|This article is about the zombies in the series. You may be looking for Notable Zombies or other Themes.|
|First Appearance||Issue 1 (Comic Series)|
"Days Gone Bye" (TV Series)
"A New Day" (Video Game)
"A New Day" (Webisodes)
|Cause of Death||Varies|
|Series lifespan||"Days Gone Bye" to Present (TV Series)|
Issue 1 to Present (Comic Series)
"A New Day" to Present (Video Game)
"A New Day" to Present (Webisodes)
- "You all know how this shit works. You get a bite, you get any kind of wound from these things, something from them gets in you...and you fucking die."
- —Negan to The Saviors about the zombies.[src]
Zombies, mostly referred to in-universe as walkers, roamers, lurkers, geeks, or biters, are an antagonistic force that serve as the primary catalyst for the events within The Walking Dead universe.
Etymology & Definition
The English word "zombie" is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of "zombi." The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words "nzambi" (god) and "zumbi" (fetish).
For more details, read Zombie on Wikipedia.
Zombie: A reanimated body that still carries some function that allows it to move.
A zombie will not die until its brain is destroyed. Even when decapitated, the head will continue to remain active, even though it's completely harmless at this point.
While the term "zombie" does exist within The Walking Dead universe, it is seldom used. In the comic book, when Rick's group discover the prison, both Rick and Tyreese discuss how it still sounds funny to use the word "zombie." Likewise, in the Telltale video game, the term is used very rarely.
"Zombie" has been used once in the TV series; when interviewed, Lauren Cohan stated that Romero movie zombies never existed in the popular fiction of the TV Walking Dead universe. The characters within The Walking Dead TV series and comic books come up with their own monikers and categorizations for the undead.
The term "zombie" originated with the Haitian practice of voodoo and refers to a person who is reanimated as a slave in the thrall of another person. Those zombies are still clinically alive and can be restored, where the "walkers" of The Walking Dead are in fact dead, not under any control, and cannot be restored.
The Zombies of "The Walking Dead"
Zombies within The Walking Dead universe are Robert Kirkman's version of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead zombies. Robert Kirkman wrote that "Romero's evolving zombies are his spin. Mine just keep rotting."
In the open, these zombies are relatively weak and unintelligent as individuals, but are dangerous in large numbers and in tight spaces. They are the main antagonists within the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. The majority of known humanity has been wiped out by zombies, which have come to significantly outnumber humans.
Most, if not everyone, on the planet within The Walking Dead universe somehow contracted the pathogen that, for reasons and through means unknown, brings the dead back to "life." It is unknown how the disease is spread, though its almost-total infection rate worldwide suggests it is either water-borne, air-borne, or both. The exact taxonomy of the pathogen is unknown. The pathogen itself does not kill its hosts, but it seems to weaken their immune systems considerably, to the point where even minor illnesses are far more fatal than normal to humans.
- "The rule is WHATEVER it is that causes the zombies, is something everyone already has. If you stub your toe, get an infection and die, you turn into a zombie, UNLESS your brain is damaged. If someone shoots you in the head and you die, you're dead. A zombie bite kills you because of infection, or blood loss, not because of the zombie "virus.""
- —Robert Kirkman[src]
The dead corpse of anyone that dies for any reason will reanimate as a zombie, unless the brain of the individual is badly damaged or destroyed or the person was dead prior to the outbreak. When a person dies, the infection they carry reactivates critical areas of the brain that support necessary vital systems, resulting in reanimation. Because only a portion of the brain is reactivated, the reanimated person retains only a physical resemblance to their former self.
In the TV Series, it was stated that a corpse can reanimate between three minutes and eight hours after death, though the video game suggests that it could happen in seconds.
The first cases of infection progressed through a state of fever, aches, and internal bleeding, and this illness ultimately was fatal. As seen on the MRI of Candace Jenner, the virus apparently spreads into the brain like meningitis. It apparently infects synapses, mostly concentrating on those in the brain stem. It eventually causes the adrenal glands to hemorrhage and the brain to shutdown, all brain activity would cease, followed by the major organs and the body would be clinically dead: no measurable brain activity, no reflexes, and no respiration or pulse. A variable time later, the pathogen, through some means, would revive synapses it infected and reactivate the brainstem of the dead body, but only the brainstem and not the cerebrum or cerebellum.
