The Saddest Deaths In The Walking Dead

Through its unparalleled ability to make audiences truly empathize with its characters, The Walking Dead has proven to be anything but the typical zombie apocalypse show. As a result of this, the deaths of some of the series’ most kind-hearted characters hit even harder and often left viewers devastated.

Even though character deaths in The Walking Dead are common — with over a thousand occurring across the show’s 177 episodes — some undoubtedly hurt much more than others. Just as audiences have grown emotionally numb to this never-ending killing spree, these tragic character deaths mercilessly tug at viewers’ heartstrings.

Updated on December 20, 2023, by Kennedy King & Ajay Aravind: The zombie genre changed forever when The Walking Dead made its television debut in 2010. After 12 years on the air, the iconic series finally drew to a close in late 2022. During its 11 seasons, countless characters and fan favorites die on-screen, several of whom have left an indelible mark on pop culture history. As such, we’ve updated this list of the saddest Walking Deaddeaths with more information.

15 Shane Walsh’s Death Leaves A Permanent Void In Rick’s Heart

Season 2, Episode 12: “Better Angels”

Shane Walsh stands next to a car
The Walking Dead Walker
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Rick owes his best friend Shane everything — without the latter, Lori and Carl most likely would’ve died within the first week of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, Shane instigates a romantic relationship with Lori that’s quashed when Rick unexpectedly returns. These forbidden feelings later rise to the surface in Season 2, when Shane begins acting more and more reckless.

At one point, Shane openly tries to kill Rick and take the latter’s family for himself. Rick manages to seize control of the situation and stabs Shane, whose reanimated corpse is subsequently neutralized by Carl. Although fans despise Shane when he dies, his death leaves a permanent void in Rick, Lori, and Carl’s lives.

14 Merle Dixon Sacrifices Himself In An Attempt To Kill The Governor

Season 3, Episode 15: “This Sorrowful Life”

Compared to Shane, Merle Dixon’s character arc takes the opposite course. He begins as a total backstabber, with a penchant for attacking his own allies, but ends the story as a quasi-hero. Merle’s behavior is initially reprehensible, explaining why the others have no choice but to abandon him atop an Atlanta building.

They return for Merle Dixon later, but find him missing. Merle teams up with the Governor in Season 3, who’s eventually revealed to be a villain with zero empathy for anyone except himself. When Merle captures Michonne and tries to barter her to the Governor, she convinces him to change his mind. He then attacks the Woodbury soldiers, killing several before he’s caught and executed. The saddest moment comes when Daryl Dixon has to put down his reanimated brother.

13 Tyreese Williams Has An Entire Episode Dedicated To His Last Day

Season 5, Episode 9: “What Happened and What’s Going On”

Sasha and Tyreese in The Walking Dead

Tyreese Williams goes through several conflicting emotional states over the course of The Walking Dead‘s first five seasons. His happy-go-lucky nature devolves into a quest for revenge following Karen’s murder, going so far as to beat Rick up for no reason. Carol, who had justifiably killed Karen, doesn’t reveal her secret until she and Tyreese are bound together with a devastating secret of their own: Lizzie’s execution.

Tyreese ultimately learns to forget and forgive, but The Walking Dead had different plans for him. At the very least, he has an entire episode dedicated to him before he dies of a Walker bite. Despite his relatively minor role, Tyreese has one of the saddest Walking Dead deaths.

12 Abraham Ford Dies With A Courageous Smirk On His Face

Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

Michael Cudlitz as Abraham in The Walking Dead

The Season 6 cliffhanger left fans desperate for answers. Everyone wanted to know who had been smashed to death by Negan in the finale episode. In the Season 7 premiere, however, it’s revealed that Negan chooses Abraham Ford, a gruff yet likable side character. Abraham has always been a brave man, saving Eugene Porter from certain death and driving him across the country.

Abraham Ford doesn’t abandon Eugene after discovering that the latter had lied about knowing the cure for the Wildfire virus, further showcasing his integrity. Abraham remains courageous, even when Negan selects him to die. In fact, Abraham’s delightfully crass final words take the sting off his death just a little bit.

