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The Walking Dead Characters That Somehow Survived The Series

Of all the long-running genre shows out there, "The Walking Dead" is definitely one of the most beloved. Based on the comic series of the same name, it takes some liberties with its source material. But, like the comic, the heart of the TV show lies with its characters. "The Walking Dead" stars Andrew Lincoln as former sheriff Rick Grimes, who faithfully leads a group of survivors through the zombie apocalypse for nearly a decade. Though Lincoln didn't stick with the series throughout its entire run, his surprise return in the series finale — teasing even more exciting post-apocalyptic adventures — is well worth the wait. Other characters, like fan-favorite Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), are original to the TV series. Every single one of them has their fans, and they're all essential to the series' success — even if they're the sort of figure fans love to hate.

But "The Walking Dead" is just as known for its shocking and gruesome deaths as it is for its celebrated characters. Needless to say, many fan-favorites are killed off — oftentimes unceremoniously. "The Walking Dead" can feel like a bit of a meat grinder, in fact, into which beloved people are fed. However, not everyone is doomed to death. Some of the survivors make sense, while others are downright shocking. While we can't tackle every star we're impressed made it to the finish line, we can take a look at the biggest surprises. These are "The Walking Dead" characters who managed to somehow outlive the hordes of walkers, sadistic monsters, and simple bad luck.

Father Gabriel Stokes

When we first meet Father Gabriel Strokes (Seth Gilliam), he's something of a coward. Having locked the doors of his church to keep his congregants out — they're soon turned into walkers — the former Episcopal priest is left to deal with his guilt and shame alone. But after encountering Rick's group, he becomes a vital player and even a warrior in his own right. All the while, he struggles to hold onto his faith. By the series' end, Father Gabriel continues to lead the people of Alexandria while also raising the orphaned Coco Espinosa as his own.

Given where Father Gabriel starts out back in Season 5, it's almost a miracle that he makes it to the series finale. But we're glad he does, because in that time, he grows into a much more rounded and reliable ally to Rick's group of survivors. Not only does he prove himself invaluable to the series in its final years, he outshines his original role in the comic book. There, Father Gabriel dies a bloody death at the hands of the Whisperers, who slice him open after he makes a failed attempt to warn his friends of their coming.

This death is teased a few times on the series, particularly when he and Aaron (Ross Marquand) travel to a familiar water tower in the Season 10 episode "One More." But thankfully, our favorite post-apocalyptic priest escapes a grisly fate. Apparently, miracles really do exist after all.

Eugene Porter

Another unlikely survivor of "The Walking Dead," Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) is initially pretty unlikeable. In fact, he's an outright con artist who's posing as a scientist with a cure for the viral outbreak and is protected by soldiers Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos). Eventually, Eugene is revealed to be nothing more than a high school science teacher, lying his way through the apocalypse. Though it would be easy to leave him to die, Rick's group keeps him on board, and he eventually finds his place among the survivors.

As in the original comics, Eugene makes it to "The Walking Dead" finish line. This is surprising: After all the hell he puts some of the characters through — including Abraham, who's murdered by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) — you'd think his fate was sealed. But even though he's not a fan-favorite, Eugene does prove himself useful to both sides of the conflict as humanity struggles forward. He even ends up on the right side, when everything is said and done. But, as penance for his sins, Eugene is forced to deal with the death of Rosita after he confesses his feelings for her. 

Though it's unclear what awaits Eugene post-Season 11, one thing is clear: This former charlatan redeems himself in the eyes of his friends. Maybe one day, Eugene will make peace with himself, too.

Ezekiel Sutton

That's right: The king of the Kingdom himself, Ezekiel Sutton (Khary Payton), makes it through "The Walking Dead." As he mentions to Negan, just about everything from walkers to war to cancer comes for Ezekiel at some point in his journey, "Yet I smile. I try to, anyway," he says. "I try." Though he goes through plenty of heartbreak, Ezekiel always gets back up and perseveres, no matter the personal cost. It's sort of his thing.

Over the years, Ezekiel wears many different hats, from leader of his own kingdom — complete with his pet tiger, Shiva — to animal control agent for the Commonwealth. No matter what, he remains an active character. Despite his prominence in the television series, however, the comic book incarnation of the character receives a very different fate during "The Whisperer War" — one that fans were afraid might extend to his TV journey. At the beginning of the conflict, Ezekiel is mercilessly killed by Alpha. His head is displayed on a pike to mark the edge of their territory.

