Cannibalism, garbage dumps, and cult-like mentalities


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With the last ever episode of The Walking Dead airing on November 20th, 2022, fans are preparing to see Daryl, Maggie, and co., engage in one more climactic battle against Pamela Milton and the rest of Commonwealth. While the Commonwealth has proven to be just as calculated and horrific as the other groups, some fans may argue that they aren’t as memorable.

From a group that lives in a garbage dump to one that took over a hospital; another that resorted to cannibalism, and one that functioned like a mafia, Rick and his friends have seen it all. Each group was led by a single individual (with help, of course) but some were better at leading than others.


15/15 Owen (The Wolves)

Owen, leader of the Wolves on The Walking Dead, sitting by a tree looking dirty and disheveled.

Owen wasn’t exactly intelligent: he and his group simply acted in a feral, animalistic manner that worked for the purposes of survival (but was not tactical or clever). He lost all his humanity, resorting to cold-blooded murder to get what he wanted.

That complete lack of fear and remorse is a dangerous quality for a leader, making them a brutal adversary. But it also makes him too reactionary and predictable, which meant he was no match for those in Alexandria once they figured out his M.O.

14/15 Jadis (The Scavengers)

Jadis holding a gun to Rick's head on The Walking Dead.

Jadis was great at the art of clever negotiation, taking every deal thrown at her but only honoring the ones that suited her best in the end. This was a strategy, however, that could only work for so long. It meant she’d make a lot of enemies and could not be trusted (especially since she showed little loyalty).

Although Jadis had one of the best character entrances on The Walking Dead, the living conditions she kept her group in were less than ideal. While the setting was wonderful for an artist like herself who could make beauty from trash, it could not have been pleasant for anyone to deal with the pungent odors and decomposing waste. If she were more effective, she would have negotiated for a better home.

13/15 Gregory (Hilltop Colony)

Gregory from The Walking Dead standing in his office, drinking whiskey.

There’s no question that Gregory was one of the worst leaders due to his cowardly nature. He did whatever Negan told him to do, taking the equivalent of kickbacks for himself in the form of things like whiskey and purported safety. He didn’t always do what was best for Hilltop, but rather what would avoid conflict and give him something on the side.

With that said, it was working for Gregory for a time. His community was thriving, people were happy and blissfully ignorant about what he was doing on the sidelines, and there were roofs over heads and food in stomachs. So, in terms of providing a safer existence for survivors, he achieved that, albeit with no integrity.

12/15 Dawn Lerner (Grady Memorial Hospital)

Dawn Lerner in The Walking Dead looking to the side, ready to shoot

Dawn had a twisted concept of how to treat people, rescuing injured people, having her team nurse them back to health, then effectively enslaving them into a life of servitude. The system was corrupt, made more awful once fans discovered she was the leader, and a former police officer who was initially tasked to serve and protect citizens.

Nonetheless, convincing so many people to follow her lead, recruiting so many members, and finding a way to keep the hospital running smoothly in the wake of an apocalypse deserves some credit. But fans can’t forget that she had a flawed leadership style and was clearly starting to lose the respect of others right before she was killed.

11/15 Philip Blake/The Governor (Woodbury)

The Governor attacking the prison in The Walking Dead.

The perfect example of how an extreme situation can turn someone into a shell of their former self was Philip Blake. He might have been a good leader, assuming he wouldn’t have witnessed the death of his daughter or demonstrated sadistic tendencies, or a power hungry ambition (as seen prior to the apocalypse).

His rule could be likened to that of a cult leader. He was charming, charismatic, and confident, easily manipulating others into believing he was someone worth following. He succeeded, time and time again. But his groups were short-lived. Followers soon began to realize he could not live up to promises or would resort to methods they weren’t comfortable with to achieve that. He remains a fan favorite character on The Walking Dead despite a few fans believing he overstayed his welcome.

10/15 Rick (The Group)

The Walking Dead Season 6 - Rick guards the wall

Although he is one of the main characters, fans are aware that Rick wasn’t always a perfect leader. Following the death of Lori, he effectively checked out mentally and didn’t do much leading for a while. After that, he went back and forth from wanting to be the honest, forgiving leader who welcomed others to the jaded, violent one who was not to be trifled with.

This range of styles was expected given how the group kept encountering different types of enemies. Rick soured on people whenever he was manipulated, damaging his ability to trust. But Rick needed more consistency. Sure, he led a lot of the group to safety time and time again. But he also lost many people along the way and many times, others, like Carol, Maggie, Abraham, and Glenn, had to pick up the slack for him.

9/15 Alpha (The Whisperers)

Alpha looking sad in The Walking Dead

Alpha was successful in getting many people to not only follow but also worship her. These people, however, were lost and vulnerable individuals who were simply looking for something – anything – to believe in. So much so that they would walk around wearing the teared off facial skin of walkers.

While followers feared her, few respected her, but none questioned her. That shows she had a hold on them. She accomplished a lot through her run, and the fact they all managed to survive with no real home for so long speaks volumes about her skills as a leader (even if the loyalty was built on threats and intimidation).

8/15 Gareth (Terminus)

Gareth smiling with his arm around someone's neck in a scene from The Walking Dead.

As disgusting as his methods were, fans have to give it to Gareth: he resorted to the one obvious way to stay alive when food resources are scarce; turning to cannibalism. Whether it was his idea or not, the signs promising Terminus as a place for sanctuary, was a genius recruiting tactic.

