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  • Sacrificial Lamb: Some minor characters' deaths have spurred along story or character arcs in the long run.
    • Ed's death frees his wife and daughter from his abusive shadow, and allows Carol to eventually grow into a powerful, independent woman without him.
    • The death of Dr. Jenner, who despite not having established an emotional connection to the cast, 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.
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    • Sophia's death shows that Death of a Child will be used in this series and that Death by Adaptation will be employed.
    • Noah's death destroys Glenn's innocent optimism for Alexandria, sparks his violent feud with Nicholas, and the crisis also inspires Eugene to step up to the plate and stop running to save his own hide. Steven Yeun also said it particularly hurt Glenn because Noah was the first person to die on his watch, as opposed to Dale who was too far away to be helped, and Noah was killed right in front of him.
    • Denise is the first casualty inflicted upon Alexandria by the Saviors.
    • Olivia's senseless death is what finally convinces Rick to strike back against the Saviors.
  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • 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 with no more doubts about his ability to lead or protect his family.
    • 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 for the rest of the season.
    • Beth's death, though mostly done for shock value, leads to development for both Maggie and Daryl.
    • Tyreese's death happened at the time the group is still mourning and recovering from the previous character's death. The character's death is also an extension of his sister's Character Development. In a meta sense, it's also proof that Anyone Can Die at any time is still well and truly in effect, since the character's death suddenly came one episode after the previous one's, and that you don't have to wait for the season finales for a character to die.
    • Glenn and Abraham's deaths at the hands of Negan are the villain’s bloody Establishing Character Moment to show Rick that he no longer is the alpha of his world and he must now contend with a threat so dangerous and powerful it's made his group cry.
    • Sasha's Heroic Suicide is the culmination of the main characters regaining their confidence and pride to fight the Saviors after the latter group humiliated (and emasculated) them.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • The Governor forcing Milton to either kill Andrea, or be killed himself then turn THEN kill Andrea. Milton attempts to Take a Third Option but it doesn't exactly work out for him.
    • Neagan forcing Rick to either chop off Carl's arm, or watch everyone he knows and loves be executed.
  • 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.
    • Averted in the Season 4 finale. Rick almost knew right from the get-go that Terminus wasn't a safe zone at all. He was right.
    • Subverted with Alexandria. It really is a safe place, but the main problem is that the residents have been so sheltered that they forgot the real dangers of the outside world, are afraid of recurring to lethal force when dealing with living people and lack of common sense regarding defense against walkers. It takes about a season of long, hard work to make it a genuinely safe place.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • 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 - but makes it clear that while she had feelings for him at a time, they're over, prompting Shane to decide to kill Rick in a deluded attempt to get her back.
    • 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.
  • Schrödinger's Cast: Since the show does not follow the comic books to the letter, this occasionally results in some characters long outliving or predeceasing their counterparts. Otis, Sophia, Dale, Patricia, Lori, Axel, Andrea, Mikey, Holly, Nicholas, Denise, Olivia, Emmett Carson, Richard, Carl, Harlan Carson, and Jesus die long before their comic counterparts. Shane, Martinez, Carol, Tyreese, Judith, Scott, Bruce, Tobin, Morgan, Kal, Luke, Rosita, and Ezekiel live quite a bit longer than theirs.
  • 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. Some more significant examples include:
    • The Greene Family keeps their barn full of walkers, believing their turned friends and family inside to be merely sick people who can be cured.
    • The Wolves keep traps full of walkers or walker heads in an unprovoked desire to kill any and all survivors.
    • The group discovers a quarry filled with thousands of walkers in Season 6, which constitutes the majority of the walkers of the Washington area, that are only contained by several 18-wheelers that are quickly failing.
  • 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.
    • King Ezekiel, Richard, Jerry, Benjamin, Shiva, and the Kingdom as a whole are introduced in "The Well", the second episode of the seventh season.
  • Secret Keeper: Glenn, but his conscience makes him a terrible one, which causes some friction.
  • Self-Deprecation: In Season 9. When Carol playfully denies Ezekiel's attempt to kneel and propose to her, he remarks that "[he] wrote a speech". This alludes to the melodramatic speaking that former showrunner Scott Gimple used for certain characters in seasons 4-8, something that irked fans for being overused.
  • 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.
    • The "Wards" at Grady Memorial are all but outright stated as such. Bonus points because the female leader of the police running the hospital either instituted such a system, or allows it to perpetuate, and explains it point-blank to Beth. "The Wards keep my officers happy."
