Next to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has had one of the most extreme character evolutions in recent TV history. He’s shifted from small-town cop and family man to someone who has had to someone with a lot of blood on his hands (and teeth). Rick’s journey on The Walking Dead has hardened him and pushed him past the lines he’s drawn for himself on numerous occasions all in the name of survival and keeping his people safe.
The walkers in his world are an ever-present nuisance more than anything else — the real danger lies in the array of psychos and the bands of maniacs he and his group have encountered.
To mark the second half of the show’s seventh season, we decided to examine these villains and rank them based on their threat level to Rick and the group. (Spoilers ahead.)
8. Pete Anderson
Rick dealt with plenty of jerks prior to meeting Pete (Corey Brill), only this time Rick wasn’t out on the trail, but a guest in Pete’s community. Beating the snot out of the guy in the street might not have been the ideal way for Rick to deal with Pete, but it got the point across — for a little while, anyway. Eventually, Pete became too violent and Rick was of course given the green light by Deanna to handle the abusive drunk once and for all.
7. Dawn Lerner
The poster girl for power-hungry cops in a zombified world, Dawn (Christine Woods) used her badge to control rather than to protect and serve. As leader of a small group of police, patients, and a doctor at an Atlanta hospital, Dawn treated the group’s survivors as prisoners, manipulating them with kindness followed by outbursts of violence. She was quick to lay down harsh discipline and had no intention of letting Beth (Emily Kinney) leave the hospital to search for her group. As cruel as she may have been, she was no match for Rick and was quickly disposed of when things broke bad for Beth.
6. The Claimers
Daryl had become such a nice fella over the course of the series, but then he had to fall in with the wrong crowd. The group’s leader, Joe (Jeff Kober), was a classic bully who took things from the weak and only knew one means of communication — violence. Cold and unmerciful, Joe brought Daryl along on the trail for a little while, but the Claimers’ path of terror eventually came to bloody end with one of the show’s most gory showdowns as Rick, when left with no other options, bites into Joe’s neck and tears him apart.
5. The Wolves
The Wolves might not have had the resources of the Governor or the Terminus cannibals, but they had the numbers and no qualms about slaughtering innocents to secure weapons and food. When the Wolves were introduced in the latter part of season five, it’s learned they were responsible for slaughtering Noah’s family. The murderous group that believed they were freeing their victims by killing them almost caused the downfall of Alexandria in season six and would have likely been successful if not for Carol (Melissa McBride) rediscovering her killer instinct. While most of the Wolves were just random lunatics sporting a W on their foreheads, it’s revealed just how truly dangerous they were when the group’s leader, Owen (Benedict Samuel), tells Morgan (Lennie James) his code says he must kill every man, woman, and child in Alexandria.
4. Shane Walsh
Before Rick found Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl (Chandler Riggs), Shane (Jon Bernthal) had fashioned himself the leader of the small survivor group. And while Rick’s arrival was at first welcomed, it didn’t take long for the homecoming party to lose its luster. By the second season, Shane had become more bull-headed about calling the shots and began to see Rick as a threat to the unborn child he believed to be his. Once Rick confronted, all bets were off and the wheels in Shane’s head about how to off his former best friend started turning.
3. The Terminants
The old saying that “if something’s too good to be true it probably is” has even more weight in the Walking Dead universe, and Terminus proves to be the epitome of that. It didn’t take long for the group’s arrival into the compound to realize that something was up. It should have been a tip-off when they arrived to find a woman working the grill with no livestock or wild game in sight.
With the entire compound functioning as giant trap for the cannibalistic cult to secure food, Rick and his crew nearly became chow for the Terminants and their leader, Gareth (Andrew J. West), and probably would have if not for Carol. What Rick became later, when he split open the Terminus leader’s head in a church, however, is probably that which gives Gareth his lasting legacy due to a level of brutality that shocked some members of Rick’s group.
2. The Governor
Prior to meeting the leader of Woodbury, Rick and company had it relatively easy with their bad guy run-ins. The Governor (David Morrissey) not only proved to be their most powerful enemy up to that point, but he was easily the most depraved as well.
Anybody that enjoys keeping walker heads in fish tanks is in desperate need of a new hobby. Equipped with both charm and little regard for human life, the Governor only became more psychotic as season three rolled on, eventually assembling an army — and killing those who refused to serve — with the purpose of eradicating everyone in Rick’s group.
Losing his zombie daughter and his eye at the hands of Michonne certainly didn’t help matters between him and Rick and only fueled his murderous tendencies.
Eventually, the Governor would take the long way around to come back to Rick’s front door… with a tank, lopping off poor Hershel’s head, and trampling on everything Rick and his group had built at the prison before an end that seemingly allowed everyone to get a turn.
Prior to Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) over-the-top first appearance, the Governor clearly took the #1 spot as the most damaging external enemy Rick has faced, but the Governor never dug his claws into the psyches of the survivors quite the way Negan has so far. Daryl and Rick never wavered from their bad-ass personas when up against any of the show’s other enemies, but have been reduced to scared puppies under Negan’s grip due to the carnage he has wrought — so far anyways.