The Walking Dead Theory: From Paris, With Love

Ross Marquand as Aaron, Cooper Andrews as Jerry - The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 19 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Ross Marquand as Aaron, Cooper Andrews as Jerry - The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 19 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

The Walking Dead has now introduced the idea of “smart” walkers, but how can that be possible? In my latest Walking Dead Theory, I try to figure that out.

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead introduced us to the idea of “smart” walkers, with Aaron and Jerry encountering a walker that is more observant and has the ability to open doors and climb, becoming the first instance of a new type of walker in the series.

…Except, it isn’t, is it?

When Jerry asks Aaron his thoughts on this new threat, Aaron mentions how there have always been stories of the odd walker doing things beyond what’s expected of them, specifically mentioning walkers going back to places they remember. Now, why is that so familiar? Oh yeah, because that’s what Morgan’s wife, Jenny, did when Rick shacked up with Morgan and his son, Duane, after waking from his coma in The Walking Dead’s first episode, “Days Gone Bye”. As Morgan explained to Rick how things broke down across the country and how the disease affected people, Jenny, now a walker, approached the door, attempting to open it.

The Walking Dead. Image courtesy AMC
The Walking Dead. Image courtesy AMC /

Later, when Rick arrives in Atlanta after being rescued by Glenn, he’s brought into the department store the group is hiding in to see a portion of the herd he’d been fleeing amassing at the door. One intrepid walker picks up a large rock and uses it to smash the weakening glass separating the herd from Rick, Glenn, Andrea, T-Dog, Morales, and Jacqui.

At the time, and especially as walker behavior was firmly cemented in the second season, these aberrations were largely ignored in the show, treated as if they didn’t happen. This rather offhand mention by Aaron changes that considerably. Now, these anomalies are canonized as legitimate (Though rare) walker behavior, which will, almost certainly, become the heart of the new threat the dead will pose in the coming spinoffs centering around Daryl, Maggie and Negan, respectively.

All of this raises a question: If we’re to assume that smart walkers are a new thing (Which seems to be how it’s going to be treated), how is that possible when we now know that they’ve been in the U.S. since at least Rick woke up?

The Walking Dead Theory: The French failed vaccine made its way to the U.S.

Now, this theory, admittedly, makes a couple of assumptions right out of the gate. Firstly, it assumes that the French created a vaccine for the zombie virus. Considering that Dr. Edwin Jenner told Rick at the CDC that the French were the closest to finding a solution and that the medical community did know about the virus for a few months before everything went haywire, it seems logical that, at some point, they began experimenting with vaccines in the hope of getting ahead of the situation. How well such a vaccine would work on a virus that could only be effectively tested by killing the patient is unknown, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Furthermore, we do know (Via the World Beyond post-credit sequence) that the perception in France seems to be that the scientists made the situation there even worse through whatever they were doing, and the only thing I can imagine them doing which would have such an effect would be an experimental vaccine that eventually backfired.

My second assumption is that someone who had been given this vaccine (Presumably as a clinical trial or something along those lines) had traveled to the U.S. and become trapped there, eventually dying, turning, then spreading their variant strain into the American walker population.

The Walking Dead. Image courtesy AMC
The Walking Dead. Image courtesy AMC /

You might be thinking that it could simply be a mutated strain of the original virus that allows the host to retain more cognitive function, but if that were the case, why would it be so rare? Think back to the flu outbreak in and around the prison in season four. Everyone who died of it became a bloody-eyed walker, who merely being in the presence of for too long could infect a person and seemed to succeed in infecting more people until immunities emerged in the remaining populace. If the smart walkers were a new strain of the virus, and the original virus was airborne (How else could it affect everyone?), then why wasn’t everyone who died around them becoming smart walkers? It doesn’t seem plausible.

What does seem plausible (Or, at the very least, seems more plausible) is that someone received an early vaccine in France, traveled to the U.S., died during the outbreak, and began biting other people, with each one it bit turning into slightly smarter walkers than their brethren. We know that a few visitors from Europe made their way to Georgia before the outbreak, so why not someone who volunteered for the French vaccine? Maybe it was someone within the French CDC? Until now, all the smart walkers were in or around Atlanta (Where the American CDC obviously sits), so it’s certainly possible this hypothetical person was there for a medical conference or even visiting the CDC when everything went sideways, and the more intelligent walkers we’d seen were bitten by this person themselves or were bitten by his victims.

Is this a perfect theory? No, but I think it’s the most plausible explanation we’re going to get. We know France was the closest to achieving a solution to the zombie virus. We know whatever they tried backfired. We know that smart walkers are extremely limited in number, which suggests their strain isn’t airborne and needs more direct transmission and we know that there were European visitors to Atlanta before the outbreak. It’s not quite a smoking gun, but it’s the closest we’ll get.

Next. The Walking Dead, Survival Rule Of The Week: Deals And Compromises. dark

But what do you guys think? Do you think the French government made a failed vaccine before the zombie outbreak mushroomed? Do you think that one of those early test subjects made it to the U.S. before everything collapsed? Can you think of any other way walkers could be more intelligent? Let me know! I’m curious to hear! 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!