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  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • Dr. Jenner, who despite not really establishing an emotional connection to the cast, his death signals that there really is no more hope for aid from whatever may remain of the old government. Once the CDC explodes, the group is forced to venture off into the unknown.
    • Dale is the first major character to die in the series, and he dies just before the show takes on an ever darker turn in the third season. He's followed by Shane, whose death signifies the beginning of the Ricktatorship and the end of the cliques that had been employed during the second season. From there on, the group becomes far more cohesive and tight-knit, and fully dependent on Rick. It is also here that Daryl becomes Rick's new Lancer, signaling a big moment for his Character Development.
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    • Lori and to a lesser extent T-Dog's deaths herald the beginning of Rick's Sanity Slippage that he struggles with during the remainder of the third season.
    • Merle's death signals Daryl fully embracing the prison group as his family. It also happened near the end of Michonne's Character Development.
    • Andrea's death affected a lot of people. It fully causes Rick to reflect on his humanity, it officially cemented Michonne's attachment to the group and it causes the Woodbury residents to see what kind of person The Governor really is and defect to the prison group.
    • Hershel's brutal execution at the hands of the Governor comes at the mid-point of Rick's Character Development as he realizes that you can come back from the things you do to survive. Hershel dies smiling, knowing Rick will be okay even without him around. It also signals that the Governor is past redemption, and was also identified as his Moral Event Horizon by Word of God, which ensured his death in the same episode.
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    • Joe's death is the culmination of Rick's Character Development throughout the entire series - he finally embraces both his humanity and brutality, turning him into a much more effective leader and father.
    • In a much lesser example, Bob is the first casualty of Rick's group in the fifth season. His death also marked the beginning of Sasha's Character Development and began to explore how Tyreese and Sasha were dealing with it.
    • Beth's death showed that even the most innocent of characters who have gone through major development can be killed. Her death also marks another segment of development underway for Maggie and Daryl—both of whom were visibly traumatized by it.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: A recurring theme in the show as well as the comic it's based on, having happened twice in the first season alone.
  • Sanity Slippage:
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    • Jim begins digging at the top of the mountain until Shane takes him down and ties him to a tree. He can only say that he had a dream (possibly brought on by the guilt of knowing that he only survived because the zombies were eating his family) he couldn't remember.
    • Shane is obviously unhappy with the way things are going once Rick gets back into camp. His sanity doesn't start slipping, however, until he kills Otis. He finally loses it when Lori thanks him for saving her and Carl during the initial outbreak.
    • Dr. Jenner apparently didn't cope well with shooting his patient (who was also his wife) and then was cooped up with only an AI for company for two months. The straw that broke the camel's mind, however, was emergency procedures destroying his last active zombie-virus sample. He was nuts, but focused until that point. Afterwards, he was just nuts.
    • T-Dog shows signs of this as well during the fever caused by a "regular" bacterial infection.
    • Michonne discovers the Governor is showing signs of it in "Say the Word". She pulls out a book that has various notes written by him, ending with a list of deceased people (and the name "Penny" underlined at the bottom) followed by pages full of counted days since that death.
    • Rick shows signs of it early in the third season. After Lori dies, he imagines that Amy, Jim, Jacqui, and finally Lori are calling him on a rotary phone in one of the prison wings. In "Made to Suffer", when the group is escaping Woodbury, Rick imagines that Shane is walking out of the smoke and shooting (which leads to Oscar being killed). He shoots and kills "Shane", only to discover that it was one of the Woodbury attackers.
    • Lizzie was always rather unhinged, but in the second half of Season 4 she's firmly in the deep end after she nearly suffocates Judith, and then starts treating walkers as though they were perfectly healthy people. Then we get to the episode "The Grove"... first she completely loses it when Carol kills a walker she was playing with, then seriously considers letting another one bite her so she can join them. Then things really get nuts when she murders her sister Mika to get her to reanimate as a new playmate, and was about to do the same to Judith when Carol and Tyreese stopped her. Carol is forced to put her down the next day, knowing her psychosis is way too far gone for her to be left alive. She even thought that Carol was most upset at her for pointing a gun at her when confronted, completely missing that she just killed her own sister.
  • Scenery Porn: A brief moment in the fourth episode of the second season, as Hershel and Rick look out over the Georgia countryside, off toward the mountains.
    Hershel: Rick, take a look. That's something, isn't it? It's good to pause for an occasional reminder.
    Rick: Of what?
    Hershel: Whatever comes to mind. For me, it's often God.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: What happens to Andrea when the undead Milton attacks her as she's freeing herself (seen from behind a door) in "Welcome to the Tombs". Rick and the others find out later that she killed Milton, but was bitten in the process.