    • Negan's "wives." He does give them some choice in the matter, though it's rather heavily implied the other choices are even worse.
  • 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.
      • Officially sunk as of Season 9, which has Carol and Ezekiel hook up during the time skip.
    • Bob and Sasha do have a Relationship Upgrade towards the end of Season 4, however, Bob is sadly bitten and dies a few episodes into Season 5.
    • Nothing comes of Beth's Ship Tease with either Daryl or Noah once she's killed in "Coda".
    • Rick forms an attraction to Jessie and they end up getting together shortly after the death of her abusive husband Pete. However, she dies at the midpoint of Season 6, which thanks to a severely compressed timeline of the first half of the season, is only in the timespan of a few days.
    • Rick and Michonne received several moments of Ship Tease from Season 3-6, and ended up finally getting together shortly after Jessie's death.
    • Abraham develops a crush on Sasha after Bob's death, and makes it clear he wants to be more than friends towards the middle of Season 6. He ends up dumping Rosita for her and after he matures a bit, she decides to give him a chance towards the end of the season.
  • 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.
      • In particular with Beth, everything about her hospital arc story ends up being a shaggy dog story. The one positive to come out of it was Noah, and he was brutally killed later in Season 5. He would've been better off in Dawn's dictatorship, meaning that Beth's sacrifice to keep him free was completely pointless.
      • After Eugene reveals he's not a scientist, Rosita tearfully reminds him that several people died trying to get him as far to D.C. as possible. To which the former remorsefully acknowledges this and lists off the names of all those that did, including Bob Stookey.
    • Done three times in "What Happened and What's Going On." First, the group finds out that Noah used to live in a locked-off neighborhood that seems relatively safe for them to stay at. Nope. Everyone either died or turned into a zombie. Despite this, Noah was still hopeful, believing that his family was still alive. Nope. His mother and one of his brothers was killed, and his other brother, who already turned, proceeds to bite Tyreese. Despite this, Tyreese still has the will to fight the infection and is determined to survive, and Michonne even chops off his arm, ensuring that the infection won't spread, right? Nope. He succumbs to the wound anyway.
    • Dwight, Sherry, and Tina's escape attempt in their debut episode is rendered moot with the latter getting killed by Walkers and the former two being forced to return to the Saviors with Dwight getting promoted and Sherry becoming one of Negan's wives. Oh, and this all happened shortly after Daryl decided to give them back Tina's insulin, as well.
    • In the episode "Still Gotta Mean Something," the escaped Savior POWs spend their whole time trying to find a way to get back to the Hilltop colony to treat their wounded members and defect from the Saviors amounts to nothing as their wounded are Devoured by the Horde as soon as the walkers enter the abandonned dive bar and are betrayed by Rick and Morgan once they've freed them, who then reveal to a dying Reilly that they lied to them about giving them a second chance and treating their wounded at the Hilltop.
  • 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.
    • Sasha's first appearance has her using a shovel as a weapon.
  • 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.
    • Maggie and Glenn have one in "East." It starts off cute until Glenn notices her bruises.
  • 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.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: When Rick's group invades Negan's compound, many of Negan's men suffer this fate.
  • 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.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • The National Guard survivors. First, Rick follows their helicopter directly into a swarm of walkers, leading to him getting trapped in the tank and meeting the Atlanta survivor camp. Furthermore, this also inadvertently starts up the herd that drives the group off the farm. When the helicopter crashes, it brings Andrea and Michonne into contact with the Woodbury survivors. Finally, the audience sees the Governor's true nature when he slaughters the remaining soldiers.
    • Otis was only around for a few episodes, but his accidental shooting of Carl leads the group to meet the Greene family, who gradually become major leaders and fighters in the main cast; provide a dramatic turning point in Shane's Character Development as well as his feud with Rick.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: This happens with the Saviors in Season 6. Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham encounter some Mooks before facing Bud, a more menacing but still stupid Starter Villain. Then the group slaughters a Red Shirt Army and Carol and Maggie wipe out Paula and her gang of Elite Mooks. After that, they battle two separate Mook Lieutenants, Dwight and Jiro, with the former causing the group's first casualty and the latter nearly causing Carol's death. Finally, Negan dispatches his Dragon Simon to negotiate with the group before dealing with them himself.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Although some characters have had series deaths differing from those of their comic counterparts, as of the ninth season, Carol and Judith have passed the point in the comic's timeline where they died. Abraham also survived longer than his comics counterpart. Carol's husband Ed and Lily's daughter Meghan were both Posthumous Characters at the start of the comics, but were alive in a few episodes of the series, later becoming early casualties after their appearances. Due to the characters leaving the main series for Fear the Walking Dead, Morgan and Dwight have also managed to outlive their comic counterparts.
