When Season 6 of The Walking Dead premiered a couple weeks ago, it blew us away. It had a stylistic approach to storytelling that we hadn’t seen before in the series. With the use of black and white to signify jumping back in time and then slight oversaturation for the present day, it was striking and impressive.
There is plenty of action, tension, and character development in that first episode as well, but it isn’t the only episode to ever give us so many great aspects wrapped up neatly in a single sit down. The Walking Dead being the hugely successful series that it is, there have been a few amazing episodes that have hit broken our hearts, made us angry, grossed us out, and even made us cry. To shine light on these special episodes we give you:
Screen Rant’s 12 Best Episodes of The Walking Dead.
Days Gone By (Season 1, Episode 1)
The series premiere, “Days Gone By,” is the most integral episode of the entire show. Being the first episode, it gives us an amazing insight into the world that our protagonist, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), inhabits. For being the first episode, it gives us several of the most amazing shots we’ve seen in the entire series.
When we see Rick searching for gas, he finds the little girl who he shoots right in the head. Even though this event is set a bit in the future, it shows you that this world is no longer the one we once knew. It also introduces us to Morgan (Lennie James) and Duane (Adrian Kali Turner). Morgan isn’t just a fan-favorite, but a source of vital information for both Rick and the audience. He tells us what’s going on, and he saves Rick from imminent death. Willing to help a stranger and show him mercy, Morgan gives us our first sense of lasting humanity when he helps Rick. Morgan shows us how difficult it is to not only kill the ones they once loved, but how to survive in a world as brutal as this.
By the end of the episode we see the iconic shot of Rick riding into Atlanta on horseback. This image served as the cover for series for quite some time. Right after this shot, we also see our first herd in the streets of Atlanta, making Rick have to take shelter in the tank. Once in the tank, we get the infamous line from Glenn (Steven Yuen), “Hey you! Dumbass! Yeah, you in the tank. Cozy in there?”
18 Miles Out (season 2, episode
After Rick tells Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that he’s known about her affair with his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal), he must face Shane and make him understand that he is now a man in charge of his own family. At the beginning of the episode, we are finally given the conversation between the two alpha-males, as Rick puts Shane in his place. It’s an uneasy conversation, but it’s something that had been boiling just beneath the surface since the first episode. Finally, we see not only the conversation, but the physical confrontation of both Rick and Shane.
It’s a lot like two brothers being forced to fight to the death. However, before they can fight it out, they come upon two dead walkers who were lying side-by-side in their police uniforms. It reminds the the audience and the characters of the bond these two men share.
Another important story element that was hinted at in this episode was the revelation that the two police officers had no bites. The bodies weren’t scratched or scathed, yet they had turned. It’s later revealed in a subsequent episode that every corpse turns, no matter what.
Better Angels (season 2, episode 12)
In the aftermath of Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) death, the group is broken. One of the brightest lights of morality and humanity in the group, Dale left our characters in a state of rehabilitation. With the group previously divided, everyone finally seems to be on the same page. Rick and Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) bromance is also cemented when Rick chooses Daryl as his right hand man to drop off Randall the prisoner (Michael Zegan).
There is also a speech that Rick gives to Carl (Chandler Riggs) about mortality. He tells him that they are all going to die, and that there is no way to be prepared for it. Rick convinces Carl to take Daryl’s pistol to protect himself so that he may grow up. This speech serves as a defining lesson for Carl and eventually leads to him being able to have the guts to shoot his mother before she turns in a later episode.
One of the most striking deaths in the entirety of the series is when Rick is forced to kill Shane. He has to stab him in order to save his own life. The pain that Rick feels, having to kill the man who was once his brother, is heart wrenching to watch, but we realize that it was necessary.
Killer Within (season 3, episode 4)
This episode begins with peace and tranquility, but it quickly turns devastating and deadly. Showcasing what The Walking Dead would soon come to be known for, “Killer Within” gave us hands down the most shocking series of events ever seen before on the show.
First, we see T-Dog (IronE Singleton) bitten and dying. He is determined to lead Carol (Melissa McBride) out of the catacombs and does so courageously. Despite T-Dog’s heroism and morality, he is dealt a savage death. He is eaten alive and overrun by walkers while Carol finds shelter within the catacombs. Rick and others later come across his body torn to pieces and completely ravaged.