One theory suggests that the reanimation of corpses comes about when the pathogen leaks into the brainstem and tricks the blood surrounding it into thinking that nutrients were needed up there by the sudden density increase. The blood rushing to the stem would count as a body function, and would thus revive the human body. The problems with this theory are that this pathogen does not affect animals, so the blood rushing to its head after death should also revive it, but animals are unaffected.
Another theory suggests that the virus itself, being a dormant pathogen that activates after heart failure, latches itself onto the first solid it can find, which is the brainstem. The time it takes for the pathogen to totally cover the brainstem is proportionate to the time it takes to reanimate. Apparently, unlike the way most viruses behave, overall outer body temperature does affect the way the virus spreads, evidenced by Rebecca in how her weakened immune system from dealing with the cold and blood loss somehow sped up the process, which contradicts the previous theory stated. The problems with this theory are that even people with damaged brains can still reanimate if not damaged enough, since if a bit of bone is lodged between the pathogen and the brainstem, the pathogen would never activate the body.
In the comic book, the group commonly encounters two zombie types: wandering, noise attracted "roamers," and lethargic "lurkers." In the first volume, a lurker is seen eating a deer. It ignores Rick and Shane. In Volume 5, a lurker bites Allen as he carelessly passes it by.
In Volume 10, Eugene studies a lurker that is too weak to move, suggesting that after time and lack of food, roamers become lurkers that become less alert and active as time passes.
In a recent letter column, Kirkman promises more hints of zombie physiology, and in a recent column he confirmed that "...whatever is making them walk around is also keeping them from rotting to bones in a matter of weeks."
A zombie "lifetime" varies, though it is known that a human will likely outlive a zombie through the course of many years/decades.
The body of the corpses somehow manages the avoid immediate decomposition like regular human corpses, being able to half/slow down the decomposition for years, if not decades at a time.
In the show, It has been demonstrated that zombies don't require sustenance by eating, but have a strong desire to do so (despite the fact that they have no digestive or circulatory activity, making them unable to digest whatever flesh they consume). Zombies do not need to breathe, evidenced by Pete Dolgen still trying to reach for humans while underwater.
Zombies have the ability to detect scents and differentiate between the living and the dead, and prefer to feed on living flesh. Covering one's self in the scent of decay can act as a camouflage. They can also use sight to distinguish living from the dead, although they seem to have poor eyesight as their irises fade and decay, but they make up for it in very heightened senses of hearing and smell. Darkness seems to have little effect on zombies' senses at close ranges, and in areas devoid of light they can still find their way around as they would in the day.
They can also determine a human presence by noting certain cues such as the breathing movements or a heart that is beating at an irregular pace from a scared human. Individual zombie strength depends on the physical makeup of the individual and on how long they have been reanimated. When attacking, zombies often become more lively, exhibiting full-body effort, and can produce enough force to quickly overwhelm an adult human. Zombies have been shown to be able to bare-handedly rip open human and animal victims with ease, and they can even rip off human limbs with enough force, though this may be because the average human would hesitate to dig their fingers into someone else's stomach. As zombies decay, however, their muscles, and consequently, their entire body, becomes slowly, but surely, weaker.
Zombies feel no pain. Although slow and seemingly unintelligent when not active, zombies can react quickly to sufficient stimulation, and can rapidly overpower a victim they have taken by surprise. Though their bodies are no more or less durable than a non-decomposed human body, they can absorb all manner of physical damage, even when badly decomposed, and anything other than a head attack, spinal cord severing, or dismemberment leaves them seemingly unfazed. As long as their brain remains intact, they can continue functioning as normal, even if only their skull remains and severed from their body. Other than a mostly intact brain, zombies don't appear to require any vital systems or organ functions to survive, although their ambulatory functions do decrease as their level of decomposition increases. Sufficient physical damage can slow them down, or render them incapacitated.
In "Walk With Me", it is revealed that zombies starve, but at a significantly slower rate than humans. When a living person starves from lack of nourishment, their body begins breaking down fat tissue, followed by muscle tissue, and converts the tissue into energy. Eventually, the body will begin breaking down the tissue of vital organs and the person eventually dies when those organs cease to function. In theory, it is possible that the zombie pathogen could be advanced enough to cause a breakdown of body tissue, converting it into energy and delivering it around the body, until they basically wither away to nothing. It is unknown exactly how energy is delivered around the body, as zombies have no circulatory activity. How long zombies can survive before full decomposition takes place is unknown, although it likely depends on fat and muscle mass.