    • By default, this trope is now in effect for every character who has a comic counterpart still alive at the start of the Whisperer arc who dies after the fifth episode of Season 9, in which a whopping six year Time Skip takes place. It’s also a Subverted example as the comic’s stories did not continue until after the Time Skip.
  • 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...
    • The Atlanta Camp survivor who stayed behind with Dr. Jenner's name is spelled Jacqui, not Jackie.
  • 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.
    • The OBBs of Seasons 3, 5, and 7 spoils the characters fates;
      • Season 3: The names of both Sarah Wayne Callies and Laurie Holden appear in the dirt, while Michael Rooker's appears in a walker's face/eyes.
      • Season 5: Emily Kinney and Chad L. Coleman's names both appear in a dark room with skeletons. Additionally, their names have different "fade-out" effects, the former's suddenly gets "striked" while the latter's slowly fades out in the dark.
      • Season 7: Despite having assumed these places in the credits since Season 5, Negan's victims in the Season 7 premiere are spoiled in the opening of that episode — Steven Yeun's credit is next to Hershel's watch, indicating Glenn's time is running out, while Michael Cudlitz's name appears next to a grave. Additionally, Sonequa Martin-Green's name appears in the same dark room with skeletons that her late brother's appeared in, and she dies in the season finale.
  • Spotting the Thread: Daryl figures out that it isn't really his brother Merle talking to him because he still has both his hands.
  • The Starscream: Simon, in Season 8. He loses faith in Negan when his leader refuses to indulge his psychopathic Kill ’Em All tendencies, and decides he is too weak to lead the Saviors. He abandons him when he goes MIA on the way to a battle at Hilltop and usurps control of the Saviors. When Negan returns, he prepares for one final strike to get rid of him, but thanks to Dwight betraying him, he gets what's coming to him.
  • 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.
  • The Stinger: These began being employed from Season 5 onward for select episodes (usually season finales).
    • "No Sanctuary" - Morgan returns after a two season absence and after abandoning his search for Terminus, ends up on the Hunters' trail and by extension Rick's.
    • "Coda" - Morgan finds Father Gabriel's overrun church a few weeks after Rick's group has left it, and finds Abraham's map directing Rick to Washington, D.C. - giving Morgan his first major lead on Rick.
    • "Conquer" - Michonne initially returns her katana to its' place on her wall - but after Pete stole it and killed Reg while trying to kill Rick with it, she begins wearing it full-time again. Meanwhile, a survivor clad in a red poncho has become another walker in one of the Wolves' traps - and graffiti on the car ("WOLVES NOT FAR") implies they're coming for Alexandria.
    • "Start to Finish"note : Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are stopped by a group of bikers and ordered to surrender their weapons to a man named Negan. The most terrifying villain in Walking Dead history is well on his way.
    • "Hearts Still Beating" - The mysterious figure earlier seen spying on Rick and Aaron is shown having made their way to Alexandria.
  • Suicide by Cop: Gordon, a minor Savior, simply refuses to come back to The Santuary even when Dwight has him at gunpoint. [[spoiler:Dwight shoots him in the back, causing him to reanimate.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death:
    • Tyreese's death comes as a major shock as fellow main cast member Beth had just died the episode prior.
    • Glenn perishes in the Season 7 premiere, and while he dies almost exactly like he does in the comics, it comes as a surprise as Abraham had already taken his place as the victim of Negan's selection, and that Glenn had been Out of Focus for several episodes.
  • 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. Carl looks to Dale and Andrea in confusion, and they quickly insist that it's something his father needs to tell him.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Anyone familiar with tank warfare might spot that the tanks are the wrong nationality — British Chieftains in Atlanta?
  • 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.
  • The Team: There's one every season, and they increasingly fit into their roles as the group becomes more effective overall.
  • Team Dad: Rick is the leader and authoritarian of the group, while Dale is the more nurturing example. Following Dale's death, Hershel takes up this role. After Hershel's own death, Rick becomes the full-time Team Dad.
  • 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. Though they're separated in late Season 4, ultimately, Maggie outlives Glenn.
    • 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.
    • Abraham starts drinking from a flask of booze in "Them", and it's pointed out that intoxication is the last thing the group needs in their dire situation. Eugene says he doesn't know if things can get any worse, and (as Rosita even notes) of course they do...
    • Rick boasts to Michonne that "the world is ours, we know how to take it" in late Season 6. Shortly afterward, Negan arrives and proves that Rick has become way too overconfident, to say the least.
