The nature of The Walking Dead means that it’s likely none of the characters who were there at the beginning will still be there at the end. With Rick Grimes – the one character everyone thought was safe – leaving the show this season, there are only two characters left from season 1. It’s almost become an unspoken competition among the characters to see who can last the most episodes between their introduction and their death (or the actor getting a new opportunity). The most popular characters tend to stick around the longest. So, ranked, here are the Longest Surviving Characters On TWD.
10 Gabriel Stokes (79 episodes)
When we first met Gabriel Stokes, the cowering priest who had never touched a weapon in his life, it didn’t seem like he would last five minutes in a world infested with flesh-eating zombies. However, he’s since become one of the longest surviving characters on the show. Most recently, he has made an unexpected emotional connection with Negan. The two found themselves trapped by a horde of walkers together during the raid on the Saviors’ compound, and then when Gabriel was visiting Negan in the prison cell at Alexandria, he was the one who left the door open and let the evil tyrant out in the season 9 midseason finale.
9 Glenn Rhee (81 episodes)
Glenn’s death in the season 7 premiere is what made a lot of viewers tune out of the show for good. Suddenly, the highest rated show on TV was just a show with pretty good ratings, because Glenn’s death was unnecessarily gory. His eye popped out of its socket before Negan finished him off. In fact, the death itself was unnecessary, period. Negan wanted to kill one of Rick’s guys to get the message across and he chose Abraham. But then Daryl punched him and he decided he needed to kill someone else to fully demonstrate that he was in charge now. It was particularly controversial coming just a few episodes after the dumpster fake-out.
8 TIE: Eugene Porter And Rosita Espinosa (84 episodes)
When we first met Eugene, he was claiming to know how to stop the zombie uprising forever. Abraham and Rosita were protecting him and helping him get to Washington, D.C., where he was going to push some buttons and save the world. Of course, he turned out to have been lying the whole time to get the mustachioed tough guy and his equally tough girlfriend to look after him. In the years since, Eugene has done little to redeem himself. Meanwhile, the Rosita character was criticized initially for not having any character development, but the season 7 episode “The Other Side” went part way towards remedying that as she and Sasha set out on an ultimately unsuccessful mission to assassinate Negan. The time she tried to shoot Negan and hit his baseball bat instead was pretty silly, though.
7 Tara Chambler (87 episodes)
Tara is an important Walking Dead character, because she was the first character ever introduced on the show to identify as LGBTQ. Since then, we’ve seen a few such characters enter the series – Aaron, Jesus, Tara’s own love interest Denise etc. – but Tara was the first one. Tara has escaped death on a number of occasions, and she’s lost a lot of people close to her. She’s one of the few characters who wasn’t originally in the comic book series. Rather, she appeared in the tie-in novel Rise of the Governor and was first introduced in a season 4 arc that took TWD viewers away from Rick’s group for the first time.
6 Carl Grimes (109 episodes)
For eight long years, Carl Grimes was one of the most hated characters on The Walking Dead. He did one thing after another that made fans wish he would just be killed off already. Of course, there was a small fan community of teen girls who obsessed with Chandler Riggs, but the average viewer couldn’t stand Carl. When it finally did happen, you’d have expected him to go out with a bang. He had a close relationship with Negan that jumped between friendly and contentious, and yet what got him in the end was a bite from which he slowly passed away in an underground tunnel. It was very disappointing.
5 Michonne (112 episodes)
When we first met Michonne, she was a mysterious figure who had a pair of armless walkers acting as her caddies. She saved Andrea’s life during the fall of Hershel’s farm in the show’s second season finale and the two of them survived together for the first few episodes of season 3.
Since then, she’s joined Rick’s group, saved a bunch of people’s lives, killed the Governor, and fallen in love with Rick. It was recently announced that she’ll be leaving the show during the tenth season, possibly so the character can set out to find Rick. She might make an appearance in the upcoming Rick Grimes movie to follow on from this.
4 Maggie Greene (113 episodes)
Since Maggie Greene’s final episode was also Rick Grimes’ final episode, her departure from the show was kind of overshadowed. Unlike Andrew Lincoln, Lauren Cohan didn’t leave the show so that her character could star in a series of movies – she got a new opportunity to star in her own TV show, Whiskey Cavalier, with fellow TWD actor Tyler James Williams. However, since Maggie wasn’t actually killed off for the actor playing her to leave the series, the door is open for her to return.
3 Rick Grimes (120 episodes)
We’d always been told by the producers of The Walking Dead that no character on the show was safe, but we didn’t actually expect Rick Grimes to ever leave the show. He isn’t technically dead, since he was rescued at the last second in that weird helicopter sequence, but he has left the show. The character will be reappearing, still played by Andrew Lincoln, in a movie – or trilogy of movies – on AMC. Rick was the only character on the show who could be described as the main protagonist, and now that he’s gone, The Walking Dead has become a true ensemble show with no real lead.
2 Carol Peletier (128 episodes)
Clocking in at just one less episode than Daryl, his sometime-romantic-interest Carol has been around the second longest. It’s no wonder that Carol has managed to survive so long, because she’s one of the strongest and most resilient characters on the show. She has suffered the loss of her young daughter and had to put the pieces of her life back together after that.
At the breakout of the apocalypse, she was stuck in an abusive marriage, so in a way, she was already fighting for survival long before the walkers came along. She’ll do anything to secure the safety of herself and those around her, even shoot a dangerously psychotic little girl in the back while she looks at flowers.
1 Daryl Dixon (129 episodes)
When The Walking Dead established itself as a show that likes to kill off major characters at the drop of a hat and Daryl Dixon established himself as everybody’s favorite character, the fans popularized the phrase: “If Daryl dies, we riot.” So, it’s safe to say he’ll be sticking around for a while. With Andrew Lincoln gone, Norman Reedus is now essentially the star of the series, although his intention isn’t to take Rick’s place or replace Rick. Still, the producers have often said Daryl isn’t necessarily safe, and he did just get a pet dog, so it would be extra sad if he died now.