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The Walking Dead is no stranger to slaughtering its characters, and this article is intended to celebrate the very best of the many demises that have occurred throughout its run. Deaths need to be levelled with an appropriate impact upon the viewers. Whether this is achieved through any uniquely harrowing circumstances in which a certain character’s demise occurs, or simply due to it entailing the tragic loss of a fan favourite. The Walking Dead‘s proficiency in this expanse makes narrowing down five of its finest unceremonious killings a rather strenuous affair, but without further ado…
5. Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn)
Episode of death: Season 2 Episode 11 “Judge, Jury, Executioner”.
Dale was the moral centre of the survivors during his time among them and an assuringly comforting presence for many of the group. He was the sole person whose ethics stood firm, despite the horrors of the world spurring some odious behaviour from the rest of his compeers, which he fought valiantly to prevent on many occasions. Perhaps never more so than in his final episode; a suitable valediction, reminding us of the immorality that would go predominantly unchallenged without his presence. Dale’s death wasn’t the most surprising on this list, nor the most horrifying, but it’s more what it represented. His numerous unheeded pleas for virtuous inaction regarding the hostage in their midst was a foreshadowing indication that Dale’s influence had dispelled, and thus he was no longer serving any real purpose.
4. Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince)
Episode of death: Season 2 Episode 3 “Save the Last One”.
Otis’ death took place as a result of his requited, atoning assistance of Shane on an outing for medical supplies. Otis’ demise felt like the most inevitable fate for his character the minute he elected to accompany Shane. He was only trying to make amends for his mishap (let’s be honest, given the chance, we’d all turn our guns on Carl), and was honourably allegiant to Shane when the ineluctable horde of undead came down on them. But Shane’s self-preserving disunity meant Otis’ noble expiation tragically effected his untimely end.
3. Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies)
Episode of death: Season 3 Episode 4 “Killer Within”.
Lori’s popularity as one of The Walking Dead‘s ensemble plummeted during Season 2, so Kirkman and co. had a helluva task to permeate any sense of tragedy when she met her maker. The character’s redemption in the eyes of the viewers was crucially — if only in part — achieved during those dying moments, as her willing self-sacrifice to birth a new life into the world, whilst requiring that her own son be the one to euthanise her once she vivified in her undead state, was a deftly horrifying end for the character.
2. Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker)
Episode of death: Season 3 Episode 15 “This Sorrowful Life”.
The tragedy of Merle’s death was that it came just as he sought and accomplished his personal redemption. Releasing Michonne — rather than delivering her to the Governor as an act of good faith, so as to be invited back into the fold — and launching a one-man-army assault on the Governor and his men, something that he knew would end with his blood ultimately and fatefully shed, was a degree of sacrificial nobility not seen from Merle at any time prior. It was truly heartrending to see his death brought about just as he proved his worth.
1. Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal)
Episode of death: Season 2 Episode 12 “Better Angels”.
Shane’s demise still stands as one of the most momentous incidents in The Walking Dead. It was a tipping point for the characters and the series itself. His mental instability and increasingly debased inclinations were provoking hostilities within the group and proving a danger for all those around him. Rick’s lamentation at what he had to do to ensure everyone else’s safety from Shane’s violent vehemence was also one of Lincoln’s most profound performances to date.