  • 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.
    • When Maggie finds Glenn with condoms (he grabbed them in a hurry to hide the pregnancy tests he got for Lori), she enjoys watching him squirm as she turns anything he says against him just to screw with him. Then she offers to have sex with him.
    • Dr. Pete Anderson, upon officially meeting Rick in Season 5, offers to take a look at him if he comes by his place. After a beat, Pete admits it would've sounded better if he mentioned that he was a doctor first. note 
  • 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.
    • The group is more than pleased to messily slaughter the cannibalistic Hunters after they nearly killed and ate them. Rick cuts Gareth open with his machete that he promised to kill him with (Gareth's ribcage is clearly visible afterwards), Abraham reduces one cannibal's head to mush with the butt of his rifle, Michonne smashes in Theresa's face with her own rifle (who was lucky it was a One-Hit Kill), and then we get to Sasha (whose boyfriend Bob already lost a leg to the cannibals). There was more of Martin left on Sasha's knife than his body!
    • The psychotic gang known as the Wolves hack their victims to pieces with axes and scythes, and keep hacking long after their victims are dead.
    • Negan beats Glenn and Abraham's heads to a bloody pulp, and keeps swinging long after they die.
  • These Questions Three...: During Rick's Sanity Slippage in Season 3, he hallucinates Jim asking him how many people he killed and explains the reasons why. In Season 4, this evolves into three questions ("How many walkers have you killed?", "How many people have you killed?", and "Why?") that the group asks prospective members before allowing them to join the prison community, and they continue to infrequently use the questions afterwards. The following people have been asked the questions:
    • Clara - "Eddie killed them all," "Just me," "You don't get to come back."
    • Sam and Ana
    • Bob Stookey - "A couple dozen," "Only one," "She asked me to."
    • Father Gabriel - "Not any, actually," "None," "Because the Lord abhors violence."
    • Aaron - "A lot," "Two," "Because they tried to kill me."
    • Dwight - "A couple dozen at least," "None," "Because if I did, there'd be no going back."
    • Siddiq - "237," "One," "The dead tried to kill him, but they didn't."
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: As of the end of season 9, there's nobody left from the main cast of the first season.note 
  • Thicker Than Water: Merle and Daryl Dixon, especially Daryl's attitude towards Merle. Later, Ron Anderson still loves his father Pete despite being the victim of his domestic abuse.
  • Those Two Bad Guys:
    • Woodbury has two different pairs. First there's Tim and Crowley. They're killed early on and replaced by Martinez and Shumpert for the rest of the season.
    • Dave and Tony, the two members of the "Philidelphia Group" that Rick, Glenn, and Hershel meet in the episode "Nebraska."
  • 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".
  • Tiger by the Tail: In season five, the Atlanta Police Department and the surviving doctors of the main hospital have created a system where they "rescue" people but force them into servitude to pay their weight. The leader of the cops, Dawn, seems to realize it's gone too far but can't stop it without risking a mutiny.
  • 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.
    • Two weeks pass between the fifth mid-season finale, "Coda", and "What's Happened And What's Going On". Another week passes by the time the following episode, "Them" rolls around.
    • Two months pass between Season 6 episodes "No Way Out" and "The Next World, giving time for Alexandria to recover from the herd invasion, as well as for Carl to recover from losing his eye.
    • Approximately 18 months pass between the end of Season 8 and the beginning of Season 9. We get another time skip of six years after Rick's supposed death where Judith is now a pre-teen.
  • Title Drop: Expect the episode names to be uttered by any of the characters within the episode. The series title is dropped by Rick midway through the fifth season as the group takes refuge in a small barn and he gives a Churchillian speech on how they have to do what they have to do before they get to live.
  • 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.
    • Carol in the later seasons. Her loyalty is still to Rick and the the group, but she gradually becomes even more ruthless - and proactive about it - than Shane was.
    • Gregory is the leader of Hilltop Colony, a community allied with Alexandria, but he's so cowardly, selfish and ignorant that he cannot be trusted.
    • The Scavengers, a group of crazed people living in a junkyard, are the only morally questionable group in the Alexandria-led coalition against the Saviors. They eventually betray the group to Negan.
  • Token Minority:
    • At first, 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. Starting with Season 4, the quota seems to have increased to two black males, as Bob Stookey joins the group without Tyreese dying. In Season 5, Gabriel Stokes joins the group around the time Bob dies, Tyreese dies shortly after Noah joins, and Morgan replaces Noah a few episodes after his death. Finally averted in Season 6, where Heath and Scott are introduced without any other black men dying to make room for them.