Compared to humans, zombies have rather limited mobility. Unstimulated, zombies stand still or shuffle around rather slowly. When in this state they are referred to as "lurkers," as they can quickly activate, attack and kill. Some "living" zombies can also be found lying on the ground or in piles of other bodies, often appearing dead until stimulated. However, if they are pursuing a possible victim, zombies can move somewhat more quickly, roughly equivalent to a very light jogging pace. They can lunge very short distances to grab close prey, and if they do manage to grab their victims, they are quite difficult to shake off, often allowing their arm to even be ripped off before they begin to let go.
A reanimated body responds to stimuli such as light, scent, and loud noises. Oddly, even if the head was separated from the body, as long as the brain was intact, the head would still attempt to eat anything within reach. If the body was truly dead, which meant that it did not feel pain, had no reflexes, and wounds to it (apart from those directly inflicted to the brain) it would not heal; its rate of decomposition slows somewhat while reanimated, but the breakdown process continues. There is anecdotal evidence that some retain vestigial elements of memory and personality such as clinging to possessions. Zombies can use tools to help them, as seen in "Guts," when one of the zombies at the department store doors uses a brick to break the glass. They have no sense of self-preservation other than eating, and will not react at all to the deaths of other zombies or to potentially lethal dangers to themselves. Zombies instinctively bite whatever prey they come in contact with, but have also been observed clawing, tearing, and even punching humans and animals in order to topple them. Zombies may very rarely "dodge" (in this case slightly leaning out of the way) melee attacks, and some have been observed holding up their arms to likewise block attacks.
As previously stated, the zombie pathogen itself is not lethal, and the zombie "infection" occurs due to high concentrations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in zombies, especially in their mouths. In the Walking Dead universe, most if not, every human being on the planet is believed to be infected, suggesting the disease is airborne or waterborne. Any time a human dies they will reanimate, bitten or not, unless their brain is destroyed. Though physical contact with a zombie's saliva or blood will not cause an individual fatal infection, any fluid contact with open wounds, and possibly eyes, will lead to an irreversible contamination of the individual.
Zombie bites are not necessarily fatal because of the zombie pathogen, but rather the unsanitary nature of their mouths due to diet and decomposition. Scratches cause similar infections for similar reasons. While zombie scratches and clawing rarely cause fatal infections, the deep gouges left by zombie bites are almost always fatal; death can potentially be avoided if the bite is on an appendage, which then must be amputated immediately after the bite. However, this does not always work, and bites on main parts of the body, or on veins or arteries are always fatal. Even if an amputation proves successful at removing the infection, blood loss is also extremely dangerous due to the general unprofessional conduction of the procedure.
Symptoms of infection
The first form of the infection was the transmission of the pathogen from an undead host to a living body via bites and scratches. The second form is already contained within all living people, and merely requires the death of the host to activate the zombie condition. The pathogen causing reanimation is not independently fatal and lies dormant within a host until the host dies of another cause. In the case of Walker attacks, the cause of infectious mortality is generally by necrotic biological debris and other infectious agents contained in that debris (for example, saliva from a bite).
Symptoms of this massive and multiple infection include:
- Weakness and Fatigue
- Pale skin.
- Dilated pupils.
- Fluid discharge.
- Spontaneous aggression or anger.
- Loss of hair and missing scalp pieces.
- Coughing up blood.
- Pale yellow sclera (Shown in the Video Game only) 
Because of antibiotic resistance or inefficacy, and extremely fast growth rate of said bacteria, immediate amputation of the wounded limb is usually the most effective method of preventing systemic infection that eventually leads to death. Bites to the neck, head, or trunk are invariably fatal and cannot be treated.
If the wound is not properly cauterized, cleaned, and/or wrapped, however, amputation may not be enough to stop the lethal infection without medicine, and even then, survival rates are not easily estimated, as very few individuals have survived the procedure in each medium.
Because a zombie is derived from a human form, it is limited physically by many of the same constraints that a human has. But because a zombie is, by definition, dead, it slowly rots and decays like other dead organisms. Over time, flesh and muscles deteriorate, and it becomes less and less formidable. It is assumed that a walker will eventually decompose on its own until only its skeleton remains. It is unknown how long Fivel had been a zombie before Lee Everett and Kenny found him, but he was nearly entirely skeletal when he was put down.
