Romance might not be the first thing you think about when reflecting on the most iconic episodes of The Walking Dead through its eleven seasons on the air. Still, as we wind through the remaining episodes of its last season, many longtime fans will agree that the relationships between the show’s living characters are the glue that holds the whole franchise together.
Characters come and go, but the bonds they build with friends and foes alike will last forever. The non-stop scares and high-stakes fight scenes are what the show’s about, but the love stories are what keep us tuning in for more.
Season 10, Episode 22 “Here’s Negan” Negan Slow Dances With Lucille
It’s hard to say whether Negan loved his wife or the barbed-wire baseball bat he named after her more, but he only slow-danced with his wife, so we’re going to go with her. Though much of Negan’s origin story episode shows how he took their relationship for granted in the time before the walkers, that is all the more reason it absolutely crushed him when he lost her to a battle with cancer rather than anything he could physically fight.
Taking all his anger out on the rest of the world for the next many years, it’s only at the end of “Here’s Negan” that he finally settles down and says a real goodbye to her. The whole episode is full of tearjerker moments, but the best and the brightest is that moment when he holds her and tearfully sings Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” to her.
Season 10, Episode 4 “Silence the Whisperers” Magna and Yumiko Get Together, Thank God
Though the series has had several LGBTQ+ romances, a lot of those characters have ended up not just dead but exceptionally dead, such as Denise (shot in head with arrow), Eric (tragically zombified before his lover Aaron could save him), and Tara (turned into a walker, decapitated, head left as an ominous warning for the people of the four communities). Of course, it’s not too abnormal for a character to pass away unexpectedly on a show about zombies, but that makes us cherish the moments where things go right more than ever.
Yumiko and Manga are two characters that were so focused on survival that it took a long time to realize that they were even officially together, which is why it was a bit of a surprise when we learned they’d been a couple for more than a decade. Though they broke up shortly after this, both of them have grown significantly in the time since, and their relationship is a highlight in the comics and it’s one that we’re always hoping the TV series returns to.
Season 6, Episode 15 “East” Abraham and Sasha Plain Didn’t Have Enough Time
Sasha and Abraham weren’t a couple that immediately made sense together, but as Abraham recovered from the end of his relationship with Rosita, he and the pragmatic Sasha bonded. This episode showed them together, and they made a surprisingly tender and well-adjusted couple – for about five seconds before it all went to heck.
Even in Sasha’s final appearance as she sacrifices herself to save others, she reflects on what she lost when Abraham was taken from her too soon by the bloodthirsty Negan. The way his death haunts her is something she may have eventually come to accept with time, but there’s no denying that watching her find happiness only to immediately lose it in the worst way possible is agonizing.
Season 3, Episode 15 “This Sorrowful Life” Glenn Proposes to Maggie
Glenn and Maggie are considered by many series fans to have been the ideal couple for the end times, which is why the series lost a lot of viewers when Negan arbitrarily murdered Glenn in order to instill his authority over the people of Alexandria. Along with Abraham from the previous entry, this was another coupling that was broken up by senseless violence, all the more tragic considering that in the end, it was all for naught. Yet, we’ll always have our memories.
This penultimate episode of season three saw a lot of showdowns happening, which is part of why this comparatively tender moment hit as hard as it did. After seeking out and getting her father Hershel’s permission to propose, Glenn asks Maggie to marry him in a surprisingly tender scene amidst all the horror. In typical The Walking Dead fashion, he does so with a ring he cut off of the finger of a walker, but that’s love during the zombie apocalypse for you.
Season 7, Episode 9 “Rock in the Road” Michonne and Rick Slay Together, Stay Together
After the brutal murders of Glenn and Abraham, the community at Alexandria was devastated and forced to work for Negan. Perhaps more than any other, Rick was left a broken man by these events as his status as leader put the responsibility on his shoulders. Terrified of making another mistake, he discouraged the others against seeking revenge or even making minor rebellions. This episode is where all that changed, and Rick finally prepared his community to strike back.
While Rick was wrecked by all that befell his friends, Michonne never lost sight of the end goal. Rallying him again and again when he was despondent and unable to act, she helped Rick pick up the pieces and proved integral to the defeat of Negan. There are a lot of sweet moments between Michonne and Rick throughout the series, but this episode sees them fighting against a horde of zombies with no one to count on but each other. When they emerge triumphantly, the moment of hope it brings is a major part of them moving forward and taking back control of their lives.