    • Morales from Season 1 was the only relevant Hispanic who had ever been a part of Rick's group until Rosita Espinosa joins in the second half of Season 4.
    • Dr. Caleb Subramanian from the prison flu arc is the only Indian to have appeared on the show.
    • As of the end of Season 6, Glenn is the only Asian that has ever been a part of Rick's group, though several others (Tim from Woodbury, Tanaka at Grady Memorial, Kal at Hilltop, and Jiro the Savior) have appeared.
    • Season 8 introduces Siddiq, a Muslim-American medical resident who later becomes Alexandria's chief medical officer.
    • Season 9 introduced a new group of characters into the storyline, including black sisters Kelly and Connie, and Yumiko, a half-Japanese, half-white woman.
  • 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.
    • Played for Drama with Sam. He has never been exposed to the horrors of the walker-infested world and thus begins losing his sanity when Alexandria's defenses are breached by outside threats. He spends several days moping in his room, drawing pictures of himself getting Eaten Alive (thanks to Carol's threat), refusing to come downstairs, and worst of all his mother isn't helping him cope with it. He ends up being nothing but The Load when the herd invades Alexandria, completely shutting down and not complying with his mother's instructions to help. Sure enough, the poor kid suffers a complete mental breakdown when they try to sneak through the herd, leading to his own death as well as his mother and brother, and finally Carl losing an eye.
  • 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.
    • The Alexandrians as a whole take a huge level during the course of Season 6 as they get experience dealing with outside threats and ultimately become part of Rick's extended family when they join him in the battle against the herd. A few episodes later, they immediately jump on board with Rick's proposal for a preemptive strike on the Saviors.
    • Father Gabriel, in Season 6. Far from the timid, frightened priest we started with, he's now killing walkers with a machete and saying prayers as he shoots down Saviors.
    • The minor Alexandrians like Tobin, Francine, Scott, and Eric all take one as they start joining the frontlines against hostile human survivors in late Season 7, after previously refusing to join battles.
    • After being a poor shot for the duration of the show, Michonne trains herself to become a much better shot, especially as due to death and extenuating circumstances, the group loses some of its' key snipers.
    • After learning that Eastman's absolutist philosophy against killing humans will not work in the apocalypse, Morgan becomes a much more lethal opponent in battle.
    • After the time skip in the Season 9 episode "What Comes After", we get a glimpse of a roughly 10-year-old Judith, who manages to deliver several headshots to an undead herd with a revolver and saving a group of survivors in the process.
    • The season 9 time skip also shows that Eugene has taken a level himself. It's surprising to contrast the cowardly liar who avoided getting involved in conflicts and relied on others to protect him, with the guy who is shown calmly head-stabbing walkers without hesitation.
  • 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 when he returns to his Nice Guy self. However, he fully embraces his Anti-Hero status in the finale of Season 4, but this doesn't make him anymore of a jerkass to his family. He does give a seriously hard time to the inexperienced Alexandrians, but when they prove themselves, he dials it back a few notches.
    • 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 4.
    • Ron started out as a friendly teen who was excited to meet Carl. However, after the death of his father Pete at Rick's hands, he becomes a murderous, slimy asshole who can do nothing but grimace like he's going to throw up and tries on more than one occasion to kill Rick and/or Carl before getting killed.
    • Rosita was devastated by Abraham cruelly dumping her to chase after Sasha and never looking back, and his subsequent demise before they could make any sort of peace. She becomes a much more cantankerous, foul-tempered person in Season 7.
    • Following the Season 9 time skip, Michonne has become aggressively isolationist, distrusting all newcomers, over-riding Alexandria Council decisions (such as refusing to allow a delegation to attend the Kingdom's trade fair) in the interest of security, and refusing to allow aid to the other communities in the name of protecting Alexandria alone. The flashback events of "Scars" reveal that an old friend of Michonne's infiltrated Alexandria with a band of children in order to steal their supplies and kidnap their kids, which is implied to be the root cause for Michonne's behavior. However, she mellows her stance by the end of that same episode, and "The Calm Before" has her re-embracing the other communities.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Daryl's positive Character Development serves as a counterpoint to everyone else's descent into cynicism.
    • When Rick proves himself as a good man who wants nothing but the safety and betterment of his people, Hershel develops complete, Undying Loyalty to him and warms to the rest of the group as well, even becoming the Team Dad. It's very clear he sees Rick and Carl in particular as his son and grandson by Season 4, in stark contrast to how he kept pressuring Rick to leave his property in early Season 2.