They are only truly killed by destroying the brain, a common theme in many zombie variations. A severed head will remain animated and aggressive until the brain is destroyed or eventually disintegrates from decomposition. Fire has little effect on zombies, other than possibly angering them further, and normally lethal things such as acid or electricity also do little to impede them. They can be paralyzed if their spinal cords are severed, though this does not kill them, even if their heads are severed from the bodies.
Though zombies retain a physical resemblance to the living, cognitive similarities are almost non-existent beyond low-level functions, though there are examples of behavior that suggest zombies may retain small fragments of memory of their past lives. Zombies have enough intelligence to walk upright, to use their bodies to break objects, and to climb around or over somewhat small obstacles such as chain-link fences. Zombies can ascend and descend staircases, as well as climb ladders, but they do so very clumsily and slowly. They cannot operate doors or gates, and prefer bashing through obstacles rather than traversing them.
Mostly, zombies are void of any emotional expression and thought. When stimulated, whether by noise, sight of prey, or simply encountering a problem they cannot solve, such as being unable to open a locked door, they quickly descend into a state of murderous aggression. If they spot prey when stimulated, they can pursue them ceaselessly, showing ravenous hunger. They are not hunters, however, and take no concern in alerting their victims or trying to hunt them with intelligence, always seeming to roar, grunt, and growl whenever they are stimulated. Zombies seem to be drawn to noise, presumably because they attribute the source of the noise to be caused by potential victims. Zombies also tend to form groups and stick together, and mimic the actions of other zombies, giving them a mob mentality. This can lead to zombies forming "herds," large hordes of zombies are far more dangerous and aggressive than smaller groups. In "Guts," zombies retain a further animalistic trait within their "herds," appearing to "sniff out" or examine new-coming zombies before leaving them be, as they do to Rick and Glenn, which may indicate that zombies seem to be able to familiarize themselves with their own kind and be cautious of ones they do not recognize. Newer zombies may rarely use primitive tools, such as using a heavy brick to smash a window, but none have any high-level abilities to use items in their environment. Zombies are not shown to be able to "communicate" with others by any means, though zombies will frequently copy the actions they witness other zombies perform, such as bashing on a door or moving in a group.
Robert Kirkman wrote on Reddit:
...In the beginning of the show we saw walkers do things like using a rock to help bash the doors in or turning a door knob, is there a reason we've stopped seeing them do that?
"Older zombies are less together and capable or doing things like that. Fresher zombies, which there were more of in season one, are able to do more than older, more rotted zombies.
Zombies prefer to eat living flesh: animals and people. Zombies do not digest food. When their bodies are "full," the undigested meat will be forced out through the anus. As zombies are dead, it is assumed that their bodies will continue to rot even if they are well-fed. Zombies can survive for immensely long periods of time without any nourishment, years or more, and do not seem to require fluids of any kind. Walking Dead Zombies are never shown in any media to exhibit cannibalistic tendencies, even after going through long periods without food, and only show interest in animals and living humans.
If the zombie loses the ability to feed, they evidently lose the desire to do so - a behavior observed in Michonne's pet Walkers. With their loss of desire for eating also comes with a loss of aggression and activity; unless present around other zombies, those who have lost the will to eat will remain quiet and lethargic, mindlessly walking in any given direction and paying no mind to humans. The presence of many zombies being partially consumed or missing limbs also indicates that zombies, though they seem perpetually hungry, do not always devour prey fully, meaning that, at least for a short period of time, can feel "full" and not want to eat. In the TV series, the Walker that consumed Lori Grimes' body was lethargic, sated and full, and did not attack Rick when he arrived on the scene. Still, they can be driven to attack and consume live prey due to the sheer aggressiveness the reanimative contagion seems to have given them.
Characters That Turned
The following is a list of characters from The Walking Dead that have all died and reanimated as a zombie. The video game section shows all characters that can potentially turn undead, regardless of player choice.
