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- "I asked you to come with me because you're brave like my brother and sometimes you actually make me feel safe...and I wanted you here because you're alone. Probably for the first time in your life, and because you're stronger than you think you are, which gives me hope that maybe I can be too. ...I could have gone with Tara. I could have told her I loved her, but I didn't...because I was afraid. That's what's stupid, not coming out here, not facing my shit, and it makes me sick that you guys aren't even trying because you're strong and you're smart and you're both really good people, and if you don't wake-- up... and face your..."
- —Denise's final words to Daryl Dixon and Rosita Espinosa before (and after) being shot by Dwight[src]
Denise Cloyd is a survivor of the outbreak in AMC's The Walking Dead. She is a resident of the Alexandria Safe-Zone and took over as the town's doctor after Pete Anderson's execution. She formed a romantic relationship with fellow survivor Tara Chambler.
Denise attended medical school with aspirations to become a surgeon, however because her high levels of anxiety prevented her from handling such a profession, she eventually changed her focus of study to psychiatry. She was originally from Ohio.
She also had a twin brother named Dennis, who was six minutes older than her. She described him as being brave, yet dangerous; it is likely that because of this behavior, this is the reason he died during the early days of the apocalypse.
Denise was living in the Alexandria Safe-Zone and remained largely to herself, presumably because of her anxiety, which is why she was mainly not seen when Rick's group first entered Alexandria or at Deanna's party or the community forum when Reg and Pete were killed. She had initially offered her support to Pete, but he turned her down. Denise is a peculiar and unusual woman. She's also very apprehensive and insecure.
After Pete's death, Denise was tasked with taking over the medic duties for the community. Denise is first seen studying in the clinic when Tara and Eugene come in looking for aspirin. Denise insists on examining Tara when she complains about a headache. She reveals to them in casual conversation that she went to med school to be a surgeon, but had panic attacks due to the pressure, causing her to switch into psychiatry.
After the Wolves attack, Denise panics as Rosita rushes an injured Holly into the clinic. Tara and Eugene try to encourage her to help Holly as she bleeds out on the table. Denise ultimately agrees to help, but fails anyways as Holly dies. The guilt causes her to lash out at Tara. It is implied that she stabs Holly in the head to prevent reanimation afterwards.
Denise is first seen listening to Rick's speech at the town's gates. She is later found by Tara sulking on the floor of the clinic in frustration over her lack of medical ability. When Tara tries to encourage her, she tells Tara that the patient she's currently treating will most likely die. She confesses to Tara that she wished someone else to could take her spot so that she could just go back to her apartment reading her books. Tara tells her that being afraid is a fear you have to overcome to survive. Denise however, remains unsure.
Denise is later seen witnessing Jessie put down a zombified Betsy and listens to her speech about the new world.
After some more careful reading through her books, Denise manages to find a way to stabilize Scott's infection. Shortly thereafter, she finds Tara sitting on a porch and, much to Tara's surprise, kisses her. Denise confides to Tara, admitting that she's scared for the community; Tara insists that it "isn't the end of the world".
Denise is first seen being confronted by Morgan, who doesn't get the chance to tell her why he's there, as he is interrupted by Rick's arrival. The two leave Denise together.
Later, Denise is confronted by Morgan again. Once Morgan is inside, he requests antibiotics and a discussion regarding Scott and her treatment of his injuries occurs. The discussion leads to further probing by Denise, and Morgan finally admits that he isn't the one who needs antibiotics. He tells Denise that the presence of the individual in need of treatment (Owen) is a secret. He leads her to the location of the Wolf, who is confined in the makeshift cell. Carol notices the two leaving and follows them.
Alone with Owen, Denise is sat in the corner as the Wolf tries to talk to her. He asks her a number of questions, to which she does not respond. Denise gets angry at Owen, tearing up, and tells him that the things he has done, such as killing people, are unjustifiable. He replies that he had freed the people he has murdered. It is revealed that Owen knew that she didn't know that Morgan had held him prisoner. He then reveals to her how he received his wound. He vows that he has done his part and that the world will take his role after his death. Denise asks to see the wound, to which he shows her, revealing that it has now become severely infected. Denise takes a closer look from afar. She insists that he can change from his current self. Owen silently watches as Denise reaches into her bag to retrieve an IV.
Later during the day, Denise is hard at work to treat Owen's wound when Carol runs in, knife in hand, and demands that she get away from him. Morgan joins them, blocking Carol from killing the Wolf as Denise steps back and sits in the corner, watching Morgan and Carol fight. Morgan knocks Carol out before Owen does the same to Morgan immediately after. Denise screams out, "No!", after Morgan is knocked unconscious, before Owen turns and points a knife at her.
