The Walking Dead Theory: The Nuclear Option

Nick Stahl as Riley- Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Nick Stahl as Riley- Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

The latest Fear The Walking Dead webisode, Dead in the Water, revealed the USS Pennsylvania was ordered to destroy Chicago, not with fire but nuclear weapons.

In what was a surprise to me (mostly because, if there were any promos for it on TV, I wouldn’t have seen them), we got a brand new Fear The Walking Dead webisode called Dead in the Water that is only available on AMC+!

If you know me at all, then you know that Fear TWD webisodes are my bread and butter because they almost always focus on the very beginning of the apocalypse, which to me, is the most interesting and my favorite part of it. These webisodes did not disappoint.

Dead In The Water focused on Jason Riley, the right-hand man of Fear TWDs season six villain, Teddy Maddox, showing how the zombie outbreak happened before he and his crewmates inside the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, a nuclear submarine.

Much like with Fear TWD’s first webisode series, Flight 462, we saw the outbreak play out in a large (but very confined) mass transit vehicle, whose occupants are cut off from the rest of the world and unable to escape as more and more people inside turn, but, where one was in the air, this one was under the ocean, the Gulf Of Mexico, to be specific.

Fear the Walking Dead
Nick Stahl as Riley- Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

Among the things we learned in Dead In The Water was that the U.S. Navy, much like the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force, were ordered to attack American civilians in an attempt to tamp down the outbreak. However, in the Pennsylvania’s case, it was not ordered to use automatic rifles or firebombs but its nuclear arsenal. Her target: Chicago.

I could ask, “Why Chicago?” but that is fairly obvious: Much like Atlanta in the southeast, the U.S. government may have ordered civilians in the states surrounding Chicago to come together in the Second City. It had the facilities capable of treating people and, being all in one place, could have, hypothetically, made the people within the city easier to protect. No, I think there’s a far bigger thing at play here.

The Walking Dead Theory

Cobalt was Plan B. NUCLEAR WEAPONS was Plan A.

We saw Los Angeles be destroyed by firebombing at the beginning of season two of Fear TWD. We learned later in that season had befallen every major city down the west coast, from San Diego to Vancouver. This was something we also saw befall Atlanta in a flashback in season two of The Walking Dead. The way it was portrayed in Fear TWD, it seemed once the government discovered that they couldn’t control the situation, and that they couldn’t kill off people who weren’t inside their designated “safe zones” to keep the dead down, they decided to firebomb the U.S.’s major cities, in the hopes the fires would destroy the dead, and protect people outside from the masses of dead inside.

If that was the case, why would the government order a nuclear submarine to fire on Chicago and not firebombs? Were there even more people gathered within it than in Los Angeles or Atlanta? Maybe, but after Cobalt was initiated, it seemed like the government collapsed. Communication seemed to break down, the command structure seemed to collapse, as servicemen went to their hometowns or states to try to find their families, and the last command seemed to be for the remaining government officials and soldiers to try to move key politicians to predetermined safe havens like Alexandria or P.A.D.R.E., hope to rebuild from there.

Yet, the Pennsylvania received orders from naval command to nuke Chicago. On top of that, Riley was still able to call his wife. These might seem like small details, but it means that communication lines hadn’t broken down yet, which, I think, implies that order came before the cities were firebombed.

You might wonder: If this was the order given to all nuclear-armed vessels, how come there wasn’t at least one city that had been nuked? While, normally, I doubt that every person in the same position as Riley would do the same thing, in this case, I think it’s possible because I can’t imagine a naval officer willingly launching a nuke on his countrymen.

I imagine with so many officers refusing to destroy their own cities, the government moved to what they believed the next best option: Firebombing. The Air Force likely had reservations about that, too, but likely believed that at least that way, any survivors in the cities had some chance of surviving.

Maybe, someone in the government realized if a nuke hit the U.S., it might trigger the country’s early warning systems and immediately fire retaliatory strikes against Russia and/or China, risking global annihilation, and pulled back the order.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Lennie James as Morgan Jones – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

Whatever the case is, I don’t think that the orders the Pennsylvania received were an aberration. I think the mere fact of the orders being able to go out at all meant they came before everything collapsed and, therefore, before Operation: Cobalt was activated. Simply put: The government’s first plan was the nuclear option.

It’s frightening that should things get so out of hand, the government would consider using nukes a viable option, but I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures.

Although I have warned about this in the past, so, it’s not that surprising.

Next. The Walking Dead Theory: Chicago. dark

But, what do you think? Do you think Chicago was an anomaly, or do you think the U.S. government wanted all of its cities nuked? Do you believe that the government only resorted to firebombs after the navy refused to obliterate their own cities? Or, do you think that the government, for one reason or another, realized that nukes were too far and opted for firebombing instead? Let me know! I’m curious! And, if you enjoyed this and want to learn how to stay alive in a zombie apocalypse, why not pick up a copy of my book, The Rules: A Guide To Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse!  You can also get it at Amazon here, on iTunes here!