What was the point of Martha? For a half-season on Fear she followed people around promising to make them “strong” by turning them into walkers, but she only accomplished this task by sneaking up on them with a single walker. How? The show doesn’t bother explaining, and devotes mere minutes to her cringe-inducing backstory. Moreover, she kept surviving totally impossible scenarios pretty much only to show how “good” the group was for not killing her when they had the chance. None of this is Tonya Pinkins’ fault, but it’s a pity she wasn’t given a better character.
Logan had the makings of a promising villain when the fifth season of Fear started, but from there, it seems like the writers had no clue what to do with him. He went from being intimidating, to kind of threatening, to barely threatening, to converting to Morgan’s cause. Even when he was working against them, he didn’t exactly do anything noteworthy after he left the factory.
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
12. The Vultures
The Vultures were interesting, kind of, but their premise made no sense. As so many people have noted, how does it make sense for this group to steal resources from a place that’s already fallen? Wouldn’t all of those resources be gone by then?
10. Dawn Lerner
Many fans weren’t fond of Beth’s Grady Memorial hospital arc, and as such, they weren’t fond of Dawn Lerner. While it’s debatable whether she was better than the Wolves, so much of Dawn’s story had little to no forward motion in the narrative, and then was invalidated when Beth and Noah died only episodes apart from each other.
Let’s be real—Jadis and her trash people weren’t the best. Jadis got more interesting once her followers were killed by Simon, and then she was accepted into Rick’s group. But for an entire season, the trash people were totally grating, what with their odd way of talking and armored walkers. The show is better off without them.
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
Okay, Celia was basically just a copy and paste of Hershel from the main show. But—and this is a big “but”—in hindsight, the time Madison and her family spent with Celia developed them into who they would eventually become in Season 3. Nick and Madison’s differences of opinion about her philosophies set up their disagreements at Brokejaw Ranch; Madison shutting Celia in with her walkers showed she was willing to do whatever it took to survive.
8. The Wolves
The Wolves were decent enough antagonists for the first half of Season 6, and they deserve some credit for getting No Way Out—which saw the deaths of Jessie, Ron and Sam—started. But more definitely could’ve been done with them, and their motivations could’ve been better explained.
Gareth and his group of cannibalistic pals from Terminus were cool, but in the grand scheme of things, we didn’t see them for very long. It would’ve been neat if they’d stuck around and maybe even headed to Washington with the group like the Season 5 SDCC trailer implied.
6. Merle Dixon
Right up until the end, Merle stayed true to himself… with a few important changes. Though his story ended six seasons ago, Merle Dixon’s journey is still impressive and heartbreaking. His transformation from a racist bigot to the man who sacrificed himself for Michonne—and to try to kill the Governor—was fun to watch. Michael Rooker was excellent in the role, and he ended up turning Merle into more of an antihero than a straight-up villain.
5. The Governor
“Liar.” The Governor is iconic based on how much havoc he wreaked in the earlier seasons. He led to the decimation and downfall of the prison, not to mention the deaths of several important characters in the group (RIP Hershel). His ability to descend coolly into stomach-churning violence from his composed persona is horrifying. His level of intimidation is matched by few other characters on the show.
4. Shane Walsh
Shane was a good villain just because, in a way, he wasn’t a villain at all: He was a hotheaded guy who went WAY too far in his attempts to keep his people alive. His storyline was emotionally charged because he was Rick’s best friend, and Lori’s ex-love interest, and definitely Judith’s dad. Shane was the first main villain aside from the dead, and his decision to kill the walkers in Hershel’s barn alone makes him worthy of remembrance.
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
3. Troy Otto
Unless a return to form is imminent for the show in Season 6 (Angela Kang has proven it can be done), it seems like Troy is the best antagonist FTWD is ever going to get. And my, what a good antagonist he was. Completely insane and sympathetic in equal measure, Troy’s predisposition to violence was somewhat understandable given his totally broken family and abusive past… but Madison was justified in taking a hammer to his skull. Kudos to Daniel Sharman for infusing him with just the right amount of murderous charm.
In the Season 10 trailer, Alpha says, “You should fear me.” We do. Alpha’s reign of terror resulted in the most horrific loss of life in the communities since Negan (or maybe even before) with the whole “heads on pikes” thing. Plus, Samantha Morton’s portrayal of the abusive, animalistic, walker-obsessed woman in charge is nuanced and chilling. Also notable is Ryan Hurst’s Beta, who is every bit as terrifying as she is—just with fewer words.
20 years from now, when TWD has (probably?) aired its final episode, the villain immortalized in TV history will be Negan. There’s good reason for that—even though Seasons 7 and 8 were a slog to get through, there’s something mesmerizing about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of the gleefully sadistic leader with a flexible moral code, and thanks to Angela Kang, his redemption arc has been fun to watch.
The prison massacre. Hershel’s barn. The Saviors’ run-in with Rick’s group in the forest. Heads on pikes.
What do these events have in common? They were major turning points in The Walking Dead, and saw the deaths of several major characters. But beyond that, they were all brought about by some of the franchise’s most iconic villains—characters that still send shivers down our spines. Unfortunately, though, not all antagonists in this franchise have been created equal.
In anticipation of two of the show’s best baddies to our screens (Alpha and Beta), we ranked 14 of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead’s main villains from least to most terrifying.
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The Walking Dead, Season 10 Premiere, Sunday, October 6, 9/8c, AMC