‘The Walking Dead’: all 10 seasons ranked from worst to best

149 episodes in, we assess the highs and lows of TV's zombie epic

We’re nearly all the way through season 10 of The Walking Dead – and it’s been an excellent ride thus far. The Whisperers have finally been vanquished, we’ve met the thoroughly entertaining ‘Princess’, Maggie is back, and – perhaps most importantly – Carol and Daryl are once again threatening to do the thing. With the show now returning to conclude said season, we thought there was no better time than now to rank the seasons – worst to best – to date.

What are you waiting for? Pick up your crossbow/katana/big stick and let’s get to it!

Daryl the walking dead
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in ‘The Walking Dead’. CREDIT: Eli Ade / AMC

Season seven

No. of episodes: 16

Maybe, with hindsight, it peaked too early. Maybe the gore-soaked bar it set from that premiere meant that season seven will be remembered for its relentless, lumbering week-to-week misery rather than actual enjoyment. Here, we see Glenn and Abraham die at the – um? – hands of Lucille. And we meet Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan, the most charismatic character the series has seen by some distance. But it’s also the one that debuts the pointless Scavengers – their apocalyptic take on nu-rave at least provided a few, unintentional, laughs – and the underused all-female community of Oceanside. This is most definitely the The Walking Dead’s nadir.

Most WTF moment: The gang meets a strange group led by a man called Ezekiel, who believes he is a king. Not only that, but he’s got a pet Bengal tiger…

Season eight

No. of episodes: 16

The jury is out over whether season eight is poor or just some distance from being as good as you’d expected. It’s certainly meandering, with the much anticipated ‘All Out War’ storyline – which pits Negan’s Saviors against, well, everyone else – never truly igniting. Still, Dwight’s arc is compellingly traumatic, while Carl/Coral’s death is unexpected and deeply moving. There are seasons prior in which the reaping of Rick Grimes’ Scrappy-Doo would have been welcomed enthusiastically. When it came, actor Chandler Riggs’ nuanced performance achieved the opposite.

Most WTF moment: Eugene hadn’t really joined the Saviors! He was working on the inside!

Season two

No. of episodes: 13

Aka ‘The one on the farm’. There will be those that consider the lowly ranking of a season that introduced us to Maggie (the brilliant Lauren Cohan) and the beloved Hershel (played by the late Scott Wilson) as unduly harsh. And any season that sees the phenomenally talented Jon Bernthal (as Shane) skulking around for its totality is never going to be without merit. But season two is pedestrian stuff – there’s so much time where nothing of consequence is happening, at all. At least Dale dies.

Most WTF moment: The death of the walker-fied Sophia in ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’ marks the beginning of Carol’s thrilling character arc. Daryl making a necklace out of ears is pretty fucking wild too.


Season five

No. of episodes: 16

The biggest problem with the uneven fifth season is that the payoff to arriving at Terminus – cannibals! – is dealt with so swiftly. Like a meal consisting of just toes and fingers, with the legs and arms frustratingly out of reach, there’s never a satisfying moment of resolution. Even so, if the mid-series hospital storyline feels a little undercooked – and don’t worry, we will stop with the metaphor now – the tragedy of Beth’s end is one of the show’s most heart-breaking moments. We’re introduced to the Alexandria Safe Zone too, which ushers in a promise of tasty storylines to come. Tasty. Sorry.

Most WTF moment: Bob having his leg eaten by former Terminus members – while he watches – is as shocking, and bleakly funny, as it sounds.

Season six

No. of episodes: 16

Okay, so the season finale was cheap and infuriating – the resolution to the brief but exciting Wolves arc perhaps even more so – but ‘Here’s Not Here’, which answered what Morgan did in the time between the outbreak and the present day – is one of the show’s standout episodes. Character actor John Carroll Lynch’s stay (in the role of the hermit Eastman) may have been brief, but it was notable. The Walking Dead season six was one of consistent quality, if not high peaks.

Most WTF moment: In ‘No Way Out’, Carl is shot in the eye; a visual that, even within a show known for its visceral nature, lingered long.

Season ten

No. of episodes: 18

Where we find ourselves is at a juncture. Several junctures in fact. Our heroes are dislocated from each other, in some cases thousands of miles away from the group that’s been their family for over a decade. Their homes have been decimated. Incoming characters are yet to be revealed as friend or foe. And yet it’s been an excellent season thus far – the best in a while, in fact. We’re about to enter season 11 from a position of strength. If you’d told us that in season 8, we’d have cackled harder than Eugene on laughing gas.

Most WTF moment: Wait… Negan and Alpha… no, we can’t even bring ourselves to say it.

Season nine

No. of episodes: 16

With some disorientating shifts in time and locality, Rick Grimes’ last season was often narratively incoherent. And yet when it was good, it was peerless TV. Rick’s last episode, ‘What Comes After’, is as richly emotional as it needed to be; the arrival of The Whisperers didn’t disappoint, while without Andrew Lincoln by her side, Danai Gurira’s Michonne was freed to be the very best version of herself. The arrival of Magna’s group of survivors, Lydia and the least annoying child actor in the history of the series, Judith, replenished the cast with faces that will lead the series home.

Most WTF moment: ‘The Calm Before’. Said episode might have replaced the heads on spikes of the comics with those of largely dispensable characters, but it remains the shows ‘Red Wedding’ moment.


Season one

No. of episodes: six

It’s not perfect – the CDC season finale is universally loathed by fans, even some of the cast and crew – but the show’s debut season is certainly a compelling introduction to a unique and much-loved series. It’s hard to truly understand, so surrounded are we with great television, how impressive the comic book adaptation felt upon arrival in 2010. It was genuinely thrilling to fans of the genre – and remains so – to see horror treated as prestige television.

Season three

No. of episodes: 16

Three seasons in and The Walking Dead had become an overflowing bloodbath. Many of the deaths were not only brutally violent, but welcome – laters Lori, see ya Andrea. If you weren’t already aware, this was a show where no-one was safe and where anything could happen. Season three also introduces the show’s best ever antagonist, David Morrissey’s The Governor. Much like Samantha Morton portraying Alpha much later in the run – a great character, a good performance, shame about the accent – this was a character you sensed wasn’t born evil but had been broken beyond repair by the dead’s rising.

Most WTF moment: The Governor keeps decapitated ghoul heads in a fish tank! Here’s a fun fact; one of the heads is a replica of Ben Gardner’s from Jaws!

Season four

No. of episodes: 16

The moment The Walking Dead graduated from being a good show to a great one. This is in part because of the debut of some of the series very best characters – hello Eugene, wassup Rosita, suddenly nobody on cast was a spare part – and in the forging of some of the show’s most endearing relationships. We’re thinking of the bonds formed between Beth and Daryl, Rick, Carl and Michonne, and Carol and Tyreese. This is, after all, a show that is even more to do with human interaction than it is zombies. It also features the best ever episode in ‘The Grove’.

Most WTF moment: In the aforementioned episode, Carol is tasked with… oh god, we can’t even bring ourselves to say. “Just look at the flowers Lizzie…”