The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: The Main Characters, Ranked By Growth Throughout The Series

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and this is certainly true for The Walking Dead's main characters.

Great character growth is a staple of any successful TV show and AMC’s media monster The Walking Dead proves this point. Over the course of its 10 and a half seasons so far, the post-apocalyptic series has made a superb habit of putting its survivors through all sorts of travails only to have them come out of the other side with life lessons learned.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and this is certainly true for The Walking Dead’s main characters. Whether they stepped up to become leaders, or picked up a weapon and learned to take on the bountiful biters, none of the show’s stars remain unchanged from when the dead first started to roam free.

10. Glenn Rhee Never Strayed From Being The Walking Dead’s Good Guy

The loveable pizza delivery boy was perhaps The Walking Dead’s most unambiguously good character. A man defined by his selfless acts for others, Glenn was rarely confrontational and seemed to always have the group’s best interests at heart.

Steven Yeun’s character never shied away from assisting the weak and those in need. Glenn did right by those around him and loved his wife dearly until his horrifically brutal death. A captivating character dripping with likability, Glenn arguably never needed much growth. He was always ahead of the pack in terms of his honor and good nature.

9. Though She Became A Skilled Fighter, Rosita Rinsed And Repeated Her Earlier Survival Techniques

Rosita’s habit of latching onto capable men is what brought her to the dance in the first place, and though she seemed perfectly content with Abraham Ford, their romance wasn’t to be.

A formidable fighter and a sure survivor even in the worst of times, Rosita’s didn’t change much since she first appeared on The Walking Dead, and she hasn’t done a great deal of note besides forming new romantic relationships. That is a shame, as Christian Serratos’ performances have always carried tremendous weight and emotional depth.

8. Rick Grimes Remained The Show’s Hero Despite Some Savage Moments

Officer Friendly may have shed a large portion of his approachable side over the years, but Rick Grimes remains the same enduring survivor that found his lost wife and son back in the early days of the outbreak. He’s a little more grizzled and a lot less trusting of others, but Andrew Lincoln’s hero has managed to retain his morals and humanity.

He’s had to do some horrible things, and other acts that weren’t entirely necessary yet he did them anyway. Despite his many flaws, Rick was always doing what he thought best in order to protect his people.

7 . Carl Matured Into A Man His Father Could Be Proud Of

The little Grimes boy’s growth isn’t just limited to his physical changes. Carl went from an innocent child to a bratty teenager and then matured into an intelligent young adult. Chandler Riggs’ acting talents grew with his character, and his final performances remain his greatest and helped establish Carl’s death as one of The Walking Dead’s most upsetting.

In the end, Carl debatably had a better grasp on how the new world should play out should the dead ever cease walking. Wise beyond his years, the Grimes family Stetson didn’t weigh heavy on this young man’s head for long. 

6. Eugene Shed The Lies And The Deceit To Become An Admirable Ally In The War Against The Dead

Often the smartest man in the room while also holding the unwanted title of most cowardly, Eugene has morphed into a valuable member of his group, and one who can finally be trusted to do what’s right for others rather than just for himself.

Season 8 saw Eugene stand up to his terrifying captor, saving his friends in the process, and now Josh McDermitt’s smartypants is bravely leading his comrades into The Commonwealth. Abraham would most certainly be proud of how far the mulleted Magnifico has come.

5. Negan Buried The Past And Embraced His Wholesome Side

Negan has made great strides in shedding his antagonistic aura ever since Rick sliced open his neck and locked him in a prison cell. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s bad man with the bat had plenty of time for self-reflection behind bars, and his takedown of Alpha seemed to indicate that Negan had turned a corner.

Negan then went and risked his life to save the daughter of his greatest enemy and cemented himself as a hero within The Walking Dead. The season 10 episode “Here’s Negan” offered awe-inspiring insight into the trash-talking titan’s past, and made it clear that Negan always had this heroic side in him, he just lost his way for a while, perhaps corrupted by the power afforded to him as The Saviors’ leader.

4. Michonne Became A Mother Again And Kept Her Fighting Spirit

Thanks to the few glimpses into Michonne’s past offered to The Walking Dead fans, it’s clear that before the end of the world Danai Gurira’s samurai sensation was a kind-hearted mother.

The apocalypse turned Michonne Hawthorne into a relentless killer. Her bravery combined with her sword-swinging skills have made her one of the show’s fiercest fighters, yet thanks to her relationships with Carl, Judith, and now her young son R.J., Michonne has come full circle, only now she’s far better equipped to protect her family from the dangers of the undead world.

3. Maggie Went From Daughter To Widow To One Of The Walking Dead’s Leaders

Even before Lauren Cohan took her break from The Walking Dead, Maggie had grown into an intelligent and ruthless leader. Her wisdom came thanks to guidance from her father Hershel, and nudges from the likes of Jesus and Rick, but Maggie’s losses are arguably what really shaped her into one of the show’s strongest characters. 

After losing her family and watching her father and husband murdered before her, The Widow could easily have descended into a torturous existence defined only by her grief. Maggie Rhee defied the odds and became the commander that so many survivors now look to for answers on how to keep going in the face of the end of the world.

2. Daryl Dixon Outgrew The Expectations His Family Had Set For Him

On the surface, Norman Reedus’ heroic hillbilly has hardly changed much in terms of his prowess as a fighter, tracker, and survivor. However, a deeper look at Daryl shows that the crossbow king has grown from a bitter outcast into a mature, wise, and honorable leader.

The little Dixon brother has learned to look within and figure out who he really is. No longer defined by his abusive upbringing and no longer shackled to his loudmouthed big bro, Daryl is one of The Walking Dead’s true MVPs and his character arc remains the show’s most subtly fascinating.

1. Carol Transformed Into The Walking Dead’s Defining Character

Carol Peletier’s growth throughout The Walking Dead is nothing short of phenomenal. Melissa McBride’s post-apocalyptic persona has the perfect example of a show-defining character arc, and her journey stands up not just against anyone in AMC’s zombie series, but against the very best fictional characters on television.

Carol’s transformation has been even more delightful for fans of Robert Kirkman’s original comic, where the timid housewife didn’t last long at all and showed zero promise of becoming an unstoppable walker-killing warrior before her untimely passing.

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