- Many fan-favorite characters on The Walking Dead did not survive until the end, with only two characters remaining from the first season.
- Characters like Abraham and Jesus had shorter runs on the show than fans expected, while others like Maxxine surprisingly lasted longer.
- Negan, initially a hated villain, ended up outlasting Rick and became a somewhat redeemed character, while key characters like Glenn and Tara met gruesome deaths.
The nature of The Walking Dead characters meant that it was likely none of the ones there at the beginning would still be there at the end, leaving the question of who survives The Walking Dead up in the air. With Rick Grimes — the one character everyone thought was safe — leaving the show, there were only two characters left from season 1. It’s almost become an unspoken competition among the characters to see who can last the most episodes between their introduction and their death (or the actor getting a new opportunity).
By the finale, there were only two people from the first season left alive on The Walking Dead, although a third showed back up in a small scene at the end to hint at an upcoming spin-off series. The Walking Dead characters did have some among their ranks who had been around for a lot of seasons, but even those were not always safe from the walkers or the evil humans who survived by any means necessary. However, with the main series over, and a few spin-offs coming, fans were assured that some of their favorites would make it out of The Walking Dead finale alive.
Siddiq brought a much-needed medical doctor to the survivors, and he ended up being a close friend of Carl Grimes, who fought for his inclusion into the group. He also became a lover to Rosita and was the father of her baby. However, while Siddiq lasted a bit longer in the comics, even living longer than Rosita, who died in the comics long before she did in the TV series, he died after 39 episodes of the main show. Sadly, he was partially responsible for Carl’s death in the TV series, as Carl was saving him when he got bit. Dante ended up dying when Dante betrayed the survivors, proving to be one of the Whisperers.
Abraham was one of the best fighters, and easily the most quotable Walking Dead character in his time on the show. However, that time wasn’t as long as many fans might have hoped. He showed up with his friends, Eugene and Rosita, and quickly became a valued member of the survivors. From his first appearance to his death at the hands of Negan, Abraham only lasted for 39 episodes of the TV series. What is interesting is that as popular as he was, he died even sooner in the comics. Abraham took the arrow to the eye that killed Denise on the show and never made it to the Lucille campfire moment with Glenn.
It might seem hard to believe that Maxxine lasted longer on The Walking Dead than several fan-favorite characters. She started off the series in the season 9 episode “The Storm” with just a voice performance and appeared for the first time in the season 11 episode “Out of the Ashes.” She ended up falling in love with, and eventually marrying Eugene Porter, surviving to the finale. While fans only saw her physically for less than one season, from the moment that she started talking to Eugene on the radio to their final appearance with their baby, she was on The Walking Dead throughout 47 episodes.
Most fans would have loved to see Jesus stick around longer than he did. He was a huge part of the comic book storylines and was easily the best fighter the survivors had on their side. However, on the AMC TV series, he didn’t do anything near what he did in the comics, leading to a disappointing run with a few minor memorable moments. His introduction, leading Daryl and Rick on a huge chase, remains a highlight. However, Tom Payne wanted to leave the show after the disappointment with Jesus’s portrayal, and he ended up killed by The Whisperers after just 48 episodes.
It might seem hard to believe that Gregory lasted as long as he did, but his scheming and plotting did a lot to ensure his survival in the zombie apocalypse. He was the leader in Woodbury when the survivors arrived there, and while they wanted to help free them from Negan’s rule, Gregory was comfortable – especially since he lived in the biggest house in the community. However, when the war with Negan ended and Maggie took over Woodbury, Gregory tried to plot her death and ended up hanging by his own neck. From his first appearance as the leader to his last as a dead man hanging, he lasted 49 total episodes on the main series.
