The Walking Dead is coming up on its 100th episode. That’s an incredible achievement! Let’s take a look at my favorite episodes from each season that led us here!
The Walking Dead has had an amazing run so far and as we prepare ourselves for Sunday’s season eight premiere, I took a long, hard look at the series. There are always stand out episodes for each season, and after careful deliberation, I narrowed it down to my #1 episode for each season.
So, let’s hit the ground running! And don’t forget to comment below and let me know your favorites! We’re not all the same!
Days Gone Bye, 1.1
This is the episode that started it all.
The cold open creates and incredibly stark view of this new world that Rick Grimes has woken up in, and the rest of the episode details how he got to the point when he has to shoot and kill a little girl walker with a teddy bear.
In this episode, we’re also introduced to Morgan Jones. The absolute brilliance of this series starts with this meeting. You have two men, both with wives and sons, who are embarking on a journey that will test them in ways they’ve never imagined.
However, we follow Rick and we lose Morgan’s story. The importance of this is not that Morgan eventually pops back up and we see the devastation he has faced personally, but he is Rick’s parallel.
We could have easily followed Morgan and bumped into Rick years later. This episode sets up the world in which Rick and Morgan will cross paths and butt heads in the seasons to come.
And who in the world could forget the moment between them where Rick seeks out the walker he first saw when finding the bike and kills it in the park, while Morgan falters when it comes to taking his wife’s second life?
It’s heartbreaking, somber, and heavy. Just like the show in its entirety.
Season two has several jaw-dropping moments: Sophia’s death, Lori’s pregnancy, Hershel coming to terms with what’s happening in this world, Andrea assisting Beth in her suicide attempt, Carl being indirectly responsible for Dale’s death, Shane killing Otis, and finally, Rick killing Shane then Carl putting him down in his walker form.
However, my favorite episode is Nebraska. This takes place directly after the barn scene where Sophia is killed and so is Hershel’s wife and stepson, Shawn. Hershel leaves the farm to go to a bar and have a drink.
We know that Hershel has been sober for many years, mostly thanks to the saving grace of his second wife. Rick and Glenn, who is seeing Maggie at this point, venture out to find him and bring him back because of Beth’s suicide attempt.
Through all this, we meet two new men from the Northeast, who have made their way down south to find a safe place. They aren’t good men, but what one of them (Dave) says to Rick resonates throughout the series:
“You don’t know what we’ve had to go through out there. The things we’ve had to do. I bet you’ve had to do some of those same things yourself, am I right? Ain’t nobody’s hands clean in what’s left of this world. We’re all the same.”
As the series progresses, this small speech becomes a prophecy. Rick’s group gets blood on their hands, and this specifically foreshadows that Rick will soon have blood on his.
Less than two minutes after Dave says this, Rick kills his first living people.
Now, since we’re following Rick and we support him, we see these kills as necessary to protect the group. Yet, we realize later in the series that there are a lot of people that feel like taking life is necessary and we don’t always agree with them.
Because they aren’t ours…yet we’re all the same in this world.
This Sorrowful Life, 3.15
Merle Dixon is an asshole, but he loves his brother. This episode is one that has always stuck with me due to Michael Rooker’s incredible turn as Merle and the end of his redemption arc.
Earlier in this episode, Rick goes to Hershel and Daryl and tells them about the deal to turn over Michonne. He also tells Merle. Merle thinks that Rick doesn’t have the backbone to actually do it, but he knows that if Michonne doesn’t end up in the Governor’s hands, it could mean his baby brother will die in the fight to come.
He kidnaps Michonne, but on the way to the meeting spot, he lets her go and continues on his way alone.
What Merle does here shows that he has that goodness inside him, too. He might not care about anybody else in that prison, but if he can protect Daryl, he’ll do it.
Merle’s death ends much like the last time he faced it on that rooftop in Atlanta. The Governor has him pinned with a gun pointed at his chest and Merle tells him:
“I ain’t gonna beg. I ain’t gonna beg you.”
Merle dies and becomes a walker, forcing Daryl to kill the last person who knew him from before the turn. Despite that, though, Merle’s sacrifice gives Rick and company enough time to plan an ambush on the Governor and his men.
Michael Rooker, the king of making you feel sympathy for rough around the edges characters.
This episode owns me for so many reasons, and I’ll totally admit to being a Bethyl shipper. You may not think this episode is the best, but it’s my favorite because I get to see Daryl Dixon finally let his walls come down completely and connect with another human being on a personal level.
This episode finds Beth and Daryl making their way through the woods of Georgia while trying to find their group after being separated when the prison fell. When Beth decides she needs a drink, we slowly start to see the impact Beth has on Daryl.