Season 9, Episode 1 “A New Beginning” Chatty Ezekiel and Brooding Carol Are Extremely Cute
Ezekiel and Carol are both fan favorites, but to say that their personalities are a little bit different is to say that an apple is a little bit different from a 1979 Chevy Nova. Ezekiel is a poetic wanderer while Carol plays everything close to the vest, letting her pragmatism rule her every decision. Her painful relationship history is only one of the reasons it was wonderful to see her find love again.
In this episode, Ezekiel and Carol ride along an old road, and he mentions that he’s recently been forced to reexamine what matters in life. When he pops out a wedding ring and asks her to marry him, she reacts with mild horror, demanding that he put the ring away and think about what he’s saying. This leads him to let out one of his trademark belly laughs, remarking, “I love you, and I always will.” They quickly end up in a predicament and the conversation gets shelved, but the couple enjoyed some happy times before their affair came to a tragic close.
World Beyond, Season 2, Episode 1 “Conseguenze” Felix Weeps When He Reunites With William
Felix was one of the surprise standouts of the highly underrated and all-too-brief The Walking Dead: World Beyond series. Initially appearing as a standard, fun-hating, straight-laced cop, Felix’s tenderness towards mentor Leo Bennett and his daughters Iris and Hope quickly became one of the most important aspects of the series.
While the actor that plays Felix (Nico Tortorello) is non-binary, they play Felix exceptionally well, with the added context that coming out as a gay man and being rejected by his family is what caused Felix to build up a wall around his heart. Showing us the sensitive person buried underneath the emotionless facade, Felix’s love affair with William is one of the highlights of the series. William challenges Felix to let go of the need for control that defines him, which is why it’s all the more painful when Felix is alone with William after being forced apart for months and he simply breaks down in tears.
Many Episodes, Rosita And…
When it comes to the underrated greats of this franchise, Rosita sits high up on the list. Having stuck around since all the way back in season four, her most recent season eleven appearance showed her fly out into a rainstorm to single-handedly bludgeon a huge group of walkers into oblivion when they threatened the children in her care.
Having reached supreme babe status early on, it’s no surprise that she’s been high in demand as a dating prospect. Rosita is a good match and thrives in a relationship, making it difficult to say which of her beaus we ship her with more. From the doomed-but-loving relationship with Abraham to the nervous hero-worship from Eugene to the passionate romance with Siddiq and, ultimately, the challenging but tender love affair with Father Gabriel, Rosita’s a woman of many ships, and they are all pretty cute at various times.
Fear the Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 13, “J.D.” John & June
When it comes to a couple that was clearly made to be together regardless of their own flaws and hardships, John and June are among the greats. After the two were separated, with many of their best days as a married couple behind them, they continued to stay in touch through letters. John was ultimately murdered, and this episode shows June struggling with the after-effects of his death.
She meets up with his father, who realizes his son has died. Carrying John’s final letter along with her, she refuses to read it until the end. John forgives his father, saying he understands why he left. He then asks that June forgive him despite the fact that he left her to save someone else. He tells her that she’s the one that made him realize that life was sacred, and very much worth living. June cries as she reads, and we cried right along with her.
Season 10, Episode 18 “Find Me” Even Daryl, We Guess?
Throughout the course of the series, a lot of viewers have theorized about Daryl’s lack of relationships, with some shippers leaning toward the tragically deceased Beth and others aligning with the Carol Crew. Yet, for the most part, he had mutually-respectful platonic relationships with either woman, as far as what we’ve actually seen on the screen. With a tendency toward isolation, we’d have been more than fine with an aro/ace Daryl, but he did finally meet the woman of his dreams in the equally standoffish Leah.
Leah lost everything when she and her adopted family were attacked by walkers, which made her content to hide out and spend the rest of her days alone with the company of her pet, Dog. When Daryl shows up on the scene, she pulls a gun on him, but quickly comes to see him for the sensitive, soft-spoken guy that he is. Though things have gone absolutely haywire for Leah in Season 11, this episode introduced us to a woman who might have been happiest settling down with Daryl, making it all the more tragic that it appears not to be in the cards.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Feature Image Credit: AMC/Maggie Lovitt.
Sara is a horror writer, a critic, a reporter, a filmmaker, and an artist that has written for many publications and platforms. She is the co-host of the Bitches On Comics podcast as well as the co-founder and editor of the Decoded Pride anthology which focuses on works of queer speculative fiction.