The Walking Dead episode title “Variant” gave a huge clue about what to expect in this episode. What does this mean for our survivors? The introduction of smart walkers begs the question, are these the same variants viewers saw in The Walking Dead: World Beyond post-credits scene and that Daryl (Norman Reedus) will encounter in his spinoff set in France?
This week AMC aired season 11, episode 19, “Variant.” It was assumed this episode would feature the smart walkers that showrunner Angela Kang has teased. These walkers were also glimpsed in clips of the trailers and teasers for the final episodes. Aaron (Ross Marquand) was also seen in the trailers, commenting on how he heard of these types of walkers but never knew if they were true. We won’t go into why he’s never told anyone about this before!
This week’s episode showed Aaron that the stories were true and that an intelligent walker variant is much more frightening.
The Walking Dead variant walkers
This week Aaron, Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) encountered a horde of these walkers. Gates and doors were opened, walls and ladders scaled, and rocks were picked up and used as weapons by this variant.
Kang had teased this variant stating that they are a nod to season 1 walkers with similar behaviors. She also shared that season 11 has shown other types of walkers, such as the lurkers that go dormant. Kang has also mentioned the possibility of these walkers being regional, but the ones seen in season 11 are located near Ohio, while the season 1 walkers were in Georgia.
Are these the same type of aggressive walkers seen in France? Possibly.
At the onset of the outbreak, there was a group of French scientists in Toledo, Ohio. And Ohio is the home state of the Commonwealth. But it is over a decade later, and did they bring a vial of variant walker virus with them? This seems a stretch.
Walkers were studied early in the main series by Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich), who was corresponding with the French, who thought they were close to a cure. World Beyond and, more recently, Tales of the Walking Dead also featured walker testing. Who’s to say that they don’t evolve? And there are no ways to share what’s been studied in different areas of the world. The testing is random at best, so it is hard to say.
I think the season 11 walkers are different than what is happening in France. And here is why.
After the post-credits scene aired, Scott M. Gimple made some interesting comments in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Interview quotes from Gimple regarding the post-credit scene:
- It’s a peek into a story that we will tell. And I’m actually talking definitively.
- But I guess I would say, don’t just flatly believe everything you read scrolled in paint. That might be true, but I wouldn’t say it’s true because it’s painted.
- And what we saw is, first of all, not super-powered in any way. That’s a thin door and not the end state of that walker necessarily.
- The differences he’s talking about, the iterations he’s talking about, whatever, there’s something going on, and we’re going to see more of it. Is it a total redoing of everything we’re doing? No, it is not. And it’s specific to a story we’re telling in a place we’re telling it. Who knows after that, but right now we’re telling a story about things going on in a very specific place.
The final quote seems to be talking about the story that will be told in Daryl’s spinoff series. We don’t know much about his series but what we do know is that it is set in France, he arrives not of his own free will, and he will encounter the walkers featured in this scene.
I feel that the season 11 variants are a nod to earlier episodes, as Kang has stated. The first three episodes had some great nods to characters and events from earlier episodes, which is how I believe the creators are including characters from past seasons instead of the cameo appearances most fans hoped would happen.