The search for Sophia (Madison Lintz) reached its end when the zombified daughter of Carol (Melissa McBride) stumbled out of a barn in "Pretty Much Dead Already," a season 2 episode of The Walking Dead that premiered nine years ago on November 27, 2011. In the midseason finale scripted by future Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple, the survivors holed up on the Greene family farm learn Hershel (Scott Wilson) keeps walkers locked inside the barn because he believes they're sick and able to be cured. An increasingly unhinged Shane (Jon Bernthal) pushes the group to leave for Fort Benning, but Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus) refuse to abandon the search for Sophia.
Carol's 12-year-old daughter went missing when a jammed highway impeded the group's trip to Fort Benning in the season 2 premiere, "What Lies Ahead," where a passing herd of walkers spooked Sophia into running off into the woods alone. In "Pretty Much Dead Already," Hershel recruits Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to help him corral walkers while Shane strong-arms Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) into handing over a bag of guns he attempted to hide.
When Shane screams at Rick that "it ain't like it was before," telling the group they have to fight to survive, he forcefully opens the barn and unleashes the corralled walkers inside. Shane, Daryl, T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Andrea (Laurie Holden), and Glenn (Steven Yeun) gun down the walkers trickling through the doors, but the firing squad comes to a dead stop when a zombie-bitten Sophia staggers out of the barn.
As Daryl cradles a devastated Carol, Rick steps forward and puts the girl down with a single shot to the head.
"When a good idea comes up, you have to go with it," Walking Dead creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman told THR in a 2011 interview. "Sophia is a character who is still alive in the comic book series and who has contributed quite a bit to the overall narrative and informed a lot of storylines for a lot of different characters. Having Carol survive her daughter as opposed to the other way around as it is in the comics is going to lead to interesting but different stories."
In Kirkman's comic book, which ended last summer after 193 issues, it's Carol who dies by zombie early into the book's run. Sophia lives through the book's finale, where she has a six-year-old daughter with husband Carl Grimes. On the television show, Carol and Daryl are the last-remaining characters from season 1 who are still on The Walking Dead as it heads into its eleventh and final season.
Earlier this year, a now 21-year-old Lintz said she didn't expect The Walking Dead to kill off Sophia because she was still alive in the comic book.
"I honestly thought that I was in [more of the second season]. I thought I was not gonna die because I was still alive in the comics," Lintz told the Talk Dead to Me podcast. "So I'm like, 'I'm fine, it's totally fine.' And then [executive proucer] Gale Anne Hurd ended up calling my mom about a month before I shot the scene and told us the news. And of course, it was so sad because that show was so awesome to be on."