Are you one of those rare people who aren't watching The Walking Dead? Well, it's time to escape from the rock you've been living under.
We get that the idea of binge-ing five-and-a-half seasons' worth of old episodes is overwhelming. Fortunately, the show's lather-rinse-repeat style of storytelling makes it easier than you might think to just jump right in. But if you're still on the fence, we've done even more of the legwork for you: Below is a spoiler-filled synopsis of the show's plot to date, complete with all the major players, notable deaths, and even the most important episodes if you do feel like doing some of the viewing. Just think of this like the CliffsNotes you read in high school to prep for your book reports.
So, what are you waiting for? Dive in below and, in a flash, you'll be all ready for The Walking Dead's return on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 9/8c.
[LAST WARNING: This story spoils the majority of The Walking Dead to date. Read at your own risk.]
Major Players: Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Morgan Jones (Lennie James), Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Andrea Harrison (Laurie Holden), Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn), T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Amy Harrison (Emma Bell), Ed Peletier (Adam Minarovich), Jim (Andrew Rothenberg), Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott Sales), Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich)
Synopsis: After being injured in a shootout with criminals, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes from a coma to learn that the world is now overrun with infectious zombies commonly referred to as "walkers." Rick discovers that his wife, Lori, and their son, Carl, are missing, but fellow survivor Morgan takes Rick in and explains what's happened. After arming himself at the police station, Rick heads to Atlanta, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is believed to have established a quarantine. However, Rick finds the city overrun with walkers and is rescued from a mob of them by Glenn, a pizza delivery boy who is on a scouting run in the city with Andrea, T-Dog, Morales, Jacqui and Merle. When they come under attack, the group flees the city, leaving behind Merle, whom Rick had handcuffed because of his violent outbursts.
When Rick returns to the group's campsite, he learns Lori and Carl are there along with Rick's best friend Shane, who has since begun a romantic relationship with Lori. Rick leads a small team back to Atlanta to retrieve a bag of weapons and Merle, but Merle has escaped by cutting off his own hand. While Rick's group is away, a herd of walkers attack the camp, killing Andrea's sister Amy and Carol's abusive husband Ed, and badly injuring Jim. When the group decides to head for the CDC, Jim asks to be left alone to die, while Morales and his family split off from the group. At the CDC, the group meets Dr. Edwin Jenner, the only researcher left. He explains there is no cure, and that the building will soon self-destruct as part of a decontamination protocol. (He also whispers something to Rick.) Jacqui stays behind and dies in the explosion with Dr. Jenner, while Rick & Co. set out toward Fort Benning.
Amy, Ed, Jim, Jacqui, Dr. Jenner
Most Memorable Episodes:
"Days Gone By," "Vatos," "TS-19"
Major Players/Cast Additions: Sophia Peletier (Madison Lintz), Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Jimmy (James Allen McCune), Patricia (Jane McNeill), Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), Randall Culver (Michael Zegen)
Hershel's Farm Synopsis: Rick's caravan toward Fort Benning is interrupted by a traffic jam of abandoned cars on I-85. During a walker attack, Carol's daughter Sophia is chased into the woods and gets lost. While searching for Sophia, Carl is accidentally shot by Otis, who is deer-hunting. At Otis' urging, Rick takes Carl to the nearby farm of Hershel Greene, a veterinarian who, with the help of Otis' wife Patricia, saves Carl's life and begrudgingly agrees to let Rick's group stay on his farm while Carl recuperates. Numerous tensions soon arise: Shane secretly kills Otis in order to survive a walker attack while they search a local high school for medical supplies. Lori learns that she is pregnant, but is unsure whether Rick or Shane is the father. After beginning a romantic relationship with Hershel's oldest daughter Maggie, Glenn discovers Hershel's barn is full of walkers, some of which are members of Hershel's family. Shane angrily releases and kills all the walkers in Hershel's barn, including Sophia, whom Rick reluctantly puts down.
Distraught over the "murder" of their family members, Hershel escapes to a local tavern, and his youngest daughter Beth attempts suicide. When Rick tracks Hershel down, they run across another group of survivors who engage Rick and Glenn in a firefight. When Rick discovers one of their men, Randall, was left behind, he takes him prisoner out of fear that he will lead others to the farm. The group is divided about what to do with Randall, with Dale voicing his strong opposition to executing him. But after Dale is killed by a walker, Shane frees Randall and takes him into the forest, where he kills him by breaking his neck. Rick organizes a search for Randall, during which Daryl and Glenn find and "kill" a zombified version of Randall and Shane holds Rick at gunpoint. Rick eventually stabs Shane in the heart, but he too reanimates, forcing Carl to shoot Shane in the head. The gunshot draws a horde of walkers to the farm. Although the group evacuates the farm, Patricia and Beth's boyfriend Jimmy are killed in the attack, while Andrea is separated from the group and saved by a hooded figure. On the road once again, Rick admits that he killed Shane and reveals what Jenner told him back in Season 1: that all humans are infected and will turn into walkers upon death. Although he vows to find the group a safe haven, Rick says he is now fully in charge and that there is no longer a democracy in the group.
