Death—bloody, sudden and constant—is fundamental to The Walking Dead. It’s a series that traffics in unending dread, so offering up a few sacrificial lambs every couple of episodes is a narrative requirement. That those deaths happen to be very gory in nature is just a bonus.
Among those many, many deaths are a special, precious few that stand out for being so awful and so upsetting that you just can’t wash them out of your poor, blood-spattered mind.
Actually, it’s not the gore that locks these deaths into memory, it’s the fact that you know these characters. Watching someone you care about munched by a walker is a lot more disturbing than seeing yet another grubby extra meet their end.
We’ve collected the most memorable deaths, with special attention to longstanding or, at least, evocative characters, and dropped in grisly video documentation for each.
10. Denise, Season 6, Episode 14Relatively low in gore compared to the other deaths below, Denise’s demise gained nastiness through suddenness. One second she’s barreling through an impassioned speech about life, love, and self-actualization and the very next second there’s a crossbow bolt shooting through her eye. What’s worse is she keeps on speaking as if she doesn’t realize she’s already dead.
9. Nick, Season 6, Episode 3No one misses Nicholas. That’s a fact. Actually, when audiences first saw this death, some thought it was Glenn’s guts that were being served up banquet style to a horde of walkers. Now that we know better and can look back on this with clarity, it’s no less disgusting, just a bit less troubling.
8. Abraham, Season 7, Episode 1 Held up against another similar death in the exact same scene, Abraham’s is not truly all that bad. Nonetheless, it was shocking, blunt, and, thanks to some very squishy sound effects, gag worthy. At least we can all respect Abe’s last words. Raise a salute to a fallen solider.
7. T-Dog, Season 3, Episode 4T-Dog’s self-sacrifice in the bowels of the prison came just after what would have been a fatal walker bite, so it wasn’t as shocking and touching as some others on this list. However, it was the first time in the series we truly saw a character we felt for literally ripped apart. What happens to his neck was new territory for The Walking Dead and set the stage for dismemberments to come.
6. Paula, Season 6, Episode 13Paula is one of the most striking, well-wrought single-episode characters The Walking Dead has ever gifted us. Her death was no less memorable. Sure getting impaled was no big deal. Rather, it’s that close up of a walker ripping into her face and actor Alicia Witt’s reaction. She’s not just screaming, she’s crying. Oof. The sounds of her slowing gurgling her way to death you hear immediately after don’t help either.
5. Hershel, Season 4, Episode 8The Walking Dead has a nasty habit of sacrificing its moral-compass characters, Hershel being the bloodiest example. It wasn’t so much that his death was sudden and involved Michonne’s sword (though both those things are true). It’s that, Queen Mary of Scots-style, the first cut didn’t quite do the job. The appearance of his zombiefied head in the next episode was a grisly coda to his scene.
4. Beth, Season 5, Episode 8Again, suddenness was the key here. At a moment when we think—at long last—Beth is back full-time on the series, her brains wind up on Rick’s shirt. It was a heartbreaker. Even more so than Denise’s quick end, this one only left you with enough time to drop your jaw.
3. Noah, Season 5, Episode 14This is probably the bloodiest of all the various scenes on this list and, to claustrophobes, the most triggering. Producers really drew this one out and, by putting it up against the class of a revolving door and filming much of it from Glenn’s perspective, have audiences a closer look at a walker feast than they had ever seen before, the victim’s reaction included.
2. Jessie, Season 6, Episode 9You don’t actually see much of Jessie’s death. Rick’s various flashbacks to good times with his Alexandria love cover that up. Instead, what gets you is Rick having to chop her lovely hand off in order to save his son. The moment punctuates the brutal world of The Walking Dead—where the promise of romance ends in dismemberment—as perhaps no other has before or since. The death of her son seconds before and the shooting of Carl seconds after only add to the grimness of this grim, grim scene.
1. Glenn, Season 7, Episode 1 As mentioned at the top, it’s not just violence the gore that disgusts and disturbs, it’s who that violence is directed at. Glenn was, in many ways, the series most beloved character, its moral core, and its greatest survivor. To see him slowly circle the drain as his eye drooped out of his skull was just heartbreaking. To hear and see his head turned into pulp seconds after as Negan made jokes was the nastiest thing The Walking Dead has ever asked its audience to do.