  • Screaming Woman: There's usually at least one instance of this in every season. In the first, it's Amy (and Andrea soon after), in the second, Lori (while trapped in a car as a walker tries to break in), and in the third, Carol (when T-Dog is bitten).
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Any locked room or house full of zombies, such as the hospital room in the pilot. More importantly though, Hershel is keeping a bunch of active zombies locked up in his barn in the second season.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere:
    • Merle, with a rooftop instead of a room.
    • Dr. Jenner, though this time by "choice".
  • Second Episode Introduction:
    • Played straight by Andrea, Glenn, T-Dog, Merle, Morales, and Jacqui, who are all introduced in "Guts", the second episode of the first season.
    • Hershel, Maggie, Beth, Otis, Patricia, and Jimmy are introduced in "Bloodletting", the second episode of the second season.
    • Fr. Gabriel Stokes and the remaining Hunters, Theresa, Greg, and Mike, are introduced in "Strangers", the second episode of the fifth season.
  • Secret Keeper: Glenn, but his conscience makes him a terrible one, which causes some friction.
  • Serious Business: The system of government that the Marauders operate on for dividing up resources is basically a glorified "I called it" system, but its one that they take very seriously, delivering vicious beatings to anyone who doesn't fall into line with it.
  • Sex Slave: In the Cold Storage webseries, Kelly (a female employee at the storage facility) was forced into this role by B.J. after he murdered the other employees, and is eventually rescued by Chase.
  • Shameful Strip: Maggie is forced to take off her shirt and bra during the Governor's interrogation in "When The Dead Come Knocking, but the latter doesn't do anything else once he realizes she won't break.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Occurs when Rick fires his gun inside the confines of a tank, after he finds out he doesn't have Steel Eardrums.
  • Sherlock Scan:
    • Daryl instantly realizes that Shane killed Otis, because he came back with his gun in addition to his own. He sits on this for nearly all of Season 2 before admitting it to Dale in "Judge, Jury, and Executioner".
    • Daryl does this again in "Better Angels" when he discovers that Shane wasn't telling the truth when he said he was knocked out by Randall after finding matching footprints side-by-side, the discarded blindfold and blood on a tree (from when Shane broke his own nose to make it look like an accident). He also quickly deduces that Randall died of a broken neck.
  • Ship Tease: Carol and Daryl.
    • As of Season 4, however, the Carol/Daryl ship seems to have taken something of a backseat, with Bob/Sasha, Daryl/Beth and arguably Rick/Michonne the main pairings being teased.
  • Shoot the Dog: Happens several times, usually to highlight the severity or circumstances of the character's/group's situation.
    • The opening scene has Rick, while searching for gas, come upon a young female walker, who he is forced to shoot once she makes a run for him. Rick looks visibly shaken immediately afterwards.
    • Shane offers this to Jim just before they leave him by the roadside in "Wildfire". Daryl was also determined to do this, but just let him die on his own terms at Jim's request.
    • In "Pretty Much Dead Already", Rick steps up and shoots the undead Sophia because everyone else is too shocked to raise their weapons (even Shane, who was rather pointedly suggesting the group give up the search for Sophia, and also gung-ho just a couple minutes earlier about massacring the walkers in the barn until he saw one of the group's own had died).
    • Rick takes responsibility for the execution of Randall, but ultimately backs down.
    • Dale at the end of "Judge, Jury, and Executioner" after a walker rips his stomach open and infects him. Either way, Hershel says there's no hope for a wound that serious. Daryl shoots him so Rick doesn't have to.
    • Carl ends up shooting Lori, after she dies during her C-section early in Season 3.
    • In the Season 3 finale, Carl shoots one of The Governor's soldiers in the head even after he surrendered. When Rick questions him about it, he merely tells him that he did what he had to do. Since the soldier was quite young and it was never confirmed if he was truly evil or not, one could argue that it was a Kick the Dog moment.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • After searching for nearly half a season, hoping against hope that she's still alive, the group finally locates Sophia ... as she walks out of Hershel's barn. She had been zombified sometime after Rick left her in her hiding place.
    • After "Four Walls and a Roof," the rest of the first half of Season 5 revolved around two major subplots: trying to head to Washington D.C. to solve the zombie outbreak, and rescuing Beth from her captors. In the end, Eugene confesses that he lied the whole time, forcing Glenn, Maggie, Rosita, Abraham, and Eugene to return to the church, and immediately after the group does rescue Beth, she's killed by Dawn in a failed attempt to kill her.
  • Shovel Strike:
    • Rick gets one to the face when Duane mistakes him for a zombie.
    • Later, Rick lays open a zombie's face with a military entrenching tool.
    • And again by Shane when dispatching a group of walkers on the farm.
