Before we begin, an important notice: if you’re at all behind on The Walking Dead, then it’s probably best if you stop reading right now and just look at the flowers…
Now, we’ve got that important disclaimer out of the way: ZOMBIES! APOCALYPSE! GORE! GLENN! Yes, The Walking Dead continues to excel six years on from its pilot episode, when our intrepid protagonist Rick awoke, unashamedly 28 Days Later…-style, in a hospital bed to a world gone to shit.
With the show now soon to start its seventh season – and still very much at its terrifying peak – we’ve decided to celebrate the return of The Walking Dead by taking a nervous look back at some of the darkest moments from a series that continues to spook us week in, week out.
Think you’re having a shitty Monday? It could be worse: you could wake up, having been knocked unconscious by a crazed group of cannibals, to the campfire from hell, with your leg playing the role of a toasted marshmallow.
Poor ol’ Bob didn’t last too much longer after he witnessed the hunters munching on his leg at the start of season five (he’d already been bitten by a walker pre-amputation), but it’s still not an ideal way to live out the rest of your days in an already fucked-up universe.
Carl kills his mombie
Look, we know that no-one liked Lori – Walking Dead fans from all over the world would regularly berate her character on internet forums, primarily taking issue with how Rick’s wife had left her comatose husband for Shane, only to then string him along when Rick turned up safe and sound – but it is worth remembering that she did sacrifice her own life to give birth to her daughter Judith via emergency C-section (which is no walk in the park in the real world, let alone a zombie-filled one).
Proceedings then took an even darker turn: as with all humans in The Walking Dead, once they die they quickly reanimate, which meant that, soon after dying from childbirth, Lori would’ve come back to life as a member of the undead. And thus, it was left to her pre-teen son Carl – who Lori was often accused of by Walking Dead fans of needlessly putting in mortal danger – to prevent that from happening. Deep.
The governor’s secret zombie daughter
Turns out that the zombie apocalypse might turn a few of us a bit loco: let’s take season 3-to-4’s chief antagonist, The Governor (played to chilling precision by British actor David Morrissey). The evil dictator of the Woodbury community that provided the briefest of sanctuaries for our favourite band of survivors had, rather unsurprisingly, a dark secret hidden in his bedroom.
No, not the fishtanks full of both human and still-alive walker heads (although that was damn creepy). But the eeriest moment of all arrived at the beginning of ‘Say The Word’ when the Governor was shown brushing the hair of a young girl. “Ah, that’s nice,” you’re thinking, “it’s obviously, his daughter, right?” Well, yes, it is: but things turn a little suspect when he accidentally tears a chunk from her scalp. Turns out that Penny is actually a walker, and that the Governor has her chained up in his room with a cloth sack over her head. Yup. “It’s alright,” he cooed to the snarling zombie, gently stroking her head. “Daddy still loves you.” Shudder.
Oh Lord, where to begin? The group’s wary trudge towards what they initially hoped would be their next safe haven – the map that enticed them there promisingly stated “Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those who arrive survive.” – actually turned out to be a railway station of horrors. What rotten luck, eh?
Run by the same band of cannibals who would later rob Bob of his leg, their morbid and sick take on the zombie world was briefly but memorably revealed across the segue from season 4 to 5. Things got off to a bad start when Terminus’ leader, Mary, was seen cooking an unspecified meat product to greet their new residents. Further confirming Rick’s hunch that the tenants of Terminus were up to no good, their eventual resistance was met with a haunting scene in season 5’s opening episode, ‘No Sanctuary’. Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob were put in line with a number of other helpless captives to be systematically killed in a grim human slaughterhouse set-up. So that’s where the “meat” came from…
The reanimation of Sophia
Remember when Carol wasn’t the one-woman army that she is these days? Well, that badass streak in her character was surely triggered by the moment where the search for her missing daughter Sophia came to an unquestionably dark end.
Separated from the group during a surprise onslaught from a herd of walkers, the survivors’ arrival at Hershel’s farm was initially defined by their subsequently widescale search for Sophia. But when Glenn discovered a barn full of walkers in the grounds of the farm – part of Hershel’s naïve take on the zombie-causing illness – their eventual freeing (by an always-angry Shane) and slaying revealed where Sophia was all along: a walker living amongst walkers.
Hershel is beheaded in front of his daughters
Oh, Hershel – you and your magnificent old-man ponytail didn’t deserve this cruel end. A pawn in The Governor’s powerplay as he launched an assault on the prison during season 4’s arresting mid-season finale, his moral reasoning has no effect on the tyrannical Governor, who brutally murdered him with Michonne’s samurai sword in front of his daughter Maggie and Beth. Even though that action led to the Governor’s eventual death, it wasn’t a happy moment for lovers of the southern doctor.
The murdering child
Arguably the darkest moment in Walking Dead history arrived at the hands of the murderous, murderous Lizzie – the sweet-talking, sisterly 12-year-old, who, in ‘The Grove’ demonstrated how comprehensively unhinged the Walking Dead world is.
Honestly, who saw this coming? Lizzie’s inability to differentiate between the living state of a human and a walker – she even considered the latter to be her friend – ended in a grisly, what-the-actual-fuck moment where, in an effort to prove her point about how humans and walkers are the same, she stabbed her 10-year-old sister Mika to death. Thankfully we’re not shown this horrific scene as it happened, but the aftermath is still chilling – Lizzie, covered in blood with her sister’s body behind her and baby Judith next in line, is discovered by a horrified Carol and Tyreese. This moment led to the adults’ decision to, ahem, neutralise Lizzie in another hugely affecting scene, but at least it generated a new quote for the ages, uttered as Carol prepares to execute the young girl: “Just look at the flowers.”
Rick ripping out Joe’s Throat
To be fair, perhaps Lizzie had a point about the lines blurring between human and walker – Rick’s primal moment here sort of proved her point that, in the Walking Dead universe, the human condition has degenerated so much that one viable method of succeeding in the ultra-speeded-up game of “survival of the fittest” can be by actually ripping out the throat of your enemy with your teeth.
To be fair, Joe had it coming – threatening Rick with murder and then the subsequent rape and murder of his son and Michionne wasn’t a great thing to do in hindsight. Neither was his decision to pin Rick down and taunt him with the words “What the hell are you gonna do now, sport?” His response – to lean forward and bite a chunk out of Joe’s neck, causing him to choke on his own blood – was a pretty effective counter-move, don’t you think?
Noah’s death by revolving door
On a run with Glenn and the cowardly, cowardly Nicholas, Noah found himself trapped with his companions in a revolving door, surrounded by walkers: Nicholas being on one side, Glenn and Noah on the other. So what did cowardly, cowardly Nicholas decide was the best course of action to take? Ah yes: pushing the revolving door to turn so that he could selfishly escape, which in turn allowed the other side to open to enable the clamouring walkers to grab Noah by the leg. What gives, Nicholas?
Although what happened next was inevitable, it didn’t make it any less horrifying: Glenn desperately trying to save Noah, who tells him not to let go despite the fact that his fate is clearly sealed. And when Glenn does let go, he’s rewarded with a front-row seat to Noah’s horrific, grisly demise. What an ordeal.