As The Walking Dead heads into its ninth season and what new showrunner Angela Kang calls a “new chapter” in the series, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back on previous chapters of the series and reflect on the best episodes while also giving fans a quick streaming binge-watch (the show can be found on Netflix) roadmap.
In selecting the best 15 episodes (which, in many ways typify what we love the most about The Walking Dead), it’s difficult to find one particular theme, but I will say this: It’s not the villains. The best The Walking Dead episodes tend to highlight the hardest decisions, those moments when characters become the best versions of themselves, and the most heroic moments of the series. Deaths are obviously an important part of The Walking Dead fabric, but the ones that seem to matter most are those deaths that make the most sense from a storytelling standpoint.
Here are the 15 best episodes of The Walking Dead.
15. Better Angels (Season 2, Episode 12)
The Story: After Shane kills Randal, he and Rick engage in a showdown as the conflict between the two about the direction of the group comes to a head.
Why It’s On The List:
For a lot of viewers, this is where The Walking Dead really begins. This is when The Walking Dead transforms from a show about people vs. zombies to a show about people vs. people in the zombie apocalypse. After weeks of increasing tensions between Shane and Rick — the two people vying for leadership of the group — Shane loses it, kills Randall, and lures Rick out into the woods to assassinate him. Rick, however, ends up killing Shane, while Carl — who shows a lot of advanced maturity for his age in this episode — kills the reanimated Shane before Zombie-Shane can kill Rick. Better Angels is best known as the episode where Shane dies, but it’s also a hugely pivotal episode for the series, setting it off in a completely different direction.
14. Four Walls and a Roof (Season 5, Episode 3)
The Story: The group takes on the Terminus residents while Bob dies in Sasha’s arms.
Why It’s On The List: — The residents of Terminus — a group of cannibals — comprise a short-lived but memorable arc on The Walking Dead, ending in “Four Roofs and a Wall” in a bloody confrontation inside a church after the cannibals eat Bob’s infected leg. Rick and Co. brutally and quickly slaughter Gareth and the other members of Terminus, even as they are begging for their lives, illustrating how cold and ruthless Rick’s group can be when it’s necessary to the situation. The ease with which they kill Terminus members also makes Father Gabriel uneasy. Meanwhile, in the heartbreaking coda to the episode, everyone says their goodbyes to a dying Bob before he eventually dies in the arms of Sasha.
It’s also the episode before the group begins their journey toward Washington D.C. and eventually Alexandria.