As someone who has pretty much been a fan of The Walking Dead since the beginning of the show, I’d say I have a pretty good memory with some of these episodes. But with ten seasons, The Walking Dead has had its fair share of episodes that have been great, and others that have been… not so great (looking at you, Season 8).
However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are still some awesome episodes on this list, and now we’re going to break down each of the best episodes of each season of The Walking Dead, from the moments to the couples to everything else in-between.
Season 1 - TS-19
With Season 1 of The Walking Dead only having six episodes, it’s not that hard to pick the best episode from the bunch. And while the first episode, “Days Gone By,” is iconic in its own right, I have to go it to “TS-19,” for how much it changes the game of the series. It’s here where we seriously find out that this zombie outbreak is a permanent thing.
There are no scientists around to save us. No one really working on a vaccine anymore. It’s signed, sealed, delivered, and all the survivors can do is run from the CDC and try not to die in the explosion that is caused by the last living doctor there. As the first finale ever of The Walking Dead, it’s one of the best.
Season 2 - Pretty Much Dead Already
A lot of people consider Season 2 of The Walking Dead as one of the boring ones, but to me, Season 2 really shows the humanity of our survivors. We get to see them face problems that start to tear them apart. But I think everyone can agree that “Pretty Much Dead Already” is the moment the season starts to take a turn.
That singular moment that we see Sophia stumble out of the barn – that’s it. We know that no one is safe, not even children. It’s heartbreaking, especially after spending so long searching for her.
Honorable Mention: "Better Angels" – While I do love the end of Rick and Shane’s friendship – plus the death of Shane – the above episode ranks over this one just for emotional grief I felt, and the whole fandom did as well.
Season 3 - Killer Within
One of the best parts of Season 3 of The Walking Dead was the introduction of the Governor, a man who seemed to be completely normal and turned out to be a psychopath. But I’m going to give this spot to a bit of a lesser talked about episode on Season 3 – “Killer Within.”
This is where we see the end of Lori, the birth of Judith, and serious changes within the characters of Rick and Carl, arguably two of the most important characters in the whole series. Rick starts to turn insane for a little bit, driven crazy by the fact that he couldn’t keep his wife safe, and Carl really starts to witness what it’s like to lose a loved one, growing him up very quickly in this horrible world.
Season 4 - Too Far Gone
Season 4 of The Walking Dead was one of my favorites for many reasons. I loved seeing the birth of the prison community, and even them getting separated after with their separate storylines. But the best episode, in my opinion, was “Too Far Gone,” just because of how it all escalated so quickly.
Not only was the Governor back with a vengeance and ready to murder anyone, he straight up decapitates Hershel, who was – let’s be honest – the moral compass of the whole group. Without him, they literally have no direction or person to turn to to deal with how they feel. Without him, it’s up to them to keep their humanity. And let’s be honest, that war scene was epic. Daryl throwing that grenade into the tank? One of the best moments by far in the series.
Honorable Mention: The Grove – As I said before, “Too Far Gone” takes the cake as the best episode of Season 4 overall, but if we’re going emotional, I’d give it to “The Grove.” The development of Carol, and the story that she suffers through with Lizzie and Mika is gut-wrenching every time I watch it.
Season 5 – Conquer
Okay, so let’s get into Season 5 of The Walking Dead. To be honest, not my favorite season, but it’s still better than a fair few on here. It seemed for a good part of it, it was all walking around/looking for Beth, but the ending in “Conquer” beats out every single other episode here.
Rick taking over Alexandria, Daryl coming back with Morgan, the reveal of the Wolves – all of that combined just got us so hype for Season 6. It wasn’t the best finale, that was for sure – that’s still coming up – but it’s certainly one of the best episodes here.
Honorable Mention: Coda – I know there was a lot of backlash on this episode but I was emotionally attached to Beth for so long. This would be it for the most emotional. I swear I can still feel the air getting knocked out of me – just like when she was shot in the head (sorry not sorry).