Of course, the most infamous moments in all of television is when Lori dies giving birth to her daughter. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has to give her an emergency C-section, and Carl then has to put his mother down for good with a single bullet to the head. All the while, Rick is desperately searching for Lori while also trying to stop the blaring alarm that is drawing more walkers into the prison. Maggie, Carl, and little baby Judith finally escape the catacombs, where they are discovered by Rick and the others. When Rick hears the news, it breaks him like no other character on the show has been broken before.
Clear (season 3, episode 12)
Keeping with the intensity of Season 3, “Clear” hardened the alliance of Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick. We see them really come together and form a stronger team thanks to their relationship. At the beginning of the episode, Rick, Carl, and Michonne drive by a survivor who they choose to leave behind. They come across him again when they break down, and finally see him once more when they are driving back to the prison. Unfortunately, the last time they come across the man, he is dead.
There is also a shootout against a masked man on a street in Rick’s hometown. Carl shoots him and knocks him unconscious. Once Rick takes the mask off, it turns out to be Morgan. Once he wakes up, he is incoherent and crazy. Rick tries to reason with him and make him come back to reality, but Morgan is broken by the loss of his wife and son. We learn that Duane, Morgan’s son, was killed by Morgan’s wife, who was already turned.
Welcome To The Tombs (season 3, episode 16)
In the Season 3 finale “Welcome To The Tombs,” we see the group on the offensive. Andrea (Laurie Holden) is murdered and all of her efforts for peace die with her. Seeing her infected and ultimately put down by her best friend, Michonne, was hard to watch. It was nice to see her make her peace with Rick despite her apparent betrayal of the group for the Governor’s (David Morrissey) group.
After the Governor’s assault on the prison, he comes across fleeing Woodbury residents. When they refuse to take up arms alongside him against the prison group, he shoots almost all of them. This massacre showed us all just how unhinged and dangerous the Governor really was. Another shocking moment in the already inescapably brutal season, this was another act of violence that no one saw coming.
Finally, when Carl shoots the surrendering Woodbury teenager, we finally see how mentally scarred Carl is by the world he inhabits. With Hershel (Scott Wilson) looking on as Carl guns the young boy down, there is no doubt surrounding Carl’s killer convictions brought on by the death of his mother and those around him.
Too Far Gone (season 4, episode 8)
“Too Far Gone” is an amazing culmination of previous events that leads to the horrendous murder of Hershel and the destruction of the prison. Like many other impeccable episodes, The Walking Dead supplied yet another intriguing shake-up to the standards that had been set for our characters.
This assault on the prison, in which the Governor uses a tank to execute his plan, was the biggest spectacle we’d yet seen on the show. Logistically, it was quite a feat to see the prison that the production designers built from the ground up destroyed in such a violent manner. The loss of the prison reset the search for a safe-haven and put our group back on the streets, scattered and afraid.
Perhaps the most saddening death on the show so far, the wise and peaceful Hershel loses his head in this episode as well. It is not a quick death, nor is it a worthy death. The writers and producers showed us the worst of what their world has to offer with the Governor, who decapitates Hershel with blow after blow to the neck. It not only affected the audience in a sickening and disheartening way, but devastated Maggie, Glenn, Beth (Emily Kinney), Daryl, and Rick. Our leader’s defining voice of reason, civility, and morality was now taken away from him. We were left wondering if all that Rick had worked so hard to overcome, had now just been rescinded.
Still (season 4, episode 12)
One of the fan-favorite pairs that formed after the destruction of the prison was sweetheart Beth and bad-boy Daryl. It was striking juxtaposition of character types that we hadn’t seen very much of before on the show. However, it really added to each character’s traits and personalities. We saw Daryl teach Beth survival skills while Beth taught Daryl how to loosen up and be more personable. Although the episode doesn’t have many amazing kills or awesome action, it expanded on characters in a way that was meaningful and interesting.
In a season as bleak and desolate as Season 4, “Still” gave us hope by allowing Beth to keep Daryl from slipping into primal survival mode. If Beth could keep the most lonesome character from giving up, then perhaps everyone and everything could be OK in the end.