Otis, Sophia, Dale, Randall, Shane, Jimmy, Patricia
Most Memorable Episodes:
"Save the Last One," Pretty Much Dead Already," "Better Angels," "Beside the Dying Fire"
Major Players/Cast Additions: Oscar (Vincent Ward), Axel (Lew Temple), Andrew (Markice Moore), Tomas (Nick Gomez), Michonne (Danai Gurira), The Governor (David Morrissey), Milton Mamet (Dallas Roberts), Caesar Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), Shumpert (Travis Love), Karen (Melissa Ponzio), Tyreese Williams (Chad Coleman), Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin-Green)
The Prison, Woodbury
After several months of roaming, the group sets up camp in an abandoned prison, which they must first clear of walkers. Hershel is bitten, forcing Rick to amputate his lower leg to stop the infection from spreading. While clearing a cell block, Rick & Co. discover a group of surviving prisoners. Rick agrees to clear them a separate cell block away from his group as long as they all share the prison's stored food. When the prisoners' leader, Tomas, sets Rick up to die during a fight with walkers, Rick kills him on the spot and leaves Andrew, who tries to retaliate, alone to die in the walker-infested courtyard. (Remaining prisoners Axel and Oscar stay on their own cell block as agreed.) A bitter Andrew leads walkers into the prison, and although Rick kills Andrew and a number of walkers, T-Dog is bitten and sacrifices himself to save Carol. Lori goes into labor during the attack, and she urges Maggie to perform a C-section to save the baby, even though Lori will likely not survive. Lori does, in fact, die in childbirth, and her son Carl shoots her in the head to prevent her from reanimating. A distraught Rick and Carl eventually name the baby Judith.
Meanwhile, Andrea and her hooded savior Michonne are captured by Merle (now with only one hand) and taken to a small fortified town known as Woodbury. Although Michonne is suspicious of their new "home," Andrea becomes infatuated with the town's leader, the Governor. Michonne leaves Woodbury, and although the Governor orders Merle to kill her, he only wounds her. Instead, Merle kidnaps Maggie and Glenn, who are out scavenging, and brings them back to Woodbury, where the Governor tortures them for information about Rick's group. Michonne makes her way to the prison, and, although Rick is distrustful of her, he leads a team to Woodbury to rescue Maggie and Glenn. The rescue attempt is successful, but Oscar is killed, Daryl is captured, and Michonne stabs The Governor in the eye with a shard of glass and kills his zombified daughter, Penny. The Governor accuses Merle of treason and pits him and Daryl in a fight. Maggie and Rick are eventually able to rescue the brothers, but because Rick won't allow Merle to join their group, Daryl goes out on his own with Merle, rather than return with Rick to the prison.
Rick returns to learn that another band of survivors, led by siblings Tyreese and Sasha, have been given shelter by Carl. Rick, who has suffered hallucinations since Lori's death, orders the new group to leave in a rage. That group instead settles at Woodbury, where Tyreese gives the Governor enough information to plan an attack against the prison, during which Axel is killed. Andrea arranges a meeting between the Governor and Rick, and the Governor agrees to make peace if Michonne is handed over to him. When Andrea learns the Governor secretly intends to still kill everyone at the prison, she attempts to escape, but is captured by the Governor. Merle - who, along with Daryl, has re-joined Rick at the prison after all - is selected to hand Michonne over to the Governor, but he changes his mind, and instead launches a firefight against the Governor's ambushing forces. The Governor kills Merle, whose reanimated corpse Daryl must later put down. The Governor orders Milton to kill Andrea, but when he refuses, the Governor stabs Milton in the heart and leaves him to die, knowing he will eventually turn into a walker and kill Andrea. After one last unsuccessful attack on the prison, the Governor kills most of his people, except Caesar and Shumpert, and disappears. Rick and Michonne return to Woodbury, where they find a bitten Andrea, who commits suicide to prevent turning. Rick leads Tyreese, Sasha, Karen and other Woodbury survivors back to the prison, while the Governor's whereabouts remain a mystery.