Though Ezekiel escapes this gruesome fate on the small screen, his comic book death finds a place on the TV series: It's bequeathed to his adoptive son Henry (Matt Lintz). Henry's tragic death at Alpha's (Samantha Morton) hands ruins his romance with Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and catalyzes Ezekiel and Carol's (Melissa McBride) tragic breakup. Though they remain good friends, their lives are never the same.


Arguably Ezekiel's best friend and most staunch supporter, Jerry (Cooper Andrews) is introduced in Season 7 and remains with the series until the end. Fiercely loyal and possibly the most optimistic character on the show, Jerry's fate remains uncertain throughout his run. Given how unceremoniously the series kills off its main cast members — especially fan-favorites — his odds don't always look good. After the Season 9 time jump, the stakes get even higher. Jerry and Nabila (Nadine Marissa) settle down at the Hilltop Colony and raise three kids of their own. Needless to say, they have a lot to lose.

Since Jerry was created specifically for the TV series, there's no comic book counterpart to compare him to. Because of this, audiences lacked even the barest hints as to his ultimate fate. Many worried about Jerry's safety over the years, much as they once feared for Daryl Dixon, before he became too popular to kill off. While Jerry might not be as popular as the younger Dixon brother, by the tail end of "The Walking Dead" he's certainly just as fiercely loved.

In the Season 11 episode "Variant," Jerry, Aaron, Lydia, and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) stumble into an abandoned house, where they're confronted by a horde of walkers who can open doors, climb walls, and even pick up weapons. Despite all odds, an injured Jerry makes it out alive — though not without some serious effort and a whole lotta luck.


While it's absolutely true that the comic book version of Aaron survives the series — becoming one of Rick Grimes' most trusted allies in the process — his television counterpart's fate feels a bit up in the air after Rick's departure. With the series lead gone, someone needs to fill the hole he's left behind. While Daryl, Carol, Maggie, and Rick's children certainly pick up some of the slack, Aaron ultimately becomes a sort of stand-in for Rick.

Not only does Aaron rise up as a leader over the course of the show's final seasons, but, following the time jump after Rick's departure, he begins to bear a striking resemblance to the iconic sheriff's comic book self. Not only does Aaron grow the trademark beard that Rick adopts in the later issues of the comic book's run, his buzzcut and prosthetic arm echo the rest of Grimes' look. Moreover, while Aaron isn't just a carbon copy of Rick from this point on, his arc does share plenty of similarities with the beloved former lead.

Aaron's rise as the new Rick made many fans concerned about his potential demise. Maybe, they wondered, just like Rick in "The Walking Dead" comics, Aaron would meet his end in the final hour. Thankfully, Aaron's fate in "Rest in Peace" has nothing to do with Rick's. He ends his days in tranquility, helping lead his community into a new age.

Pamela Milton

Admittedly, there isn't any indication that Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) is going to die by the end of "The Walking Dead," especially since her comic book counterpart survives the original tale. In those ink-and-paper pages, Pamela leads a coup against Rick and the citizens of the Commonwealth, though the former sheriff is able to talk her into surrendering peacefully. Rick even lets her go, and the result is that she helps lead the Commonwealth with him. In the end, she sentences her own son to life in prison for assassinating Rick in the series' penultimate issue.

On the TV show, though, Pamela's fate is a bit different. Though she still leads a hostile takeover of the Commonwealth, Daryl talks some sense into her as she surrenders, allowing those she exiled back into the city. Like her son in the comic book, Pamela finishes out "The Walking Dead" by serving a life sentence for her crimes. Carol reassures her that they'll figure out a better way of doing things someday, which won't require them to compromise their integrity.

Between Maggie's nigh-assassination attempt and Carol's strong desire to see her hang, Pamela's survival on the show is fairly surprising. But, as Carol reminds her, everyone on "The Walking Dead" has done something awful or sketchy at some point. Maybe that's enough for the one-time dictator to reflect on as she rots in her cell for the rest of her days.