Denise begs Owen not to kill Carol or Morgan as he unties himself. She says that he thinks they are going to die anyway and therefore he doesn't need to kill them, he can just let them die. The Wolf approaches her with the knife, backing her against the wall. She exclaims that he is "so full of shit", bringing Owen to a chuckle.
Before anything can happen, Tara, Rosita and Eugene, who had unknowingly been hiding in the same building, barge in with their weapons up. Owen grabs Denise by her throat, threatening to slit it. He orders them to lower the guns, to which they do, sliding them across the floor over to him at his command. Acquiring Tara's gun, he approaches the door with Denise, holding the group at gunpoint and telling them to stand back. He then turns the gun to Denise's head and walks out of the door and towards the herd with Denise as his hostage. Tara, Rosita and Eugene watch with resentment as the Wolf closes the door behind the two.
Denise is first seen with Owen holding her at gunpoint while hiding from the walkers. From their hiding spot, the Wolf and Denise watch walkers stream down the street. Owen tells Denise they'll make a run for a lookout tower as soon as a gap opens up in the herd. Owen spots a gap in the herd and sprints to the tower with Denise. He defends Denise when walkers attack her but his arm gets bitten in the process. Denise urges him to come with her to the infirmary so she can save his life, presumably by amputating the limb.
The two take shelter inside of a house, where Denise ties a belt around the Wolf's arm to amputate it. Denise points out that Owen saved her life, signifying his redemption. Both of them run outside, heading to the infirmary, with Owen pushing through the walkers and creating a gap while Denise follows. Carol witnesses them running from the townhouse balcony and shoots the Wolf in the chest, wounding him. He urges Denise to keeping going to the infirmary, pulling a walker away from her before he gets eaten by the herd.
Denise manages to make it back to the infirmary safely where she is met with Aaron, Spencer, and Heath who were taking shelter inside. She inquires about her patients, who have been moved upstairs, before catching sight of Rick and Michonne running to the infirmary with a severely wounded Carl. Heath begins to question Denise if Carl is bitten. Filled with courage, she assures him he's not and begins asking him, Spencer and Aaron to prepare medical equipment for Carl's recovery.
As Rick and Michonne charge through the door, Denise points them to a gurney and begins inquiring about the circumstances behind Carl's grievous injury, to which Michonne gives the details. Denise immediately starts working on Carl's eye, while Rick, in a daze, leaves the infirmary to kill walkers. Michonne attempts to hurry Denise, but Denise remains patient, reminding her that her priority is helping to ensure that Rick's son makes a full recovery and that he'll be okay. After stitching her last suture, she allows Michonne to leave to help Rick, and Heath, Spencer and Aaron exit shortly after her.
Denise appears at the end of the episode, tending to a wounded Daryl. It is later shown that Denise had managed to stabilize Carl's condition and save his life.
Two months following the Alexandria invasion, Daryl tracks down Denise to review her list of requested supplies in preparation for a supply run that he is heading to with Rick. Reading through it, he asks why she wants orange soda. Denise explains her plan to surprise Tara, who's leaving with Heath on a two-week supply run.
After Rick and Daryl return with Jesus, who is unconscious, they bring him to Denise, who is with Tara so she can check him out.
Denise is seen helping pack for the group going to the Hilltop. Denise approaches Daryl and offers him an oatcake she had baked. Daryl refuses it, but Denise eventually persuades him to take it. Daryl, skeptical, voices his hopes that the cake tastes better than it looks; Denise laughs, telling him to "just eat it" before leaving.
Denise is seen present at the meeting in the church, listening to Rick's speech about the danger of the Saviors. When Rick asks if anyone objects to the idea of attacking the Saviors, Denise remains silent.
Later, when Denise is talking to Tara, Tara tells Denise she loves her and explains that she doesn't have to reply. Denise says she will after Tara returns from her two-week run with Heath. Tara suggests that Denise come along on the mission to the Saviors compound before leaving with her on the run immediately after. Denise expresses her wish to go, but replies that she can't as she's the only doctor Alexandria has. Tara understands and the two kiss.