Notable Deaths: Tomas,T-Dog, Andrew, Lori, Oscar, Axel, Merle, Milton, Andrea
Most Memorable Episodes:
"Killer Within," "Clear," "The Sorrowful Life"
Major Players/Cast Additions: Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Lizzie Samuels (Brighton Sharbino), Mika Samuels (Kyla Kenedy), Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson), Lilly Chambler (Audrey Marie Anderson), Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos), Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), Gareth (Andrew J. West)
The Prison, Terminus
After renouncing leadership, Rick refuses to carry guns and has settled into farming and raising pigs at the prison, which has welcomed several new survivors, including former Army medic Bob and young sisters Lizzie and Mika. A flu-like virus begins to spread, killing off many of the new survivors, who then reanimate as walkers and continue to spread the disease. When Rick learns that Carol murdered and burned the bodies of two of the infected -- one of which was Woodbury survivor Karen, with whom Tyreese has formed a romantic relationship -- Rick banishes Carol from the prison. Despite suffering many losses, the group is eventually able to treat and contain the outbreak.
After being abandoned by Caesar and Shumpert, the Governor burns Woodbury, assumes a new identity and begins living with the Chambler family. After the family's patriarch dies of cancer, his two daughters, Tara and Lilly, travel with the Governor until they come upon a camp led by Caesar. The Governor murders Caesar, stages it to look like an accident, and takes over the camp's resources in order to launch yet another attack on Rick & Co. at the prison. The Governor takes Michonne and Hershel hostage outside the prison gates. Rick offers to let the Governor's group co-exist at the prison, but the Governor refuses and decapitates Hershel with Michonne's katana. War breaks out, and after the bloody battle, the Governor and his men are killed, the prison is overrun with walkers, and Rick's group is scattered to the wind. They all head toward Terminus, a place that promises sanctuary for all who arrive.
Daryl and Beth travel together, and she helps Daryl open up about the death of Merle. But when Beth is kidnapped, Daryl is eventually taken in by a group of men known as the Claimers, who also had a previous run-in with Rick, Carl and Michonne. Glenn rescues Tara after the prison attack, and they cross paths with Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene, all of whom are headed to Washington D.C., where Eugene claims he will be able to create a cure to stop the walkers. Their group is eventually reunited outside of Terminus with Maggie and her companions Bob and Sasha, who have formed a romantic relationship. Tyreese travels with Judith, Lizzie and Mika, and eventually reunites with Carol. After Lizzie becomes too attached to a walker, Carol kills it. Lizzie then kills her sister to make her turn into a new walker plaything and, after some debate, Carol decides to kill Lizzie in order to protect Judith and the rest of the group. Carol admits to Tyreese that she killed Karen, but he forgives her. Unbeknownst to Daryl, the Claimers ambush Rick, Michonne and Carl, and when Daryl intercedes, he is beaten. Rick bites out the leader's throat and he, Michonne, Carl and Daryl are able to overtake the Claimers and head to Terminus. Although they are greeted politely by Terminus leader Gareth, Rick soon notices a number of items from his original group being used by the Terminans. Rick tries to escape, but Gareth eventually has him cornered, and Rick & Co. are thrown into a boxcar, where they are reunited with everyone else from the prison. Seemingly defeated, Rick tells his comrades, "They're messing with the wrong people."
Notable Deaths: Caesar, Hershel, The Governor, Lilly, Mika, Lizzie
Most Memorable Episodes:
"Too Far Gone," "Still," "The Grove," "A"
Major Players/Cast Additions: Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam), Lt. Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods), Noah (Tyler James Williams), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh), Jessie Anderson (Alexandra Breckenridge), Pete Anderson (Corey Brill), Tobin (Jason Douglas), Reg Monroe (Steve Coulter), Spencer Monroe (Austin Nichols), Nicholas (Michael Traynor), Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Ron Anderson (Austin Abrams), Sam Anderson (Major Dodson)
Terminus, Father Gabriel's Church, Grady Memorial Hospital, Alexandria
Rick & Co. quickly learn that Gareth and his followers at Terminus are cannibals, and they lure people to Terminus in order to eat them. Thanks to an explosive diversion by Carol, Rick and his group are able to fight their way out of Terminus and reunite with Carol and Tyreese. The group then decides to escort Eugene to Washington to work on the zombie cure. They take shelter in the church of Father Gabriel Stokes, who struggles with his faith and cowardice in the new world. After kidnapping Bob and eating part of his leg, Gareth's men attack the church. Rick's group quickly gains the upper hand, and even though Gareth begs for mercy, a totally untrusting Rick slaughters all the Terminans in the church. Daryl catches Carol attempting to flee the group, but when he recognizes the car that kidnapped Beth, he and Carol pursue it. After Bob dies from his injuries, Abraham, Glenn, Eugene, Maggie, Tara and Rosita agree to head on to Washington while Rick and the others re-fortify the church and wait for Carol and Daryl to return.