Carol Peletier

Of all the break-out characters on "The Walking Dead," none of them undergo a transformation more surprising than that of Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride). Entirely unlike her comic book counterpart, she grows into a warrior and leader. Ultimately, Carol becomes one of the most important characters in the entire "Walking Dead" timeline

After losing her daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz) in Season 2, Carol forms a bond with Daryl Dixon, who teaches her how to fight, shoot, and protect herself against the hordes of walkers all around them. Carol's journey on the series is pretty fascinating and often dark: She deals with the trauma of her actions in a number of complex ways, occasionally nearing death in the process. But Carol is able to overcome her internal struggles, and takes up various leadership positions throughout the post-apocalyptic world, including in the Kingdom and Alexandria. Though her closest friend and companion, Daryl, leaves in the series finale to search for Rick and Michonne, Carol opts not to continue on with him. Instead, she chooses to stay and look after the Grimes children while they await his return.

Contrary to the television series, the comic book version of Carol — who's a lot more self-centered and miserable — dies mere months into the new apocalyptic reality. Her daughter Sophia carries on in her stead and eventually grows up to marry Carl Grimes. No doubt, the AMC version of Carol is a more dynamic figure, who also plays a much more important and interesting role in the world of "The Walking Dead."

Negan Smith

No "Walking Dead" antagonist is more hated or adored than Negan, leader of the Saviors. Negan is possibly best known for murdering Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Abraham in cold blood. This makes a very bloody statement to Rick's band of survivors, and establishes Negan's dominance over other groups and his capacity for violence.

Over the years, Rick's group fights Negan's forces, ultimately ending with the latter leader's imprisonment. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Whisperers prompts a reluctant alliance between Negan and Rick's allies. From that point on, Negan becomes something of an anti-hero, often teaming up with Glenn's widow Maggie, with whom he shares an uneasy bond. Though she can't forgive him — he did kill her husband before her horrified eyes — she thanks him for helping save her and Glenn's son.

In the comics, Negan's story concludes with a similar fate: He helps the survivors win the Whisperer War before moving on, exiled to a lone outpost where he lives out the rest of his days. Though this is similar to how his television story ends, it seems a bit odd that Negan makes it out  alive. Though, now that "The Walking Dead: Dead City" has been announced, it's obvious that his adventures aren't quite over.

Judith Grimes

Besides Carol, there is perhaps no "Walking Dead" character whose survival is more unprecedented than Judith Grimes. Born in the Season 3 episode "Killer Within," Judith is the biological daughter of Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), whom Rick and Michonne adopt as their own. Though Rick won't admit out loud that Judith isn't his biological kid for several years, his middle child — named by her brother Carl (Chandler Riggs) — somehow outlives him.

Judith's fate in the comics is a bit darker. During the raid on the prison by the Governor, Lori and baby Judith are gunned down, and Lori's corpse crushes her child. Needless to say, we're very thankful that the show went a different route with Judith. She's raised alongside her older brother Carl and learns to be a true leader and survivor from her adoptive parents.  Eventually, Judith and her younger brother, R.J. Grimes, Jr. (Antony Azor), take over Carl's comic book role as stand-ins for the future of humanity. R.J. even begins to wear Carl's old hat, which he gives to Judith before his untimely demise. Needless to say, Judith outliving Carl and outlasting Rick isn't something anyone saw coming.

Rick Grimes

When Andrew Lincoln left "The Walking Dead" near the start of Season 9, fans weren't sure if they'd ever see Rick Grimes again — at least on the flagship series. All that changed when the series finale, "Rest In Peace," hit the airwaves. This installment flashes to Rick after he escapes a Civic Republic Military zone. Though Rick is quickly reacquired by the CRM, he takes the time to reflect on his adventures in this post-apocalyptic hellscape while writing his wife, Michonne, a letter, which she might use to rescue him from his captors on some fateful day in the future.

What makes Rick's survival so surprising is that he hadn't been heard from in years by this point — almost a decade, in fact. Beyond that, Rick Grimes is murdered in the penultimate issue of the original comic book series. After helping save the Commonwealth and beginning to reform human society, Rick is shot and killed by Sebastian Milton. In the final issue of the series, Rick is remembered as a hero, and his story becomes vital towards the rebuilding of civilization.

With everything that Rick goes through over the course of the series, it's honestly a miracle that he makes to the end. But, with a Rick and Michonne-centered spin-off on the way, it's only sensible that he survives. Rick Grimes lives on, and that gives us hope for the future.