We love our Walking Dead. Honestly, in a crowded room, someone could offhandedly mention or quote the franchise and it would spark a long conversation about the shambling corpses. There’s just so much to talk about in the most basic of senses: the philosophical implications of this world they live in, the scientific and biological explanations (or lack thereof) that have thrown the characters into this world, the arcs they all endure that seem indicative of very twisted and sadistic writers. And that’s before you even agree on which Walking Dead story arc you’re discussing!
What’s truly wonderful about the Walking Dead is that there is always more story. Robert Kirkman wrote the original comics that created this Darwinian, primitive, horrifying world for us to live and create in, and so many groups have jumped in to tell their stories. We’ve got Kirkman’s original comics, The Walking Dead TV show, the Fear The Walking Dead TV show, the AMC video game, the Telltale video games, the novels by Jay Bonansinga, and countless web series, board games, card games, and cell phone games to keep us occupied for the rest of our lives, if we so choose. This franchise won’t easily fade away.
For those true fans out there that dip into multiple mediums and savor as many Walking Dead stories as you possibly can, we’ve gone ahead and found the silver linings of this dark series. We’ve hand selected from all of the many brands of The Walking Dead the most lovable, sweet, godly, and kind characters — the characters we’ve been rooting for all along even if they didn’t end up making it. Heads up — crazy spoilers lie in wait!
15. Penny Blake
If you’re a Walking Dead generalist, you likely kind of recognize this name from the television show. Penny Blake was the little zombie girl you fans remember The Governor hiding in his closet. Wasn’t she so cute and cuddly and lovable?
Well, we’re not really talking about her — we’re talking about how she was before she died. Penny wasn’t always a zombie; she was, at one point, a little girl hoping that the world would somehow go back to how it was before — before her mother died in a car accident, before her dad started losing his grip on humanity, before fighting to stay alive was a daily struggle. Penny was the only anchor attaching her father Phillip to reality, and when bandits attacked their group, she was shot and killed, leaving Phillip to plunge into despair and insanity. Sure, kid characters can be easy to ignore and write off in TV shows, but this incredibly well-written little girl was so endearing in the Jay Bonansinga book, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.
Sure, you may think that Michonne is pretty damn lovable in the comics, especially when she allows her feelings to show to her few trusted allies. You may even think she’s lovable in the show where she’s developed a romantic relationship with Rick and has become the most precious substitute mom for Carl. But if you haven’t played the Telltale game, The Walking Dead: Michonne, you don’t know just how incredibly lovable she is. The game, which has a structure similar to a choose-your-own-adventure story, allows you to make Michonne as forgiving or as abrasive as you choose, but no matter what attitude she takes, she is still absolutely lovable. As she endures flashbacks of failing her two daughters in the apocalypse, trying to save these helpless strangers she meets on the road, and battles between suicide and redemption, we fall absolutely in love with her and want her to prevail over her dire circumstances.
13. Dr. Edwin Jenner
It’s been so long since Dr. Jenner was both introduced and killed that you might not even remember him! If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead series and have been since it first premiered, you’re sure to remember the wonders of the first season (directed by Frank Darabont, whom they NEVER should have allowed to leave the show) and its glorious ending at the Center for Disease Control. There, we met Dr. Edwin Jenner, a researcher who was completely outmatched by this zombie epidemic and who was doing his damnedest best to single-handedly save the world.
What makes Dr. Jenner so damn lovable? Well, it’s not the fact that he committed suicide or tried to peer pressure Rick’s whole group into suicide. No… it’s why he even stayed at the CDC in the first place. Edwin promised his wife, who’d been bitten and had come back to life that he would work tirelessly until his dying day to fight the epidemic. And he did. Months later, Edwin was still working alone in the dim light of the underground research center trying to find a cure. He kept his promise, and we hope he was rewarded in an afterlife and was able to reunite with his wife.
Here’s another character that existed in a few versions of the franchise. Hershel has been in the show, the comics, and the Telltale video game, all as slightly (or very) different people. Our favorite and absolutely most lovable had to be in the show, though — who wouldn’t love a kindly old farmer played by Scott Wilson?! In the comics, Hershel’s character is… well, he’s kind of a jerk. He’s hot headed, controlling, pissed off, and frankly an ass. And sure, the TV show’s version could be a jerk at times, too — but he was so much more understandable. And when Hershel managed to calm down, he was such a wonderful voice of reason and an asset to the group that you always wanted to hear his opinion on the goings-on at camp. When The Governor kidnapped him and eventually killed him, we all actually screamed at our televisions in despair and were crying almost as much as Beth and Maggie were.
