The 6 Most Shocking Moments of The Walking Dead Season 1

Art’s starting to imitate life when it comes to The Walking Dead. Well, sort of anyway. Tuesday night, it was announced that showrunner Frank Darabont would be stepping down, and Wednesday afternoon saw the confirmation of his replacement, Glen Mazzara. It’s not quite as shocking as the zombie apocalypse, but it’s as close as you can get from writers’ room shake-ups.

Since events have been so dramatic, I figured now was the perfect time to recount the most shocking moments of the first season of The Walking Dead, which aired last winter. The Walking Dead season 2 will premiere on October 16.

Let’s start the countdown, shall we?

6. Boom

There’s no better way to end a season than with an explosion. In the season finale, “TS-19,” when Dr. Jenner detonated the CDC (with Jacqui still inside with him) in a suicidal bid, not only did the scene have emotional poignance, but it was pretty darn cool. It wasn’t a plot twist (we knew the explosion was going to happen for essentially the entire episode), but seeing just how awesome that explosion looked was the perfect amount of shock and awe for me.

5. Right Around the Corner

The show managed to pull the rug right out from under us toward the end of the first episode, “Days Gone Bye.” As Rick rides his horse through Atlanta after a helicopter he spots, he turns the corner and — BAM! — runs smack into a massive horde of zombies, who just happened to be lounging around that street. They give chase as Rick frantically gallops away, leaving us in shock at both the zombies’ speed and their disembowelment of Rick’s poor steed.

4. Amy Gets Bitten

One of the survivors’ first casualties was Andrea’s sister Amy (Emma Bell), who fell victim to a zombie during a zombie night attack. While it’s not surprising for people to die in a zombie apocalypse, the sudden nature of Amy’s death — and the sheer amount of blood that gushed from her neck — made her death one of the most hair-raising sequences in first season. Andrea’s reaction to her sister’s demise made the scene even more horrendous.

3. We Need More Guts

“Guts” was probably my favorite episode of the season. Not only did it take full advantage of its urban setting, but it also featured some of the ickiest scenes the show’s had to offer. When Rick led the gang in killing a zombie and then chopping it up, it was disgusting — especially those lingering shots of the zombie’s scattered corpse. “We need more guts,” Rick said shortly before smearing himself in them, and plenty of viewers echoed that sentiment.

2. Give Merle a Hand

Nobody liked Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) except his brother, but Daryl wasn’t around to keep Rick from handcuffing the violent and dangerous Merle to the roof of a building and leaving him there. As the zombies swarmed up the stairs to where Merle sat, helpless and delirious, he came up with one final desperate bid to free himself: he sawed off his own hand and cauterized it. His brother’s anguished screams upon finding Merle’s amputated hand on the roof at the end of the episode “Tell It to the Frogs” was probably the best ending to an episode in the entire season.

1. The First Zombie

Try as it might, it was tough for the series to top its own opening moments, which saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) looking through the abandoned cars. He eventually found a little girl, who turned around to reveal that she was a zombie. She was the first zombie we saw on the show, and as she slowly, creepily shuffled forward, gaining momentum, Rick had no choice but to shoot her in the head. As she fell to the ground in a slow motion arc, her blood splattering on the asphalt behind her, you could almost here Frank Darabont and the rest of the writing staff taunting us from the writers’ room: “If that made you queasy, wait until you see what’s next!” It was ballsy, shocking, and a brilliant start to a brilliant series.

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