Nobody misses Ed, who was chewed up by the walkers in Season 1. When Shane beat up Carol's abusive husband (played by Adam Minarovich), we saw that Shane might be a little unhinged. (AMC)
Amy, played by Emma Bell, was Andrea's kid sister. Part of the original survivors group, Amy and Andrea had their sisterly issues but a deep bond. When walkers invaded camp one night, Amy was a goner, and Andrea was devastated. (AMC)
Otis' stint was brief but effective. Played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, he gained our respect soon after the hunting accident involving Carl. He felt responsible. He did the right thing. And when (thanks to Shane) Otis didn't come back from the pharmacy run, we were truly sorry. (Bob Mahoney / AMC)
Oscar who? Seriously, Oscar (Vincent Ward) had no chance to flower. The Season 3 prison inmate gained Rick's trust by saving his life only to fall during the rescue mission to save Glenn and Maggie. (Tina Rowden/AMC)
Merle went out in a burst of gunfire and glory. Michael Rooker played Merle. (Gene Page/AMC)
Shane was brave and twisted, brutal and battle scarred. He couldn't be trusted, but he truly seemed to love his pal Rick ... and his pal Rick's wife. (Scott Garfield / AMC)
By the end of Season 2, a cadre of fans was irritated by the character (played by Sarah Wayne Callies) and her wishy-washy relationships with Rick and Shane. But her self-sacrifice redeemed her. (Gene Page / AMC)
T-Dog, played by Robert "IronE" Singleton, deserved better. (Gene Page/AMC)
Played by Jeffrey DeMunn, Dale was the conscience of the group, the voice of reason in a cruel, cruel world. But when young Carl failed to shoot a walker stuck in mud, Dale paid the price. (Matthew Welch/AMC)
Ed and Carol's daughter, Sophia, didn't deserve to come stumbling out of the barn as a zombie. it remains one of the series' most heart-wrenching events. (Screen grab / AMC)
Alive but for how long? Beth
Hershel's daughter (Emily Kinney) doesn't seem as tough as her big sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan), which could make her prospects for survival tricky. (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)
Alive but for how long? Andrea
Andrea, a mainstay of the "Walking Dead" troupe, is tough as nails in Season 3, but she's at the mercy of the Governor. With all the self-sacrifice that's going on, could she sacrifice herself to take out the Governor? (Gene Page/AMC)
Alive but for how long? The Governor
He's pure evil. He's gotta go. David Morrissey plays the Governor. (Gene Page/AMC)
Alive but for how long? Glenn and Maggie
Together, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) are in danger. They're just too happy for this series, and of course, Glenn meets with a grim fate in Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead" comic. (Gene Page/AMC)
Departing show runner Glen Mazzara has long contended that in the world of “The Walking Dead,” no one is safe. And it’s true that so far in the life of the AMC zombie series, a host of characters have met untimely deaths — at the hands of walkers and other dangers.
(A strong warning to anyone who might have missed Sunday’s episode, “This Sorrowful Life,” stop reading right now unless you want to know which major character met his end last night.)
In a shocking turn of events, David Morrissey’s ruthless Governor shot and killed Merle, leaving fans of the Dixon brothers heartbroken — even as they might have breathed a sigh of relief that Daryl’s life was spared — for now. (If there’s anyone the writers can’t kill, it’s Norman Reedus’ fan favorite; Mazzara conceded to Hero Complex that he’s heard from plenty of audience members who promise to revolt should anything happen to him.)
Michael Rooker’s Merle might not have been the most affable guy, but his exit surely will be felt in surprising ways. The ghosts of earlier members of Rick’s band of survivors continue to echo out in episodes even now, either as actual manifestations or as factors that cause the living characters to behave in certain ways.
In Season 1, a walker took several big bites out of Amy (Emma Bell). That turned her big sister Andrea (Laurie Holden) suicidal for a time. The character recovered her will to live and went on to former a sisterly relationship with Michonne (Dania Gurira), though obviously that particular bond has been sorely tested.
Season 2 proved especially lethal, though. Carl (Chandler Riggs) was nearly killed by a hunter’s bullet, and though he survived, that event set the stage for the death of Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) at the hands of Shane. Nor was Carl the only child in danger.
In what remains one of the show’s most heartbreaking moments, Season 2 brought the end of Carol’s daughter Sophia, who turned into a walker and had to be put down. Then there was Dale, followed almost immediately by Jon Bernthal’s Shane. Although the loss of Jeffrey DeMunn’s Dale represented a deep blow — he had become the group’s unfailing moral center — Shane’s death proved more complicated.
Anyone familiar with Robert Kirkman’s comic books might have had an inkling that the increasingly unhinged former lawman wouldn’t survive the show’s unforgiving post-apocalyptic landscape. But it wasn’t a hungry zombie that did Shane in — it was a knife wound to the gut courtesy of his former best friend and partner, delivered in a spectacular moonlight standoff in the second-season finale that gave the actor a chance to finally pop in a pair of zombie contact lenses.
And in taking Shane’s life to protect the group, Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes stepped onto the path he’s followed this season, one of deep inner turmoil.
Lori — wife of Rick, mother of young Carl — made a monumental self-sacrifice in Season 3 when she had a Caesarean to save her unborn baby, the child-of-questionable-parentage, and it spelled Lori’s doom, and the departure of actress Sarah Wayne Callies. We also said goodbye to another original Atlanta survivor, T-Dog — how could you not like T-Dog? From Seasons 1 to 3, he seemed to get sidelined, but he did suffer a heroic death, sacrificing himself to walkers to save Carol (whose abusive husband Ed, played by actor Adam Minarovich, died in Season 1).
After losing a couple of new characters met along the way — Axel, we hardly know you — now there’s Merle.
Speaking on the Georgia set of the show earlier this year, Rooker was quick to defend his often unlikable character.
“Merle for me has always been not at all what I think most people think of Merle, as somewhat of a cliched Southern bigoted redneck,” Rooker explained. “Merle’s been around the world, been around the corner a few times, had some knocks and bruises, encounters with law enforcement. And you know what? He’s a tough … you don’t want to mess with him. In the way I sort of envisioned and developed the character, so far Merle is not some sort of psychopathic killing machine — when it comes to zombies, yes, he absolutely loves it and is quite good at it. [But now] Merle’s kind of found a home, but there’s still something missing, his family. His family is his brother.”
The Season 3 finale is upon us, “Welcome to the Tombs.” Starting Monday night, AMC will begin a weeklong marathon of “The Walking Dead,” from the first episode through “This Sorrowful Life,” in preparation for the finale. The big question is, are we going to lose someone else from our diminishing band of survivors?
In the gallery above, we look back on 10 characters who have completed their time on “The Walking Dead.” Also included: five characters who might be in grave danger.
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, as well as your ideas of who might be next.
— Gina McIntyre