It’s just the nature of the beast that the “best” moments on The Walking Dead tend to be tragedies. Dale’s shocking death. Daryl having to put down his own brother. Andrea’s goodbye to her sister (and her own shocking death, which is a better fit for “most frustrating” moments). Since we’re back to a democracy on Season 4 — which starts October 13 on AMC — we don’t have to wait for The Ricktator to tell us what to think. So here are our choices for the five best moments on TWD so far. Disagree? Leave your picks in the comments!
5. Blowing up the CDC, Season 1
It was our first chance to step back and get a glimpse of the big picture. TWD purposely avoided doing an outbreak origin story, so we don’t even know what caused “walkers” to take over. Most of Season 1 zeroed in on confused Rick Grimes, who emerged from the hospital and searched for his family members in the Atlanta area. It was a very micro look at the epidemic, but heading into the CDC gave us a macro look at how bad things really are around the world. Dr. Jenner said everyone there was dead but himself. Their research never led to a cure. He said the French had come the closest to figuring out what was going on, but Jenner hadn’t had contact with another human in a long time. Turns out, he was ready to opt out himself.
The building’s safety protocols were about to kick in, launching a massive explosion. Jenner made his pitch for everyone to take the quick and easy way out with him. Most of the group chose to fight for their lives, even in what sounded like a hopeless world, but Jacqui and Andrea chose to stay. Dale fought for Andrea to come with him, and she reluctantly went along because he threatened to stay and die with her: “You don't get to do that — to come into somebody's life, make them care, and then just check out!" But apparently it was OK for Jacqui. Poor Sophia probably should’ve taken this option, considering what happened to her shortly after this.
4. The return of Morgan, Season 3
This was Rick’s big wake-up call. Morgan and his son Duane were the first humans to find Rick after Rick woke up from the hospital with no idea what had happened to the world. Morgan and Duane healed Rick and gave him (and viewers) the lay of the land. Morgan also admitted he wasn’t able to put down his walker wife, who was still wandering around outside, drawn to their home. Rick left to find his own family, leading him to Atlanta, the farm, and ultimately the prison. We had an unexpected reunion with Morgan on Season 3, after the death of Rick’s wife Lori, which left him in a very delicate mental state. Seeing Morgan was like Rick meeting The Ghost of Christmas Future. Morgan also lost his wife — and his son. His wife ended up coming inside and biting Duane. Morgan lost everything, including his own mental state. He fell down the rabbit hole of despair and paranoia, and told Rick it would happen to him and his son Carl too. This standalone episode, “Clear,” was written by new showrunner Scott Gimple, and it’s the kind of character based story we’re supposed to see more of on Season 4. That’s good news. It showcased the tremendous acting of Lennie James as Morgan, prompted Rick to get out of his own headspace and remember his job as leader/father, and even gave Carl and Michonne a chance to bond, showing Michonne she does have a place with Team Prison.
3. Shane vs. Rick, Season 2
It was only a matter of time. Even on the premiere, listening to Rick talk about his problems communicating with Lori, it seemed like Shane really had a … special interest in his best friend’s wife. Shane thought Rick died in that hospital, so he did what Rick would’ve wanted — he took care of Lori and Carl, got them out of Atlanta, and moved them to safety. Shane was actually a good leader. And he ended up getting romantic with Lori. Then Rick came back. Lori pushed Shane away from anger and her own shame. Jealous Shane resented how Rick slipped into his leadership and caretaker shoes. Shane was still determined to play protector to Carl and Lori, so he left Otis as walker bait to get injured Carl the medicine he needed. Lori toyed with the emotions of both guys, ultimately giving the newly head-shaved Shane enough of a glimmer of hope to lead him to want to take Rick out of the picture.
Everything came to a head after Shane led everyone on a wild goose chase for Randall. It was Rick vs. Shane out in a clearing. After a tense talk, Rick made like he was handing over his gun; instead, he thrust his knife into his best friend’s body. Sobs of grief and anger. It seemed like it was over, but then Carl showed up with a gun, seeming to be pointed at his own dad. Rick tried to talk him down but Carl fired — at zombie Shane, approaching Rick from the back. And the drama wasn’t even over! The noise from the gunshot attracted a migrating herd from Atlanta, causing the group to have to flee the farm on the Season 2 finale. Dang it, Carl...that one’s on you.
2. Lori’s prison death, Season 3
Several months had passed between the end of Season 2 and the start of Season 3. When we reunited with our former farm group, Lori was super pregnant and Rick wasn’t taking her hypocritical sass anymore. He was busy as The Ricktator, trying to find a safe haven where they could stay for longer than a short burst. Rick and Lori were tense with each other, but they started to make some progress once they got comfortable in the prison. Then Rick made the unwise decision to leave one of the original prison guys, Andrew, alone in an area with a bunch of walkers. It was his way of clearing the area without killing Andrew, but it came back to bite him. Andrew set traps in the prison and let walkers into the cell blocks, leading Team Prison to run and fight for their lives. T-Dog sacrificed himself to save Carol. In the stress of the attack, Lori went into labor. She had Maggie cut into her stomach to get out the baby girl. Before she died, Lori had a powerfully moving talk with her son, Carl.
Lori: “You promise me you’ll always do what’s right. It’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world. So if it feels wrong, don’t do it, all right? If it feels easy, don’t do it. Don’t let the world spoil you. You’re so good. My sweet boy. The best thing I ever did. I love you.” Her last words were “Goodnight, love.”
Then poor Carl — stone-faced Carl, who will never be the same — had to shoot his mom behind a closed door, so she wouldn’t turn into a walker. Beautiful, heartbreaking scene.
1. Sophia was in the barn! Season 2
It’s so easy to forget that walkers/zombies/biters were human. You get into video game mode, where it’s cool to slice them, shoot them, or just take them down in any way. So when it turned out that Hershel and Otis had been herding live wakers into their barn, holding out for the hope that a cure was coming, most viewers had the same reaction as the Atlanta group. Are they nuts? These things are dangerous. Shane and company ripped open the barn and had an old-fashioned shootout. Boom! Pow! Blast! Everyone lined up and took shots, while Hershel and family sobbed. The Atlanta group saw walkers. The Greenes saw neighbors, friends, and even their own loved ones.
That hit home with the Atlanta group when the last walker emerged — Sophia, the girl we’d been looking for all season; the girl who ran into the woods because Rick told her to. She had been in that barn the whole dang time. When she emerged, the Atlanta group was stunned. Carol fell to the ground sobbing. Lori hugged Carl with a lock of horror. Shane couldn’t even move. Rick had to do the tough thing that everyone probably would’ve expected from Shane. He had to put down Sophia. So he shot her, knowing that he was in large part to blame for her ending up there to begin with.
It was a powerful reminder that walkers are/were humans. Every so often, around all the cool kills, this really hits home. Like when Daryl had to kill zombie Merle, or when Andrea watched Amy slowly turn, or when The Governor begged, grieved, and raged at the killing of his zombie daughter Penny. And now that we know Dr. Jenner’s little whisper to Rick — that everyone is infected, and everyone will turn — it’s even more of a reminder that the survivors and zombies are all “the walking dead.”
What are your picks for the five best moments so far?