Denise is first seen on the lookout perch at the main gate, overseeing Eugene and Abraham's departure from Alexandria. She then finds Daryl and Rosita and discusses with them about a local gift shop/pharmacy she found while driving through the nearby area. They disagree with the plan, but she tells them it's a risk they have to take, and if it really is a pharmacy, there could be drugs inside, which could be used to help Alexandria. They relent, but Denise further insists in accompanying them, noting that she knows her way around and, with her newfound experience with dealing with the undead, can prove to be of assistance. Initially skeptical, Rosita agrees, but only if Daryl comes with them.
They drive-off in a beaten-up truck, and she tries to assist Daryl with driving it. "My brother taught me how to drive," she says, "especially beaten-up trucks like this". Eventually, the trio come across a downed tree and decide to continue to the apothecary on foot. After coming across a set of railroad tracks, Denise initially sides with Rosita's idea of following them to their destination, but decides to stick with Daryl when he rejects the suggestion.
Catching up to Rosita, who continued along the tracks, Denise apologizes for leaving her. They eventually make it to the gift shop and Daryl and Rosita begin to salvage abandoned medical supplies from the locked pharmacy. Waiting outside, Denise pockets a keychain bearing the name "Dennis". The three hear noises coming from one of the back rooms before Denise decides to investigate. In the darkened room, she finds a lone decaying walker laying amongst baby supplies before she makes a hasty retreat after discovering a child's shoe sticking out of a murky and bloodied sink.
Denise is seen waiting outside on the verge of tears, staring at her keychain. Once Daryl and Rosita have collected the needed supplies, the three head off towards home. Daryl and Denise have a talk about the keychain, with Daryl correctly guessing that Dennis was Denise's brother and Denise further explaining that he was her twin. She mentions how her brother was brave, but also angry; Daryl compares him to his own brother.
Following the railroad tracks home, Denise ventures away and inspects a car, finding a walker and a blue cooler inside. She attempts to call this to attention, but Daryl and Rosita brush it off, deciding that the cooler is not worth the risk of retrieving. Believing otherwise, Denise opens the car door and reaches for the cooler, dragging the walker out with it. She prevents the others from assisting her before she dispatches the walker. Rummaging through the cooler, she claims a single can of orange soda from a six-pack as a reward for her efforts.
Daryl and Rosita chastise her for taking an unnecessary risk; Denise counters that she was trying to conquer her fears, and reminds them of their life-risking mission of wiping out the Savior outpost. She goes on to explain her reasons for bringing the two with her on the run - Daryl, because he reminded her of her brother and that she felt safer with him, and Rosita, to help her cope with the feeling of being alone for possibly the first time in her life. As she lectures that they, too, need to face their worries and issues due to them being more than capable of doing so, she is suddenly (and accidentally) struck through the back of the head and through her right eye by a crossbow bolt; it does not kill her right away, but she eventually collapses on the tracks. Her killer, Dwight, then emerges from the trees next to the tracks, alongside Neil and several Saviors. After a tense confrontation between the two groups (with the assistance of Abraham and Eugene) which results in the Saviors retreating, Denise's body is carried back to the Safe-Zone and buried by Carol and Daryl.
In retaliation for the Alexandria group led by Rick killing almost 30 of his men, Negan sent Dwight and several other Saviors to kill some of Alexandria's residents in retaliation. As Denise is giving a speech to Daryl and Rosita about dealing with their own personal issues, Dwight's attempt to kill Daryl results in him misfiring and shooting Denise through her right eye before she can finish her last thoughts. Dwight later reveals that he did not mean to kill her as he wasn't actually aiming for her, but rather Daryl.
This list shows the victims Denise has killed:
- Holly (Before Reanimation)
- Owen (Indirectly Caused, Alive)
- Possibly numerous counts of injured Alexandrian's (Out of Mercy)
- 1 zombie
- Denise was revealed on July 29, 2015 and was described as "a medic becomes critical in the community of Alexandria after the death of Pete, and in the comic her skills as a surgeon prove pivotal, especially after a ghastly injury incurred by one of the main characters—an injury which may or may not happen on the TV version."
- The casting call for this character was Allison.
- Despite her humble introduction, in which Denise only mentioned having attended medical school, a psychiatrist must also complete three years of an in-house residency at a hospital, meaning that Denise had nearly twice as much medical experience as she let on. Given her anxious nature regarding surgery and her line about not wanting people to have high expectations, Denise may have been trying to undersell the extent of her medical knowledge.
- In "Now," Denise was revealed to be lesbian or bisexual when she kissed Tara. She is the third LGBT female in the show and the fifth openly gay character following Tara, Alisha, Aaron, Eric and preceding Jesus.
- Denise is the first character in Rick's Group to be killed directly by Negan's group.