  • Shower Scene: Comes in two varieties in the Season 1 finale. Rick and Lori share a Shower of Love while Andrea and Shane had a Shower of Angst, the former over her sister, while the latter over the aforementioned couple. Shane has another one early in Season 2 over shooting and abandoning Otis to be eaten.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: In the first half of Season 3, with Arc # 1 taking place at the prison and Arc #2 at Woodbury.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Shane to Andrea, when teaching her how to shoot moving targets. When they're surrounded by Walkers, and Shane's doing all the legwork in keeping them at bay, Andrea can't land a single headshot. When one Walker gets close to her, Shane aims at it, then lowers his weapon to force her to defend herself. Her initial response is an angry and incredulous, "Seriously?!"
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: Deliberately employed by the Governor when tracking down Andrea in an abandoned warehouse, using the shovel he was carrying at the time.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Rick, courtesy of a coma due to being wounded in the line of duty.
  • Soft Glass: Averted in "TS-19" when the group tries to break open the glass windows of the CDC. They spend about a minute trying to break it until they use a grenade to blow it up.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Although some characters have had series deaths differing from those of their comic counterparts, as of the fifth season, Carol, Tyreese, and Judith have passed the point in the comic's timeline where they died. Carol's husband Ed and Lily's daughter Meghan were both Posthumous Characters at the start of the comics, but was alive in a few episodes of the series, later becoming early casualties after their appearances.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Her name is Mika, but that doesn't stop fans and subtitlers alike from calling her Mica, Myka, Micah...
  • Spoiler Opening:
    • "Walk with Me" has a "Previously On…" segment at the beginning of the episode. Remember that character you haven't seen since the third episode? His actor is added to the title sequence. No, he won't be showing up now.
    • In "Clear", the "Previously On…" segment pretty much gives away the return of a Season 1 character.
  • Spotting the Thread: Daryl figures out that it isn't really his brother Merle talking to him because he still has both his hands.
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: For creatures that supposedly don't have the brains to sneak around, walkers seem remarkably good at slipping up behind people or eluding the notice of sentries until they're dangerously-close.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted when Rick fires his gun inside a tank. Played straight almost any other time. A particularly bad example happens in "Us", where multiple rounds are fired off in a concrete tunnel that likely would have left everyone deaf for at least a short period.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Woodbury appears to be a type of this. It initially looks like a pleasant enough place inside the walls that protect it from the rest of the Zombie Apocalypse, but then the viewer is given views behind the facade, including a leader that has aquariums with severed zombie heads, prevents anyone from permanently leaving the town, and has no problem with slaughtering any group that could threaten his city, and thus, his power.
  • Swipe Your Bladeoff: Michonne's method of cleaning her katana. She is first seen doing it in "Beside The Dying Fire", and continues to do so in almost every fight with walkers afterwards.
  • Sword and Gun: Merle, who appears in the third season wielding a gun in one hand and, for his other arm (sans hand), a bayonet attachment.
  • Sword Drag: The Governor does this with a shovel in "Prey", while he's hunting Andrea through a dark, empty building. Serves to demonstrate that while his quarry is desperately trying to avoid making any sound, he's not afraid to give away exactly where he is (partly because he also has a gun).

  • The Talk: When Carl discovers his mother is pregnant, they discuss it a little and it suddenly occurs to her that she and Rick never had an opportunity to give him this.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Anyone familiar with tank warfare might spot that the tanks are the wrong nationality — British Chieftains in Atlanta? Perhaps somebody stole it from a war museum or something.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: In the Talking Dead episode following the fourth season finale, Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes' actor) is a guest, and discusses the scene with the Claimers where he rips out the leader's throat with his teeth. When setting up the scene, he's asked by the effects team which kind of meat he'd like for spitting out to simulate the flesh ripped out of the leader's throat, beef or chicken, and going with reasoning of this trope he says chicken. He mentions this was a poor decision on his part, given the specifics of the scene.
  • Team Dad: Rick is the leader and authoritarian of the group, while Dale is the more nurturing example.
  • The Teaser: Each episode opens with one of these. It's usually either a flashback to past events or a moment In Medias Res, with the rest of the episode depicting How We Got Here.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Rick's reassurance to the horse that the zombies are few and slow and they can flee them easily. Cue Oh, Crap! moment.
    • Also Rick's reassurance to Glenn involving Maggie. "It's not like she's going anywhere." Somebody should tell him that you never say that sort of thing in this sort of genre.
    • When Glenn sees Hershel walking in the courtyard with crutches in "Killer Within", he says, "Can't we just have one good day?" A few seconds later, walkers come pouring into the courtyard, forcing everyone in the immediate vicinity to run for it.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: The unlucky rat that gets fed to a walker early in Season 4 doesn't struggle or resist being carried, even when held by its tail (which hurts). Any actual wild rat would be squirming and biting like mad to escape a human's grasp, even before it smelled a walker nearby.
