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Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker)
Death episode: "This Sorrowful Life"
How it happened: When Merle realizes he can't hand over Michonne to the Governor, he decides to take out the Governor instead. He stages a siege on Woodbury and kills several of the Governor's soldiers, but doesn't land the big fish. Instead, the Governor gets the upper hand, bites off two of Merle's fingers and shoots him, leaving Merle to turn into a walker. When Daryl catches up with him later, Merle has already turned and Daryl is forced to put walker Merle down in an emotionally explosive confrontation.
Shock factor: For a character seen in so few episodes, Merle made a huge impact on the show and his final installment was a grand showcase for Rooker. Unfortunately, a few spoiler photos had leaked online of Rooker in walker make-up. But the death was still a shock to many, and -- thanks especially to Norman Reedus' performance when Daryl finds Merle in the final moments -- heartbreaking to almost all.