    • Michonne goes from The Stoic who can muster nothing but a Death Glare to everyone to one of the warmest, friendliest survivors. She even becomes The Heart towards the middle of Season 5 and gets together with Rick in Season 6.
    • After Eugene's lie is exposed, Abraham becomes a much more level-headed man and far less volatile than he'd been previously.
    • After suffering from Sanity Slippage in Season 5, Sasha recovers and regains her sanity and mellows out enough to even find romance with Abraham.
  • 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.
    • Season 6's trailer heavily played up a potential rivalry and face-off between Rick and Morgan. However, they only begin butting heads towards the end of Season 6. Instead, it's Carol who gets into a big feud with Morgan for most of Season 6.
    • Season 9 Episode 6’s preview teases that the walkers are evolving into more intelligent threats capable of speech. They’re humans wearing zombie masks, called The Whisperers, though if you had read the comics, you wouldn't have bought it from the first trailer they were teased in.
  • 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.
    • Pretty much every major plot point was known before "Last Day on Earth" - namely that Negan arrives, captures the group, and kills one of them. We don't learn who it was in the episode, as the show runners refused to in order to gain more ratings for the Season 7 premiere.
  • 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.
    • Terminus is annihilated by Carol in "No Sanctuary."
    • Alexandria takes a pretty large beating in "Start to Finish" and "No Way Out" from the walker invasion. In "How It's Gotta Be", the Saviors nearly raze Alexandria to the ground with fire bombs.
    • The Kingdom falls into disrepair by the end of Season 9 thanks to busted pipes and a large fire, and its' people are forced to take refuge at Hilltop for the foreseeable future.
  • Trauma Conga Line: 804 for Ezekiel. It lasts an entire episode. He loses almost all of his men and is forced to put some of them down, his leg is severely damaged possibly beyond repair, he gets an epic trashing by a Savior that destroys his confidence, he watches his beloved tiger Shiva die and is unable to help her, and when he gets back, he can barely look his people in the eye.
  • 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.
    • Deanna notices this in the Season 5 episode "Remember," when she remarks to Rick she never thought that people in Rick's group who come from different backgrounds can become like a family to each other.
  • 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.
    • Tyreese is chomped twice by a preadolescent walker who used to be one of Noah's younger brothers, and dies of blood loss during amputation of the bitten limb.
    • Catching a glimpse of a walker who's about his own size/age is part of what causes Sam to break down completely (and fatally) in "No Way Out".
    • Henry, Addy, and Rodney are all teenagers who are decapitated by Alpha, and their reanimated heads are put on pikes.
  • 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.
    • The opening scene of "Conquer" has the Wolves confronting Morgan, who they seem think is going to be just another poor schmuck that they're about to rob and murder.
    • Goes both ways in the back half of Season 6, when the Saviors threaten Alexandria. Rick believes that they'll be easy enough to deal with, and the Saviors believe Alexandria is a bunch of weaklings who'll go down without a fight. Both sides are completely wrong.
    • In "Who Are You Now", Carol and Henry are ambushed by stragglers from the Saviors, who steal their stuff (including Carol's wedding ring) and seemingly manage to threaten Carol enough that she backs down. Come nightfall, Carol tracks them all down to a warehouse, covers them in gasoline, and burns them all alive. Considering that these guys know full well what Carol is capable of, they really should have seen it coming.
  • Undying Loyalty: Most of Rick's group has this to Rick and each other.
    • The Governor has this from his people until they're scared off by Rick's group after a failed raid. When they refuse to continue his crusade of vengeance, he massacres them. In the following season, The Governor brainwashes a new army with his charming leader persona to the point that they literally fight to the death to wipe out the prison, even after the prison's defenses are destroyed, and the kindly old man The Governor even admitted was a good man is messily executed.
  • Unequal Pairing: Rick/Jessie is fairly Squicky because he's an aggressive, combat-capable badass and she's a passive, meek Non-Action Girl.
  • The Un-Reveal: We don't get to see what happened to Noah's family's walled community. We just know it was bad. We get a taste in "JSS" a season later, when the Wolves invade Alexandria and messily slaughter many of its' citizens, and try to burn it to the ground as well.
  • 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.
    • From "Knots Untie":
      Abraham (to Glenn): When you were pouring the Bisquick... were you trying to make pancakes?
    • When Bruce goes out into the woods to take a dump, he refers this as "Sending a fax to Cleveland."