20 Magna’s Group
Magna’s group of The Walking Dead characters consisted of herself, Luke, Connie, Kelly, and Yumiko, all of whom were introduced in the fifth episode of season 9, only moments after the massive time jump that followed Rick’s exit from the series. Since their introduction, each of these characters played varying roles of importance to the plot, with Luke even disappearing for full seasons at a time. However, of the five original members of Magna’s group, only Magna, Yumiko, and Connie survived to the end of the series. Their 57-episode tenure was still respectable.
Callan MacAuliffe portrays Alden, a former member of the Saviors who is introduced early in season 8. He proves to be far more reasonable than many of his colleagues, eventually earning the trust of Maggie Rhee and becoming a valued member of the Coalition following the end of the Savior War. Alden fought alongside the other survivors for many years after the war, even outlasting Rick and Michonne’s tenure in the series. Unfortunately, despite being one of the longest-living TWD characters, Alden died from injuries he suffered during a mission outside the community in season 11. Between his introduction and his death, he was around for an impressive 62 episodes, however.
18 Sasha Williams
One of the most memorable TWD characters, Sasha Williams showed up with her older brother Tyreese when she first appeared in The Walking Dead season 3. She then had to watch her boyfriend Bob die and then her own brother died, leaving her alone. However, Sasha was ready to fight and took her war to Negan. What finished her run on the show was one of the best deaths on The Walking Dead. In season 7’s “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life,” she took her own life while trapped in a casket by Negan. This was a trap, as she knew when Negan opened it, she would have turned and could finally kill him. She failed, but it was all it took for her allies to beat Negan on that day.
17 Glenn Rhee
Glenn’s death in the season 7 premiere sent shockwaves through even non-entertainment media, as he was one of the longest-surviving The Walking Dead characters until that point. Glenn’s shocking yet necessary death was incredibly gory, proving with savage authority that no character was safe. His eye popped out of its socket before Negan finished him off, which was gruesome. Negan wanted to kill one of Rick’s guys to get the message across, and he chose Abraham. But then Daryl punched him, and he decided he needed to kill someone else to fully demonstrate that he was in charge now. It was particularly controversial coming just a few episodes after the dumpster fake-out.
16 Tara Chambler
Tara is an important part of The Walking Dead characters because she was the first character ever introduced on the show to identify as LGBTQ. Since then, a few such characters entered the series – Aaron, Jesus, Tara’s own love interest Denise – but Tara was the first one. Tara has escaped death on a number of occasions, and she’s lost a lot of people close to her. She’s one of the few characters who wasn’t originally in the comic book series. Rather, she appeared in the tie-in novel Rise of the Governor and was first introduced in a season 4 arc that took TWD viewers away from Rick’s group for the first time. She finally died when The Whisperers killed her and put her head on a spike.
It might be shocking to realize that Jerry, of all people, survived longer than all but a few The Walking Dead characters on the show. It might be hard to remember, but he appeared on the second episode of season 7, which was only two episodes after Negan made his grandstand appearance in the season 6 finale. Jerry was there representing King Ezekiel and The Kingdom. Since that appearance, he went from Ezekiel’s right-hand man to a family man, getting married and having three kids of his own while living in Alexandria. He continued to play into the events of the show’s finale, surviving to the end.
Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel entered as one of The Walking Dead characters during a dark time in the show’s history, debuting in the episode immediately after Negan claimed his two victims in season 7. However, he went on to become one of the most popular and one of the longest-living characters in The Walking Dead. Emerging as a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season, Ezekiel and his community, the Kingdom, quickly became one of the fans’ favorite aspects of the later seasons. While the Kingdom has long fallen, Ezekiel has managed to outlive his community, joining with the other survivors at the Commonwealth. While he died in the comics, he became the new leader of the Commonwealth after the finale.
13 Negan Smith
Negan outlasted Rick as one of The Walking Dead characters, something no one could have expected — except those who read the comics. Negan was one of the most hated bad guys on the show, and then he started to redeem himself, especially when he killed Alpha to strike out at the Whisperers. Negan did not die either, at least not on the main show. The Walking Dead moved on with several spinoffs, including Dead City, a series that followed Negan and Maggie as they headed into New York City to save her son. However, just for the main show, Negan’s full tenure on the flagship series sits at a lofty 95 episodes.
