The existence of zombies and power-mad killers makes it hard to not prioritize security and survival over all other things in the world of The Walking Dead. But the human spirit yearns for more than merely crawling from day to day. A comfy chair, a roaring fire, a good book — the little things make a place feel like home and make life feel like it’s worth living.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group of survivors have come close to those creature comforts on a few occasions only to have the welcome mat pulled out from under them because of a zombie herd, someone driving a tank through their fence, or a BBQ turning into a cannibal cookout. Life isn’t fair in the post-apocalypse. But as the survivors continue to chase their bliss in season 8 we thought we’d look back at the near-havens and rank each based on quality of life.
10. The Sanctuary
Maybe we’ll see more of The Sanctuary and it’ll seem more hospitable this season. But right now, it comes off like a pretty tense place to live. We’re talking about a factory-turned-lair with torture chambers. There’s also that whole concubine situation which is extremely problematic not to mention Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an overlord with a short temper, bloodstained barbwire wrapped bat, and a penchant for burning people’s faces with a hot iron when they displease him.
Plusses: Um… they have a doctor and the group of scavenging badasses will probably keep intruders to a minimum? (Also: Yars’ Revenge.)
Minuses: Or not, since Carl (Chandler Riggs) managed to infiltrate it. Also, everything listed above, from the concubines to the chaos Negan brings to the party. The looming prospect of more guerrilla-style attacks by Rick’s survivors or The Kingdom/Hilltop consortium also factors in as do the potentially shifting loyalties of Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt).
An outwardly nice-seeming slice of small-town America preserved by the steely rule of a deeply disturbed dictator (The Governor, as played by David Morrissey) who kept his zombie daughter on a chain in his apartment alongside a collection of severed heads. Woodbury could have been Alexandria before Alexandria had things gotten off to a better start, but the survivors did get a hell of a takeaway lesson about how the newly lawless world could contort people into monsters.
Plusses: Little shops (everyone loves a little shop), walls, and a security force.
Minuses: The aforementioned dictator who would go on to shoot some of the residents and then burn the town down dragging the charm of those little shops and the overall quality of life to a low point. There was also that whole zombie arena thing, which, negative? Positive? It was inhumane and grotesque but it’s nice when places offer entertainment options.
8. The Hilltop
A snazzy mansion/museum with tall fences and FEMA trailers, you could do a lot worse than The Hilltop if you were on the run or hiding out, as Maggie (Lauren Cohan) does after Negan smashes Glenn’s head with his bat. But like other communities under Negan and the Saviors’ harsh demands (which include Alexandria and The Kingdom), the quality of life at The Hilltop leaves something to be desired. Because let’s face it, no one likes high property taxes or, in this case, wants to give away half of their supplies to sidestep destruction.
Plusses: Relatively safe with a fair amount of space, the ability to grow crops.
Minuses: Gutless leadership in the form of Gregory (Xander Berkeley), a too-small fighting force.
7. The Grimes’ Neighborhood
Unsurprisingly, home is where Rick Grimes eventually winds up after escaping the hospital. That he’s greeted by a blow to the head is a bit harsh, but after everything that’s happened along the way — including finding Carl and Lori — is it possible that he might have been better off just staying put? Probably not because he loves his family and we saw what happened to Morgan after being on his own for too long. Still, he probably wouldn’t have had to gnaw at a guy’s throat or kill so many people had he just occupied himself with the Grimes family board game collection until the end of the time. And oh, what a boring show that would have been.
Plusses: Sleeping in his own bed and other familiar comforts.
Minuses: Zombies in the neighborhood, no pictures on the wall, a deep and unshakeable feeling that your family is still out there and that it makes sense to push away from old ways in the name of survival.
6. The Atlanta Survivor’s Camp
It’s sort of odd to talk about plausibility when it comes to a show about zombies, but it’s still weird that The Walking Dead launched with Rick Grimes rising from a coma, getting stuck in a tank in Atlanta, getting saved by a stranger and then being brought to the camp where he was reunited with his family (who had written him off as a corpse). Television magic!
The camp was also the first spot to feel the burden of Rick’s poor decision-making skills after he, Glenn (Steven Yeun), T-Dogg (IronE Singleton), and Daryl (Norman Reedus) leave the camp to go save Merle (Michael Rooker), allowing a herd of walkers to get a foothold and do a lot of damage before the cavalry arrived. That attack put a stop to the idea that the camp was any kind of safe option for the survivors.
Plusses: A lake to fish in, wide open space, close access to the city for supply runs.
Minuses: It was a virtual tent city with no walls or defense against roaming walkers (obviously) in the middle of nowhere. Sounds sure carried through the wilderness.
