How long is The Walking Dead going to go on for? Who knows? They’re in the eighth season now and they’ve been renewed by AMC for a ninth. Depending on which reports you’ve read or which interviews you’ve seen, they could keep going with this show until about season 11 or 12. But if they keep adapting the comics at their current rate, they’ve got enough material to keep going until season 20! And Robert Kirkman’s still writing these comics, so they could go on even longer than that if there’s still a demand for it. For now, there are eight seasons of The Walking Dead, so we’ve ranked them from worst to best!
8. Season 7
The show has redeemed itself a little bit in the couple of years since, but season 7 marked a serious dip in the quality of The Walking Dead. The season premiere episode had the highest viewership of any episode in the show’s history – and the following episode had the lowest in four years. Coincidence? Not at all. That season 7 premiere was seriously horrific. The show had been graphically violent and scary and harrowing before, but this was just an hour of torture porn. It was simply too much. The show finally went too far. It took seven years of zombies and blood and gore and violence and death, but The Walking Dead finally went too far and it lost millions of viewers because of it. The rest of the season was nowhere near as terrible and gut-wrenching as the premiere episode, but it still never quite managed to get it back. The best moments of this season all involved Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s electric and lovable performance in the role of Negan. We were all supposed to hate this character – that was the reason why the season premiere was so horrifying – but we couldn’t help falling for Morgan’s devilish charms.
7. Season 1
The first season of a show is never its best. The writers haven’t gotten into the groove of what the show is yet and the actors haven’t quite settled into the nuances of their characters yet and the whole thing feels generally undeveloped. You can’t blame them – they’re all trying out something new and learning what the show is along the way. As far as first seasons go, this one isn’t bad. It’s not as beautifully dark as the show would eventually become, but the season is saved by its first episode. The pilot episode of The Walking Dead is one of the greatest pilot episodes ever created. It feels like a feature length movie. It has the epic scope and stunning visuals and theatrics of a movie. We get a better sense of the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead and the psychological effect that it’s had on people in the pilot episode than in any other episode that would follow. All the best pilot episodes end with a cliffhanger ending that makes you want to come back for the second episode, and that’s just what The Walking Dead’s pilot does when Rick is stuck in a tank with a corpse, ready to kill himself, when Glenn’s voice appears on the radio and Rick realizes he’s not alone in this world. There are some other awesome episodes in season 1, too, like the one where they cover themselves in zombie guts to sneak through a horde of walkers or the one where they meet that group of survivors who still run a nursing home in Atlanta.
6. Season 8
Season 8, the most recent season of The Walking Dead, was a marginal improvement over season 7, but there’s still a long way to go to reclaim the show’s former glory. For starters, throughout this season, there was entirely too much focus on Eugene and not enough on Negan. Eugene is absolutely the least interesting character on the show. You can’t even understand what he’s saying half the time, because he chooses obscure vocabulary when constructing his sentences. It’s like the writers write every single one of his lines with a thesaurus handy. Killing off Carl was a very smart move, because a lot of fans have hated the kid from the very beginning, but his death should have come years ago. Killing him off now with a little off-screen bite is too little too late. The “Old Man Rick” fantasy sequences have been very interesting, and something that the show has never done before. We need that on The Walking Dead sometimes, because it seems like they just move from one conflict with a group of survivors to another conflict with another group of survivors. Still, the show isn’t as compelling as it used to be. It is on its way back up. Hopefully, within the next season or two, it will be back to its former glory.
5. Season 6
This season started off strong. The season 6 premiere kicked things off in an exciting way that really shook things up. It was more humorous and action-packed than the show had ever been before. And there was that pulsating episode where the Wolves invading Alexandria and the beautiful, neat, little standalone episode where we see what Morgan’s been up to with a phenomenal guest turn from the underrated John Carroll Lynch. However, this season was let down by its finale, in which we finally get to meet Negan for the first time and see who he kills. The internet had been buzzing about it for weeks, because when we first meet Negan in the comics, he kills Glenn, but the TV show’s fans thought they might change that for the adaptation. And then, when it finally came down to it, we saw the whole death scene from the point of view of the person getting killed – and then we realized we’d have to wait like six months to find out who got the chop. That, combined with that weird fake death scene of Glenn that got reversed a few weeks later, just showed viewers that The Walking Dead and its writers had stopped caring about the story they were telling and were simply going for gimmicks. What a shame.
