What It Is

Based on the comic books by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead tells the story of Rick Grimes, a Southern sheriff who awakens from a coma to discover a world ravaged by an unknown virus turning the population into flesh-craving zombies. His fight for survival begins with locating his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, who have stayed safe with a small group that includes Rick's best friend, Shane. Over the course of five seasons, the small militia searches for safe havens and signs of hope while avoiding hungry walkers and ruthless humans—including small-town haven Woodbury's twisted leader, the Governor (David Morrissey). A runaway ratings hit, the series has set viewership records as the most-watched drama series in basic-cable history with more than 17 million people tuning in to the Season 5 premiere.

Season 1

It's the end of the world as he knows it. Sheriff Rick Grimes emerges from a coma and into a world infested with diseased and dangerous "walkers." He meets fellow survivors Morgan (Lennie James) and his son, Duane (Adrian Kali Turner), who explain that a deadly virus has ravaged the population. Still believing his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, to be alive, Rick ventures toward a rumored safe zone established by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. When he discovers a city overrun with zombies, Rick encounters Glenn, a former pizza delivery boy who has been taking refuge with a larger group outside the city. Rick soon learns that the group includes Lori, Carl, and his best friend and partner, Shane. After their camp is attacked by walkers, Rick leads the group to the CDC, where they find its last remaining staffer, Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich). Jenner explains to Rick his research into the disease has not yet led to a cure, and once the emergency generators run out of fuel, it will trigger a massive explosion intended to destroy the facility. Dr. Jenner elects to stay behind while Rick's group escapes seconds before the building is engulfed in flames. They drive away from the city and continue the road to survival.

Season 2

The action migrates to the countryside as our survivors find refuge at the Greene family farm and meet veterinarian patriarch Hershel (Scott Wilson) and his daughters, Maggie and Beth (Emily Kinney). The group also begins to search for Carol's daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz), who goes missing after being ambushed by a hoard of walkers on a deserted highway. Secrets about Hershel's farm begin to be revealed, including the fact that he keeps his zombified family and friends in his barn. When Shane opens the doors to slaughter the walkers, an undead Sophia emerges and Rick is forced to put her down. Internal strife forces the group in separate directions, with Rick and Shane's relationship becoming fractured due to disagreements over leadership tactics and shared feelings about Lori, who reveals that she is pregnant. When an outside group of survivors threatens the farm's safety, Rick kidnaps one of them. Before a decision can be made about his fate, one of their own group members is attacked and Rick must make a gut-wrenching decision.

Season 3

Having narrowly escaped the zombie attack on the farm, Rick and the group find an abandoned prison in west Georgia and clear out a cell block to set up camp. Separated from the group during the farm melee, Andrea meets katana-wielding loner Michonne, and together they join the seemingly idyllic community of Woodbury. Michonne chooses to leave while Andrea stays and pursues a romantic relationship with the town leader, known as the Governor. Back at the prison, a walker attack leads to more casualties and a tragic loss sends Rick into a mental breakdown just as the Governor is planning an assault on the prison. The cat-and-mouse game between the two camps continues as the body count rises.

Season 4

The jailhouse is rocking as the group welcomes outsiders from the former Woodbury camp along with road-weary travelers. Then a mysterious illness breaks out in one of the cellblocks, and it's a race against time to find the necessary medication. After his latest atrocities, the Governor attempts to redeem himself to a new group of survivors. But old habits die hard, and he is convinced the prison is his key to safety. The Governor readies another attack on Rick's group, leading to a violent confrontation. In the aftermath, smaller groups of survivors flee in different directions, but all ultimately find signs along the railroad tracks for Terminus, a sanctuary that promises, "Those who arrive survive."

Season 5

Rick's group goes to war with Terminus leader Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his army. After her mysterious disappearance last season, Beth resurfaces in the confines of Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, which is overseen by an autocratic police force. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) continue their mission to Washington, D.C., but encounter some unexpected detours along the way.

Best Episodes

Season 1, Episode 1: "Days Gone Bye"
Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to discover a world crawling with the undead and journeys to downtown Atlanta in search of his wife and son.

Season 2, Episode 12: "Better Angels"
Tensions at Hershel's farm reach a boiling point when Rick discovers his best friend Shane's true intentions, leading to a tense standoff.

Season 3, Episode 12: "Clear"
A supply run brings Rick, Carl, and Michonne back to Rick's hometown, where they discover an unstable Morgan, who gives Rick valuable insight into his own mental state.

Season 4, Episode 8: "Too Far Gone"
Don't lose your head! Rick and the Governor square off in a bloody and brutal showdown at the prison, and a fan favorite doesn't make it out alive.

Season 5, Episode 1: "No Sanctuary"
The Terminus residents realize "They're screwing with the wrong people," as Rick says when the group launches an all-out attack on the faux sanctuary.

Bits and Pieces

  • Although the series was originally developed by Frank Darabont, the filmmaker was booted from his showrunner position in the middle of filming Season 2 because of creative differences. Executive producer Glen Mazzara was then brought in to oversee production through the conclusion of Season 3, after which he was replaced by current showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
  • Makeup guru Greg Nicotero, who has worked on such horror films as Scream and Hostel, was brought in as special-effects supervisor to oversee the creation of the zombies. He has since been elevated to executive producer and director and by the end of Season 5 will have directed the most episodes (11) of the show.
  • The Walking Dead films in and around Atlanta. The prison set for Seasons 3 and 4 was built from scratch on the backlot of the show’s Senoia, Georgia, studios, and Senoia's Main Street served as the exteriors for Season 3's idyllic Woodbury setting.