11 Henry Sutton Is Brutally Decapitated And Mounted On A Stake

Season 9, Episode 15: “The Calm Before”

henry and beta in the walking dead
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Henry Sutton is barely a toddler when the outbreak begins, so he’s only known a world filled with vicious zombies. He initially lives in the Kingdom with his brother Benjamin, but the latter’s murder leaves him distraught and vengeful. Henry overcomes his negative feelings with the help of Carol and King Ezekiel, who also adopt him as their son.

Henry might have stayed alive if he hadn’t come between Alpha and her daughter Lydia, but this just goes to show his honorable nature. Henry is almost a stand-in for Carl Grimes, at least until Alpha has him brutally decapitated. Carol and Ezekiel are emotionally wrecked upon seeing their beloved child’s head on a spike, making Henry’s fate one of the worst deaths in The Walking Dead.

10 Dale Horvath Tragically Dies From A Surprise Walker Attack

Season 2, Episode 11: “Judge, Jury, Executioner”

Dale Horvath seeing a Walker in the Walking Dead

Dale was introduced to viewers in the first season of The Walking Dead and quickly became a level-headed father figure among the survivors. While he initially seems rash and opinionated, these mannerisms come from a good-natured, protective place — a fact that made his death even more unfortunate.

The fact viewers couldn’t see Dale’s death coming, combined with the harsh reality that Carl was partially responsible since he had provoked the walker that killed Dale, makes Dale’s death truly tragic. If audiences hadn’t begun sobbing by this point, they likely broke into tears when Daryl put Dale out of his misery. This is easily one of the saddest TWD deaths.

9 Mika Samuels Is Coldly Murdered By Her Own Sister Lizzie

Season 4, Episode 14: “The Grove”

Mika and Lizzie Samuels have a conversation in The Walking Dead

After the untimely death of Sophia Peletier, Carol was left reeling in unparalleled grief and mourning. Because of this, introducing Mika and Lizzie Samuels in Season 4 gave viewers a cruel sense of hope that Carol could leave her tragic past behind and look after the two young girls as her adoptive daughters.

However, this hopeful future quickly darkens when Lizzie kills her sister in an attempt to “prove” that walkers are no different from people. Even though Mika had nothing but love to give and clearly admired Lizzie despite her odd empathy towards walkers, Mika’s kind-hearted nature ended up making her death one of the hardest to watch in The Walking Dead.

8 Siddiq Dies At The Hands Of The Whisperer Spy Dante

Season 10, Episode 7: “Open Your Eyes”

Siddiq looks to his right with mild surprise on his face in The Walking Dead

Siddiq was first introduced in Season 8 and quickly grew on viewers thanks to his selfless demeanor and refreshing belief that killing walkers is an ethical way to free the spirits of the reanimated. Siddiq intrigued audiences thanks to his complex character and his experience following the Fair Massacre in Season 9.

However, Siddiq’s death in Season 10 at the hands of Whisperer spy Dante seemed to come out of nowhere. Viewers were equally devastated and enraged by a death many saw as highly unnecessary. Siddiq’s death is made even more tragic when his former lover Rosita is forced to kill him for good after he reanimates and nearly attacks their daughter.

7 Sophia Peletier’s Offscreen Death Still Shocked Viewers

Season 2, Episode 1: “What Lies Ahead”

A split image of Sophia Peletier as a normal child and as a walker in The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead Deluxe #77 variant cover.
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Sophia is Carol’s daughter and is perhaps most notable for her affable demeanor and remarkable ability to befriend just about anyone. Since it’s particularly easy to empathize with children like Sophia, who have been forced to grow up extremely fast to survive the zombie apocalypse, her death in The Walking Dead‘s second season was immensely devastating.

Besides being her mother Carol’s entire world, Sophia’s death was even more tragic because she had been separated from the survivor group beforehand. The group only realizes Sophia has died when they come across a walker herd and realize that a reanimated Sophia is one of them. Although it happens offscreen, Sophia has one of the saddest deaths in The Walking Dead.

6 Lori Grimes Dies From Blood Loss After Giving Birth To Judith

Season 3, Episode 4: “Killer Within”

Lori Grimes holds a gun out on front of her in a field in The Walking Dead

As a character, Lori often gets a bad rap because of her affair with Shane and her apparent disregard for Rick’s emotions. However, she proves how selfless and honorable she is in the tragic final moments of her life. This primarily manifests when Lori unhesitatingly sacrifices her life so her daughter can live.