- Shawn Greene
- Rachel Greene
- Susie Greene
- Penny Blake
- Scott Moon
- Christina Meredith Haben
- Caesar Ramon Martinez
- Gus Strunk
- Duane Jones
- Jessie Anderson
- Jenny Jones
- Leon Basset
- Wayne Dunlap
- Candace Jenner
- Numerous patients and hospital staff
- Louise Bush
- Mrs. Fischer
- Annette Greene
- Mr. Fischer
- Shawn Greene
- Arnold Greene
- Sophia Peletier
- Shane Walsh
- Greene Barn Inhabitants
- Penny Blake
- Michael Coleman
- Duane Jones
- Merle Dixon
- Milton Mamet
- Woodbury Resident 3
- Woodbury Resident 8
- Many Woodbury soldiers
- Woodbury Resident 4
- Big Tony
- Mr. Jacobson
- Caleb Subramanian
- Noris' Son
- Crying Mom
- Bill Jenkins
- David Chambler
- Pete Dolgen
- Hershel Greene
- Joe Sr.
- Christopher's Father
- Achey Woman
- Sick Teenager
- Woodbury Resident 11
- Many prison residents
- Many unnamed Woodbury refugees
- Atlanta Police Officer
- Chet (Determinant)
- B. Everett
- Jenny Pitcher (Confirmed Fate)
- David Parker (Determinant)
- Travis (Determinant)
- Brenda St. John
- Kenny Jr. (Determinant)
- Crawford Oberson
- Stranger (Determinant)
- Lee Everett (Determinant)
- Bobby Marsh
- Penny Blake
- David Chalmers
- Brenda Stookey
- Scott Moon
- Megan Lafferty
- Christina Meredith Haben
- Caesar Ramon Martinez
- Ida Bressler
- Majority of the world's population.
- Majority of the world's population.
- Lee Everett (Determinant)
- Doug (Determinant)
- Carley (Determinant)
- Kenny Jr. (Indirect)
- Shawn Greene
- Brenda St. John
- Peter Joseph Randall
- Sarita (Indirect)
- Majority of the world's population.
- In the TV Series, walkers are shown mainly in "Guts" and "Bloodletting" to run at a very light jogger's pace, despite the fact that Kirkman has stated in the past that all zombies run at the same pace as those seen in the Romero films.
- It is speculated that the more violent the trauma of a victim (of either a walker or living killer), the quicker they re-animate. This is backed up by Shane rising just minutes after being stabbed in the chest by Rick in "Better Angels," but Amy taking several hours to do so from a bite to the arm and to the neck.
- In Season 1 of the TV series, the walkers' eyes were generally gray or yellow with a red limbal ring, but in the Season 2 webisodes, "Cold Storage" and the later episodes of the TV Series, their eyes are generally gold. Older and more decayed walkers, however, have mostly or completely faded irises, leaving only dark pupils.
- According to Robert Kirkman in Episode 2 of Talking Dead, in the world of The Walking Dead, the works of George A. Romero were never made, and thus zombies do not appear in fiction.
- In the Webisodes, it is rumored that terrorists caused the "infection." This is most likely not true, as Kirkman himself never intended to explain the source of the outbreak and thus is just what is a rumor.
- Walkers are some of the many amputees in The Walking Dead. For other victims, see Amputated Victims.
- Scott Gimple believes the walkers' decaying vision attracts them to fire. Fire represents two of the only things walker can still see: light and movement.
- ↑ Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2012, interview panel with Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun
- ↑ For the concept of a "zombie herd" being carried to the horrifying extremes, see David Moody's Autumn series.
- ↑ Issue 47, page 27, "Letter Hacks".
- ↑ Issue 121: Letter Hacks.
- ↑ Issue 7 - Letter Hacks
- ↑ Issue 9 - Letter Hacks
- ↑ Jim in the TV Series episode, "Wildfire"
- ↑ Lee in the Video Game while he was bitten
- ↑ Duck after being bitten, and Jim on the TV Series
- ↑ Duck a while after being bitten on the Video Game
- ↑ Lee Everett nearing the end of his life, and Peter Joseph Randall nearing the end of his life.
- ↑ Issue 111: Page 26; Letter Hacks.
- ↑ Talking Dead, Inside the Dead, Season 4, Episode 14. "The Grove"
- Every "Walking Dead" zombie kill in graphic form, Tulsa World, (December 10, 2012).
|Abstract||Betrayal • Cliffhangers • Denial • Depression • Distrust • Discrimination • Envy • Fear • Foreshadowing • Forgiveness • Humanity • Humor • Hope • Pride • Regret • Religion • Revenge • Sacrifice • Sanity • Secrecy • Teamwork|
|Realistic||Amputations • Cannibalism • Heroism • Leadership • Nicknames • Punishment|