Morales isn’t a name that’s synonymous with the show, but he’s one of The Walking Dead characters who survived the longest. He was first introduced in the second episode of the series, as a member of Rick’s initial group in Georgia. However, he and his family departed shortly thereafter, before the group even traveled to Atlanta during season 1. While Morales only physically appears in a handful of episodes throughout The Walking Dead‘s run, his surprise return in season 8 greatly boosts his tenure, with the gap between his introduction and unceremonious death at Daryl’s hand lasting a whopping 101 episodes. The character was nevertheless a missed opportunity for the series, which did very little with his return other than the mere shock value of his appearance.
11 Carl Grimes
For eight long years, Carl Grimes was one of the most controversial and longest-surviving The Walking Dead characters (despite not making it past season 8). This was especially true after his part in the death of Lori Grimes. He had a close relationship with Negan that jumped between friendly and contentious, and yet what got him, in the end, was a bite from which he slowly passed away in an underground tunnel. It wasn’t received as well as expected by viewers of the show despite how divisive he was, as ultimately Carl Grimes’ entire arc felt too dark in tone even for The Walking Dead.
10 Morgan Jones
Morgan Jones, portrayed by Lennie James, is one of the few The Walking Dead characters from season 1 to still be alive in the world of The Walking Dead today. The character made his debut in the pilot episode and, though he was not present for every episode thereafter, continued to pop up from time to time as the early seasons of the series progressed. Morgan didn’t become a series regular until the sixth season of The Walking Dead, remaining with the group all the way through the Savior War. While Morgan was never killed off, he did exit the series after the season 8 finale, making the jump to the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead. His total time on the series, from the pilot to his very last episode, lasted 115 episodes.
Aaron first showed up in season 5 as a scout looking for survivors his society might trust to bring in and help, and ended up outlasting even Carl Grimes as one of the longest-surviving TWD characters. His introduction shared similarities with Jesus and the Hilltop Community, but unlike Jesus, Aaron stuck around for a long time after his initial appearance. Aaron was a quick favorite thanks to his ability to gain people’s trust and his willingness not to ruin that faith. He also had a boyfriend whom he lived with, and while he died in a battle, Aaron fought on and became one of the survivors’ most loyal and trustworthy allies. He fought the good fight to the finale and survived to help build Alexandria.
8 Rick Grimes
The producers of The Walking Dead always said that no character on the show was safe, but no one expected Rick Grimes to ever leave the show. The character will be reappearing, still played by Andrew Lincoln, in a limited series on AMC. Rick was the only character on the show who could be described as the main protagonist, and once he left The Walking Dead became a true ensemble show with no real lead character. The time between his introduction in the pilot episode and his departure in season 9 consisted of 120 episodes, but Rick Grimes shocked fans by showing up in the post-credits of the finale.
7 Gabriel Stokes
When fans first met low-key Walking Dead villain Gabriel Stokes, the cowering priest who had never touched a weapon in his life, it didn’t seem like he would last five minutes in a world infested with flesh-eating zombies. However, he became one of the longest-surviving characters on the show. Gabriel worked to redeem himself and has become a leader. He also became a warrior and helped fight to the end, where he survived and ended up living in Alexandria and helping raise that community alongside Aaron.
When fans first met Michonne, she was a mysterious figure who had a pair of armless walkers acting as her caddies. She saved Andrea’s life during the fall of Hershel’s farm in the show’s second season finale and the two of them survived together for the first few episodes of season 3. She has since joined Rick’s group, saved countless people’s lives, mortally wounded the Governor, and fell in love with Rick. It was that love that sent Michonne off the show, heading out to find Rick, who she learned survived. Michonne has been confirmed to appear alongside Rick in an upcoming spinoff limited series and had one last appearance at the end of the finale.