Top 10 The Walking Dead Episodes (Season 1-3)
By Tyler Davies.
Tonight everyone’s beloved post-apocalyptic show is heading into its fourth series in the UK and it will end what has been an oppressive wait. No doubt this series will continue to attract a horde of viewers and bring along a fresh array of exemplary stories too. With that in mind it’s time to glimpse back at the finest stories of this esteemed zombie-show. There have merely been 35 episodes to date, but excluding 25 of them to compile this top 10 list actually proved to be an arduous task. Therefore I have had to attentively contemplate which stories I regard as the most outstanding, as to not unjustly leave a story out. So without further ado, here are my ten most favourite stories of The Walking Dead.
Vatos was not the most memorable or ostentatious episode of TWD, but its engaging individual storylines is what earns it a spot on this list. The Vatos gang was a particular highlight as they served as a reminder that there’s still room to have a compassionate nature and that not everything’s bleak in the post-apocalyptic world. The foil to this was of course the last five minutes of the episode as events fearfully stagnated in quintessential The Walking Dead fashion. Not only was it the first episode to feature a full-fledged walker attack, but it was also the episode that marked the first major character death.
9. Pretty Much Dead Already
The first quarter of Series 2 saw a rather dry spell of stories, but this was fortunately changed with the arrival of the magnificent episode 7. Its startlingly bold ending truly reinvigorated the series and left the audience gaping in shock. From the pulsating extermination of the horde of walkers, to the discovery of Sophia; it was an intense closure of an otherwise wearisome arc.
Other notable aspects of the episode are the group’s tense dispute, Rick’s impetuous revelation to Shane about Lori’s pregnancy and Dale’s fervent confrontation with Shane.
8. Days Gone Bye
The Walking Dead’s pilot episode was an immaculate start which seized the attention of many, including me. It rooted the show in a sterling manner, introducing us to the grimness and desperation of the post-apocalyptic world which Darabont had set up. Instead of gorging its extensive length, the team rightfully opted to have it build at a lethargic pace, with several shots of Rick wandering aimlessly through the desolate town of Georiga. Rick was an immediately relatable lead as he gradually came to terms with the new and perplexing world overwhelmed by the dead. In fact, a lot of the episode depended on Rick and, more importantly, the performance of Andrew Lincoln. As the fans know, he handled it outstandingly.
7. Better Angels
This episode saw the pinnacle of Shane’s descending path into being engulfed by darkness as he went to unthinkable extent to do what he meant was in the best interest of the group. There was something profoundly tense and harrowing about the way the episode moved along, with every misguided step taken by Shane further sealing his impending fate. Upon till the point he murdered Randall, he was the oft-relatable anti-hero and I couldn’t help but hope that his mistakes were still reconcilable. Then came along the inevitable and tragic denouement, which in itself is sufficient to warrant a spot on this list. It was a sensational stand-off as Rick’s moral code was pushed to its boundaries by Shane’s pragmatic nature. His death arguably stands as one of the show’s saddest and most startling moments, strengthened by Bernthal and Lincoln’s adroit performances.
6. Made To Suffer
Series 3’s mid-season finale certainly was eventful and it had a hefty amount of action too. Unlike the majority of the episodes on this list, which have earned their places due their pathos, Made To Suffer is appealing largely because of its high-stakes and frenzied action. What’s unique about it is that almost all the confrontations are between humans, with the zombies almost entirely sidelined – highlighting the third series’ recurrent theme of humans being an equally treacherous threat.
5. This Sorrowful Life
Merle Dixon was a detestable and contentious character when we met him in the first series and likewise in Series 3. After he was discarded by The Governor and his group, though, we continually witnessed more of his humane side. The penultimate episode of the third series saw the conclusion of this progress, albeit in an unanticipated manner. Whilst the taut build-up throughout the episode suggested that Merle would commit another immoral act by handing Michonne over to the Governor, the climax delivered something entirely divergent. Unleashing a valiant attack on The Governor’s forces to help the group and, more importantly, Daryl was his ultimate redemption. And at the end, one couldn’t help but feel saddened by the dire closure of Merle Dixon’s story.
4. Beside The Dying Fire
As a finale, Beside the Dying Fire was everything you could have wished for. The multitude of zombies permeating the barn was a notably intense moment and it was a captivating action set-piece too. It took up a bulk of the running time, but with good reason as it allowed us to relish in some of the most intelligent and gory zombie slaying scenes of the show’s entire run. The episode also opened up to a lot of things that feature in the comics (something which I was oblivious to during my initial viewing) and it did so in an emphatic manner. With the suggestive appearance of the prison, introduction of the katana-wielding Michonne and the inauguration of the “Ricktatorship” – it was impossible not to yearn for the next series.
3. 18 Miles Out
What do you get when you intersect the two most discordant figures of the group and send them in a remote area with a hostage: a compelling episode, of course! After many stories of transparent tension between Rick and Shane, their issues finally came to the fore. I love how blunt that intensification was, from a fierce argument about how to handle the grueling decisions of the post-apocalyptic world, to a full-blown fight. It was a liberating scene as the writers dropped all pretentiousness to display the two character’s quarrels in a moment of true grit. It also indicated a harsher Rick since it showed a point where he was willing to allow Shane to suffer for his own impudence, only to change his mind after seeing the corpse of two police officers.
The story wasn’t low on depth, though, as it had some great lines about not losing humanity in a time of barbarism and back in the farm the issue of completely giving up on the bleak world was tackled. Without a doubt then, one of the best episodes delivered.
2. Killer Within
When writers of a show are audacious enough to kill off one of their most prominent characters, they tend to do so in a finale. Not the writers of The Walking Dead, though, as in order to substantiate how unsound their recently discovered haven was they decided to get rid of two longstanding characters in episode 4 alone. Right from the abrupt walker attack the episode held an unrelenting grasp on the audience’s attention and it kept that hold all throughout. The fact that Andrew’s survival, and subsequent death, was one of the more inferior occurrences proves what a magnificent episode it was. Picking the superior moment isn’t difficult either, or rather a superior event which spans the majority of the episode. The entire storyline of Lori’s C-section was handled with utmost proficiency and made it feel real – the clutched buildup, the emotionally packed farewell, the actual surgery and Carl’s grim yet unavoidable undertaking.
18 miles out already exhibited what Scott M. Gimple could do when he was given the opportunity to seclude a handful of characters from the group and develop them. This episode took the idea further as the sole focus of the episode was Rick, Michonne and Carl’s search of weapon supplies. Whilst some may say that this makes the episode tedious, I believe it to be one of the strengths as there is a clear (no pun intended) focus throughout its running time.
At the time of my first viewing of this episode, Series 3 had ended and I was luckily devoid of any information about the episodes. This allowed for a pleasantly shocking surprise when the assailant in the episode was revealed to be Morgan. The emotional undercurrent in this episode is centered on his tragic character and his depression and psychosis had a proper impact. Clear’s core is how people have evolved and adjusted since the apocalypse broke out and Morgan’s heart wrenching story is highly effective in that sense. It also works as a wake-up call for Rick who was profoundly dispirited at that point. Unlike the other episodes in Series 3, the characters are done complete justice and they all see a positive growth.
Clear is The Walking Dead at its best with a strong emotional punch and an insightful look into the dreadful post-apocalyptic world. If it is any indication of Scott Gimple’s prowess then the audience is in for a treat tonight. And with that I have reached the end of my countdown. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Series 4 premiere will find a place on this list, but one thing that is assured is that a fresh batch of intriguing episodes is just waiting around the corner.