11. Tyreese Williams
Don’t get us wrong; Tyreese, on The Walking Dead show, is entirely lovable and has such a large heart and is genuinely a good man. The episode of his death was one of the most artistic and well-directed of the series, and it had us all in tears in the opening sequence! Tyreese is a great man — but not as great as his counterpart from the comic books.
In the comics, Rick’s group meets Tyreese’s very early on. Tyreese is traveling not with his sister but with his daughter, Julie. Tyreese does everything he possibly can to protect those he cares about and is unfortunately constantly facing the fact that it’s never enough. His daughter committed suicide, his lover Carol committed suicide, and his attempts to find peace always seem easily thwarted. Tyreese, unfortunately, replaced Hershel in the comic version of The Governor’s attack on the prison, and he was beheaded in front of the prison fence for all his group to see. He was such a good man that deserved so much more love than he got, and the comic book pages depicting his tragedies were always tear-soaked after we read them.
Don’t get all fussy with us; we know what you’re going to say: “Andrea? From the show? Whatever, she wasn’t that great.” We don’t necessarily agree with you, but we understand — how Andrea was portrayed in The Walking Dead wasn’t necessarily all that great. Despite being portrayed by the wonderful Laurie Holden, she came off as selfish, abrupt, self-centered, and careless. But we’re not really talking about her.
We’re talking about the character she was based on, the Andrea that Robert Kirkman wanted us to get to know — the one from the comic books. If you’re a fan of the comics, you know Andrea has survived a hell of a lot longer than her TV counterpart did. And it’s because Andrea has this marvelous perspective on all that has happened to her. She loved Dale (like, REALLY loved) and lost him. She’s come to love Rick and is constantly afraid that she’ll lose him. She’s always struggling to come to terms with the harsh realities of her world but manages to be an amazing friend and leader for those around her. She’s so incredibly sweet and wonderful, you can’t help but love her!
Eastman was never really introduced to us in the comics, though his existence was sort of mandated by the writing. We met Eastman only very briefly in The Walking Dead’s season six and in one of the only flashbacks we’ve seen throughout the history of the show. Was the flashback necessary? Absolutely — it meant we got to meet this lovely man.
Eastman has had a very troubling life. A forensic psychologist, he spent his life working with criminally insane nut jobs. One particular nut escaped prison after Eastman denied him parole and took vengeance on him by killing his whole family. Eastman kidnapped this man from prison and locked him in a cell in his mountain home, watching him starve to death over two months. By then, the apocalypse had begun.
It was shortly after that when a suicidal and reckless Morgan came upon him. Eastman taught him Aikido and how to find peace with himself and with the horrors that had spread through the world. He died peacefully after a zombie bite, and we’re terribly saddened that we didn’t get more time with this treasure of a man.
8. Liza Ortiz
Liza’s character didn’t last a very long time on the new Walking Dead series, Fear the Walking Dead, but we were so overjoyed to have what time with her that we could that it didn’t matter. Liza, played by the immensely talented Elizabeth Rodriguez (also known for her time acting on Orange is the New Black and Logan), was the ex-wife of main character Travis Manawa and mother to their child, Chris Manawa. Throughout the course of season one, all of the characters we’ve come to admire were just trying to survive long enough to escape Los Angeles with their families intact — and most of them did so shockingly well! It wasn’t until after Liza did everything she could to save her son, her ex, and her ex’s family that she admitted she’d been bitten. She didn’t cry or mope about it, though; she took control of the situation and claimed death the way she wanted it. For that reason, Liza had perhaps one of the saddest deaths on the show, and we felt for her more than any other character.
7. Bob Stookey
Poor Bob! It’s remarkable how some characters can be with us for such short periods of time and yet somehow manage to inspire so much love and caring in us that they stay with us long after they’re gone. Bob Stookey was one such character and though he was in the comics, we loved him most in his time on the television show The Walking Dead. Introduced in season four as a character who has barely managed to survive though always alone, Bob is an alcoholic with field medic experience and is constantly living with the fear that he might be alone again. When the prison is destroyed and he makes it out alive with Sasha and Maggie, he’s the only one not drowning in despair because he realized that he wasn’t alone! After that, Bob was the most optimistic man alive — that is, until he got bitten by a walker on a simple run. He died fairly peacefully, all things considered, after cheerfully telling Rick, “Nightmares end. They shouldn’t end who you are.” AHHHH, BOB!!!
