Through its seven years, The Walking Dead has developed a reputation of spending much of its time using episodes to build up toward explosive, climactic finales. As much was never more evident than Season 7, which tied all of its storylines into a bow.
Each season's exclamation point came with drastically different side effects and results. In some cases, the concluding moments prompt the world to begin asking a question of "who died?" while a couple of others leave fans wondering where Rick's group can possibly go after their sanctuary has been destroyed.
On the following slides, we consider each of the aforementioned factors, fan receptions, and season long payoffs culminating into the final hours to rank each of The Walking Dead's season finales.
7. Season 3
The Season 3 finale of The Walking Dead promised the world a showdown between Rick Grimes and his first nemesis, the Governor.
Instead, the world watched as the Governor snapped and killed all of his own people with the exception of two: Martinez and Shumpert. While everyone thought this episode would be a conclusion of sorts to the story which clouded most of the season, it instead served as an open-ended segue to a less interesting story which would continue in a future season.
Unfortunately for one of The Walking Dead comics' most interesting characters, the Season 3 finale dulled the Governor's storyline and fans were all but done with the character by the time he would return as a result of the questionable actions in Welcome to the Tombs.
6. Season 4
The Walking Dead's Season 4 finale had an epic final line of dialogue as Rick Grimes remained optimistic when there was no reason to believe his group would survive.
The journey to Terminus finally reached its destination. Glenn's group, consisting of Maggie, Tara, and newcomers Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene had already arrived at the place advertised as a Sanctuary. When Rick pulled up, his group quickly realized this was not the place they had hoped to find. Instead, it was loaded with cannibals who had now fed Carl some human meat.
One by one, the group was herded into a train car as fans realized the time was running out on Season 4. While the Season 4 finale, A, set up one of the most epic episodes in the Season 5 premiere which pitted Carol against the world to save her friends, the episode itself was underwhelming as it favored future episodes rather than its own concluding hour.
"They're screwing with the wrong people."
5. Season 5
The Walking Dead's Season 5 finale was one of the more predictable episodes of the series.
Finally, the feud between Rick Grimes and Pete Anderson came to a head in front of all of Alexandria. Unsurprisingly, Pete lost this battle and was executed as the town looked on after he accidentally killed Deanna's husband Reg -- a character so unimportant he's best known for the "Deanna's husband" title. All of this unfolded just as Daryl and Aaron marched Morgan to his reunion with a very different Rick Grimes than he remembered in Atlanta.
Of course, this also came with the rising tensions between Glenn and Nicholas leading to their fight in the woods but ultimately ended with the two putting the differences aside when Glenn got the upper hand.
All in all, Season 5's finale was not nearly as exciting as its premiere which saw the group fight its way out of Terminus. Teasing the Wolves, which many thought would be TV's Saviors, wasn't enough to land Conquer a more prestigious spot on this list.
4. Season 2
The Season 2 finale copied the Season 1 finale in many ways which lowered its ranking on this list.
Beside the Dying Fire saw Hershel's barn and home going down in flames. Several obscure characters were taken in the aftermath of Shane's death and it even appeared that Hershel himself would go down with his estate as he stood on the porch with a shotgun in hand.
Like the premiere season before it, the Season 2 finale left the group scrambling for a place to call home as their shelter literally went down in flames, again. The barn burning down was a pretty hot shot, though.
3. Season 6
The Season 6 finale is easily the most talked about finale of the entire series.
The episode slowly tightened the metaphorical rope around Rick and his group's neck as they attempted to get Maggie to the Hilltop to be treated for her complications. Along the way, Negan's Saviors would blockade each road to force them down a path of being completely trapped and cornered by the new villains in town.
The extended episode would end with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's debut as Negan, containing an 11-minute monologue belittling the good guys and introducing his barbed wire wrapped baseball bat called Lucille. In the final moments, one character would meet Lucille's business end but the world wouldn't find out who until the Season 7 premiere.
The endless conversation created by the Season 7 finale's cliffhanger became one of the best and worst moments in The Walking Dead's history, all in one swing of a bat.
2. Season 7
Season 7 was a grueling trial for much of its 16-episode run. Following the aftermath of Negan's killing Glenn and Abraham for its first half, only to see Rick finally rise up against the Saviors in the back half made for some pacing issues when telling scattered stories on a weekly basis.
However, the introductions and explorations of the Kingdom, Hilltop, junkyard, and Oceanside all lead to an explosive and climactic finale which finally saw the good guys chalking up a win.
The episode contained the surprising betrayal of Jadis against Rick, the heartbreaking death of Sasha as she turned herself into a weapon, and the epic arrival of King Ezekiel and his tiger Shiva as the groups united in battle -- sending the bad guys fleeing for their lives.
Plus, the return of Abraham in flashback form was more than welcome.
Rise up, Alexandria!
1. Season 1
The Season 1 finale of The Walking Dead was one of the best episodes in the best seasons.
The treachery of the world was truly on display here. For the first time, humans appeared to be a threat but not in the same way the Governor and Negan would turn out to be. Dr. Edwin Jenner locked the group into the CDC in Atlanta in what he saw as an act of mercy. The CDC would explode and take all of these survivors with it. Rick had to beg and plead with the now mad scientist to allow his group a chance at survival outside of the CDC's shelter. When he ultimately freed them, Rick expressed gratitude, to which Jenner responded, "The day will come when you won't be." The line would become the title of the Season 7 premiere which saw Negan's brutal introduction carried out.
TS-19 claimed the lives of Jacqui and Dr. Jenner but also made dramatic attempts at taking Dale and Andrea, as well. Dynamic relationships between characters dominated the story and the true horrors of the world of The Walking Dead were completely on display to end the zombie drama's first batch of episodes.