  • Vengeful Widow: Maggie becomes this after Glenn's death at Negan's hands. It comes to a head in Season 9,when she decides to kill Negan herself, after Rick had spared him at the end of the Savior War. However, it's subverted once she sees that Negan's become a broken, tortured Death Seeker, and decides to let him live with his suffering.
  • 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.
    • Simon is reduced to a screaming, barely coherent mess when his assassination attempt on Negan is foiled by Dwight.
    • With his army falling by the second thanks to a betrayal he was completely blindsided by, and after Rick reminds him of the death of Carl, who he genuinely grieves for, Negan begins crying and gives up swinging at Rick. Rick non-fatally slits his throat, and Negan sobs that he's seemingly defying Carl's last wishes to spare him.
    • This happens to Jared during his final moments, as he's being held against a gate by his Arch-Enemy Morgan, he tearfully begs for him to let go when the walkers begin to eat him alive.
  • 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. Underestimating them is still a very poor choice, as a slip up will get you killed, as Tyreese learned.
  • 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.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The confrontation with the Whisperers which results in the death of Jesus in mid-Season 9 reestablishes the walkers as a genuine threat, even in small numbers. After nearly a decade of having been acclimated to fighting slow, predictable walkers, the group must now carefully watch the walkers who may attack them since they may just be psychopaths with knives who can actually fight back.
  • 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: Many characters wield weapons that tell a lot about them.
    • Rick uses a very large, nickel-plated Colt Python, showing that he's an idealist (nickel-plated = shining armor) field leader (pistols demonstrate leader, but the size implies he actually uses it. Very much contrasted to Shane's Mossberg 590. He stops using it when he starts going crazy in Season 3, but uses it again when he starts getting his act back together. On occasion, also uses a machete, a tool designed for hacking through rainforest undergrowth, i.e. things (or people) that are in the user's way.
    • Dale always has a scoped Remington 700 VLS in his hands, fitting since he is both the lookout, and the one who spends his time watching the others.
    • Daryl uses a crossbow, representing his simple, country-folk nature.
    • Like its owner, Shane's Mossberg 590 shotgun is incredibly forceful but woefully imprecise.
    • Michonne uses a katana, demonstrating her foreign nature.
    • Creepy Child Carl uses a pistol with a suppressor, representing how his father struggles to keep his humanity in check by taming the budding sociopath within.
    • Merle’s bayonet hand symbolizes the fact that he himself has become little more than a tool for the Governor. Notably, he loses the bayonet at the same time he is betrayed by the Governor and reunited with his Morality Pet Daryl.
    • The Governor uses a Steyr AUG A1, a bullpup weapon whose design makes it look like it's skulking behind the shooter's arm, giving it a unique, villainous appearance.
    • Morally-conflicted Gentle Giant Tyreese uses a hammer, which can be used both to destroy and to create.
    • Carol’s snub-nosed pistol is small, unassuming, and easily concealed, much like its owner. Also, it’s a revolver, just like Rick’s gun, but in a tiny package that is no less deadly. For melee, she carries a sentry knuckle knife, which also highlights her concealed lethal nature.
    • Sasha initially uses a shovel, reflecting how she and her original group are always looking to build/find their own place. After the deaths of those closest to her, she begins using a silenced sniper rifle, which is fitting for a person who has become detached, cold, and quiet.
    • Morgan Jones wields a bo staff, which reflects his newfound sturdiness and opposition to spilling blood.
    • The Wolves use various primitive weapons: knives, machetes, axes, spears, and Molotov cocktails. This highlights their primal savagery and brings to mind a composite of various barbarian archetypes such as Horny Vikings, The Hashshashin, and Pirates.
    • Owen, the Alpha Wolf, is shown using a sickle, which, due to its association with The Grim Reaper, is fitting for an Omnicidal Maniac.
    • Negan uses "Lucille," a baseball bat, which, as a piece of sporting equipment, highlights his playfulness. However, it is also wrapped in barbed wire, demonstrating the violent and brutal side of his nature.
    • King Ezekiel wields a golden Sword Cane as his scepter. Like its master, it conceals itself behind a grandiose, over-the-top exterior for the greater good. And, just like King Ezekiel himself, should not be dismissed as ornamental or harmless.
    • Jerry wields a broad-headed battle axe, which is as grandiose (befitting his position as Ezekiel's right-hand man) as it is powerful.
  • Weird West: Beginning with homages to the genre in Season 1, to incorporating Western themes and stories in the subsequent seasons.
  • 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 over his son's death. He gets better and joins the group a few seasons later.
