teen, proves to be an extremely intriguing and likeable character, having been trained as a ferociously talented warrior and confident little girl under the instruction of her adoptive mother Michonne. Connie, Magna, Yumiko, and Luke are among the new characters introduced, while fan favourites such as Jesus are killed off.
But it’s the debut of one of the show’s scariest villain organisations, The Whisperers, with their strong leader, Alpha, and her visceral number-two, Beta, that truly elevates this season to the top. They survive off the land, mingling with the dead and donning masks constructed from walkers’ torn skin. Alpha kills some of the show’s most adored characters, Tara, Enid, and Henry, and mounts their decapitated and still animated heads on stakes to define a barrier between her and the group, in what many refer to as the show’s Red Wedding scene. It begins a ferocious war between Alpha and Carol’s alpha-mom, and fans can’t get enough of it.
4. season 1
The first season, which launched off the entire series, is filled with nostalgia. Characters such as Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, Glenn Rhee, and Carol Peletier were introduced to the audience, and they would go on to become stalwarts for much of, if not all, of the show’s duration. It was raw and exciting because fans had never seen such violence, gore, and fantastic prosthetics work on a small TV show that didn’t have a lot of publicity when it first aired. Fans felt every emotion as members of the gang did whatever was necessary to survive, and the term “walkers” (no zombies here) became part of ordinary vocabulary.
The season’s most noteworthy aspect was how many people from various walks of life came together. The focus of the plot was on people and the difficult decisions they had to make, rather than on brainless zombies in quest of warm flesh. This was the season before everyone had refined their skills, gained confidence, and learned how to negotiate the new world: it was just a bunch of normal Joes figuring it out. Fans realised they wanted to be a part of it for the long haul right away.
3. Season 5
Season 5 is the highest-rated season on Rotten Tomatoes, with a score of 90 percent. It alternates between the hospital where Beth is being held captive and the redemption of fan-favorite character Carol, who comes to the group’s rescue after being banished. Father Gabriel is introduced as a clumsy, cowardly priest who locked his entire flock out of the church to keep himself safe. He would go on to have one of the most intriguing character arcs on the programme. So much happened this season, from Beth’s terrible death to the group’s return to Alexandria for a taste of normalcy, to Rick’s violent murdering of Pete, which occurred just as Morgan comes on the show to witness the heinous event.
The season is littered with main character deaths, each of which is handled in a unique and intriguing manner. Bob gets the final laugh when he tells Gareth and his Terminus buddies that his dismembered leg they’re eating is infectious because he’s already been bitten. Before he dies, a bitten and dying Tyreese gets memories of significant events in his life. And Noah dies in one of the most graphic scenes, pleading for his life to an agonising Glenn who is powerless to save him. The season finishes with the debut of The Wolves, one of the least intriguing groups of villains, but it’s an emotional, dramatic, and captivating one for the most part.
2. Season 4
Hershel’s death scene was one of the show’s cruellest, and it marked a turning point in season 4. It’s the first time the show divides the group into smaller groups, as everyone in the turmoil goes their own way. When Eugene suggests that he might know where and how to discover a cure (spoiler alert: he didn’t), Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene are introduced, bringing the first ray of hope. The trek to Terminus begins here, and while it seems to end as fast as it begins, it’s the end of the season, when the “old Rick” emerges, that piques fans’ interest in what’s to come. Carol’s delivery of those painfully sad five words to Lizzie, “Just look at the flowers,” is the season’s most memorable scene. It’s a tragic moment that brings the season to a close with excellent character development.
Fans consider Negan to be one of the show’s best antagonists and the most multi-layered character. Indeed, one of the best pieces of cinematic work the programme has produced is the season 10 episode with his backstory. But there’s no disputing that The Governor was the ultimate antagonist for early fans, providing the first glimpse into how an apocalyptic circumstance, great loss, the opportunity for power, and threats to one’s life can progressively transform even the most obviously rational individual into a terrifying tyrant.
The location was a prison, where the group tries to make the best of their situation until The Governor decides to take over the property. T-sacrifice Dog’s to save Carol had viewers grasping their hearts, while the death of fan-favorite villain/hero Merle resulted in the first glimpse of real emotion from the typically stoic Daryl. Lori’s storey came to a conclusion, Judith was born, and Sasha and Tyreese were introduced in this action-packed season. While numerous villains have appeared since then, Rick and co. had never seen the squad fight someone who was more strong and constantly a step ahead of them. Season 3 was one of the most interesting to watch, and one worth watching again, because the scenario was fresh and creative for the group.