Carol and Daryl track the car to Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, where Beth is being held with a group of survivors led by former cop Dawn Lerner. Carol and Daryl team up with Noah, a young man who escaped the hospital thanks to Beth. When Carol is run over by a car, she is taken to the hospital, but Dawn refuses to allow Beth to care for her. Daryl and Noah return to the church, where they reunite with Abraham's group, which returned after their path to Washington was blocked by hordes of zombies and Eugene sheepishly revealed he had lied about the cure in order to remain protected by the group. With the group mostly back together, Rick & Co. return to Atlanta and capture some of Dawn's people in order to make an exchange for Beth and Carol. However, during the exchange, Beth stabs Dawn, who instinctively shoots and kills Beth. Daryl immediately retaliates and kills Dawn, and Rick's group leaves.
Noah convinces the group to return to his hometown in Virginia, which he believes to be well-protected. After the long drive, however, they find the community overrun with walkers and, while scavenging the town, Tyreese is bitten by a zombified version of one of Noah's younger twin brothers. After burying Tyreese, the group nearly dies due to heat and dehydration, but they are discovered by Aaron, who claims to be a recruiter for the nearby community of Alexandria. Although Rick doesn't trust Aaron, Michonne convinces him to go with Aaron to meet Deanna Monroe, the town's leader, who offers Rick's group sanctuary in exchange for Rick protecting the community. Rick believes the people of Alexandria to be too weak to survive this world - a fear that's confirmed when, during a scavenging run, Nicholas abandons Glenn and Noah, the latter of whom is devoured by walkers. Many Alexandrians don't take kindly to Rick's leadership, including Pete, the town doctor and abusive husband of Rick's new love interest, Jessie. When Pete attacks Rick during a town meeting and accidentally kills Deanna's husband Reg, Deanna orders Rick to kill Pete, shocking and horrifying the townspeople as well as Morgan, who has secretly been tracking the movements of Rick's group all season and appears in Alexandria just in time to see his old friend's murderous deeds.
Notable Deaths: Gareth, Bob, Beth, Dawn, Tyreese, Noah, Reg, Pete
Most Memorable Episodes:
"No Sanctuary," "Four Walls and a Roof," "Coda," "Spend," "Conquer"
Major Players/Cast Additions: Carter (Ethan Embry), Heath (Corey Hawkins), Denise (Meritt Wever), Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)
Rick, now fully in control of Alexandria, discovers a huge herd of walkers trapped in a nearby quarry. Although this has kept Alexandria safe for some time, the walkers are about to break free. So, Rick devises a complicated plan to lure the walkers away from Alexandria with Daryl's motorcycle and a car driven by Sasha and Abraham. When Carter, who previously tried to kill Rick, is bitten and won't stop screaming, Rick is forced to kill him. Before they can lure the distracted walkers back on track, a horn sounds back at Alexandria (the result of an attack by a gang known as the Wolves), and the back half of the herd heads straight toward the sound.
Morgan and Carol help the Alexandrians fend off the attack by the Wolves, but Morgan lets a few of them escape because of his aversion to killing. (A flashback episode reveals that Morgan was trained by a psychiatrist named Eastman that "all life is precious." After Eastman was killed by a walker, Morgan began living his lifestyle. In fact, Morgan has kept an injured Wolf alive in his home and asked Denise, the acting doctor, to help care for him.) Rick is attacked by some surviving Wolves in the RV, but manages to escape mostly unscathed. Meanwhile, Glenn and Michonne lead their group back to help in the fight at Alexandria. Glenn and Nicholas leave the group in hopes to distract the herd, but when they are trapped, Nicholas shoots himself in the head, knocking himself and Glenn into an alley full of walkers that appear to eat Glenn. When Michonne and Heath return without Glenn, Maggie and Aaron attempt to escape Alexandria to look for him, but their path is blocked. Maggie tearfully admits that she is pregnant with Glenn's child.
After leading the first pack of the herd 20 miles away, Daryl is separated from Sasha and Abraham after they all come under attack from unknown assailants. Daryl spends time with a group of people that escaped from that group, and although Daryl helps them, they ultimately rob him. Daryl reunites with Sasha and Abraham, but they are stopped on their way back to Alexandria by a group of men who report to a man named Negan. Glenn is revealed to have survived his alley encounter by scooting under a dumpster. He soon finds Enid, and together, they make their way back to Alexandria just as a tower collapses and destroys one of the walls, allowing walkers to flood in. Deanna is bitten by a walker and she tells Rick and Michonne to save Alexandria. They leave Deanna behind and before she dies, she shoots as many walkers as she can. Jessie's oldest son Ron tries to kill Carl, but Carl doesn't tell Rick about Ron's attack. However, the noise from the altercation draws more zombies to the house, so Rick, Jessie, Michonne, Carl, Ron and Sam must cover themselves in walker guts and try to get across Alexandria undetected. Carol discovers Morgan is keeping a Wolf alive, and as they fight about killing him, the Wolf escapes, taking Denise with him as a hostage.
Notable Deaths: Carter,Nicholas,
Glenn, Eastman, Deanna
Most Memorable Episodes: "
Thank You," "Here's Not Here," "Start to Finish"