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The Walking Dead Characters Who Mean More Than You Realized

Rick, Michonne, Daryl, T-Dog, and...well, let's be honest. If we wanted to make a list of all the vitally important folks on The Walking Dead, we'd be here for a long, long time. The AMC drama has introduced fans to dozens of major characters, some of whom are still with us, and many of whom were lost along the way. But for every fan-favorite character whose significance to the show is obvious, there are plenty who fly (or flew) under the radar and never got the attention they deserved.


Nobody would argue now that Carol Peletier is an important character. After all, she's one of the longest-standing members of the original Grimes gang, having outlived her entire family to become a cherished friend, pragmatic leader, and wildly effective zombie-slayer. But Carol's hidden significance is not in how she's survived her confrontations with the show's undead antagonists, but with its production team. In fact, she was never supposed to make it even half this far. Her character was originally slated to die back in season three, only to get a stay of execution from the showrunners at the last minute. The thing that changed their minds? It was actress Melissa McBride, whose successful plea for her character's life makes her the one and only Walking Dead cast member to emerge unscathed from a battle with the deadly and formidable Glen Mazzara.

Michonne's "pet" zombies

The armless, jawless walkers who Michonne used for camouflage amid the zombie hordes weren't just a neat (i.e. disgusting) bit of visual flair. They were also important characters in and of themselves, a fact that was easy to miss unless you were paying close attention at a couple of key, fleeting moments in season four. Before they turned, her two pet zombies were a pair of bros named Mike and Terry. Mike was the father of Michonne's son, Andre, and the two guys were supposed to be watching little Andre on the day their camp was overrun by zombies, only whoops, they were too stoned to do so.

Michonne was vague about what exactly became of her little boy (he's evidently not around anymore, so you can bet it wasn't good), but Mike and Terry's fate was crystal clear, and a pivotal part of Michonne's backstory. When did she go from being a mom and art enthusiast to a katana-wielding, cold-blooded badass? Probably around the time she lopped off her boyfriend's extremities, put a chain around his neck, and turned him into the useful protector he couldn't manage to be while alive.


We barely got to know Otis, the big-hearted, big-boned farmhand who led Rick and his family back to Hershel's farm after accidentally putting a bullet in Carl's gut back in season two. He died shortly thereafter when Shane shot him in the leg and left him to be devoured by zombies. But despite being onscreen for just a few fleeting minutes, Otis was kind of a big deal.

For one, his brutal death served to illustrate just what a psychotic, mercenary SOB Shane had become in his quest to keep playing house with Lori and Carl. (And it also left no doubt that a deadly confrontation with Rick was coming down the pike.) But more importantly, Otis was key to one of the most devastating and infuriating plotlines in the entire history of The Walking Dead: the endless, fruitless, and ultimately tragic hunt for poor little Sophia Peletier. As writer Robert Kirkman explained, it was Otis who was responsible for wrangling walkers into the Greene family's barn. In other words, if he'd lived, he would've brought the search for Sophia to an abrupt and immediate close with the news that she was already dead (or, you know, undead). So, however you feel about the season-long saga of Sophia and its horrifying conclusion, you can thank Otis for being the linchpin of the whole sordid affair.


Despite being part of the core cast on The Walking Dead for several years, Beth flew way under the radar for most of her time on the show—to the point where she literally disappeared for half a season and nobody, not even her own sister, seemed especially concerned. But don't let that lead you to believe that Beth was unimportant. In fact, she had one of the most dramatic character arcs of anyone in the Grimes gang, transforming over the course of three seasons from a blubbering and weak-willed teenage girl into a fierce survivor who still loved life and sang songs, despite it being the end of the world and all.

Also, let's not forget that of all the folks to make it through the zombie apocalypse, Beth remains the only one who was ever baller enough to set a stack of hundred-dollar bills on fire and use it to burn a freaking house down. Want to know how vital Beth was to the world of The Walking Dead? Try to picture the show without that epic montage of destruction set to a Mountain Goats soundtrack...and then realize that you don't want to, because the mere idea is too depressing to contemplate.


You might not remember Alisha by name, but you'll probably recognize her as the start of one of the most irritating trends on The Walking Dead: the one where Tara, the sole lesbian member of the Grimes gang, just can't catch a break on the romantic front. Every time poor Tara finds a girlfriend (which is no easy feat in a world where 90 percent of the already-minority population of lesbians has been decimated by a zombie plague), that girlfriend is guaranteed to be a goner in no less than ten episodes. And sadly, Alisha was the first to go. Not that she was a great person (actually, she was part of the Governor's gang of ghouls, and we're kind of glad she's dead), but she was the first to teach Tara the all-important and awful lesson that every woman she ever loves will die before they can celebrate a single anniversary.

Father Gabriel

For a guy whose spiritual breakdown and subsequent shenanigans nearly cost the entire Alexandria community their lives, Gabriel has gotten surprisingly little attention from the show's writers lately. And yet, while the rest of the planet was stressing themselves silly over who got beaten to death with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat in the season six finale, Father G was quietly becoming a force in the world of The Walking Dead. Not only was he the mastermind behind the frankly brilliant plan to hide Maggie's existence from the evil Saviors, he's the only person ever to legitimately terrify Negan (and you can expect him to be integral to the upcoming war on the season seven villain and his goons). And don't forget Gabriel's metaphorical significance in comparison to the show's main character. Rick is a man of the law who continues to struggle with what that means in a world gone mad, whereas Gabriel is a man of the cloth who went through a similar identity crisis and found new strength and purpose on the other side.


Nobody is going to miss poor Spencer, the guy who made a play for power behind Rick's back and ended up with a bird's-eye view of his own intestines for his troubles. (Turns out, the only thing Negan hates more than disloyalty in his own ranks is a traitor in someone else's.) But that's what makes him important and his death meaningful. There's nobody left to miss Spencer because he was the last surviving member of the Alexandria Safe-Zone's founding family, who all started dropping like flies shortly after Rick and his friends strolled through the gates. Of course, Rick would dispute that characterization. He's not a villain! That's everyone else! But the fate of the Monroe family, and of Spencer in particular—whose fate was the direct result of questioning Rick's leadership—says some pretty devastating things about what kind of hero Walking Dead fans have been rooting for all this time.


Olivia, we hardly knew you, and now we never will, thanks to a punishing shot by one of Negan's goons during the mid-season finale. But while Alexandria's resident record-keeper and pantry custodian might not have seemed like a major player on The Walking Dead before her death, prepare to be stunned by how vitally important she really was. Not only was she Rick's most trusted babysitter for Judith (do you know how hard it is to find a qualified, non-flesh-eating nanny in the zombie apocalypse?), but she's the only one in all of Alexandria who knew exactly where everything was. Just wait and see what kind of chaos ensues when nobody can find the powdered lemonade, y'all. Just. You. Wait.