Madison Lintz as Sophia Peletier
Tugging at every parents’ heart strings was the death of Sophia, Carol’s (Melissa McBride) pre-teen daughter, in the second season. After searching ferociously for the missing girl, her fate was revealed after a fit of rage led Shane (Jon Bernthal) to open the barn doors at Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm and kill all of the walkers inside. Just when we think he’d gotten them all, out struts the young girl, who was apparently right under their noses the whole time. As the first significant child death in the show, it demonstrated to viewers that this new world showed mercy to no one.
Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh
For the first two seasons, we watched Shane transform from best bud to plot antagonist, ready to throw his morals out the window and fight dirty far earlier than anyone else was willing to do. So much so, in fact, that he decided the best course of action would be to kill his best friend Rick (Andrew Lincoln) because he felt the former sheriff unfit to lead the group (jealousy surely had something to do with it as well.) But the tables turned when Rick beat Shane to the punch, jabbing a knife into his heart in defense. The death become even more devastating, however, when young Carl (Chandler Riggs) happens upon the scene, and shoots Shane in the head after he re-animates. This is also the first time we learn that everyone is infected and will come back as a walker, no matter how you die.
Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes
While far from being a favorite character among viewers, Lori’s death in the third season was still a terribly sad one given that it was a decision made in order to save her unborn child. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) performs an emergency C-section to deliver little Judith. But, adding more devastation to the mix, Carl is, once again, at the center of the situation, being brave enough to put a bullet in his own mother’s head to prevent her from re-animating. As if that weren’t horrible enough, Rick finds that Lori’s body has been savagely eaten by a bloated walker, and continues to be haunted by visions of her through several episodes that follow.
Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene
The lovable patriarch and voice of reason for the group, farmer and veterinarian Hershel’s death was especially sad given the important role he played as moral center of the group. And more so because of the way it happened – brutally, and at the hand of another human, The Governor (David Morrisey), who partially decapitates him in front of the entire group. Then, he returns to finish the job. In the end, Michonne (Danai Gurira) is left to stab the head with her katana to put a now-reanimated Hershel at final rest.
Emily Kinney as Beth Greene
The death of the ever-so-sweet character of Beth in season five seemed too soon after the show spent much of an entire season on her plight in a hospital, where she was being kept prisoner. The leader of that group, police officer Dawn (Christine Woods), ends up (sort of) accidentally shooting Beth in the head after the timid girl finally stands up to her. Dawn get what she deserves as a distraught Daryl shoots her between the eyes immediately after. The more disturbing part, however, is when Daryl carries a dead Beth out of the hospital and toward the group, which includes her distraught sister Maggie.
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale Horvath
Before Hershel was the group’s “dad,” there was Dale, the calm retiree with the RV that the group used to get around. He often tried to talk group members out of doing “the wrong thing,” helping them to keep their humanity in such an awful world. That's what makes it so heartbreaking when he dies in the second season at the hands of a walker that takes him by surprise in the field at Hershel’s farm. Sadly, it’s a walker that Carl had encountered earlier in the day and couldn’t bring himself to kill, a realization that set into motion Carl’s brewing viciousness and determination to never let something like that happen again.
Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon
Daryl’s brash older brother rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, so much so that after their first meeting, Rick handcuffed him to a building rooftop and left him for dead. But that doesn’t make his death at the end of the third season any less devastating, mainly because it was Daryl who found him reanimated. Despite Merle’s many misdeeds, he did the right thing in the end in trying to save his brother and friends. Watching Daryl plunge a knife into him over and over, expressing years of anger over their fractured relationship, was about as heartbreaking as a scene could get.
Brighton Sharbino as Lizzie Samuels
Four words: “look at the flowers.” No one will ever regard this phrase in the same way after seeing the season five episode where Lizzie met her end at the hands of Carol. After determining that Lizzie’s mental illness was too far gone (she killed her own little sister!) Carol made the difficult decision to protect baby Judith, who was likely next, by walking Lizzie into the garden, prompting her to look at the flowers, and killing her, execution-style, tears streaming down her face. Talk about heavy.
Chad Coleman as Tyreese Williams
Many expected Tyreese to have a far larger role in the TV series given his central role in the comics. But alas, he met his end in season five at the hands of one of Noah’s young brothers, who had turned and caught the burly man by surprise while Tyreese and Noah explored the presumed vacant home. An entire episode was dedicating to sending Tyreese off as he experienced a series of hallucinations, seeing all of those he lost, and finally welcoming and accepting his inevitable death. Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. as Bob Stookey
Just as he’s getting close to Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Bob gets bitten in season five. He hides it from the group, but ends up getting captured by Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his crew of cannibals. The joke’s on them, though. After they cut off Bob’s leg and cook it up on the fire, Bob can only smile and laugh as he reveals that they’re eating “tainted meat.” They disgustedly return an amputated Bob to the church where he gets to live out his final hours in the arms of Sasha and his friends. Finally, Tyrese does a solid for his sis, and plunges a knife deep into Bob’s brain to prevent him from reanimating. It’s the strangest kind of love story.
Merritt Wever as Denise Cloyd
While she didn’t have quite as much screen time as the others, Denise managed to capture viewers’ hearts thanks to her loving and innocent nature. A nurse in training, she became Alexandria’s resident doctor once Pete (Corey Brill) was killed. She did her best, and even had a central role in turning a Wolf into a good guy who sacrificed himself to save her. But sadly, she got a surprising arrow to the eye from Dwight (using Daryl’s crossbow) while on her first run out of the compound towards the end of season six. And why did she venture out? Not only in an effort to contribute more, but more specifically to try and find a can of orange crush for her love interest, Tara (Alanna Masterson). Cue the “awwws.”
Warning: If you aren’t caught up, major spoilers ahead!
The season 7 premiere of
The Walking Dead is one of the most anticipated in television history. For months, viewers have wondered which of the show’s beloved main character (or characters) would meet their end. It’s arguably the first time a major character death has been confirmed and teased for so long prior to the episode air (save for Glenn’s cliffhanger dumpster moment from season six.) But it most certainly won’t be the first time the AMC show has gutted us by heartbreakingly showing the death of a beloved member of the group.
Here are 11 of the most gut-wrenching deaths since the series began back in 2010.