If The Walking Dead is known for anything, it’s the gore and brutality shown in the post apocalypse zombie world. It's the blood and guts. It's the zombies. It isn’t necessarily known for being a sentimental show and yet, some of the most emotional scenes in recent television can be found on The Walking Dead.
The emotionally heavy scenes in this show come from the fact that, well, everyone dies. Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is cut-throat in the way it will kill a character who the audience has come to know and love. Considering the fact that this is a world inhabited by flesh eating zombies, the deaths are often not quick and painless. In fact, we’ve had to watch characters die in some pretty disgusting ways.
The heartbreak induced by this show also comes from the strong emotional bonds between the characters. Many of the characters still alive on the show have lost a husband, a wife, a child or a parent. Some have moved on to another romantic relationship, only to have them die to. We're talking about you, Rick, you unlucky bastard.
Below are eighteen of the most heartbreaking moments in The Walking Dead. There’s a ton of spoilers below, because duh. So, read ahead at your own risk of spoilers and tears.
16 Andrea's Sister Dies
This was one of the very first sad deaths on the show. It has since been eclipsed by so many other deaths on show but when it happened during the first season, it was certainly sad.
Of course, we didn’t know much about Amy because she died super early. Andrea had described her as being sweet and young – two adjectives that almost always mean certain death on this show. After she is bitten, Amy is held by Andrea until she dies. Seeing Andrea so upset was a bummer, mostly because this was before Andrea turned into the worst character on the show, so we still felt for her.
Amy reanimates while Andrea is still holding her and crying. Andrea then manages to pull it together and shoot her zombie sister. This was especially jarring, as it was one of the first times that we watched someone kill a family member with whom they are very close.
15 CDC Episode
The CDC episode is a low-key heartbreaking episode. In all honesty, this is probably the most heartbreaking episode in the whole series but after watching favorite characters be eaten mercilessly, it’s easy to forget how sad everything in this episode is.
It’s an odd episode and if we were playing a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other game with the series, this episode might be a clear winner, as it just feels so very out of place. That being said, the insight the episode provided into zombie-dom was pretty bleak.
The CDC didn’t have a cure for the epidemic or even a reason for the outbreak, both of which are bad signs. The scientist lays another sad truth on Rick and tells him that everyone turns into a zombie when they die, even if they weren’t bitten. And, the hits just keep on comin'.
The episode ends with a CDC scientist committing suicide. If that doesn’t say "no hope," I don’t know what does.
14 Jessie And Her Sons' Deaths
For the record, Jessie’s sons were the worst characters ever. Her youngest was too scared of "the monsters" to even really live. He was a shut in, who had a colony of ants in his room. Taking him out of that house was the stupidest thing they could have ever done. Jessie’s older son had gone off the rails once Rick killed his father (who also sucked, by the way) and was pretty set on killing Carl or Rick for revenge.
All that being said, Jessie was a decent character who had started to come into her own. Her arc almost mirrored Carol’s, as she began as an abused, meek housewife and was developing into a badass. While it was sad to see Jessie go, it was even sadder to see Rick’s reaction. The dude has lost a lot of people in his life and to see his shimmer of hope for a romance be eaten right in front of him was rough.
Rick bounced back quickly and chopped her chokehold grip off of Carl to save him.
The beginning of season two is all about finding Sophia, a character who we didn’t get to know in-depth but we mostly still cared for because she was a little friggin’ girl. While staying at the farm, Daryl even takes it upon himself to go out looking for Sophia almost every single day. Side note: Daryl is the best character ever. Swoon so hard. Okay, now back to business.
Unfortunately, when Shane starts to unravel, he unleashes Herschel’s barn full of zombies on the group and the last zombie to stagger out is Zombie Sophia. Carol is pretty bummed about the whole thing, because it’s her daughter and all. What really hits the heart though is Daryl’s reaction. I’m tellin’ ya, any time Daryl cries, it’s the saddest moment of TWD.
Rick then shoots Zombie Sophia point blank in the head.
13 Andrea's Death
Oh, Andrea. You were just about nobody’s favorite character. Of course, this is due to a weak adaptation of her strong comic book character. For the record, in the comic books, she is still alive, never had a relationship with The Governor and is now dating Rick. So, yeah, her show character was majorly different.
At the end of the day, her doom came when The Governor locked her in his torture room with Milton Mamet as he was dying, knowing Milton would eat Andrea alive. She managed to kill Milton only after he turned and took a bite out of her.
Upon finding her, she tells the group that she is ready to kill herself. The part that makes this scene so heartbreaking is Michonne’s loyalty to her friend. She stays in the room with Andrea, not wanting her to be alone in her final moments. This is one of the first times that we see a softer side of the assassin Michonne. So, even if you didn't like Andrea - really, who did? - this scene may have still touched you for Michonne's kindness.
12 Bob's Death
Bob was an okay character who had a really sad death. He was taken hostage by the people of Terminus who cut off his leg and ate it in front of him. It’s actually a very demented scene, as the leader tells Bob that he’s very tasty and precedes to tell Bob that he prefers female meat because of the extra layer of fat. After torturing Bob in this manner, Bob reveals that he was bitten by a walker earlier that day. His leg is tainted meat. It’s actually pretty badass that Bob gets the last laugh there.
