In the world of The Walking Dead, they’re simply everywhere. They reek, they’re always moaning and groaning, and more often than not, they’re deadly. I’m not talking about the zombies. I’m talking about this franchise’s endlessly awful kids.
The legends of Walking Dead’s obnoxious, sometimes truly messed up children precede them—mostly through ranked lists like “Every Major Kid On The Walking Dead Ranked From Terrible To The Worst.” From the very beginning, we had Carl Grimes—who wanted nothing more than to be like his father and spent his first several seasons messing everything up instead. But as the series trudged on, the kids got more and more despicable; at this point, we’ve seen cowardly shriekers, sullen teens, and undead brats galore—enough to fill, say, a barn.
Now, the new spin-off The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon has given us a new desperately annoying child “protagonist” named Laurent. Much like HBO’s zombified hit The Last of Us, Daryl Dixon follows its scruffy hero as he escorts a “Chosen” child to safety. Unfortunately for all of us, the Rubik’s cube-toting prodigy Laurent is just as insufferable as the rest of this universe’s young progeny. But where, exactly, does he fit in? Let’s break these cantankerous kids into categories and find out.
Tyler James Williams as Noah and Emily Kinney as Beth Greene
The End-Times Overachievers
These endlessly ambitious try-hards are some of the most common young specimens in the Walking Dead universe. In a way, it’s understandable—we all want to do our part to help scratch out an existence in the apocalypse, especially if our Daddy happens to be, like, the Sheriff. Unfortunately for these would-be heroes, they’re usually prone to awful decision-making skills (looking at you, Carl Grimes) and delusions of grandeur (hi, Henry of the Kingdom, and also Iris Bennett of The Walking Dead: World Beyond). Eventually, these characters also tend to fall into some extremely ill-advised romances. (Henry is definitely guilty of this, being that he dated Lydia when doing so was still a huge risk, as is Carl—at least, in the comics.)
So far, Laurent feels like a shoo-in for this category. A multilingual know-it-all, Laurent is the gravitational center around which Daryl Dixon’s entire show revolves—and yet, he seems pathologically incapable of making even one good decision. Eventually, he makes a choice so unbelievably horrendous that Daryl is left sputtering and shouting in disbelief, demanding to know why he did it. The reason is understandable, if I’m being honest, but the action is absolutely not. Send this kid to the post-apocalyptic Hague!
The Rebels Without a Cause
Equally ubiquitous in this dirty, sweaty world are teenagers whose resentment can sometimes fester into foolishness. Enid loved to break out of Alexandria to tromp around the woods and seemed to enjoy nothing more than blowing off her friends to instead “just survive somehow” on her own. Ron Anderson (played by a young Austin Abrams!) tried to kill Carl to avenge his abusive father after Rick killed him—and if I’m being honest, I was extremely grateful when Michonne ran him through with her katana.
And let’s not forget the ceaselessly grumpy Chris Manawa, who might’ve been Fear the Walking Dead’s worst characters of all time. He was whiny; he was morose; he was selfish; he was just plain intolerable. How satisfying that ultimately, it was his own awful choices that killed him. Then again, it’s also a pity, because after another season or so, he could’ve made a good antagonist. Speaking of which…
The Pint-Sized Villains
Sometimes, the kids are worse than not alright; sometimes, they turn out to be some of the most bone-chilling villains. I will never forgive Fear the Walking Dead’s Charlie for killing Nick Clark—one of my favorite characters in the entire franchise, bad decisions and all. But the real juggernaut of this category is Lizzie Samuels, a kid so messed up that Carol Peletier tearfully shot her in the back of the head.
Melissa Suzanne McBride as Carol and Brighton Sharbino as Lizzie
For anyone who’s forgotten Season 4’s “The Grove,” it’s worth remembering one of The Walking Dead’s most haunting episodes: Lizzie’s father charged her to take care of her little sister, Mika, as he died from a zombie bite. Unfortunately, she lost her grip with reality and became attached to the undead, whom she believed spoke to her. Carol and Tyreese were horrified one day to discover her standing over Mika’s dead body, waiting for her to come back to life as a compassionate, intelligent zombie. When Lizzie made clear she was coming for Judith next, Carol did the unthinkable and killed her ward, standing behind her and whispering, “Look at the flowers.”
The ’Fraidy Cat
Listen—I know that the zombie apocalypse is a terrifying environment for a young boy, and Sam Anderson also grew up with a horrible father. … And also, Carol’s terrifying threat to leave him out in the woods to get eaten by zombies probably didn’t help. So yes, I’m probably being way too hard on little Sam when I say he is one of the most annoying young characters this franchise ever spawned. His mother didn’t help by refusing to prepare him for reality, either. Still, he’s a deeply unflattering reflection of how we would all probably act during a zombie apocalypse. He grew up sheltered from zombies, and so, unlike Rick and his crew, when he sees one, he screams and cries. It’s relatable! But at the end of the day, as Sam finds out, it’s also no way to stay alive.
Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark and Alexa Nisenson as Charlie
The Undead Menaces
Far be it from me to blame the Governor’s villainy on his undead, four-foot-tall child. That man turned Woodbury into a township of horrors all on his own. Still, his motivation was his grotesque, decomposing daughter, Penny Blake—whom he kept fed and clothed, even going so far as to brush her hair. You simply hate to see it!!!
And while it might be unfair to call Carol’s poor daughter Sophia Peletier a “menace,” the group’s ongoing search for her did essentially tank the second season. She was a sweet, lovable soul when she was alive, but by the time we found her zombified corpse in Hershel’s barn at the end of The Walking Dead’s sophomore season, I was more than ready to never hear her name again.
Clémence Poésy as Isabelle and Louis Puech Scigliuzzi as Laurent
Not every kid on The Walking Dead was bad; as always, we have a few exceptions to prove the rule. Lizzie’s poor little sister Mika was a total sweetheart, as was Beth Greene—who started out frustrating but eventually grew into one of the show’s most reliable sources of light. (That is, until they killed her in a blindingly ill-conceived mid-season “twist.”) Lydia was a smart and resourceful survivor with a deep well of empathy, even in spite of her cruel upbringing at the hands of Whisperer leader Alpha.
And then, of course, there’s Judith Grimes—a child character so perfect, she almost delves into “Mary Sue” territory. (Then again, what else should we have expected from Rick Grimes’s baby, dubbed “Ass-Kicker” by Daryl Dixon himself?) The Walking Dead might be overrun with useless kids and surly teens, but this one was clearly there to redeem them all.