2018 was full of some of the most iconic episodes of The Walking Dead to date. The last half of Season 8 and the first half of Season 9 brought an end to the war, a new beginning, a brutal departure, and a villain group more dangerous than we’ve ever seen. So, we went off IMDB’s rankings to present you all 16 episodes of the year from lowest rated to highest.
16. “Honor” (Season 8 Episode 9)
Carl’s controversial fate was revealed in the Mid-Season 8 Finale and drawn out through the end of this Mid-Season Premiere, so it’s no wonder this lives at the bottom of the list. The episode also contained a Dwight double-cross, some tearful goodbyes, and a Savior take-over at Kingdom, which was eventually thwarted by Carol, Morgan, and Henry of all people. Still, it’s the Carl death episode, and no one’s going to have good feelings about it.
15. “Dead or Alive Or” (Season 8 Episode 11)
Traveling episodes don’t fare well in these rankings (see below) and this is no exception. Still, we got some exciting storylines – like Dwight’s return to the Saviors, Gabe and Dr. Carson’s cabin trip, and Negan’s stomach-churning plan to coat the Savior weapons with walker guts.
14. “Stradivarius” (Season 9 Episode 7)
Stradivarius gets a lot of heat as a filler episode. Even though it contained some of the same trappings – like a traveling A story (told you) and a decision-making B story – the episode helped fill out Magna’s group personalities as well as give context for Daryl’s isolation. Additionally, we got to peel back more layers of Henry’s character while getting a C story featuring the aftermath of Rosita and Eugene’s run-in with the Whisperers.
13. “Do Not Send Us Astray” (Season 8 Episode 13)
The battle of Hilltop episode (as we’re calling it) was split into two parts: the actual battle between (now) Simon’s forces and the Hilltop, and then the spooky aftermath when the injured survivors began turning in their sleep. Rick and the gang had to act fast and kill some of their friends (RIP Tobin) in one of the scariest moments from the season. The episode started as “Glory” and ended as “Night of the Living Dead” – who couldn’t enjoy that?
12. “A New Beginning” (Season 9 Episode 1)
The Season 9 Premiere was a foundation episode that contained enough story that previous seasons might have stretched into three episodes. New Showrunner Angela Kang masterfully caught fans up on the year-and-a-half time jump changes, like Maggie’s kid, the rebuilt communities, new characters, and an improvised justice system. By the time Gregory’s hanging by his neck in the end you nearly forgot they even went to a museum! Still, a new beginning needed a new foundation, and that’s what this episode accomplished.
11. “Still Gotta Mean Something” (Season 8 Episode 14)
Episode 814 reminded us how brutal our characters can be. With the war nearing its end Rick and Morgan found themselves captured by Jared and the escaped Hilltop Saviors. A timely walker horde interrupts their execution and, despite the fact they ended up working hand-in-hand to kill the walkers, Rick and Morgan STILL decide to murder the Saviors in cold blood.
10. “Wrath” (Season 8 Episode 16)
All Our War finally concluded in an epic Season Finale. After weeks of bloody battles and sacrifices, Eugene won the war for Rick and his friends by playing double-agent and rigging the Saviors guns against them, causing them to surrender. Rick took the opportunity to fight Negan and slit his throat, which ended the conflict for good. Fortunately for Negan, Rick remembered Carl’s words about mercy and decided to spare him, which would later cause a massive rift with his allies.
9. “Warning Signs” (Season 9 Episode 3)
The case of the missing Saviors finally got solved in this low-key dark episode of The Walking Dead. Daryl, Carol, and Maggie eventually discovered that Cyndie and the Oceanside gals had been killing Saviors in retribution for murdering their families when they worked for Negan. As brutal as it seemed, Maggie understood it, and allowed it to happen. Sheesh.
8. “The Bridge” (Season 9 Episode 2)
We start our list with a tense Season 9 episode that had Daryl’s group come to blows with the Saviors during a bridge project. Rick, who established a camp to connect the communities, is unable to quell the tension between old enemies. His relationship with Daryl only becomes more strained as matters are made worse when a walker horde distraction plan goes awry and Aaron’s arm is crushed by a log and later amputated in the commotion. The episode ends with a Savior, Justin, going missing, setting the gears in motion that will eventually lead to Rick’s departure. But more on that later.
7. “The Lost And The Plunderers” (Season 8 Episode 10)
Back in Season 8 Simon turned a routine visit with Jadis’ trash community into a massive slaughter. Jadis was eventually forced to turn her own people into hamburger meat as she lost all leverage she had with Rick and Michonne. It would be this action by Smion that caused his demise later on, but we’ll get to that…right now.
6. “Worth” (Season 8 Episode 15)
As we just mentioned, Simon was forced to pay for his crimes this episode when Negan made a surprise return to Sanctuary. As a refresher, Simon left Negan for dead, took over the Saviors, marched them to Hilltop for a deadly battle, and then plotted Negan’s death when he took back the reigns after his return. Dwight gave Negan a heads up on Simon’s mutiny, which Negan to kill all the co-conspirators and thwarted Simon’s assassination attempt.
Surprisingly, Negan offered his old friend a chance to see his mutiny through with a good old-fashioned fist fight, which quickly led to Simon getting choked out and dying. Unfortunately for Dwight, Negan knew about HIS mutiny at Alexandria and forced him to be a slave as he prepared for the final battle against Rick.
5. “Who Are You Now?” (Season 9 Episode 6)
The first post-Rick episode of The Walking Dead squeaked into the Top 5 for a good reason. Several fans worried that with Andrew Lincoln gone the show would crumple, but Angela Kang’s decision to skip ahead six years changed that. Forbes’ Erik Kain, who’s been a vocal critic of The Walking Dead for some time, called it “a brave new show” and concluded his review by stating, “For the most part I’m thrilled to finally enjoy The Walking Dead again and to be excited for what’s coming next week, week after week.”
That’s because the show charted a new path in 906. Everything changed – Michonne transitioned from warrior to leader, Daryl isolated himself from everyone, and Judith grew up from a background role-player to a multi-layered character making real decisions, like the one to bring Magna’s group to Alexandria. Additionally, Michonne had another son (RJ, or Rick Junior), Henry became a teen, Jesus reluctantly took over Hilltop, and we got a tease of the next villain group the Whisperers. It’s no wonder this episode ranked so high.
4. “The Obliged” (Season 9 Episode 4)
Lets reverse course for 904, where Rick and Daryl’s unintentional ditch confrontation was the highlight of the episode. Daryl and Maggie’s plan in 816 to bide their time with Rick finally came to fruition this episode. Daryl and Rick’s tension finally reached a boiling point when Daryl led Rick away from Alexandria and fought him until they tumbled into a ditch. Although they didn’t resolve much, they did help each other out of this metaphor, I mean ditch.
It also served as their final conversation in the show because Rick’s decision to lead the walkers away led to him getting surrounded and thrown off his horse onto some rebar! It was arguably the most shocking ending to a Walking Dead episode since the Season 6 Finale.
3. “The Key” (Season 8 Episode 12)
Some fans may be surprised to see this Season 8 episode ranked so high, but may I remind you Rick fought Negan with his own bat SET ON FIRE?!?! This was made possible when Rick (briefly) thwarted the Saviors’ march to Hilltop, fought Negan, and escaped all while Simon presumed Negan was dead and took it upon himself to take over. Also, Negan got kidnapped by Jadis while Maggie and the ladies at Hilltop exchanged records (NO SPOKEN WORD) with mysterious new survivor leader named Georgie who looks a LOT like Commonwealth leader Georgie from the comics (just saying). This all set in motion major storylines that extended to the finale and beyond, making it a fairly memorable episode.
2. “Evolution” (Season 9 Episode 8)
No surprise here – the Mid-Season 9 Finale was easily the scariest episode in years. The search party to find Eugene was successful, but it resulted in Jesus’ death at the hand of the Whisperers, who were properly introduced in the shocking ending. Additionally, Henry was thrown in jail and comic fans will tell you that, mixed with The Whisperers, set us up for some major comic storylines in the back half.
1. “What Comes After” (Season 9 Episode 5)
Was there any question that Rick’s final episode would be crowned the top Walking Dead episode of the year? Forget his departure for a second – the episode itself was an emotional Space Mountain. We got hallucination cameos from Hospital Rick, Shane, Hershel, Sasha, AND Michonne along with an intense B story of Maggie nearly killing Negan in his cell! ALSO – another death fake-out! Jadis saved Rick for the movies and the show jumped ahead SIX AND A HALF YEARS at the end and introduced us to Magna’s group from the comics and a nine-year-old Judith! We’re sweating just thinking about it. To re-live the insanity, here’s how fans reacted to it all:
That wraps up our list! What were YOUR favorite episodes of 2018? Let us know in the comments!