  • That Came Out Wrong:
    • Lori says this word-for-word after saying that she'd rather eat Miss Piggy than frog legs.
    • Rick has one of these when he tells Shane that he wouldn't understand his plan to go to CDC because Lori and Carl aren't his family, when it was Shane that took care of them while he was gone.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Rick on Dan in his Papa Wolf moment. First, he calmly cut him open from groin to sternum and then proceeded to stab him numerous times without haste. And stab him more. And some more. Dan was probably dead after first or second strike.
  • Thicker Than Water: Merle and Daryl Dixon, especially Daryl's attitude towards Merle.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Averted most of the time. However, there are some exceptions:
    • Merle's rifle and handgun don't appear after the episode "Guts".
    • The revolver Carl learned to shoot in "Secrets" is never seen again.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Oscar throws a barrel at Andrew to stop his attack on Rick in "Killer Within".
  • Time Skip:
    • The first third season episode "Seed" takes place seven months after the ending of "Beside The Dying Fire", during which time the various characters have changed physically and psychologically (Carl has grown longer hair and much more capable in combat, and Hershel has grown a beard, among others). The episode also conveniently glosses over how they managed to make it through the winter with no secure shelter, no food except what they could scavenge, and nothing but the thin and light clothes on their backs.
    • According to Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple on Talking Dead, there was "six or seven months" between the end of Season 3 and the start of Season 4.
  • Title Drop: Expect the episode names to be uttered by any of the characters within the episode. The series title is dropped by Rick after the group is driven from the farm, and he reveals they're all infected.
  • Token Evil Teammate:
    • Shane in the second half of Season 2, due to his resentment of Rick and being phased out by Lori.
    • Merle Dixon, when he's with his brother Daryl's group.
  • Token Minority: The cast seems to have a quota of one black male on the heroes' team at any one time; no more, no less. T-Dog is killed in "Killer Within", the same episode where Oscar officially joins the group. Oscar is then shot and killed in "Made to Suffer", the same episode where Tyreese is introduced.
    • Averted in Season 5, where there's a total of five black characters at a time: Michonne, Tyreese, Sasha, Bob, and Father Gabriel. After Bob dies, Noah becomes a part of the group. Morgan is also still out there, though he has yet to join up.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Even when you're having a feast, always watch the perimeter. Taking active measures to prepare a defensible area instead of acting like it's just another camping trip in a normal world, where the biggest concern is a wild animal wandering into camp or some drunken idiot crashing the party, is a good idea, too.
    • In a flashback soldiers are too busy executing hospital staff to watch the doors behind them.
    • Andrew in the Webisodes: walking alone, without a flashlight, into a dark basement, during a Zombie Apocalypse. The crunch followed by the scream was no surprise.
    • Randall jumps off a high wall without properly looking at what's below, and gets his leg impaled on a spiked fence. He would have bled out or become zombie food if Rick didn't decide to help him.
    • Andrea had a fantastic opportunity to steal or disable the Governor's truck, but blew it off in favor of escaping on foot.
    • Meghan, the Governor's adopted daughter is hit hard by this. Despite nearly being killed by Walkers twice over, she's no more attentive than she is if she was watching TV before the apocalypse. Due to this, she plays in the dirt, accidentally un-buries a walker, and is bitten and infected.
    • Rick, Carl, and Michonne come across a man screaming for help in an open field. Despite a clear path in one direction (which also happens to be towards them, though they never make their presence known), he just stands there ineffectually swinging it at the zombies that devour him.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Andrea, in "Chupacabra"/"Secrets". At the end of "Chupacabra", she successfully lands a headshot on Daryl with a hunting rifle at with barely any practice or training. The next episode, she proves to be just as much a natural with a pistol.
    • In "Seed", the entire group has become a much more cohesive unit than the previous time they were seen (seven months earlier, in "Beside The Dying Fire"). The rest of the group (Carl, Beth, and Carol) have learned how to shoot well and conserve their ammo, they're able to clear houses without any form of verbal communication, everyone is able to stab walkers in the head without freaking out, and they've learned how to clear infested areas while moving in a distinct offensive setup.
    • "When the Dead Come Knocking" offers some great perspective on the levels in badass taken by the group; Merle had ruled out the prison as an area that could be salvaged. The news that just ten survivors could have cleared out and secured the area comes as an unwelcome shock to both himself and The Governor.
    • Carl in the third season. He's become much more capable with a handgun (that's equipped with a silencer), and often goes on tasks by himself, even when others chew him out for it. In "Sick", he goes to the medical wing of the prison and singlehandedly kills two walkers to get supplies for Hershel, and in "Made to Suffer", he goes by himself to investigate the screaming, and helps Tyreese and his group get back to the safety of the secured cellblock. Tyreese even addresses Carl as "the man" when the latter locks the former's group in for their own protection.