As it becomes apparent that the only way Lori could give birth to a live infant would be by having a C-section that would undoubtedly kill her, Lori resigns herself to that cruel fate and tearfully says goodbye to Carl. Soon after Lori dies from blood loss, Carl shoots her in the head to prevent her from reanimating. The fact a child has to “neutralize” his own mother made Lori’s death heartbreaking.

5 Hershel Greene Gets Brutally Decapitated In Front Of His Friends

Season 4, Episode 8: “Too Far Gone”

Hershel is first introduced to viewers in Season 2 of The Walking Dead and becomes a fan favorite because of his caring nature. This defining trait initially irritated fans, since Hershel stubbornly believed that walkers were still living people who were just sick and in need of a cure. He eventually realized how delusional this thought was and bravely acknowledged his change of heart.

Hershel grew on fans in Season 4 and acted as the perpetual voice of reason. His death in the middle of this season left viewers particularly devastated. Making Hershel’s death even more tragic, he was decapitated in front of his friends and stabbed by a heartbroken Michonne after he reanimates.

4 Paul “Jesus” Rovia Is The First Victim Of The Whisperers

Season 9, Episode 8: “Evolution”

Jesus makes a serious expression and faces to the side in The Walking Dead

Paul “Jesus” Rovia is first introduced in Season 6 of The Walking Dead as a witty and abundantly charming trickster willing to do anything to protect his friends. Even though his relationships with Rick and Daryl are off to a rocky start after the duo holds him at gunpoint, he gains their trust by saving Daryl’s life.

As Jesus and the other Hilltop survivors battle against a supposed herd of walkers in Season 9, Jesus is caught off guard by a Whisperer, who stabs him in cold blood. Jesus is then stabbed in the head by Aaron, one of his closest friends, to prevent him from reanimating. Jesus has one of the saddest TWD deaths, mainly because fans were hoping for a potential romance between him and Aaron.

3 Beth Greene Is Killed When Dawn Accidentally Shoots Her

Season 5, Episode 8: “Coda”

Beth Greene has a cut on her cheek and makes a shocked expression in The Walking Dead

Beth, Hershel’s youngest daughter, and Maggie’s half-sister, was first introduced to viewers in Season 2 as a sheltered young girl who wasn’t fully aware of the zombie apocalypse that was now her reality. However, fans grew to love Beth as she overcame the overwhelming hopelessness that nearly consumed her earlier in the season.

As Beth’s survivor group navigates a tricky hostage situation with the Grady Memorial survivors in Season 5, Beth retaliates against Dawn’s calculated thought process. Dawn reflexively shoots her in the head, killing Beth instantly. Since Beth had gradually become a core part of the survivor group, her unexpected death in Season 5 shocked many viewers to their very core.

2 Carl Grimes Suffers A Walker Bite While Saving Siddiq’s Life

Season 8, Episode 9: “Honor”

Carl Grimes with a cowboy hat on and a bandage on his eye in The Walking Dead
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Even though Rick Grimes is undoubtedly the protagonist of The Walking Dead for the show’s first nine seasons, his son Carl plays a critical role throughout the series. Carl is initially a shy boy whose sometimes selfish actions have brought about tragic consequences. However, he’s always willing to do anything to protect his loved ones and fellow survivors.

Carl’s protective nature and willingness to help others are exemplified in the unfortunate events leading up to his death. As Carl guides Siddiq to Alexandria, he is bitten by a walker. Rather than force Rick or Michonne to put him down, Carl takes his fate into his own hands and shoots himself in the head offscreen. Very few viewers could have held back their tears when this happened.

1 Glenn Rhee’s Death Received Numerous Complaints From Fans

Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

From the moment Glenn saved Rick from a herd of walkers in The Walking Dead‘s first season, fans instantly gravitated toward his loyal nature and admirable resourcefulness. As Glenn developed a refreshing relationship with Maggie and vowed to honor Hershel’s memory following his tragic death, he cemented himself as the selfless heart of the group.

While most viewers love to hate the nefarious yet charming Negan, his brutal scare tactic and killing rampage enraged fans and left them emotionally drained. Of the two casualties resulting from this tragic scenario, Glenn had one of the saddest Walking Dead deaths because he persevered through his final moments of intense agony to share his last words with the love of his life.

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