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The Walking Dead: 6 Characters That Became Fan-Favorites Despite Having Rough Starts

Negan standing in the woods on The Walking Dead
(Image credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead has so many characters. So many. Even from the first season, we were introduced to several members of the quarry group, some that lasted for several seasons, others that didn’t. But since the inception of this show, we have always seen new faces. 

And sometimes, these new faces make fans want to turn off the television. 

While these characters certainly had some rough starts, over their time on the show, they became fan-favorites. Some of them had some heartbreaking deaths. Others are still thriving today in the show. But no matter what, these six picks are the definition of character development, and I’m happy to say that I’ve loved to watch them grow.  

Father Gabriel in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Father Gabriel 

Father Gabriel was the epitome of what a coward was in The Walking Dead when he made his first appearance in Season 5. He was a priest who had literally locked out his parishioners, but was too afraid to face the world. He backstabbed the group when they arrived in Alexandria. He was too afraid to even hold a gun. 

But now, fast forward six seasons - the man is a freaking killer. Even in the ninth episode of the second part of the final season, Gabriel has become a killer, taking out people for the sake of his group. He doesn’t really believe in anything anymore - only the good of others now. And even when someone from the Reapers tried to preach to him about God, he ended that real quick, killing them without a second thought. 

As much as he infuriated me at first, Father Gabriel has changed immensely, for the better, and has become a fan-favorite. 

Carol in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Carol Peletier 

I don’t think anyone at the beginning of The Walking Dead would have expected the growth from Carol. We’re introduced to this character as the wife of an utter asshole who not only beat her but their child as well, and while that’s dealt with quickly within the first couple of episodes of the series, Carol was quite weak for many seasons.

Emotionally, I believe she was stronger than others, just because she lost her daughter within the first couple of months of the outbreak, but she often fought with her heart and not her head. The only saving grace for her during this period, in my eyes, was her friendship with Daryl. Was she ever hated like some of the others on this list? No, but she wasn’t the best version of herself that she could be. 

However, the last couple of seasons have changed my way of seeing Carol, probably ever since she arrived in Alexandria with the group. She’s lost so much and yet somehow, that has just made her smarter, quicker, more cunning in the way that she does things. She’s a great shot, will do anything for her family, and has earned my (and the fan’s) respect in every way.

Eugene Porter in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Eugene Porter

Oof, Eugene. I think all of us, at one point or another, hated Eugene in The Walking Dead, because he was just a fake. Season 4 was quick to tell us that his whole “a cure in D.C.” ruse was just b.s. and that he just wanted the protection that Abraham and Rosita provided for him. 

But over the course of the series, he’s seriously grown as a character. During his time with the Saviors in Season 8, he showed his mechanical ability. While he was most likely very much scared while there, he was able to rig all of their bullets because of how smart he is, and pushed the direction of the war towards Alexandria. 

After that, he started to show really just how smart he was, fixing radios, communicating with other people, and ending up becoming a respected part of the group and any community he’s a part of. While I don’t think he’s perfect, he’s changed so much. 

Beth Greene in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Beth Greene 

This one hurts to talk about. Beth Greene was the little sister of Maggie, introduced in Season 2 of The Walking Dead, and did anyone really like her at first? She was sort of in the background, doing nothing, until she ended up wanting to take the easy way out and found screen-time through that. 

Since then, she was known as that girl, but it wasn’t until Season 4 we started to see how much she had grown. We saw that she had the same moral compass as her father. We saw how sweet she was with baby Judith, and how she truly tried to see the good in anyone. Those few episodes that she shared alone with Daryl were pivotal moments for her character that illustrated just how much she, in the small time she was on the show, grew. 

The passion she had for living, mixed in with her morality, made her a fan favorite in Season 4 and Season 5, where fans anxiously awaited for her to reunite with the group. But that was unfortunately cut off since she was killed. Even if her death wasn’t as gruesome as others, I still cry every time I watch it. 

Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Carl Grimes 

To be honest, I hated Carl in The Walking Dead - for a long time. I know that the kid was going through changes while the world was falling apart, and he had to kill his mother, but oh my God, the teenage years of this boy during Season 3 and Season 4 made me want to roll my eyes so often. 

But, with that in mind, Alexandria is really where Carl started to change, when he was given hope for a future. He had just lost his home, had seen the worst in people, and had gone through some serious trauma, but now, he could see a future for his little sister. And he wanted to fight for that future. 

Let me tell you, I really started to respect Carl when he went out of his way to sneak into the Savior complex and meet with Negan himself. The kid had some guts, but he did all of this so Judith, as well as the other children around him, could have a better childhood than he was having in this world. When he started to act selflessly and be a better man, not only for himself but for the sake of others, that’s when he started to grow into a great young man. 

Carl’s big death is still one of the most controversial changes from the comics for me in the show, as I still feel this was his story. And I believe that if he was still around in Season 11, he’d be one of the best developed characters on the show. 

negan talking to maggie on the walking dead season 11

(Image credit: AMC)

Negan 

He had to be on here. Come on, we all hated Negan. 

Despite his charming personality and his morals when it came to certain acts of crime during the Savior war, Negan was, undoubtedly, a dick. He killed off fan favorites, he tortured Daryl, and caused so much harm. And yet, Rick made the choice to let Negan live because of Carl’s note to him. 

And that was one of the best choices the show could have made. 

Negan is one of the most compelling characters on TV right now, and for good reason. He started off as one of the biggest villains of The Walking Dead ever and yet now, he has become a fan-favorite, with his character development often being compared to Daryl’s over the course of the show. Negan isn’t a villain anymore - he’s an anti-hero. 

He’s not a good man by any means. He still pisses people off and makes stupid choices, but he has a conscience now. He cares about the greater good. He teamed up with Carol to take down the Whisperers secretly because he knew they would be horrible for Alexandria and for the innocent lives there. The story of him and his former wife, Lucille, further pushes this narrative - Negan has put the past in the past, and he is ready to move on. 

Again, he’s no Rick Grimes - but that’s what makes him good. He doesn’t need to be a hero. Negan just needs to be Negan, because that’s the man fans have grown to love. And honestly, I hope we get more stories about him very soon. 

After eleven seasons, it’s about time The Walking Dead came to a close. But through it all, we’ve experienced some excellent characters - and I’d give anything to explore them all over again. 

Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!