    • In the first half of the fourth season, Lizzie quickly learns how to handle weapons, and not just against walkers.
    • Beth takes a level in Season 4's "Too Far Gone", opening fire on the Governor's forces following Hershel's execution and taking an active part in the ensuing battle.
    • Carol, also, sometime during their stay at the prison. This is especially evident during the Season 5 premiere.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Shane in the latter half of Season 2.
    • Rick himself in the Season 2 finale, after killing Shane. He gets over it at the end of Season 3.
    • Carl in Season 3, to the point of possibly prematurely growing to a teenager's mindset. He gets over it for the most part in Season 5.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Daryl Dixon's positive Character Development serves as a counterpoint to everyone else's descent into cynicism.
  • Too Much Information: In Season 5's "Self Help", Abraham and Glenn have a moment, where Abraham praises Glenn for staying with him and staying true to his word that he would help him get Eugene to Washington, D.C. Abraham then ends the conversation by declaring he's going to get himself some ass. Glenn says, to the awkward silence, "More than I really needed to know, but okay."
  • Trailers Always Lie: Season 5's trailer set it up to look like Abraham was addressing the group as well as Gareth in his plan to go to Washington; it also made it look as if the group would be forced to join up with Gareth's. In reality, Abraham was only addressing the group and Gareth dies in only the third episode after trying to attack the group.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The trailers showed both the wasteland of Atlanta with radio transmissions warning people away and shots of Rick getting shot down by gunmen. The truth about Atlanta was only revealed about halfway through.
    • Double subverted — Rick getting shot actually happened twice. The first time it hit his jacket and the second time it puts him into a coma. Viewers who thought they'd been spoiled by the trailers or the comic actually had their expectations blown away, along with bits of Rick's shoulder and lung.
    • The Season 4 episode "Dead Weight" ended with a cliffhanger of the Governor standing in the woods, un-spotted by any of the prison group, pointing a gun at Michonne. The immediately following On the Next segment ruined this by showing Michonne alive during the prison battle.
  • Trash the Set: A recurring element of the series.
    • In "TS-19", the Center for Disease Control and Prevention self-destructs via a thermobaric incendiary explosion as the group flees.
    • Played with in "Beside The Dying Fire". The Greene family barn (and, by extension, Dale's RV) are destroyed, but the Greene homestead remains untouched.
    • In "Live Bait", the Governor returns to the now abandoned and walker-infested Woodbury and burns it down.
    • In "Too Far Gone", much of the prison is destroyed during the Governor's second assault, mostly thanks to the tank he brings to the fight.
  • True Companions: The survivor group eventually comes to regard each other as this, something which is repeatedly lampshaded throughout Season 3 especially.
    Glenn: My blood, my family is standing right here.

  • Undead Child:
    • The Teaser of the very first episode, "Days Gone Bye", has Rick encountering (and dispatching) a little girl-turned-walker.
    • Later on, this becomes Sophia's fate.
    • The Governor's undead daughter, Penny, in the opening scene of "Say the Word". He keeps her in a broom closet when he's not brushing her hair.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • In "Nebraska" and "Triggerfinger", the "Philadelphia boys" (on two separate occasions) believe that Rick, Glenn, and Hershel will roll over and give them what they want. In the first case, it was two guys who underestimated the sheriff with plenty of experience in headshots (and put their weapons down), and in the second, Hershel proves to be a capable shot as well.
    • In "Better Angels", Shane takes Rick out onto a moonlit field in order to kill him because he believes that he is too soft and cannot protect his family. Rick keeps insisting that he won't defend himself and that all will be forgiven if they can both put their weapons down. However, he's just using the conciliatory talk as a ruse to get in close and put his knife to good use, saying he'll protect his family at all costs.
    • In "Sick", Tomas nearly kills Rick by throwing a zombie on top of him. There is a tense standoff afterward, and he clearly didn't expect the other to try anything; he gets a machete to the head for it.
    • When Joe and his gang catch up with Rick, Carl, and Michonne, Joe holds Rick at gunpoint and tells him his plan is to beat Daryl to death, rape Carl and Michonne, and shoot Rick last. Joe took the backwards groin headbutt in stride, but nobody expected Rick to counter the subsequent bear-hug by ripping Joe's throat open with his teeth. This distracts the rest of Joe's gang enough for Michonne to gun down some of them, Daryl to curbstomp another, and Rick to gut the would-be rapist with a hunting knife.
    • This goes as far as being invoked in-universe by Rick in fourth season finale, when his group is locked up by Terminus inhabitants. Then plays through when Carol burns the place down and Rick and the rest of the group slaughter their way free.