    • 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 until Morales finally reappears in Season 8, having done a Face–Heel Turn and joined the Saviors.
    • The Vatos. Their fate was supposed to be revealed in the Season 2 premiere, but wound up on the cutting room floor instead.
    • Sam goes missing after not reporting back to Rick and Carol in Season 4, and doesn't turn up again until the Season 5 premiere, where he's slaughtered by Terminus.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Season(s)-long agonizing about the morality of killing a villain like the Governor or Negan happily ignores the numberless nameless henchmen who have already been offed without a second thought. In the episode where the AHK alliance finally defeats the latter, a Savior used as a decoy is begging for his life while surrendering, only for Morgan to stab him in his head.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "18 Miles Out":
      Randall: I went to school with Maggie for God's sake!
    • 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":
    • From the two-minute prologue to the second half of season 6:
      Your property now belongs to Negan.
    • From the season finale of Season 6, whistling. In this case, the whistling comes during Rick's last, desperate attempt to get an ailing Maggie to Hilltop, only to realize when the whistling starts that the Saviors have caught them.
  • 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".
    • The walker's shadow looming behind Tyreese in "What Happened and What's Going On".
    • A Wolf suddenly slashing down Mrs. Neudermyer with absolutely zero buildup, signifying the beginning of their long-anticipated assault on Alexandria.
    • In "No Way Out", Carl slowly turning around, revealing he's been shot in his right eye.
    • A series of these occurs across the span of "Last Day On Earth", as the group slowly realizes that the Saviors are not Big Bad Wannabe's: they're an army with vast resources who are now hunting them down.
    • In the season 7 premiere, when Negan's first victim is shown to be Abraham. And later, him hitting Glenn.
    • Carl revealing his walker bite in "How It's Gotta Be".
    • A whole series of them in "The Calm Before", revealing the identities of the characters that have been decapitated and had their heads placed on pikes. It starts small, with characters we barely had any connection with, and ends with Enid, Tara and Henry.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Lori chews out the rest the group for their lack of faith in Rick's leadership ability in the early episodes of Season 2, 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", though Carol clearly recognizes that this is how Daryl is coping with the situation.
    • 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.
    • Andrea also gives a good one to Dale when he hides her gun in the Season 2 premiere, and for taking away her choice to stay at the CDC when it blew up.
    • Dale spends the vast majority of "Judge, Jury, Executioner" being aghast that the group at large is either receptive or apathetic towards executing a prisoner on the grounds that he's too dangerous to let go, and an unnecessary waste of resources even if they decide to let him into the fold. When he's finally overruled, Dale says that the group is broken and storms off alone. It ends up being his last words to the group, as he's gutted by a walker a few hours later and is unable to make amends with his friends.
    • 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. He chews the whole group out for looking to him to make decisions, then endlessly whining about how they don't like the decisions they've demanded he make. Veers into Shut Up, Hannibal! / Shut Up, Kirk! territory as he gives the whole group an ultimatum: do what I say or go your own way.
    • 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.
    • Daryl gives Rick a huge one in "The Obliged", regarding how Rick refused to kill Negan at the end of the Savior War, and then just expected AHK, Oceanside and the remaining Saviors to get along and work together, completely ignoring the fact that everyone suffered under Negan and the Saviors, and how Rick had promised all of them, especially Maggie, that justice would be delivered with Negan's death. Rick tries to argue the point that taking mercy on Negan and the Saviors is what makes them better people, only for Daryl to hit back with the fact that Rick made that decision alone, without any regard for anyone else's opinion or desires. It's especially notable for really being the first time that someone close to Rick has called out his actions as a leader in significant fashion.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: "Cherokee Rose", Lori's new pregnancy kicked this off, with Shane being the potential father of Judith. In Season 7, Rick tells Michonne he's positive that Judith is Shane's child.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: "Sing Me a Song" comes with the most egregious cases so far in the entire run of the show. After Carl declares he only wants Negan, he stands there, pointing gun at him and doing absolutely nothing for half a minute, utlimately ending up disarmed, instead, you know, shooting the guy. It's not that he has a problem about killing other people, as in the process two mooks get mowed down.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Dear God, Alpha. More than any other villain in the series so far. We find out early on that she's a highly abusive mother, both physically and verbally. Because of her Social Darwinist mentality, she effectively makes a Whisperer mother abandon her crying baby to be devoured by walkers (thankfully, the baby is saved by Connie). But the real clincher comes from killing Henry, Rodney and Addy (among others), and sticking their heads on pikes to mark the border of her territory. Not even Negan or the Governor would stoop that low.
  • 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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