Finally, Bob is reunited with his group, and he passes away in a bed at the church. Sasha, one of the stronger members of the group, stays with him until the end but struggles to finally act. Tyreese walks in and takes the knife from Sasha, putting Bob to rest. The camaraderie shown in this scene is certainly sad to watch.
11 Rick Sacrifices The Pigs
When a batch of zombies compromise the gate at the prison, the group cannot kill them fast enough to save the gate, as using guns and ammo would draw even more zombies towards them. Instead, Rick devises a plan using the pigs on the farm. He has Daryl drive him outside the gate and one by one, he slits the pigs' throats and tosses them to the zombies, drawing them away from the fence. By the end, Rick’s shirt is drenched in the defenseless pigs’ blood and he looks horrified.
For some reason, seeing animals scarified throughout the show is almost harder than the actual deaths of people – well, that and Rick looked so very distraught over what he had just done. Also, those pigs were adorable baby pigs. We might not have cared as much if they were less cute adult pigs.
10 Carl Can't Kill Rick
After the prison falls, Carl and Rick stay at a random home that they find. Rick is in bad form, as The Governor had pretty much beaten the shit out of him. In this episode, Carl is thrust even more into adulthood than he had been – and this is the kid who already shot his mom in the head so she wouldn’t turn.
At the house, Rick sleeps on the couch and may possibly be dying. Carl barricades the house himself and in doing so, he eyes a video game system for a long moment with a gleam in his eyes. I honestly thought that maybe Rick was going to feel better and they would play Madden together or something, but this is The Walking Dead, not Modern Family. Instead, Carl rips the controller cords and uses them to bind the door. It's truly a great scene
After all of this adulthood, Rick starts moaning, totally seeming like a zombie. (Hey, TWD characters, stop moaning. Obviously, people are going to think you're a zombie.) Carl points his gun at his father but whimpers, unable to shoot him. Watching Carl struggle with living in this world at such a young age is truly heartbreaking in this episode, even for those fans who hate Carl.
9 Everything Maggie And Glenn
When Rihanna sang about finding love in a hopeless place, she may have been talking about Glenn and Maggie. The two love the hell out of each other, which you’d think would just be super sweet but it’s also terribly heartbreaking. In a world where main characters are not exempt from getting knocked off, the likelihood of both Maggie and Glenn making it to the end is seriously slim. All of the sweet moments they share are overshadowed in a way by knowing that one of them (totally Glenn) will most likely die. Also, the times in which they are separated, not knowing for sure if the other is alive, are terribly heartbreaking too.
Oh, and what about the time that Maggie was stuck on the platform in Alexandria as it was overrun by zombies? Glenn drew them away from Maggie then Maggie tried to draw them away from Glenn. They literally went back and forth trying to sacrifice their life for the other.
8 Post-Terminus Reunions
After Carol helps the group escape Terminus, they are all reunited. Carl and Rick are reunited with Judith, which is touching, but it may be overshadowed by Carol and Daryl’s reunion. Sure, Rick is happy to be reunited with his infant daughter, who he had probably assumed he would never see again because she's an infant living in a zombie world. Daryl and Carol’s embrace, though, totally one-upped the father/infant reunion. It's like I said, when Daryl Dixon cries, all bets are off.
Daryl and Carol's embrace is the thing that dreams are made of. They have always had a special bond and this is the first time Daryl had seen her since Rick exiled Carol from the prison. For Carol and Daryl shippers, this is even more of an emotional moment.
7 Lizzie Gets Put Down
After losing Sophia, Carol took it upon herself to act as a teacher for the children in the prison. She “read” to them in group, which turned out to be a zombie self defense class. Because of this, she already had a close relationship with many of the children, but after Lizzie and Mika lose their father, Carol acts as a mother specifically to them. They form a very close bond, even though Lizzie is bat-shit crazy.
Despite Carol’s best efforts to explain to Lizzie what exactly zombies are, she doesn’t get it because she's a kid. She then kills her little sister so she’ll come back as a zombie… What the F? It was a terrifying moment and being that baby Judith was living with them at the time, Carol had to take matters into her own hands.
She told Lizzie to look at the flowers and shot her in the head. Watching Carol's difficulty in putting down Lizzie, while very hard to watch, is made a little less so because Lizzie’s mindset could not simply exist in that world.
6 They Eat The Dogs
After being on the road for way too long, the group was tired, hungry and thirsty. Not a single one of their basic needs were being met. At this point, a pack of dogs start barking at the group, causing noise that would certainly bring walkers. Sasha shoots the dogs dead... and the hungry group eats them. It’s jarring and upsetting.
Watching a group of people, some of whom have likely had a pet dog at some point, chowing down on some dead dog meat was just a reminder of how much of their humanity they had lost. Noah specifically seemed hesitant to eat the dog, remarking that he didn’t know if he would make it in this world and Sasha simply tells him he probably won’t.
The whole scene is uncomfortable and sad, especially if you happen to have a pet dog yourself, which I totally do.