Season 6 - Last Day On Earth
Oh boy, Negan. I mean, we were all looking forward to him. He was the big baddie from the comics, coming back to haunt our days with that big ol’ bat of his. And the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead did not disappoint when they brought him in for that long-ass monologue near the end. But man, if you weren’t shaking for your favorite characters, you surely were afterward.
Did I hate the cliffhanger as much as everyone else did? You bet, but if anything, it just made me want to tune in more to see who Negan picked as his bait. It was the definition of “nail-biter,” and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is the best finale of the show, in my opinion. This leads me to my next choice.
Season 7 - The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be
I can already feel the tears.
We all knew that something seriously bad was going to happen in the premiere episode of Season 7 of The Walking Dead. We all could see it coming so easily from a mile away. But then the show does a damn curveball and kills not only Abraham, but Glenn too in the same couple of minutes – all because Daryl got pissed off at something Negan said and attacked him – oof.
And the whole thing with Rick seeing visions over and over of his friend’s death, almost basically giving his life to somehow save Carl’s, crying with literal snot coming out of his nose and mouth – we have never seen Rick like this before, and it took meeting Negan and the deaths of his friends for it to happen. It’s mentally draining but one of the best premieres.
Season 8 - Wrath
I didn’t like Season 8.
I think a lot of us can agree that both Season 7 (besides the premiere) and Season 8 of The Walking Dead felt a lot like Season 5, except so much slower. It seemed they were in a war for years and yet we didn’t even get to the big battle until the very end of Season 8. But, because we are doing a ranking of all the episodes, I’ll put the finale of Season 8 here, “Wrath.”
Season 8 itself was crazy, with Carl dying, surprising not only me but fans everywhere. And while I already knew what was coming since I’ve read the comics, seeing Rick let Negan live still gets me, because it shows there’s the tiniest bit of wanting to keep the old world the same. And in the show, he does it for Carl, which makes it even more emotional.
Do I still agree with Carl dying? Nope. But hey, at least that was the end of the Savior War. Freaking took forever.
Season 9 – What Comes After
The episode that ends all episodes. It was announced way in advance that Season 9 of The Walking Dead would be Andrew Lincoln’s last one (later announced to be continued in movies). So when we were anticipating the final episode of the series' lead character, this was the best delivery they could've given us.
It felt like the perfect way to send off the man who has been with the show since the very beginning. He “died” trying to protect his people, even if he did end up getting saved in the end and taken away on a helicopter (hello, Commonwealth, anyone?). I’ll always miss my favorite sheriff.
Honorable Mention: The Calm Before – For the beginning of the Whisperer War, I had to put this at least as an honorable mention, just because that death scene with all the heads on the sticks is still jarring to me. However, it was considerably watered down from the comic book deaths that were taken in its place, so it stays down here for now.
Season 10 - Walk With Us
I mean, we all wanted Alpha to die in The Walking Dead, right? In my opinion, she was worse than Negan. She truly had no humanity left in her. She would straight up kill someone just for getting pregnant, most likely. It took Negan to literally infiltrate her camp, become one of them, and then lure her away to end her life and cut off her head.
And that ending reveal, where it was Carol who actually let Negan go to do that because she wanted revenge for Henry’s death from Alpha, oooh that gives me shivers every time. It’s one of the best moments in the show out there by far. Have to love it.
Honorable Mention: Here’s Negan – While I was very much considering putting this as one of the best, I’ll keep it as an honorable mention for the fact that Negan is still very much not a great guy. However, learning the backstory of his life prior to becoming the Negan we all know and love was one of the best episodes they had of the season, even if it was an add-on near the end.
It makes us really understand his point of view and where he comes from, and I think it’s always intriguing when a show can make us feel something other than anger towards a villain. Negan is fantastically crazy in so many ways, and this episode really establishes that.