    • In "Four Walls and A Roof," Gareth and the Hunters wait for Rick to take most of his fighters away from the church they're holed up in before going in, confident that them leaving a dying Bob for them to find has rattled them past the point of effectiveness. Then it turns out, Rick and the others doubled back immediately, and slaughter Gareth and the others easily.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: A smaller example. We know that the dead walking again caused the end, but why it started happening is never really discussed. Word of God has even said that he has no plans to explore the reasons either.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In "Four Walls and a Roof," Rick goes over the plan to go after Gareth and the Hunters on screen, only for Gareth et al to wait for them to leave before storming the church Rick's group had holed up in. The plan the audience didn't hear was for Rick to have his group double back and ambush Gareth in the church.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Opting out," which refers to committing suicide.

  • Villainous Breakdown: The Governor suffers one after Penny's death, locking himself inside his house and ignoring what's going on Woodbury. He does it again after arriving at Martinez's camp, and failing to escape when he sees things are about to go bad.
  • Villain Decay: Taken quite literally. The zombies in the first couple of episodes were much faster, with some even being able to quickly jog after Rick. However, towards later seasons many zombies have decayed and are much slower. This is intentional on the writers' part, and the zombies are still of course dangerous as they keep their main advantages: numbers and requiring brain damage.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Governor, to the people of Woodbury until his gunning down the Woodbury militia in "Welcome to the Tombs" is revealed by the survivor who just barely avoided being killed herself.
    • However, he manages it again after taking control of Martinez's group.
  • The Virus: They went so far as to indicate "it infects the brain like meningitis." Note that meningitis doesn't involve the brain, but the meninges (the membrane around the brain and spinal cord).
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Glenn, when he and Rick hack up a zombie body with an axe and paint themselves with the guts.
    • Jim after becoming infected.
    • Fr. Gabriel Stokes after being rescued by Rick and co.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Andrea in the second season, courtesy of Daryl seeking payback for her laughing over a mishap he had as a child.
    • Lori throwing up her morning after pills.
    • Andrea again in "Walk with Me", just after she and Michonne discover the crashed Army helicopter.
    • Carl in "After", shortly after he kills three walkers by himself.
    • Fr. Gabriel Stokes in "Strangers" after being rescued by Rick's group.

  • Watching Troy Burn:
    • Hershel and Daryl manage to get a long last look at the overrun farmstead and burning barn in "Beside The Dying Fire".
    • Averted in "Too Far Gone" when Rick tells Carl not to look back as they flee the burning prison.
    • Rick and co. burning Terminus to the ground is what sets Gareth and its survivors to get revenge on them.
  • We Used to Be Friends: The friendship between Rick and Shane is tense since the outbreak. Shane having slept with Rick's wife in his absence doesn't help.
  • Weapon of Choice: Rick's Colt Python and machete, Daryl's crossbows, Michonne's katana, T-Dog's riot shield and short spear, Tyreese's hammer. Most of the other characters are more pragmatic, and use generic pistols, knives and rifles.
  • Weird West: Beginning with homages to the genre in Season 1, to incorporating Western themes and stories in the subsequent seasons.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Vatos": Abusive Ed and Amy are killed in a large zombie attack, and Jim is infected, forcing the group to abandon their camp and leave Jim to die.
    • "Pretty Much Dead Already": The barn zombies are massacred by the group, Shane rebels against Hershel's rules, and most shockingly Sophia turns out to be a zombie.
    • "Judge, Jury, Executioner": After Dale breaks down due to the group becoming uncivilized enough to execute Randall, he proceeds to get attacked by a walker. Even more wham due to the fact it's the same walker Carl tried to shoot in the swamp, but ended up freeing it instead.
    • "Better Angels": Shane completely loses it, kills Randall, and tries to kill Rick, who kills him in self-defense. Then he comes back as a walker and Carl has to shoot him. Oh, and the gunshot attracts a horde of walkers, which approaches the farm. Oh and it no longer seems to be just being scratched and bitten by a walker is all it takes to turn you into one. Randall became one despite his cause of death being nothing more than getting his neck broken.
    • "Beside The Dying Fire": The farm gets attacked by a horde, and all hell breaks loose. Jimmy dies saving Rick and Carl, Patricia dies while trying to run and everyone is forced to flee in separate directions, while leaving Andrea (who was presumed dead) behind. Andrea kills a ton of walkers before being saved at the last second by a mysterious hooded stranger (fan-favorite Michonne from the comic series), Glenn finally admits he loves Maggie, Rick reveals the truth about Jenner's whisper and Shane's death to the group, and it finally ends with a reveal of the prison.
    • "Killer Within": Andrew (the convict Rick left locked outside as a horde closed in on him) activates the prison's generator/alarm system, drawing in walkers from all around the area. The group is separated. Oscar shoots Andrew to save Rick. T-Dog gets bit by a walker, then goes out in a Heroic Sacrifice to give Carol a chance to escape. Lori requires an emergency C-section (from Maggie), and dies as a result of the procedure; Carl shoots his mother to prevent her from coming back as a walker.
