The Walking Dead (2010-) has had its various ups and downs throughout the years, keeping us on our toes and on the edge of our seats with each new drama-filled episode. Many of our favourite characters have been with us since Season One, and we have been lucky enough as viewers to watch their personalities adapt to a world full of the undead. Here’s our list of the top 10-character developments over the years (WARNING: HUGE SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD) …
- Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride)
From the meek, silenced wife of Ed we first met in Season One to the weapon-wielding and general badass we’re greeted with in Season 10, Carol Peletier has had one of the best character developments in The Walking Dead’s history. Once an abused wife who had little purpose other than serving her borderline psychopathic husband (Ed), and taking care of her fearful young daughter (Sophia), it is heart-warming to watch Carol develop her own personality and find a new group of people to treat her like the valuable member of a family that she really is. Despite the difficulties and undeniable heartbreaks that she’s endured throughout the years, Carol’s current character traits make her stand out as a strong, will powered individual with a key role to play in the TV show, and our hearts.
- Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus)
Daryl Dixon begins the TV show in Season One as a primal hunter, reliant on random prey animals to feast upon and with little care for the humans he is surrounded with in his first few survival groups. He faced a troublesome childhood of neglect and abuse, but we are lucky enough to watch him escape the worries of his past and develop into a caring member of the group who puts everyone else before himself. His nurturing personality reveals itself as he takes care of baby Judith in Season 3; a bond with whom he continues to strengthen into Season 10 of the series. Daryl is a protective and selfless character who came from a ‘no-shit’ taking man, willing to kill anyone and anything to save those that he truly cares about.
3. Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs)
Carl Grimes was raised in a world of the undead, mass destruction of the world as we know it and is forced to mature quicker than anyone else in order to change from a young, innocent child to a weapon-wielding machine. Throughout the years of The Walking Dead, we see Carl learn to use a variety of weapons in order to protect his family and do what’s right. This begins with his protective nature over his younger sister, Judith, and his willingness to defend the group’s safe places by being on watch – killing those he needs to in order to keep his family safe. As difficult as it must be to grow up in a world so different from that you were used to as a child, Carl seems to learn quickly that family are all that matter during the hardest times that come along with a worldwide apocalypse.
4. Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan)
Maggie Rhee (formerly Greene) was raised in a God-fearing, Christian family where it was believed the Lord would come and rescue humanity from the “sick people”, or walkers, as we know them. Her father, Hershel, kept her mother and step-brother in a barn on their family territory even after death and reanimation – an action that finally hit Maggie as a twisted cling to the hope that life would return to normal. Maggie has a major character development following the death of her father in Season 4, and she learns that her internal power would get her through the toughest of times. We see her turn into both a harsh governor of Hilltop and a militant of the group’s attacking force, alongside a protective mother of her son, Hershel Rhee. She encompasses every character trait of a woman in power; one that we can admire from all angles.
5. King Ezekiel (Khary Payton)
Ezekiel, formerly granted the title of King Ezekiel whilst in charge of The Kingdom community, was represented as a powerful leader of a group of ill-informed people who believed they had all the protection they needed against the ‘outside world’. He seemed to adopt this role due to his caring nature, and the fact he felt he could not let people down whilst they relied on him so heavily for both moral and physical support. As we see him suffer throughout the ongoing reign of the Saviours, and the desecration of The Kingdom, it becomes increasingly evident that he is capable of making great characteristic changes. He appears massively different to the other community leaders we have seen in the past: Gregory (Alexandria), The Governor (Woodbury), Gareth (Terminus) and Negan (The Sanctuary), which is a welcome variation from the cruelty of the previously mentioned leaders. He has developed into a calm, modest-headed man with a slightly vengeful side for anyone who poses any danger or threat to those he loves; a trait that makes him so loveable and makes his character development even more noticeable.
6. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun)
From a mere pizza delivery boy to a beloved husband and eventual father to a child with Maggie Rhee – Glenn Rhee’s development from Season 1 until Season 6 is something to behold. We encounter him as he attempts to rescue a bewildered and inexperienced Rick Grimes, back in Season 1, Episode 1, and his willingness to save people from the darkest of situations only grows as we follow him throughout the series. He consistently attempts to help even the people who harm him, as we see when he tries to regenerate the moral side of Nicholas, even after Nicholas makes various attempts to kill him. He quickly understands that turning into a protective member of the group does not mean he has to let go of any moral compass he originally had, which makes him stand out as a unique and valuable member of Rick’s group. Glenn’s relationship with Maggie is likely the reason for his rapid, and wondrous, character development that we all can’t help but fall in love with!
7. Aaron (Ross Marquand)
Aaron first presents himself as a kind-hearted, welcoming individual who spends his time collecting license plates and enticing various groups to join the Alexandria community. Whilst he knows his way around a weapon or two, and how to eliminate walkers, he seems to find it challenging to accept that the world has changed more drastically than anyone can imagine. He is reluctant to admit that Rick’s group require guns for safety when staying at Alexandria – however, he eventually comes to terms with the need for weaponry, group planning and the importance of those you have around you. His relationship with Eric is endearing and would make anyone instantaneously jealous, longing for the kind of passionate and ongoing love they share (Eric’s death may be the saddest scene I have EVER seen on television). He is now a loving father to an adoptive daughter, Gracie, and a commemorative member of the group, representing the sheer strength of the willpower to protect those you care about. Aaron’s development from a more shy, reserved person to a fearless, heroic warrior of the group is certainly something to admire.
8. Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson)
God-fearing and Bible-abiding family man Hershel Greene is first seen as the hero who saves Carl Grimes from a gunshot wound – selflessly using the majority of his medical knowledge and supplies to save the child of an unknown man. However, his lack of understanding and comprehension of the undead world is worrying, and leads Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) to become enraged with his constant denial of the world’s inevitable doom. We learn to love Hershel after the downfall of his beloved family farm, whereby he becomes more appreciative of the value of group protection from the walkers that seek to kill anyone and anything. He turns into a gun-wielding, protective man whilst keeping his fatherly caring streak that ultimately results in him becoming the lead medical doctor for the prison during the severe flu outbreak. You cannot help but grow to love Hershel; the man who would do anything for his daughters or anyone that needs him.
9. Tyreese Williams (Chad Coleman)
Tyreese is first introduced to us during Season 3 at the prison: an unselfish, protective man who attempts to do everything he can to save his small group. He fights for his place in the prison community, and proves himself useful in many attacks against the Governor – not to mention his intense caring role once the prison is overrun, whereby he takes Lizzie, Mika and baby Judith under his wing. He keeps these girls safe no matter the consequences, teaching them weaponry and how to fight against walkers. Tyreese develops from a minor character into a selfless and compassionate man, doing anything to prevent bloodshed amongst those he loves the most; his eventual death came as a shock to everyone, as his development thus far had been so extreme. He became a strong-willed fighter, and a determined man who puts himself up for any challenge. His character development from Season 3 right up until his tragic death at the hands of Noah’s undead brother in Season 5 is noticeable, admirable and earns him a well-deserved spot on our list.
10. Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam)
Let’s be honest – nobody liked Father Gabriel when we first came across him during Season 5, snivelling in a forest and acting as though the past 18 months of the zombie apocalypse was unknown to him in its entirety. He frustrates people with his obsessive preaching about how God would save them, and his dislike for killing any walkers or dangerous people. His foolishness nearly gets plenty of people killed within the first season of his appearance. However, he develops from a religious hideaway to a well-respected member of Rick’s group who is seen as a moral compass for those who, sometimes, need grounding after their minds stray due to the undead patrolling the streets. He is now, arguably, one of the most reliable and brave allies of the remaining communities; responsible for making connections with other nearby groups and keeping spirits at peace amongst his people. Whilst it took Father Gabriel much longer than anyone else to adapt to the post-apocalyptic world, and the majority of the accidents he caused along the way were heart-breaking to watch, his development into a reputable and valuable member of the Coalition council is memorable and worthy of the final spot on this list.