The Grove (season 4, episode 14)
Despite some of inklings of hope still lingering throughout the last half of season 4, “The Grove” kept us from getting too optimistic. With Carol now back in the fold and more badass than ever, she helped Tyreese (Chad Coleman) keep young Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) safe from the harshness of the open road. However, when they find a cabin to hunker down in, Carol notices some of the killer tendencies manifesting in Lizzie.
With The Walking Dead already introducing killer children and characters who sympathize with walkers, Lizzie’s odd obsession with the walkers was a new direction that we had not seen yet. Even though Hershel was impartial to his wife who had turned, he didn’t think to infect others or kill others in order to have them live on as walkers. Carl also murdered a boy, but wasn’t intrigued by it. Lizzie did both of these and became a chilling character. With Carol being the newly minted badass, a mother who had lost her child, and an adoptive mother to Lizzie and Mika, she was the right person to put Lizzie down. When she did, we all went crazy. This episode will go down in The Walking Dead history as being both famous and infamous.
A (season 4, episode 16)
We had seen plenty of gruesome murder and abuse on the characters we cherish in The Walking Dead, but in “A,” the series managed to do the impossible and push their limits even further. With Rick embracing his darker, primal instincts to survive at any cost, we are treated to one of the most shocking kills in The Walking Dead history. When Carl is being assaulted, Rick resorts to the only thing that will save them both. With no other options, he literally bites a man’s throat out. Once the other assailants are killed, he lays claim to the man who would have raped Carl. Rick guts him and continuously stabs him, unleashing the animal that he has been keeping under wraps for so long now.
What sets the episode apart is the way the story is told. While seeing Rick reach his darkest moment, we also see how Hershel pulled him out of the depths and taught him to farm. We are introduced to the beginnings of farmer Rick stepping out into the light, while the present Rick burrows back into darkness in order to survive. We had thought that only one or the other could exist up until this point, but we finally learn that both sets of personalities are necessary to survive in this world now. More importantly, Carl learns this by seeing Rick’s actions first-hand.
Finally, the group is reunited at the cannibal-infested Terminus. Here they are herded into a train car. Once together, Glenn introduces Rick to Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and company, and they quickly unite as family. This is when we get the best line in the entire series that was unfortunately neutered for television but still sounds completely badass when Rick says, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out. They’re screwing with the wrong people.”
No Sanctuary (season 5, episode 1)
The most explosive season premiere the show has seen to date, Carol storms Terminus and helps the group massacre the evil “Termites.” While the “Termites” are effectively and efficiently slaughtering people for harvest, Rick kills with precision and animosity as he leads the group out of Terminus. When Rick finds Carol it’s a touching moment to see him reunite with her seeing as he banished her. Also, it firmly establishes Carol as the official team badass.
Having Tyreese struggle to stay alive and seemingly kill (although we later find out he didn’t) the “Termite” they were holding hostage was a great way to turn him into a more likable survivor and not just one who whined about having to kill people and walkers. Getting a taste of his signature berserker rage that is seen in the comics was also a highlight of this episode.
Coda (season 5, episode 8)
This episode opens with Rick chasing down one of the officers that they took hostage. He hits Bob the officer with his own police car and cripples him, only to then shoot him in the face. It’s a fast-paced introduction that gives us a slight hint as to what to expect in the episode. Fast decisions can have dire consequences. With Rick killing the hostage out of anger, he has less leverage for the exchange.
It’s a sad episode that ultimately sets our group out back on the road in need of a place to be. With Beth’s death, the last shred of innocence is finally dead. Everyone else left is a hardened killer. Despite the group leaving dozens of the other peaceful members of the hospital community behind, we are left with our previous group, minus Beth but plus Noah (Tyler James Williams).
Obviously, there are many other amazing episodes that deliver amazing performances, great tension, astonishing visuals, and heart-breaking deaths, but out of only 68 episodes we could choose only some. If your favorite episode isn’t on the list, please be sure to let us know what it is in the comments below, and tell us what makes it so special!
You can catch The Walking Dead’s season 6 episode 2 on Sunday 10/16 on AMC!