The Walking Dead boasts one of TV’s most outspoken fanbases, whether it’s talking about how much something is loved or despised. So there’s clearly no better way to find out who the show’s very best villain ultimately is than to ask the fans themselves.
Just such a feat was performed, and when the dust had finally settled across the walker-strewn lands, the one antagonist still standing was none other than Shane Walsh, the show’s first quasi-traditional big bad. (Eat shit, Ed.)
If you’re somewhat surprised by Shane’s presence atop the list here, you’re undoubtedly not alone, as actor Jon Bernthal hasn’t appeared on The Walking Dead as a living and breathing Shane since the back half of The Walking Dead Season 2. But the obsessive slimeball certainly stuck it out in fans’ memory banks as being the best of the best — or the best of the worst, if we’re just talking personalities — and Shane won out in a villain-filled tournament hosted by The Walking Dead’s official franchise website. (Not AMC’s show page.) Tens of thousands of people made up the voter base, so while that number doesn’t match the series’ viewing audience, it’s sizable enough.
This tournament, which is bloodier than March Madness by a 1000% margin, started off with 16 of The Walking Dead’s most reprehensible survivors. Obviously lower-tier foes like the creepmeister Officer Gorman weren’t going to last very long, and Shane had little trouble toppling him to get to Jadis. (Jadis made it through the first round by beating Merle, so I actually have to wonder what’s happening with these voters.) After that easy victory, Shane faced his toughest competition yet in the next round: the Lucille-swinging Negan. Not much tension happening there, though, since we all know that Shane eventually wins.
Still, it was the final round that was arguably the most shocking and telling of the entire tournament. Shane faced off against The Walking Dead’s classic former villain The Governor, as played by David Morrissey, and while that might have been witnessed by some as a quite evenly dealt contest, Shane reportedly stomped The Governor with 88% of the votes. I would have bet all kinds of useless-in-their-society money that The Governor would have squeaked by with a win, but there’s something about Shane that has always spoken directly to viewers. Especially those who loved the early years and cooled off as time went by. (This all goes directly against what Morrissey himself told CinemaBlend earlier this year.)
People probably love Shane for the same reason that Jon Bernthal wanted to portray the character so badly. Shane wasn’t a villain when we met him, unlike so many other Walking Dead shitbirds, and he had many characteristics that made him both affable and virtuous. And he perhaps would have stayed that way, too, if it wasn’t for that interfering Rick Grimes coming to take Lori and Carl back. So it’s vaguely easy to sympathize with Shane, even after The Otis Debacle. After all, it’s his biological kidthat Rick is raising right now. (That’s a reveal that even made Bernthal want to reshoot his entire takes.)
We’ll likely never see Shane Walsh in this universe again, but that’s what DVDs and Netflix binge-watches are for. The Walking Dead won’t return on AMC for Season 8 until some point this month, but in the meantime you can definitely check out everything we know about the new season. And after that, hit up our TV finale rundown to see what’s ending soon, and make sure to check out our TV schedule to see what other shows will be waiting for you here before October ends.