4. Season 2
Season 2 very quickly takes The Walking Dead in a much different direction than the first season – and it’s the right direction. It’s an exciting direction. We pick up with the group where we left off, as they’re traveling down the highway to see where the wind takes them. Then Dale’s RV breaks down and Carl gets shot and they take him back to a farm house where a dude named Hershel starts to operate on him to save his life and they meet his family. All the new characters and story opportunities kept this season interesting and entertaining every week. The second season also brought Rick and Shane’s tensions to the surface, culminating in the show’s first ever truly shocking character death. We also got the first crazily action-packed episode with the season finale, too, which kills off a bunch of characters, burns down Hershel’s farm, gets us geared up for whatever comes next, and introduces Michonne. The only things that let season 2 down are any of the over the top melodramatic moments akin to those of a soap opera, like when Beth tries to kill herself or all the pregnancy drama with the debate about who’s the father. But you can forgive some of those things, because it’s addictive and engaging and endlessly watchable stuff at the height of this golden age of television.
3. Season 4
The first half of season 4 was interesting to watch, too, since it was literally the darkest that The Walking Dead has ever been (except for the absurdly gratuitous season 7 premiere episode, of course). It starts off with a Rick who has sworn off violence and taken up farming, and within just a few episodes, not only is he back on violence, but he’s slitting the throats of all of his lovingly raised pigs to feed to the masses of walkers that are pushing down the fences around the prison. Rick Grimes goes through a lot of transformations in The Walking Dead, but the moment that he realizes he can’t avoid violence and he has to kill all his animals is definitely the most harrowing. And if you didn’t think it could get any darker than that, think again, because later in the season, Carol shoots a deranged child in the back of the head. This season was let down by that trio of episodes that explained the Governor’s whereabouts needlessly, all the while we were all wondering what the hell would happened when they finally looped the story back around to when he arrived at the prison with a tank. Luckily, the season managed to save itself in the second half with the action-packed fall of the prison and the group all breaking up into their own little groups and slowly making their way to Terminus, which promised to be a safe haven and turned out to be anything but. But that’s a season 5 matter.
2. Season 3
Given that dozens upon dozens of zombie stories with basically the same premise have been told in the decades since Night of the Living Dead was released, it can be hard to find some aspect that hasn’t been done before. Ever since George A. Romero’s seminal indie horror movie was released in the ‘60s, there have been a ton of movies and TV shows about a group of survivors in a world overrun with the undead who hole up in a remote location to fend off the hordes of zombies. The third season of The Walking Dead introduced us to a setting that zombie movies and shows had never taken us inside a prison before, but it was a no brainer! There’s the security of the building for the survival aspect and all the catacombs and solitary confinement cells for the spookiness aspect. And that would be useless without a great story, but don’t worry, that’s just what we have here. The third season busted the whole premise wide open. Hershel got bitten and then Rick lopped off his leg and he was fine, so we learned that about the walker virus. Michonne joined the show and proved herself to be a complex badass (who was a softie with a sense of humor sometimes). Morgan returned, albeit briefly. Plus, with the rise of the Governor, we realized that the walkers weren’t the worst threat to fear in this lawless, post-apocalyptic wasteland.
1. Season 5
What a fantastic season of television! It just kept moving forwards and forwards and forwards. First, we’re in Terminus where the end of the season 4 finale left us hanging. Then Carol comes in like the badass she is and saves the day, shooting the place up and rescuing the gang from having their blood drained into a trough via their slit jugulars. Meanwhile, Tyreese was fighting off a horde of walkers with his bare hands in order to save a baby from a cannibal. Then the gang hit the dusty trail and almost starved to death before some guy turned up asking after Rick and took them back to the safest place ever where they were offered houses and electricity and running water and an endless supply of food and every other commodity that they could possibly dream of. And then it was all too much for Rick, who had a meltdown in the middle of the street with a face covered in blood and went on a killing spree around town. And then Morgan came back and saw Rick murder a guy and we cut to black and the most pulsating and incredible season of the show ended. Holy cow! Why can’t it be more like that still? If the show was ever going to win an Emmy (a prestigious award that has eluded it now for almost a decade), then it probably should’ve been for this season.