How she makes him see that the dead aren’t just dead, but they were people. That good still exists in this world, but in order for it to continue to exist, they have to maintain their own goodness.
The episode culminates when they are drunk on moonshine and Beth challenges Daryl to a game of “Never Have I Ever” and asks if he’s been in prison. Daryl, who seems to think Beth might see him as more than a criminal (also he knows how he was before the world fell apart) takes offense to this and, after tearing her down and bringing up her suicide attempt, he yanks Beth outside for a shooting lesson with his crossbow as a walker comes up.
During this scene, Beth kills the walker instead of shooting it with arrows some more, and asks him:
“What if that had been my dad?”
This pushes Daryl over the edge and he breaks down, crying and letting Beth inside his head. He believes this is all his fault. The prison falling, her father dying, Rick.
He sobs and Beth hugs him and offers him comfort.
That night, Beth gives him some advice that will help him and two quotes that will haunt him.
“You’ve got to be who you are. Not who you were.”
“You’re going to be the last man standing.”
“You’re gonna miss me so bad when I’m gone, Daryl Dixon.”
I’ll remind you now that Daryl Dixon carried Beth Greene’s body down five flights of stairs after her death and still carries her knife with him.
Beth showed Daryl the light in this world and gave him hope…and it started here.
No Sanctuary, 5.1
After the season four finale where Rick lets everyone in the train car know that Gareth is fucking with the wrong people, we get to see exactly what he means.
This Rick is uncompromising and brutal. He threatens Gareth. He rallies his troops. He leaves the dead Termites and tells Daryl, Glenn, and Bob to let them turn.
Of course their escape wouldn’t have happened without Carol saving the day with her bottle rocket accuracy and general badass-ness.
The heart warming part of this episode were the reunions. All the family units were brought back together after spending so much time apart since the prison fell.
Rick and Carl were reunited with Judith, who they thought was dead.
Sasha and Tyreese finally see each other again.
Daryl and Carol embrace after being separated since the beginning of season four.
And when they all get back together, they start making plans for where they need to go next. What should happen now?
It also hits home another point: there is no sanctuary. Every “safe zone” has people that have made it so far that they had to do things that weren’t morally right.
The coda at the end of this episode, also shows us that Morgan is hot on their trail again!
Not Tomorrow Yet, 6.12
This episode is freaking intense. The music behind the raid on the Saviors compound still gives me anxiety when I watch the episode, even knowing that no one I care about dies.
The reason this episode is my favorite from six is that it finishes Glenn’s character arc. Up until this point, Glenn has been a moral compass of the show. He doesn’t kill people. In fact, until episode twelve of season six, he hasn’t killed a single living person.
Has he wanted people dead? Absolutely.
Has he ever killed someone? No.
This episode handles his first human kill in a calm, easy way. He doesn’t shoot someone who’s a threat (see Rick Season 2). The life he takes isn’t of someone willing to surrender (see Carl in Season 3). He isn’t tricked into killing someone (see Beth Season 5).
Glenn knows that the people they’ve come up against are horrible people that will destroy them if given the chance, and he put his knife into a saviors’ skull. Then, to save Heath from having blood on his hands, he kills the other sleeping savior.
This is the moment that Glenn’s development as a character is complete. He has finally killed a human, but he continues to maintain his humanity because he takes that burden from Heath.
Think back to that quote from Season 2…
Ain’t nobody’s hands clean in what’s left of this world.
Then we see the photos of Negan’s victims and we know how Glenn’s fate will definitely play out on the show in the future.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, 7.16
In a previous post, I spoke about this episode and how I felt like it finally brought us back to the type of storytelling that I loved with The Walking Dead. It’s a tight, action packed, character driven episode.
Sasha’s character is given autonomy and closure. It’s so bittersweet to see her take her own life, but to know that she’s doing this to give Rick and the others more time is selfless. She goes out on her own terms.
The battle that takes place in this episode is spot on, too. We finally get the reveal of Maggie being alive in Negan’s eyes and Negan finds out about Shiva because he almost gets attacked by her!
That scene is EVERYTHING to me.
What stands out to me is how we end. Season 7 is, arguably, one of the toughest seasons to watch of the show. It’s all about separation and death. “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” ends on a high note, though.
We have Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie rallying their troops for the coming war, and it seems like we’re stronger than ever. Negan is also on the retreat.
The tides are turning on The Walking Dead and our group is about to take the fight to Negan.
What do you think will happen in Season 8? Don’t forget to share your favorite episodes with us, too!
Season 8 of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, October 22, on AMC at 9/8c.