    • "Made to Suffer": A new group of people arrives at the prison, and the plan to sneak in to Woodbury to find Glenn and Maggie without trouble fails when a gunfight erupts between both sides. Oscar is killed in the ensuing chaos, and Daryl is captured while trying to buy time for the others to escape. The Governor finds out that Michonne is alive when she sneaks into his office, kills his infected daughter, and stabs him in the eye with a shard of broken glass. Merle's decision to lie to the Governor about Michonne's demise leads the Governor to brand Merle a traitor in the middle of an angry crowd of Woodbury citizens, using the captured Daryl as proof to connect Merle to the 'terrorist' group. Andrea, who chooses to stand against Michonne when they confront each other in the Governor's office, suddenly looks very unsure of where she stands when Daryl and Merle alike are thrown into the ring. The Governor declares war on Rick's group.
    • Season 4 starts off with a new virus was shown that passes off like the flu. And it just keeps getting heavier after the end of each episode.
      • "Infected": Most of the prison falling prey to this, including Tyreese's girlfriend Karen and those who were in the cell block where the virus started, including Glenn and others. And it ends with Tyreese finding Karen and another survivor murdered and brunt to a crisp.
      • "Isolation": Not only Tyreese losing his shit, those still being now inflected with the virus were isolated, including Hershel after being coughed upon and blood hitting his face. Rick also finds out that it was Carol whom had murdered Karen and the other survivor to protect the prison.
      • "Indifference": While Daryl and others look for medical supplies, Rick exiles Carol, on a supply trip with her, after knowing he couldn't have her in his group anymore in fear of what would happen if it was Judith and Carl who were suffering from it. Especially since Tyreese would probably murder her in revenge which will help nothing.
      • "Too Far Gone" (mid-season finale): The Governor attacks the Prison again with his new group (including a tank). By the time it's over there are tons of casualties including Hershel, the Governor, and most of the Governor's army are dead, the Prison is in ruins and overrun by Walkers, Judith may or may not be dead, and the prison group has been scattered.
    • Season 5 has "Self-Help", where Eugene reveals he's not a scientist.
    • Season 5 has "Coda", which ends with Beth being killed.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Better Angels":
    Rick: "So this is where you're planning to do it?"
    • From "Beside The Dying Fire":
    Rick: "We're all infected."
    • "Made to Suffer" had two in succession:
    The Governor: "There's a traitor among us. Merle, a man I trusted!"
    The Governor: "We also captured one of those terrorists, Merle's own brother!"
    • From "Isolation":
    Rick: "Did you kill Karen and David?"
    Carol: "Yes."
    • From "Too Far Gone":
    The Governor: "Liar."
    • From "Self Help":
  • Wham Shot:
    • The last walker coming out of Hershel's barn in "Pretty Much Dead Already".
    • Shane and Randall reanimating without getting bitten in "Better Angels".
    • The " Duane turned" graffiti from "Clear".
    • Andrea showing her bite wound in "Welcome to the Tombs".
    • Tyreese seeing the trail of spilled blood, leading to him seeing the bracelet of the burned corpse in "Infected".
    • The Governor appearing at the end of "Internment".
    • The Governor executing Hershel in "Too Far Gone".
    • Lizzie killing her sister Mika, as well as Carol telling her to look at the flowers in "The Grove".
    • Bob realizing that his left leg is gone in "Strangers".
    • Beth seeing Carol being "rescued" in "Slabtown".
    • Beth attacking Dawn, then the later immediately giving her a fatal counterattack in "Coda".
  • What Happened to Mommy?: A variation. Hershel's wife was infected and kept in the barn because he believed a cure would be found. His wife is eventually shot in the face by Daryl in "Pretty Much Dead Already", proving to him and his family (especially Beth, who tries to cradle the body and almost gets chowed on) that she couldn't have been saved anyway.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Morgan and his son are the first survivors Rick meets after he wakes up from his coma. They promise to follow Rick to Atlanta later, but when Rick finds that Atlanta has been overrun, he tries to warn Morgan over the radio. However, he is unsure if Morgan heard the warning and his fate is left unknown until Season 3's "Clear", where he's shown to have become batshit crazy.
    • The Morales family decides to split from Rick's group after they decide to go to the CDC, stating that they want to try and find some family members in Alabama. They are never seen or heard from again.
    • The Vatos. Their fate was supposed to be revealed in the Season 2 premiere, but wound up on the cutting room floor instead.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Hershel and his family believe that the Walkers are simply people afflicted with a disease that can be cured, which which is why he refrains from killing them. Rick's group find this belief absurd, since walkers are clearly dead and most have decomposed far beyond the capacity for any miracle cure. Ultimately the farm family comes around.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Lori chews out the rest the group for their lack of faith in Rick's leadership ability, telling them that if they really thought that, they were free to leave at any time.
