Guest Blog: Arsenio Maddox’s Top Five ‘Walking Dead’ Episodes
5. Pretty Much Dead Already (Season Two, Episode 7)
This episode closed the chapter on the search for Sophia in a tragic and fitting way. I was 100% sure that she would eventually be found alive. The revelation that she had been amongst the other walkers in Hershel’s farm only proved how wrong I was. WTF? This was also one of Shane’s best episodes, and his approach to proving his point was erratic but effective. The Walkers are dangerous, and watching Rick plead with his friend to no avail was some of Andrew Lincoln’s best work as well. Watching the other certified badasses stand by Shane’s side as they defended their people was nothing less than inspiring. It’s not until we think the drama is over that Sophia’s zombified corpse starts stumbling out of the barn. It reiterated that no one on this show is safe, and Carol’s reaction was heartbreaking to say the least.
4. Clear (Season Three, Episode 12)
Season Three was an inconsistent ride to say the least, but it wasn’t until “Clear” that the writing really kicked into gear. Morgan returns, but isn’t the man we, the viewers, or Rick once knew. He’s changed and is on the verge of losing his mind if he hasn’t already. The apocalypse has made him extremely savage, feral, and violent; and the loss of his son, Duane, is the main catalyst for this. This is one of the most important episodes of the entire series, and that’s why I’m glad I didn’t conduct this list until after its premiere. It’s a testament to the fact that The Walking Dead is a character driven show, and without characters like Morgan and Rick, with whom we care deeply about, the deaths would mean nothing. I recommend watching this episode back to back with the pilot because it provides great contrast in showing where these characters started to where they are now. This interaction with Morgan was clearly what Rick needed to snap out of his craziness. He saw himself in Morgan and echoes of what he may become, and suddenly things became more clear. It was time to get his shit together, and the old Rick Grimes slowly made a comeback. We see this when he finally accepts Michonne as one of their own.
3. Seed (Season Three, Episode 1)
As far as season openers go, “Seed” would have to top the list. I know that most people feel that the pilot is an amazing piece of work, but that episode didn’t exactly pull me in. It did, however, do a great job of setting the tone for the series. What is so great about “Seed” is that it’s one of the first major time jumps the show has done, and it’s as if every character has transformed into some sort of badass. Our characters have become a single unit, and watching them band together as they clear out the prison for the possibility of a safe haven proved just how resilient this band of survivors are. Fighting is a way of life for them at this point, and this episode places a great emphasis on that. So much happens in one hour, yet none of it feels rushed or overdone. It sets the tone for season three – and the future of the series in general – in a strong way, and that’s why it deserves to be on this list.
2. Better Angels (Season Two, Episode 12)
Season two was a complex and altogether rewarding season, and I know I’m in the minority when I say that the story actually benefited from being relatively slow. The Walking Dead as a series finally found its groove, and when it did, the results were more than worth the wait. The end of season two kicked into overdrive with the death of Dale, and from there each episode managed to top the one before in every possible way. “Better Angels” main goal was to wrap up the Shane vs. Rick arc and it did that with a bang. In a moment of self-defense Rick was forced to kill his best friend, which was essential to him becoming the leader he needed to be. It gave him an edge, which was the one thing Rick was missing. Moments later we get chaotic glimpses into what could be viewed as Shane’s inner psyche. I viewed these images as visual representations of the transformation from human to zombie, and the notion that they are all infected is made clear by Shane’s resurrection.
1. Beside the Dying Fire (Season Two, Episode 13)
Every season has a beginning and an end. Those two episodes, specifically, are supposed to accomplish certain things. The premiere is supposed to introduce the season’s overall arc while the finale is meant to provide closure while still setting up future plot lines. When looking back at season two of The Walking Dead as a whole, the writers accomplished these goals on both fronts. “Beside the Dying Fire” is not only the best episode of The Walking Dead in my opinion, but one of the best finales ever. The combination of action, emotion and fear came together in this cinematic masterpiece perfectly, and I’m not sure the series will ever reach this level of quality again. While we lost characters along the way, this episode marked the birth of new heroes, especially in regards to Andrea. Suddenly the scenes focusing on her evolution under the tutelage of Shane made more sense, because she proved to be a far more effective survivor when left to her own devices. With Andrea being left behind, it allowed her character to be seen in a different light and thus Andrea the Zombie Slayer was born. The introduction of Michonne was just the icing on the cake, and the final shot of the Prison made every fanboy overly excited. All of these elements plus the most Walkers seen on screen to date is why this episode takes the top spot.