The Walking Dead-How long after death does the walker process begin?

Rick in a classic fight with walkers. (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Rick in a classic fight with walkers. (AMC's The Walking Dead) /

Recently fans have been mourning the recent death of Carl while noticing how long it took for him to die. After spending nearly a entire day aiding Siddiq, creating memories with his sister and writing sentimental notes, Carl succumbed to the fever that night.

Many find it convenient that a main character happened to have lasted longer than others such as Andrea’s sister Amy from Season 1, Sophia, Hershel, Bob and Sasha (to name a few). Let’s take a closer look to see if there is a reason why.

The Walking Dead established that all humans carry the walker (zombie) virus. The show has yet to say where it came from, how it started, if anyone is immune and if there is a cure. Sorry to break it to those who are not caught up but have been introduced to Eugene: he does not have the cure.

The fact we all carry the virus was a huge revelation after the collapse of the CDC thanks to Dr. Jenner, who revealed the secret to Rick. This means that whether a person is bitten or dies they will turn into a walker unless the brain is destroyed.

Rick in a classic fight with walkers. (AMC’s The Walking Dead)
Rick in a classic fight with walkers. (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

As we are now in season 8 we have seen many characters die; major, minor and nameless alike have died, with some turning into walkers. This allows viewers to witness the tragic process. and it seems pretty self explanatory, especially the fact that the virus affects everyone differently in terms of how fast one died and then turned.

If one was bit, depending where and how many times, the body loses the fight against the fever, dies and reanimates. If one was killed, its a instant death thus faster response time for the walker virus to present itself.

For example: Amy, Andrea’s sister from season 1. She, along with others in the small camp set up in the woods outside of Atlanta, was bitten and died before Andrea’s eyes. Andrea remained with her dead sister ignoring help from the group who buried the dead. It’s safe to assume that a few hours had passed as Amy was bit at night and it wasn’t until the following day that she reanimated, overcome with the urge to feed. Andrea said her final goodbyes, shooting Amy in the head and thus Amy was gone. Already our characters know you have to destroy the brain to kill a walker.

Doesn’t matter the condition of the walker. Even if the head remains it can still bite you.

The only exception seems to be if by the unlucky chance you are eaten alive, such as the case of Noah (that was horrifying) where nothing is left. If there’s nothing left, the body can’t reanimate.

Sometimes we didn’t see what happened. Sophia, Carol’s daughter was bit and turned however we do not know how long it took because we weren’t aware of her fate until later episodes in season 2. She emerged from Hershel’s barn along with the dozens of others Hershel had kept hoping they would become the people they once were.

However, as we also learned, walkers are not the same as humans. There is minimal brain activity but no memories of who they were remained. Hate to burst your bubble Milton.

Hershel met his end at the hands of The Governor in season 4. It wasn’t enough that he killed Hershel but beheaded him. In the end Rick lost the prison, the group split and Michonne stumbled upon Hershels’ disembodied head. Assuming it had only been a few hours, the remnants of Hershel were pale and groaning. Michonne stabbed the side of his head with her katana and Hershel was gone. Already we can see the differences.

We are also coming to a point on the show where if Rick and his group can prevent someone from turning into a walker they will stab the brain beforehand. We saw this several times including most prominently when the group attempts to kill what they assumed were all of Negan’s men while they slept in season 6.

Bob in season 5 got bit on a run for supplies after the group escaped Terminus and sought refuge at Father Gabriel’s church. He refrained from telling anyone until that night after Gareth and the remnants of Terminus feasted on his leg. After Sasha and the group finally defeat Terminus the group says their goodbyes. We can presume Bob dies the following day, stabbed in the brain before turning.

Fast forward to Sasha’s infamous walker reveal during the season 7 finale. While we cried and cheered for walker Sasha to kill Negan (unfortunately she did not) did you happen to notice how fast she turned?

Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) The Walking Dead (2010)
Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) The Walking Dead (2010) /

Eugene slipped Sasha the poison pills he had made prior (for Negan’s wives) as his parting gift to her when she begged for a way to end her life.  In reality she was hoping for a tangible weapon to use against Negan but the pills worked just as well. She takes them while in the coffin during transport back to Alexandria with some water listening to music. She closes her eyes and not long after she emerges loud and hungry. After the battle concludes in Alexandria with The Hilltop and The Kingdom rallying together against the retreating Saviors, Sasha is found and killed to be buried among other lost friends.

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From all the evidence above looks to be that if a character is bit the process will take several hours to a literal day. If a character was killed the transformation will happen within a few hours. If someone was eaten to the bone, there is no return. Literally.

Do you happen to have a favorite walker? Which character who turned into a walker looked the best?