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Spoiler warning for anyone not yet caught up with The Walking Dead, up to and through the Season 7 premiere.
If there was ever a list meant to have a soulful rendition of Drowning Pool's "Bodies" as its soundtrack, it would be this. Over six seasons and then some, The Walking Dead has been the source for many a fan's emotional breakdown following the often shocking death of a character, some beloved and others not quite so well-known. Gather up those mental tissues, because here are all the saddest deaths the zombie drama has hit viewers with at this point.
When leafing through the plethora of Walking Dead deaths, one has to draw the "sadness" line somewhere, and for me that line starts with Axel, the West Georgia Correctional inmate whose good ol' boy attitude made him instantly likable for his Season 3 stint. Arguably his best scene was also his last, as great bonding moment shared by him and Carol - one that hinted at more heartwarming things developing - ended with him getting a bullet through the head from The Governor. Proof that the post-apocalyptic world truly is random, or merely a pointed swipe at our heartstrings? Axel would have had an anecdote to tell about it.
Another character whose time onscreen was limited, Amy (Emma Bell) was the first major death of a protagonist on The Walking Dead. (Yeah, Ed died before her, but that guys was a tool.) Amy's death was one that completely warped her sister Andrea's personality, and even though a lack of Amy on the show didn't do much to directly affect the narrative, her getting bitten set the stage for the deadly shocks to come in the future. Plus, it was also the reason why actress Laurie Holden's Andrea had that epic Season 1 sob session, which produced almost more onscreen tears than the rest of the series combined.
11. Walker Merle
No, I don't think any viewers at home were clutching wet hankies when The Governor bit and beat Merle down before putting a bullet in his chest. But it was after the reanimated Merle was first witnessed by his brother Daryl that bottom lips started to poke out. After all, Daryl was on a mission to rescue his brother, who was attempting to put an end to The Governor's reign, and he was visibly floored by the sight of Walker Merle and his spooky eyes, leading to that oh-so-famous Daryl Dixon Ugly Cry. Perhaps it was overkill for the freshly mourning Daryl to stab Merle in the face so many times thereafter, but it's not like it lightened the mood at all.
One of the first Walking Dead survivors introduced, Theodore "T-Dog" Douglas was a character you'd always want on your side in a fight, as he was big, brutish and completely selfless. (He was the one who first rescued Glenn, too.) Though he wasn't really the center of any big storylines, T-Dog managed to survive until the prison, where he fell victim to a walker bite while trying to seal a gate. And instead of wallowing around in self-pity, T-Dog spent his last remaining hours helping Carol make her way back to cell block safety, eventually sacrificing himself altogether so that she could escape. Dying a hero's death on The Walking Dead is extremely rare, but T-Dog did it. And it was supposed to be Carol who died there.
9. Walker Sophia
While Season 2 of The Walking Dead is known for not standing as the series' most exciting, based in part on the Search for Sophia that took over the first chunk of the narrative, the actual reveal of Sophia coming out of Hershel's barn was one of the most effective in all the show's years. And though the emotional pull of her absence was arguable, there was definitely heartbreak compounded into the unveiling of Sophia as a walker, best evidenced by the grief in Carol and Daryl's complementary reactions. Carol had already built herself as a sympathetic character, and having her lose her only child was a big blow to the senses, and it changed her forever.
Much like Sophia's situation, Mika's death was so blisteringly tragic not because the character was such a core and necessary part of the story, but because of how helpless and innocent the character was when meeting her maker. Orphaned, Mika was not in the best of positions when she first appeared, and she ended up falling victim to her highly disturbed sister Lizzie, who believed that walkers were still normal people in some way. Lizzie fatally stabbed Mika, thinking the young girl would reanimate back to normal, which then led to Lizzie's own murder in front of some flowers. There's no real mystery behind the episode being one of The Walking Dead's most controversial, and it's one of the hardest to sit through for a repeat viewing.
A beloved character from The Walking Dead comic books, Tyreese was introduced on the TV show as a slightly different man, more of a silent and compassionate beast always looking for the least violent way out of a situation. Tyreese had so much left to add to this universe, but the fifth year's midseason premiere saw him telling personal stories about his past - never a good sign - and he was soon bitten during the side trek to check on Noah's family. (See what a nice guy he was?) Already shocking, Tyreese's death was made all the more mourn-worthy thanks his hallucinations of other deceased characters, including Bob and Beth, as well as the fact that it looked like he might survive after his amputation. Hope sucks.