Again, the saddest thing in the world is when Daryl Dixon cries. If they were to bottle his tears, they could sell it as Tears of Daryl Dixon, a cologne with the ability to bring any woman to her knees.
So, Daryl's tears make any scene sad and this is certainly the case when Daryl meets Walker Merle. Merle was kind of an ass, to be honest, so his death wasn’t the most difficult pill to swallow. He got a nice send off though, as he performed a selfless act in order to help Rick and the gang. It was, perhaps, the first time Merle ever didn’t act in his self-interest in the course of the show. Of course, Daryl doesn’t know this at the moment. He just knows that his brother is a walker.
In the past, Daryl has never had a problem killing a walker. He even closed a truck door on a walker head once, in one of the best walker kill scenes ever. In this scene, though, Daryl cannot bring himself to kill his walker brother at first.
It is truly sad, and again, the tears of Daryl Dixon.
5 Herschel Losses His Head
There was nobody who didn’t think Herschel was a good man. Even The Governor was impressed with Herschel’s good nature. This was the guy that saved Carl and helped many infected, including Sasha and Glenn, when the outbreak spread at the prison. He was a goddamn medicine man!
Despite the fact that he was older and hadn't really understood the nature of zombies when we first met him, he survived a long way. He even survived a zombie bite after having his leg amputated. Unfortunately, he couldn’t survive The Governor, who hacked off his head.
This scene is made that much more devastating because no only did we lose a great character, but we also see the reactions of his daughters, Maggie and Beth, who are completely horrified to have seen their good-natured father be decapitated.
4 Eastman's Episode
Generally, I dislike the episodes that aren’t about the group as a whole. When we were stuck with Beth in that shitty hospital plot, it was like pulling teeth. I liked Beth just fine but usually a single character’s backstory or new adventure isn’t interesting enough to carry an entire episode, especially when we’re used to an ensemble cast with plenty of blood and guts on the screen. That aside, the Eastman episode in season six had many moments that pulled at the heartstrings.
In this episode we meet Morgan’s mentor, Eastman, who taught Morgan how to use a big stick as a deadly weapon. Eastman is a vegan, who is trying to learn how to make cheese from his goat’s milk. Here are some sad moment highlights from the episode: 1) Eastman tells a story about going back to his house through a sea of zombies for a piece of the wall that his daughter drew on. 2) Eastman saves Morgan from a zombie attack and gets bitten himself, leading to his death. 3) The friggin’ goat dies.
I don’t know why but animal deaths seriously just hurt in The Walking Dead.
3 Rick's Reunion With Lori And Carl
In a way, Rick found his family almost too easily. I mean, without being able to text or check-in on Facebook, I feel like you’d never be able to find anyone you were separated from in this zombie ridden world and yet, he finds them a few episodes into the first season. Absolutely no way.
All of that aside though, this is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the series due to their performances. Rick, Lori and Carl all look relieved and elated to have been reunited. It is genuine emotion. Rick falls to the ground hugging Carl. Seriously, rewatch this scene for the acting and try not to cry. It’s so good.
Also, this moment of happiness is overshadowed by the world in which these characters live. Sure, they are happy to be brought back together but it may just be setting them up for more heartache down the line and, spoiler alert, it totally is.
2 Judith's Birth And Lori's Death
Let’s be honest, Lori was a little annoying to say the very least. She seemed inconsistent and was often the source of drama. That aside, her death is still one of the saddest in the show.
When it’s realized that she’s having birthing complications, Lori urges Maggie to give her a C-section with Carl right there in the room. Lori then says goodbye to her son, which is sad enough to begin with. After Judith is safely delivered and Lori begins to pass, Carl shoots his mother right in the head so she won’t turn. Afterwards, he leaves the room and walks by Maggie with a stoic, straight face. There is something utterly heartbreaking about his resolve and the loss of his innocence.
The cherry on top of this heartbreaking moment is when Rick finds out and completely crumbles. His emotional breakdown in the episodes following is kind of annoying (phone calls from the beyond, really?) but the initial reaction is so very gut wrenching.
1 Beth's Death
Every single time I see this scene, I sob. It is just so very painful.
Beth started out as a slightly annoying character. She was young, naive, and so scared that she tried to talk Maggie into a suicide pact. While at the prison, the young blonde mostly just sang songs and took care of Judith, which is actually an important task but we didn’t see much of her personality. After the prison fell, she ran off with Daryl and in the episodes of just the two of them, her character began to flourish. We saw that she was aware of her shortcomings but believed she could be strong in her own way and to her credit, in her character arc, she certainly became much stronger than she once was.
Other than the character of Judith, Beth's character was the one of pure hope. She was young and promising. Though she became more hardened, she still urged Daryl to not live robotically and just for survival. She also cared so deeply for fairness and the group that she refused to let Noah stay at the hospital for her to leave. This would ultimately be her downfall, but it still stands as an example of her goodness.
Even if Beth wasn’t one of your favorite characters, Daryl's and Maggie's reaction to Beth's death will certainly pull at your heartstrings. Beth Greene, we know you're somewhere out there drinking Moonshine and playing Never Have I Ever.
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