    • In "Pretty Much Dead Already", Shane causes the slaughter of Hershel's undead family and friends by releasing them, forcing everyone to open fire while Hershel and his family can only watch. After Shane finally spells out Walkers are inhuman monsters that eat people, an undead Sophia stumbles out of the barn, giving everyone a perspective on what they've just done.
    • Daryl verbally lashing out at Carol in "Triggerfinger".
    • Andrea chews out Lori in "18 Miles Out" for not facing the facts that everything is a Crapsack World and not a World Half Full, which Lori believes there was still hope in their lives after the bad stuff that happens.
    • Subverted in the Season 2 finale "Beside The Dying Fire" when various members of Rick's group are visibly disgusted with him after he admits to killing Shane before the major zombie attack happened at Hershel's barn, and Carol outright states that Rick's no longer an honorable man. Rick basically tells them to fuck off, saying that his actions have burdened him, especially since the person he killed was his best friend, and that no one else is making any substantial decisions to lead the group.
    • In "This Sorrowful Life", Merle makes his opinion known to Rick after Rick asks him to deliver Michonne to The Governor in order to get him to call off the attack on the prison. He still agrees to do it, though. Though this is not so much an Even Evil Has Standards moment so much as just Merle being Merle and messing with Rick.
      Merle: (after speculating on what he thinks The Governor will do to her) You're willing to do all that for a shot? You're cold as ice, Officer Friendly.
    • Subverted with Maggie, after she learned Carol had been exiled by Rick for killing Karen. She doesn't chew out Rick but instead agrees with him over the choice he had to make.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: "Cherokee Rose", Lori's new pregnancy kicked this off, with Shane being the potential father of Judith.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Occasionally suggested, but only rarely. Beginning with the very first episode, and frequently repeated afterward, it's made clear that shooting one walker can (will) attract more. If you can't take them out silently, then you should run.
  • With This Ring: Glenn cuts two fingers off a walker, to get an engagement ring for Maggie.
  • Woman in White: Rick hallucinates seeing Lori after her death, dressed "in a floor-length white dress and with her Face Framed in Shadow. Given the Scavenger Punk nature of every other outfit we ever see, the effect is particularly striking.

  • Yandere: Shane.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens once an episode, with the most notorious one being the CDC event.
  • You Are Already Infected:
    • Rick reveals the big secret in which Dr. Jenner told him in the Season 1 finale to the others in the Season 2 finale. Everyone is infected and will turn into a walker regardless upon death...unless you die by headshot.
    • The Governor reveals this to Andrea and Michonne in "Walk With Me", as the duo were not with Rick when he told the same thing to his group.
  • You Didn't Ask: A variant with Hershel in the episode "Triggerfinger", in that the lateness of the revelation is pretty minor and inconsequential in this case. Given Hershel's attitude toward guns and killing, Rick had been assuming Hershel didn't know how to use guns and remarks that the gun training they'd been offering "would have come in handy" in their current predicament. Hershel then readies his gun and replies "I can shoot, just don't like to."
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • Merle tells the Governor that Michonne is dead in "Say the Word". Two episodes later, when she turns out to still be alive, and kills the Governor's walker daughter, the Governor has Merle arrested as a traitor who aided the "terrorist" attack on Woodbury".
    • Exaggerated Trope — after the Woodbury militia's assault on the prison turns into a rout, The Governor tears after the fleeing amateur "soldiers", runs their car off the road and guns down 20-odd people, then kills Allen when he pulls a gun on him. Even Martinez and Shumpert are horrified.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me: Glenn's given reasoning behind sticking his neck out to save Rick: he hopes if he ever gets that far up shit creek, someone would do the same for him. Two episodes later, Rick repays the favour.

  • Zerg Rush: The Governor acknowledges that his people aren't anywhere near as skilled and proven as Rick and the Atlanta group, but he has far superior numbers to make up for that fact.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The biological infection version, as revealed in the CDC exposition.
  • Zombie Advocate:
    • Hershel has a barn full of walkers locked up.
    • The Governor keeps his zombie daughter chained up and locked in a closet, except when he's combing her hair.
    • One of the newer survivors that came from Woodbury believes that the Walkers can still listen.
    • Lizzie thinks the zombies are still people, just different.
  • Zombie Gait: Some of the walkers do this. And Daryl too, due to his injuries and the ordeal he endured to get back to the farm. It results in him being mistaken for a zombie.
  • Zombie Infectee: Usually dealt with sanely; affected limb cut off if possible, restrained until death, put down once they turn.

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