The fact, however, that Gareth could not figure out other ways to find food like every other surviving group did, shows weakness. But he was successful in convincing his people that there was no good left in the world anyway, so it might as well literally become a dog-eat-dog one.

7/15 Cyndie/Rachel (Oceanside)

The Walking Dead Season 7 Cyndie Oceanside

Aside from the fact that Rachel, followed by Cyndie, managed to successfully lead a survivor group entirely of women being seriously impressive, her group was an important resource during the fight against the Saviors. Following Simon obliterating all the men of Oceanside, these ladies stepped up and did what they had to do.

They built a fortress around themselves such that no one managed to sneak in, ever. In fact, many people didn’t even know they existed at all. They lived off the land, in the shadows. They step up when needed for the greater good and lay low when they aren’t. Given how long the community has lasted (though the coin flip moment with Lance was not yet resolved), the group, and leadership from Cyndie once she took over, deserve major kudos.

6/15 Maggie (Hilltop)

Maggie looking angry with a scratch on her face in The Walking Dead.

After Gregory’s death, one of the events that changed Maggie’s character on The Walking Dead, she took over Alexandria. She realized how greedy, selfish, and bad he was for the community, and took matters into her own hands. Later succeeded by Tara, both women did a great job of building a community on trust. They made tough decisions but were always open about them.

Maggie did not back down from a fight and never bent to anyone. She led the Hilltop in a much different way from Gregory, also enlisting help from others, like Jesus. It was more like a democracy, making the community a place that was not only successful (for a time), but people were happy to be there as well.

5/15 Ezekiel (The Kingdom)

The Walking Dead King Ezekiel

Considering he had a throne, a pet tiger, a right-hand man who would lay down his life for him, and a positive, kind attitude, Ezekiel was the model leader. He might not have been entirely sure of himself, admitting to Carol that his was just a façade to instill hope in others, his heart was always in the right place.

While Ezekiel did what he had to do to keep his community safe by bending to Negan whenever the Saviors made their demands, he only ever did it for the sake of his people. As a leader, Ezekiel was tops. His plans didn’t always work and once he no longer had Shiva by his side, a lot of it crumbled. But he was leading in a morally just and admirable way.

4/15 Pope (The Reapers)

Pope from The Walking Dead standing with a military vest, his arms behind his back.

Pope spent time in the military, so he had experience in war, seeing death and destruction. He also knew how to lead a team and already had a team of military people who were ready and willing to follow him. He ran a tight ship and while he showed no mercy and was sadistic, his strategy actually worked for quite some time.

Combined with the combat and leadership skills he already possessed, Pope was tailor-made for a world like the one he found himself in. However, he was too unpredictable, fueled by extremist religious beliefs and a warped judgement.

3/15 Negan (The Saviors)

Negan from The Walking Dead smiling arrogantly

Charismatic, sarcastic, charming, and devilishly likable, Negan was the group leader fans loved to hate. He’s one of the idolized characters on The Walking Dead who shouldn’t be admired even though many argued that, had fans followed Negan from the beginning and not Rick, especially knowing his backstory, they might have been more sympathetic towards him.

Nonetheless, Negan ran his group like a cult and a dictatorship (so much so that he insisted every person claim “I am Negan” and not go by their own names or personal identities). But he had a flawless system going: threaten every nearby community with harm, offer protection against them and other threats and, in exchange, he gets resources. Some groups provided food, some weapons, other ammunition, and so on. His group ran like a military operation, using intimidation and violence to ensure everyone complied. He, however, took things too far by taunting people like Rick and killing others for no good reason. That was ultimately his downfall.

2/15 Pamela Milton (The Commonwealth)

Pamela Milton presenting at The Commonwealth, smiling in a scene from The Walking Dead.

Pamela Milton is the perfect representation of a stereotypical politician in the apocalypse. She buries truths, delivers false hopes, twists facts, and runs a society that purports to treat everyone the same yet is clearly divided by class and status. Nonetheless, she built a world that was effectively a carbon copy of the real one pre-apocalypse and ran it quite flawlessly.

She was stoic, stone-faced, and never let anything get to her. Pamela was all about business, understanding that the second she showed emotion or let her guard down, it would all be over. Given how successful the community was, despite the bubbling resistance of lower-status residents, The Commonwealth was the most well-run society the group came across. Without walking outside its walls, residents would never know the evil that lies on the other side.

1/15 Deanna (Alexandria Safe-Zone)

Deanna from The Walking Dead outside looking scared.

Deanna had the perfect mix of every good quality a leader could possess. She was kind and moral, but also not naïve or too trusting. She knew she did not have the skills to do it all and was happy to delegate responsibilities to others who were better equipped to handle them (including Rick). This was especially so after the death of her son. Fiercely smart, she was great at reading people, and wonderful at inspiring hope, thanks to her previous career as a congresswoman.

She was willing to give people a chance, as she did with Rick and his group. But she made sure they proved themselves, and their worth. Everyone in Alexandria had a job and no one job was more important than the other. It was the best community the group ever lived in, and that was thanks, in large part, to Deanna’s leadership and humanity.

Seasons 1-11 Of The Walking Dead Can Be Streamed On AMC+

NEXT: 10 The Walking Dead Memes That Perfectly Sum Up The Show


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