Of all the here-and-gone Walking Dead characters, the one I'd most want to have had a beer with was Dale, the survivors' temporary moral center (who may or may not have had a creepy thing for Andrea). Unfortunately, Dale didn't even outlive his RV, as he was completely eviscerated in Season 2 by the very walker that Carl had goaded and not killed earlier in the episode; it was a disagreement with Rick's decision-making that had him out and about by himself in the first place. Dale was the kind of intelligent and open-minded person who could have led his own version of Alexandria, perhaps finding love again and starting another family. But no, the Grimes boys and the gut-loving zombie made sure that didn't happen.
In the months prior to The Walking Dead kicking off its gut-punch of a Season 7 premiere, some fans were predicting that Abraham's noggin would get crushed, since he was given some emotional breadth in Season 6, along with having missed out on his comic death (which went to Denise). But that didn't make it any easier to watch him go down following a most awesome moment. He didn't go easily, mind you, and eked out an affronting last line before having his head bashed to a pulpy puddle. But even a championable reference to Abraham's nuts couldn't reverse the moment or block out the pure torture seen on Sasha's face, which likely resembled the faces of downtrodden viewers at home.
As polarizing a character as there is in the Walking Dead fanbase, Lori Grimes was nonetheless extremely important to those on the show, and her complicated death was also one of the darkest and most intense. Going into an inopportune labor inside the prison, Lori makes the impossible decision to sacrifice herself via C-section so that baby Judith can survive. Lori passes out from a loss of blood for the harrowing birth scene, during which Maggie got an early look at post-apocalyptic delivery, and Carl takes it upon himself to put her down for good. And just when the cold sweats stopped, Rick arrives to face the realization that Lori is dead. It's an incredibly sad series of events, no matter how you feel about the characters.
Hershel's entire existence on The Walking Dead was rife with tragedy and a sadness that actor Scott Glenn sold largely using only his eyes. After facing untold amounts of heartaches and setbacks (leading to undead family and friends being held in his barn), Hershel then suffered the loss of his family's farm after Rick & Co. showed up, and he did it with relatively little gruff. A wise soul whose hard past informed his moral upkeep, Hershel later survived a walker bite through a leg amputation - its own hardship - but there was finally something terrible he couldn't live through: his Season 4 decapitation by The Governor. It didn't help that he was hacked at and killed in front of daughters Maggie and Beth, or that his pleading for everyone's overall safety went ignored by The Governor. Ugh, now I just want some spaghetti, even though it's not Tuesday anymore.
From one Greene to the next we go. It took several years for Emily Kinney's Beth to become an important character on The Walking Dead's main stage, and that ascent came through well-written character development and a growing kinship with Daryl that fans fawned over. Her sudden disappearance was thus all the more confusing, with the confusion turning to horrified grief during Season 5's mid-year finale when she was accidentally shot in the head by Grady Memorial's Dawn. It was obviously not a smart move to stab a cop, even in a zombie-run world, which attempts to dull the sadness behind Beth's death. But the shock, combined with how flattened Daryl and Maggie were by the unforeseen disaster, was easily enough to make this one of the show's saddest deaths. But not the saddest one.
Our friend Glenn Rhee gets the now-undisputed honor of being The Walking Dead's most depressingly draining death, and not even the frustration of the Dumpster Fakeout can numb the effectiveness of his murder. For the Season 7 premiere, creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple initially changed things up by taking out Abraham, giving viewers a super-temporary sense of hope that Steven Yeun would achieve fatherhood status. But then Daryl did his thing, and Negan did his thing, and Glenn soon didn't do much besides twitch. First, though, he got in the incredibly disturbing eyeball-gouging last line of "Maggie, I'll find you," which turned everything in my body to liquid dread as I slooshed out of my chair. I fully expected Glenn to meet Lucille in the episode, but I didn't expect it to be as effective as the moment was in the comics. I hope they find each other again, even if it's only in a dream.
Non-coincidentally, you'll have no doubt noticed in this list how these deaths are almost always more emotionally driven when it's humans doing the killing. And Negan is going to be around for a long, long time. Find out what new soul-crushing deaths await us when The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET.