Since the premiere of The Walking Dead in 2010, various showrunners who’ve adapted the Robert Kirkman comic book, from Frank Darabont to Scott Gimple, have offered their own contributions in the form of original characters. The Walking Dead has strayed considerably from its source material since its premiere, and the writers have offered new characters not directly featured in the original comic series as a means of expanding story lines, offering our main characters obstacles, or to act as a plot device to a wider storyline. Some of the show’s original offerings have ranged from forgettable to wildly successful, and these are five of the show’s best original characters introduced to the show. These five have offered interesting story lines, complex arcs, and dramatic tension to the wide universe of The Walking Dead.
Introduced in Season Five
Noah has had the most complete and tragic arc of The Walking Dead TV series so far. He managed to survive a long time before losing his father, and was taken prisoner in Grady Memorial Hospital and forced into servitude until finally escaping, thanks to Beth, one of the few friends he bonds with after the end of the world. Noah was a competent and mild mannered soldier who managed to survive for a good while before coming across Daryl and Carol. His quest to help get Carol back from the hospital after she was hit by a car and taken prisoner allows him to make a whole new group of allies, all of whom stick by him and help him find out what happened to his family in their safe haven.
After the Wolves decimate the only home he ever had, Noah finds safety with Rick’s group and garners a brand new home in Alexandria. From there, he helps on many missions and displays a keen skill for marksmanship. He sadly saw his end during a botched mission to restore power to Alexandria, being torn to pieces before the very eyes of his best friend Glenn. I think Noah had a few more episodes in him, but for the time we’re given with him, he’s a likable and flawed hero who manages to quickly pick himself up when he accepts his home and family are gone. Noah continues to have an effect on the characters in the current episodes, being remembered by comrades Glenn and Tara as well as Nicholas, who was the primary reason why Noah suffered such an unfortunate horrible death.
4. Theodore “T-Dog” Douglas
Introduced in Season One
T-Dog is the character a lot of fans like to deride, but I think the character had oodles of potential that the show didn’t realize. I think it’s because he was more of a place holder for Tyreese in the end. That said, T-Dog is a fascinating and flawed survivor who isn’t much of a hero until well into the series. He’s the character who sets off the plot for season one when Rick Grimes and co. go looking for Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) after he’s left on the roof in the middle of Atlanta, handcuffed to a pipe. He eventually mixes into the remaining survivors in season two with best intentions. By season three, he becomes a full fledged enforcer, going toe to toe with walkers and helping keep the newfound prison secure and free from all threats.
He garners a SWAT uniform and helps keep Rick and Daryl safe for the duration, even staring down a group of erratic prisoners left behind during the apocalypse. He eventually sacrifices himself to save Carol, allowing her to flee as he’s eaten alive. We garner a better glimpse at his personality during his burial, when Glenn explains to Rick that T-Dog used to deliver meals to the elderly and drove around checking on old people in their homes during the outbreak. He eventually brings Glenn along with him and saves his life, allowing Glenn to see another day and become the character we know now. It’s possible that without T-Dog, Glenn may not have been around so long. I still think the character deserves a prequel novel or comic book mini-series.
3. Beth Greene
Introduced in Season Two
Beth is one of the most evolved and complete characters introduced in The Walking Dead television universe. Much like everyone else, she experienced great loss and managed to pick herself up out of the dirt after a brush with depression and found a reason to keep going. Like Maggie, hers is a tragic story, where her relatively sheltered life was brought crashing down thanks to the zombie apocalypse. Beth went through numerous compelling changes from season two onwards, going from a grieving survivor to one of the primary caretakers of Rick’s daughter Judith, and often acted as a beacon of hope for the group as a songbird, singing to lift their spirits and inspire optimism. Beth also manages to bond with the likes of Daryl Dixon, and presses on even after witnessing the horrific death of her father Hershel.
Beth is a charming and likable presence in the ranks of the survivors, one who eventually shows how far she’s willing to go to survive and what she’s capable of, especially when the prison falls in season four. Pressed hard and pushed into a corner, Beth is quite resilient, even managing to craft a way to escape from Grady Memorial hospital in season five and help fellow survivor Noah in the process. Her tragic death in season five was a gut wrenching form of sacrifice for others, as she not only proved an example to the folks choosing to stay at Grady, but showed that she hasn’t always been a victim, something she was accused of by Dawn, the dictatorial leader of Grady. She’s left a significant hole in the roster of the survivors, and grants a final appearance as an angel of mercy for fellow guardian of Judith, Tyreese, as he slowly died from two walker bites.
2. Sasha Williams
Introduced in Season Three
In the original comic books, Tyreese Williams is introduced with a teenage daughter. She’s oddly enough nowhere to be found on the show, and is replaced by Sasha Williams, as played by Sonequa Martin-Green. On the show, she’s written as Tyreese’s little sister, a very loving and mild mannered young woman who knows how to survive. When she and Tyreese realize the governor is not the savior they thought he was, they become allies of Rick and eventually major members of the society they build in the prison. For the folks still mad that Andrea from the comics was botched on the TV series, Sasha transforms in to a version of Andrea that we deserved all along over the course of season four and on. Like Andrea, she loses a sibling to a walker as well as a lover to cannibals. Like Andrea, she’s forced to say goodbye to her lover, and dons an article of clothing he once wore.
She manages to pick herself up from the dirt and become a stellar warrior and marksman for her fellow survivors, finding a reason to press on. Since her continued storyline in season six, Sasha’s the Amazonian soldier and excellent strategist we know Andrea as from the comics, and the writers have pulled off the switch beautifully. Sasha is a very complex and interesting character who begins to wonder if there’s any point in continuing without her brother, and eventually determines that she’s needed by other people. Since season six, she’s been able to hold her own alongside soldiers like Abraham and Michonne, and has become a dazzling survivor. I hope we continue to see more of her through future seasons.
1. Daryl Dixon
Introduced in Season One
Daryl Dixon is the Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad) of The Walking Dead. He was originally intended to die in the first season, but garnered immense popularity and a huge fan base, thanks to the character’s unique development. Daryl begins the show as an obnoxious hothead, transforms in to an interesting anti-hero, and eventually redeems himself as a noble, if flawed, man capable of achieving remarkable things. Daryl never had the right path in life, but oddly enough finds it in the end of the world. I don’t think anyone expected Norman Reedus’ casting as original character Daryl Dixon to bring on such a legion of new fans, but lo and behold, Daryl remains arguably the most popular character of the series. Reedus fills the character with pathos and flourishes of empathy, all while giving Daryl something of a mystique that makes him interesting, even when he’s being irritating.
Daryl is a noble individual filled with pain and scars from his childhood, and we learn about him gradually as the series progresses. During the entirety of season one, Daryl is a typical Southern hothead prone to lashing out at people, and mistakenly gains a new family in his efforts to save Glenn from an Atlanta street gang. Dixon shows his true colors in season two by saving T-Dog from being torn apart by a herd in the middle of an abandoned highway, and from that point on becomes a hero everyone has been rooting for since. Whether it’s going out on a mission to feed a newborn baby, or going toe to toe with a tank to save his home from raiders, it’s tough not to be a Dixon fan. As a loyalist of the comic series, I was originally against the invention of original characters, but Reedus contributes to the series a great deal and makes Daryl one of the most complex, tortured, and heroic survivors of the AMC series.
Honorable Mentions: Merle Dixon, Martinez, Dawn, The Vatos, Eastman, Dr. S
Did we miss any of your favorites in this list?