Tuesday 15 November 2011

Origins Of The Epidemic

Rick on horse in the pilot episode.
In the beginning… As an avid viewer and fan of The Walking Dead, I have become somewhat obsessed with the origins of this epidemic. How did it start? Where was the first major outbreak? Think about it, who became the first zombie? It is fascinating to think about those early hours of the outbreak and what people must’ve thought. Here, your family member, your neighbor, the shopkeeper. They’ve died but then they’re back! On a larger scale, what became of governments and the military? The show depicts attempts by the military to contain and control the situation without success. It all leads me to think that the “fever” spread very quickly.

Infrastructure and resources became overwhelmed and any defensive posture was
quickly overrun by the sheer number of zombies. I am puzzled by one detail though, how did the zombies become so mangled and torn apart? I can see where some cuts or bites would be apparent. I’ve been told that the writers never really addressed any of this in the comics and such. Little has been discussed in the TV series as of yet. 'TS19' touched on it somewhat but only in the context of the doctor’s wife. I suppose that given the scenario, the characters wouldn't really know much about the details. In discussing this with other fans, I’ve heard a few theories.

One suggests the virus entered and contaminated the water supply. This seems quite plausible due to the fact that the effects were almost immediate. It certainly wasn’t an airborne pathogen. Everybody would be a walker by now. There wouldn’t be any survivors. Food-borne? Cross-contamination? Some rare plant or insect inadvertently imported from China? Certainly well within the realm of possibilities. Like any outbreak, it can be traced back to one place and one point in time. When Rick is first brought to the hospital, everything was fine. By the time Shane goes back to check on him, everything has gone to hell. This actually brings up some questions regarding the time-line of the story. I’ll try to address those in a later post.

To illustrate my obsession on this topic, I have to share a dream I had in which I was at a sporting event where one of the concession stands featured some exotic cuisine. The virus was in one of the strange ingredients used in the preparation of the menu items. As the cooks prepared the food to be sold to the spectators, they contracted the virus through the handling of the mysterious herb. This small group of food-handlers thus became the first to fall victim to what would become the end of the world. Having arrived early, I was talking to one of these folks when they became afflicted with the disease. Sadly, I became the first person eaten by a zombie and woke up in a sweat, disturbed by my horrible dream.

Not so far-fetched really. Imagine a stadium full of people eating from these stands in an enclosed area. The unrealistic aspect of the dream is that the concession stand worker died and came back within minutes. As per the story, the fever takes a few days to kill its victim and according to the CDC, anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours before someone’s brain re-starts. (See TS-19 in season one)

The fact is that it had to start somehow, somewhere. I want to know and I need to understand!


  1. Or it could've been a comet....or a government engineered germ warfare virus....The possibilities are endless. We know the show will never address the cause of the outbreak, because Kirkman (whose graphic novels are cannon for the show) never addressed it. So all we have are guesses and those could go ANYWHERE you wanted to take them. This messes with our heads because we - as viewers - are trained to want closure in our TV shows.

    There are a couple of other things that we very well may never have closure any on either - Where is Merle? Where is Sophia? How did this happen? - that bug the bejesus out of us. But others we case less about - What happened to the Vatos? Did Morales and his family ever find their relatives? And exactly where did Shane's Jeep go?

    Personally, I LIKE the loose ends the show has given us so far, because they make us think and speculate and start creating our own storylines in our heads. Good drama entertains us; great drama makes us think.

  2. Yeah I agree Lisa, the loose ends the show gives us just makes it even more watchable. I have went to sleep many times thinking of all the loose ends in the show and wondering how they will get tied up. Yes, this has led to me having dreams about being a survivor in the group, it was AWESOME!

    Zombie apocalypse dreams are the best :P

  3. I believe the outbreak was a government experiment gone wrong, but that's just my opinion. I really hope we find out what it is at some point because I hate not knowing :(

  4. I love all the "loose ends" as well. Character development is an integral part of any good TV show or movie. The use of suspense is critical as well. The Walking Dead is a perfect example of how the writers and directors use both very effectively. My piece here is a query into the early hours of the outbreak. I'm fully aware that it was not addressed in any conclusive manner. It is for this very reason that I am so interested in these details. Ultimately, it is pure speculation and not based on any hard source data from the authors. In the end, it is just fun to think about. Perhaps one day, they’ll do something that will answer my questions. Just as they created the recent Star Trek movie in which we learned about how the characters of the original series came together on the Enterprise. As a pure fan of science fiction, I love the “science” aspect of it as much as anything else within the genera.

  5. Yup Andrew I totally agree, the walking dead does an excellent job at combining these two elements together.

    By the way the recent star trek movie was amazing, one of the best films I have seen in a long time. They really did a brilliant job with that!

  6. I think it is most likely that Shane caused the outbreak. :P

  7. That was a great read! I hope to see more posts like this in the future. I think the outbreak was caused by one lonely mad scientist somewhere...ha

  8. what if it were some sort of vaccine to ward off some sort of fad illness like bird flu, madcow or any of the other disease that the government seems to scare us with every year! I say it was government gone bad.

    And one point i would like to make is why is nobody watching the back woods that border the farmhouse?? They assume walkers will only come through the field. its stupid but it bugs me!

  9. The idea of a vaccine “gone wrong” is a completely plausible explanation. Frighteningly possible actually. Drugs and vaccines and such have been known to have very unusual effects when combined with one another. Drug interaction issues are quite scary. In the context of our show, this would be very believable.
    As for perimeter security at the farm, I’ve wondered about that myself. The road in is gated apparently but is there a fence that surrounds the farm? Who knows. I imagine there is. I grew up on a farm with livestock that had to be kept on our property. Our land was completely fenced. Although it was a few strands of barbed wire at best in some areas. I really don’t think it would’ve prevented walkers from coming onto our farm.