20 ‘The Walking Dead’ episodes to see as main series ends and more come to life

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After 12 years, 11 seasons, and 177 episodes, “The Walking Dead” comes to its end on Sunday, Nov. 20.

In this piece, we’ll offer undying respect for 20 iconic episodes of the TV series that brought the zombie apocalypse into our living rooms. But first, let’s look to the future because the undead universe of the Walking Dead will absolutely live on.

The eighth season of “Fear The Walking Dead,” the first spinoff series in the franchise, arrives early next year. It will be followed by a trio of new series to continue the storylines of fan favorites from “The Walking Dead,” such as Rick Grimes and Michonne, Maggie Rhee and Negan, and Daryl Dixon.

Executive producer Greg Nicotero, who directed more than 30 episodes of the series and served as its special make-up effects supervisor, said recently that wrapping up “The Walking Dead” didn’t come easy.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Nicotero said on the red carpet for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in September. “You think about 12 years of a show and the expectation that people were going to have.

“I mean, my kids were 9 and 7 years old when I started the show and now one of them is in college,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we honored the spirit of the show and I’m really, really proud of what we did. We all stuck in there and there was a lot of weight on all of us – cast and crew.”

The series began with Rick Grimes, a Georgia sheriff’s deputy, waking up from a coma inside an abandoned hospital. From that solitary perspective, the universe expanded over the seasons that followed. Friends and family were found and lost again.

The core group of survivors traveled through Georgia, clashing with walkers – not once was the term zombie used on the show – while learning that the living could sometimes be more dangerous than the dead.

“The Walking Dead” offered plenty of gore and remarkably realistic walkers. But more than anything it was a series about the survivors and their quest for humanity.

In addition to the return of “Fear The Walking Dead,” the new series “Daryl Dixon” will follow the character played by Norman Reedus, one of the most beloved on the entire show, to Paris, France. Not sure how he gets there, but the show has dropped hints in the past that the French were onto a cure for the zombie virus.

“Rick & Michonne” reunites the characters played by Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira. Rick Grimes was believed to have died in the ninth season, though viewers saw a mysterious helicopter retrieve his unconscious body. Michonne left the main group (and the show) in the 10th season to look for him.

And “Dead City” pairs the unlikely couple of reformed villain Negan and Maggie Rhee, whose husband Glenn, Negan brutally murdered, for a series in which the characters played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan travel together to New York City.

“It will be interesting to move on from that particular show,” Nicotero said of the end of “The Walking Dead.”: “But there’s more … so much more.”

With that, let’s go to the highlights, the episodes that made you gasp, laugh, cry, or shout at the television (so to be clear: spoilers ahead). In chronological order under the episode titles, these are – cue the theme music – our 20 most iconic moments of “The Walking Dead.”

Season 1

1. ‘Days Gone Bye’: The pilot aired on Oct. 31, 2010, and introduced viewers to Rick Grimes waking from a coma to a changed world. “Don’t Open Dead Inside” is spray-painted on the padlocked doors of the hospital ward. He opens the door. The adventure begins.

Season 2

2. ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’: The survivors have taken refuge on Hershel Greene’s (Scott Wilson) farm. He’s a good guy with a misguided belief that walkers might become people again. Carol’s (Melissa McBride) daughter Sophia is missing. Someone looks in Hershel’s barn. Sophia isn’t missing; she’s a walker.

3. ‘Beside The Dying Fire’: Rick kills his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) in self-defense because Shane, who had gotten together with Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) when they thought Rick was dead, went kinda crazy. The survivors start to realize you don’t have to be bitten by a walker to turn. And the katana-wielding Michonne shows up with two unusual pets.

Season 3

4. ‘Killer Within’: Lori, who got pregnant by Shane, dies giving birth to Judith. Carl (Chandler Riggs), her young son with Rick, then shoots her in the head to keep her from reanimating as a walker. Like any good son would.

5. ‘Clear’: Rick, Carl and Michonne go on a supply run and find Morgan Jones, who’s lost it a bit after losing his son to a bite from his undead wife. A subtle, emotional and well-acted episode.

Season 4

6. ‘Too Far Gone’: The evil Governor (David Morrissey) and his baddies attack the prison where Rick and the good guys have settled. He kills Hershel, then is killed by Michonne. And Baby Judith is missing from her carrier, forcing viewers to wonder whether the show would really turn an infant into a walker that can’t even crawl yet?

7. ‘After’: Carl eats a gigantic industrial-sized can of chocolate pudding while sitting on the roof of the house where he and the ailing Rick are holed up. Seriously. So much pudding!

8. ‘The Grove’: Lizzie, a little girl with mental issues, kills her sister Mika so she’ll have a walker sister-friend to play with forever. Carol realizes that no one is safe around Lizzie. “Just look at the flowers,” she tells Lizzie. Then she does what has to be done. No more Lizzie.

Season 5

9. ‘No Sanctuary’: Rick and the gang find a new potential community that calls itself the Sanctuary. If only they weren’t cannibals, it might have worked.

Season 6

10. ‘Thank You’: Glenn (Steven Yuen) is out scavenging with another survivor when they’re trapped by walkers atop a dumpster. The friend falls off, then Glenn falls, and all we see is roiling mass of walkers with no idea what happened to Glenn for the next few weeks.

11. ‘No Way Out’: Walkers have invaded Alexandria, where Rick’s crew has joined the existing colony. While Rick is trying to lead Alexandrians to safety, one of them fires a gun, knocking out Carl’s dang eye.

Season 7

12. ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’: The previous season ended with big bad Negan about to whack one of our heroes with his barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille. This season begins with the reveal: Glenn and Abraham, RIP.

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