The world of The Walking Dead is one where lifespans are short, and even survival is a struggle. Most of the characters who have been in the show have died cruel or ignominious deaths. The survivors, however, have had to fight through situations no person could conceive, and had to make the most difficult of choices.
As such, any characters still alive in The Walking Dead have been changed irrevocably by their experiences. Despite the criticism given to The Walking Dead‘s storytelling, fans and critics can rarely deny that there are vast quantities of character development in nearly every survivor.
7. Daryl Dixon Went From A Loyal Wanderer To A True Protagonist
In the first season of The Walking Dead, Daryl won adoration from fans simply by being one of the few competent people in the group of largely everyday survivors that Rick Grimes fell in with. A tracker and a hunter, Daryl was one of the few willing to directly confront Walkers, but his cohesion with the group was hindered by his poor temper and his devotion to his hated brother, Merle.
Daryl endeared himself further to fans and groups with his increasing heroism and independence over several seasons. He became one of the most moral people amongst the survivors, and loyal to all the others in his group. When Rick Grimes left the show, Daryl was the natural choice to take over as the main protagonist.
6. Father Gabriel Became Wise To The World
When first introduced, Father Gabriel Stokes did little to endear himself to either the main cast or to viewers. A former Priest, his first act in the apocalypse was to refuse to open the doors to his chuch, leaving his own congregation to be torn apart by Walkers. Living in solitude, Gabriel got little experience of the world.
When first found, Gabriel was horrified by Rick’s group for their violence. Having no idea of the things they’d been through to make them that way, this lead to several betrayals. Eventually, however, Gabriel learned to fight, came to understand how the post-apocalyptic world worked. The Walking Dead’s Gabriel also established himself as a major spiritual leader – and one fans could respect.
5. Maggie Rhee Forged Herself Into A Leader
The hints of what Maggie Rhee (then Greene) could become were always there, with her showing steel from her first appearance in season 2. Nonetheless, she was held back by the relative peace in which she lived the first few months of the apocalypse, living with her family in their relatively isolated farm, keeping their zombified neighbours safe in a barn.
The loss of the farm, and Maggie’s time as a central member of Rick’s group saw the steel in her brought to the forefront. She became one of the shrewdest survivors in the entire apocalypse in The Walking Dead, and was later nominated as the Leader of Hilltop. Unlike many other leaders in The Walking Dead, she never lost her humanity – grieving over even a single death from her people.
4. Eugene Became Worthy Of Respect, Twice
Eugene was another character who was largely disliked by fans in his first appearance in The Walking Dead. Aside from being unusual and cowardly, with hints of perversion, his first story arc saw him lying to several well-liked survivors. Eugene lied about being able to end the apocalypse purely to get protectors, seeing many people dead to save his skin.
Eugene had an interesting journey. After becoming less of a coward and a more selfless person, he started to earn fan respect. Then his nature saw him defect to the Saviors, making many fans declare him not changed at all. Sabotaging the guns of the Saviors and rejoining Alexandria proved once and for all that the coward was dead.
3. Michonne Learned To Open Up
When Michonne Hawthorne was first introduced – beyond a faceless cameo at the end of season 2 – she proved to be a somewhat reticent and closed-off person. Michonne was used to being self-reliant and rarely co-operated with others. Her initial experiences with the group and their clash with the Governor saw her begin to open up, but it was a slow process.
Over the course of The Walking Dead, Michonne became a fully-integrated member of the group, and of the local survivor communities. Allowing herself to be vulnerable through a relationship with Rick Grimes and becoming part of his family, she came to admit that she needed others. Eventually, Michonne wound up as one of the leaders of Alexandria – a far cry from the lone survivor she first was.
2. Negan Smith Has A Strange Redemption
Few characters made as much of an impact on The Walking Dead upon their appearance as Negan. As the best-known villain of the comics, he proved himself to be as prominent in the show. He quickly showed himself to be evil through the murder of two of Rick’s gang and setting himself up as a tyrannical ruler, quickly earning the hatred of most of the cast – and a fair few fans.
After his defeat in the war, and years of imprisonment in Alexandria, Negan redeemed himself in the eyes of many with his actions against the Whisperers. He soon became one of The Walking Dead‘s central characters. Forming genuine friendships with many former enemies, Negan took a more heroic turn. Although some argue he is irredeemable – or simply not redeemed – he is no longer the swaggering villain of yore.
1. Carol Peletier Reinvented Herself More Than Once
When first introduced, Carol Peletier was one of the more helpless characters in the Atlanta Survivor Group. Intimidated and bullied by her abusive husband Ed, she was for the most part, a noncombatant who wasn’t able to contribute much to the survival of the camp. Her initial development saw her turn colder and into a much more action-oriented individual.
This in turn saw her exiled by Rick for some of her worse actions, leading to another reinvention. While Carol remained every bit as dangerous, she tempered herself with humanity. Her defining moment for her new direction was her one-woman assault on Terminus, saving the entire group, and cementing herself as a fan-favorite central character in The Walking Dead.