5. The Kingdom
It’s interesting how human behavior has evolved on The Walking Dead. The first phase saw the suspension of order, allowing people like The Governor and Negan to embrace their once-repressed inner viciousness. But in later seasons, we’ve seen an almost whimsical kind of shift in some of the characters. Jadis (Polyanna McIntosh) and The Scavengers (we’re not ranking their camp, they live in a garbage dump) dress like a low-energy cult and speak in broken sentences while Ezekial (Khary Payton) liked ren faires so much that he built a community around that idea (not canon, but a damn fine theory). Without those endearing quirks, though, those camps would be little more than a dump and a school (with a tiger). So are they really all that desirable?
Plusses: A theater, showmanship, the existence of a satellite abode (where Carol lived for a time), Jerry’s incandescent smile, and the aforementioned tiger.
Minuses: Fresh placement in Negan’s crosshairs, the existence of just the one tiger and not a lot else, and the knowledge that Jerry is probably going to die screaming at some point during season 8 so that showrunner Scott Gimple can make fans feel pain.
4. The CDC
He was a good man but a very bad wizard. Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) couldn’t quite give the survivors what they doubtlessly hoped for when they got to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) in season one. There was no cure, only a depressing secret, a dwindling power supply, and one lone man who had just quit trying to undo humanity’s descent into chaos and sickness.
Looking back, it’s one of the more depressing moments in the show’s history because it revealed how truly on-their-own the survivors all were. The vaunted infrastructure and all of the societal fail-safes had failed them. They were in the wilderness, and while they didn’t know it yet, they’d have to adapt to a far more brutal way of being to stay alive.
Plusses: Wine, running water, space, and a lot of security.
Minuses: Too much security in that the place was rigged to blow as soon as they ran out of fuel in an effort to purge the world of all of the beastly illnesses held within the building, not enough fuel, a depressive host who was a bit cagey with the explicit details when extending an invite.
In many ways, this is what the journey has been all about: a real, honest-to-goodness neighborhood with friendly and helpful people. At times, it has proved itself to be too good to be true, but while the Alexandria residents didn’t know what they had when we first met them, Rick and company did.
Narrative realities like The Walking Dead‘s focus on the lives of these specific survivors mean that in the coming “All Out War,” Rick and his gang (or just the gang) will emerge victorious in their battle against Negan and his forces. But it’s the ability to savor stability that has been at the center of Alexandria’s appeal. This would give the survivors the edge in a fair fight. They’ve got no intention of going back on the road or undertaking that transient existence while looking for the next Alexandria. Even if it kills them.
Plusses: Enough housing to offer everyone a bit of space and a return to normality (maybe), the means to make spaghetti, a pool table, and a resilient group of residents who have been through a lot.
Minuses: An initial bout of institutional naivete, forgetful people who don’t lock the front gate, and ground zero for a war against Negan that is sure to bring about numerous attacks and casualties.
2. The Prison
What it lacks in curb appeal it made up for in security and space. The survivors were happy at the prison for a moment, safe behind its walls. It offered a chance to build something, not just another pit stop. Rick even had a farm and little pigs! Then the adorable little piggies got cut and sacrificed to the walkers. Because they never stopped coming. Neither did other problems from the outside world, such as disease and the Governor. When the survivors left the prison, they’d suffered incalcuable losses as part of the fight to make it home. It’s not the most comfortable place but it might be the most tragic.
Plusses: Prisons are pretty secure and have a lot of acreage that can be used for farming. Also, there seemed to be random pairs of slippers that were ripe for the taking.
Minuses: It was a heavily fortified palace in the middle of the woods at a time when everyone wanted to be behind walls that seemed impenetrable. Sadly, everyone was stacked on top of each other despite the size of the place. That’s a real pain in the ass when it comes to communicable diseases. It proved far from impervious to tank fire and became the last stop for Herschel, Lori, and that lady Tyrese was dating that he really had a quick attachment too.
1. The Farm
The Greene family farm looked as though it belonged on the cover of a brochure advertising a serene space to escape the world. And while the survivors did, for a time (after Carl took his first bullet), it flaws eventually became evident due to a heartbreaking secret in the barn (Sophia, Carol’s lost daughter) and the revelation that the Greene family hadn’t quite learned to accept the new hard truths about human existence. Despite that hurdle, however, the farm could have been a long-term solution had it not been for the long-brewing battle between Rick and his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) that came to a loud end, sparking a herd that eventually overtook the farm.
Plusses: Generators and well water (with one exception), mostly hospitable hosts, a tranquil aesthetic that made it easy to forget the decay of the world, an on-site doctor (kinda), and did you see that wrap-around porch?
Minuses: Not enough beds for everyone, poor protection against large swarms of zombies (and Shane), no sprinkler system in the barn, and plenty of space for Carl to wander off to.
We’ll see if the four modern camps and any new ones manage to prove themselves as better options than the prison and the farm during this season on The Walking Dead.