6. Travis Manawa
Alright, enough is enough with the original AMC television show. It’s time to talk more about the newest spin-off of The Walking Dead franchise: the latest show Fear the Walking Dead (as if we hadn’t already). In the series, we’ve been introduced to a heap of new characters, but none is perhaps more lovable than Travis Manawa. Travis is a simple high school teacher that loves teaching English rhetoric to his inner-city high school students who, stereotypically, have better things to do than want to engage in literary analysis. He’s jumped into a relationship with Madison, who has two kids who couldn’t care less about him — one of these kids even being a total degenerate addict. He’s an optimistic idealist who’s just trying to keep his family intact (even though it clearly doesn’t work out too well for his ex-wife and son), and we genuinely want to see him catch a break sooner or later — he deserves one.
5. Lee Everett
Anyone who knows the name Lee Everett knows just how tragic and beautiful his story is. Lee was the leading character of season one of Telltale’s video game The Walking Dead. Before the world ended, he had made plenty of mistakes, including killing his wife’s lover (who happened to be a state senator) but was seeming to do his best to make up for the crime in the wake of the apocalypse. One of the first things he does is take in a little girl whose babysitter had died and turned, and he keeps her alive through thick and thin. Lee makes hard calls and brings us to tears time and time again throughout season one, especially at the end when he’s been bitten and has to send the young girl he’s cared for into the zombie-infested wilderness by herself. We don’t care about the things Lee has done in the past — all we care about is how wonderful he is through these hardships. If you played the game and didn’t find yourself talking to Lee through your game controller time and time again, we commend you — we couldn’t help it!
Most Walking Dead fans know the name of Sophia, likely from the young girl’s time on The Walking Dead TV show. If that’s the case, you probably don’t find Sophia lovable at all — actually, it’s entirely possible that you consider her one of the most annoying and frustrating characters of the entire series. “SHE WAS IN THE BARN THE WHOLE TIME?!” is the phrase that marred the entirety of season two.
But we’re not talking about her! We’re talking about the Sophia from the comics, the one mothered by a cowardly and lonely version of Carol that TV fans aren’t even vaguely familiar with — the one who loses her mother and is essentially adopted by Maggie and Glenn — the one who then loses Glenn and perseveres despite her harsh circumstances — the one who grows up on The Hilltop and defends young boys against groups of bullies. Sophia, still truly a youngster, is rapidly becoming one of the most kickass and morally upright characters of the comics, and we hope her crusade to end childhood bullying doesn’t get her killed before she can make the world a better place.
3. Dale Horvath
Dale was a character in both the comics and the television series. And he was totally lovable and amazing in the comics up through his horrible and gruesome death at the hands of cannibalistic freaks. Robert Kirkman wrote a wonderful character — but luckily for us, Frank Darabont found such a perfect actor for the role that The Walking Dead TV character became superior to his comic-book counterpart.
Jeffrey DeMunn played the character for the show and was so natural in it, we felt we all knew Dale and wanted his strong moral voice in our lives. He was just such a pure, good man! We can’t even decide what we love him most for. When he talked Andrea down from the brink of suicide? Or when he tried to hide the gun stash from a reckless and brash Shane? Or when he tried to convince the entire group, fearful as they were, to not kill the potential innocent boy Randall just because of cowardice? Dale was such a pure and good man and, as Rick said after Dale’s death, “He saw people for who they really are.”
Damn it, Clementine. You will never stop breaking our hearts.
Though the Telltale video game, The Walking Dead, first centered around the character of Lee Everett, Clementine was our true protagonist. Clementine was discovered by Lee and sheltered as long as she could have been until Lee was bitten and passed away. She was the main character in the second season of the game and is currently a main player, though not the lead character, of the third season. And she won’t stop breaking our hearts.
Clementine has survived a lot due to her cunning, resourcefulness, and perseverance, but also because she’s so damn adorable, and any group she comes across wants nothing more than to protect and save her. She’s so damn precious. Clementine is one of the most beautiful, fantastic young girls we’ve ever met, and if you haven’t shed a tear or two over her tragedies, your heart is made of stone.
1. Glenn Rhee
You want to know just how amazing Glenn is? No one can deny that he is lovable and wonderful and amazing. That’s why he had a starring role not only in the comics but also in the television show. And also in the Telltale video game. Glenn is perfect.
Glenn is one of the best-written characters in the Walking Dead franchise. He is relatable to no end, still looking for a girlfriend in the apocalypse and trying to avoid the friendzone. He is able to do the hard things but avoids killing human beings unless it is absolutely necessary. And besides all that, he cares for his group like they are blood relatives and does everything in his power to keep those around him safe. He is perfection whether he’s leaving Lee’s group to try to save friends in Atlanta, or trying to get Maggie to fall in love with him as much as he’s fallen for her, or apologizing to the love of his life as he’s beaten to death. He is perfect, and watching the show or reading the comics or playing the game without him will never be as good.