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The Walking Dead Discussion Nov 10

The Walking Dead post has legs

Coolest Walker

My vote for the coolest zombie ever featured on The Walking Dead.

There’s been some great discussion happening in the comments section of the post about my Walking Dead gripes. I can always count on my Scriptwrecked readers to provide intelligent insights, answers and counterpoint to my posts.

It’s nice to know that there are many others out there whose brains don’t check out just because they’re watching a show about zombies.

One comment in particular was so comprehensive and thought-provoking that I’ve decided to promote it to regular blog post.

Here is “Vector’s” (RRL’s) commentary on some of the logic/science issues that plague The Walking Dead, as he answers the questions I posed.

I have similar questions about the logic of the Walking Dead also. I suspect some of the contradictions are set up deliberately by the writers to cause exactly what we are doing: debating about the show. Now matter what the debate, it’s good “buzz”. Anything to keep peoples interest in a show when it’s over is good.

Okay, that opinion is debatable so I won’t go any further with it. It could be just crappy writing. (Or simply deliberately throwing out logic for cinematic effect or budget)

Here’s my 2 cents on your 3 questions.

I’ll answer them in reverse order as that way one will lead to another.

3. How do you become a walker?

I believe that isn’t the real question you meant to ask. We all know you become a walker from physical transition of the virus (it’s not airborne) it must be transmitted through saliva or blood. There are many real viruses that are spread the same way, each with different levels of how easy they can be spread. The basic rules are a small amount of either blood or saliva in your blood stream is instant infection (from a bite or contusion). Contamination through the mucous membranes (blood or saliva in the eyes or mouth) and possible contamination through blood or saliva on the skin is possible. The problem is that is has never been made perfectly clear yet in the “Walking Dead” world every possible way the zombie virus can be specifically transmitted.

Some viruses can be transmitted through a simple touch of dry skin on dry skin, (of course others are so sensitive that they can be transmitted through close proximity, (airborne viruses), or even by being carried on an inanimate inorganic object (getting a cold from touching an infected doorknob) Most viruses are actually transmitted these latter, easier ways but that would not make for good cinema, unless the point was to wipe out everyone except the immune as fast as possible and focus on the survivors living in the post apoc world (as opposed to focusing on “trying not to get the virus”). BBC’s “Survivors” is one that comes to mind that uses the more realistic way of airborne transmission to good effect. (everybody dies quickly except the immune and the extremely isolated in artificial environments.)

Becoming a Zombie always is transmitted through physical means. It would be stupid if it was airborne. That would take out the “bite” factor that is key to the Zombie genre’s success.

What I really think you were asking is “what’s with all the dead uneaten bodies?” That situation doesn’t make much sense to me either, especially if they were uninfected. I won’t even try to come up with an explanation for that right now, hopefully it will be explained in future episodes. If not I’ll come up with something to justify the crappy writing.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that zombie infection only happens with blood to blood transmission. Saliva and through the mucous membranes might not be enough. That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it. It seems ridiculous that they seem careless when smashing zombie heads when they are afraid of the blood even getting on their skin, but it seems they are realizing that skin contact doesn’t matter. I just wish they would make it more clear.

2. Are the Walkers Dead or Alive?

What is your definition of alive? Spiritual? Biological? One of the definitions of “Alive” is simply “animated”. It’s a relative question that brings in spiritual debate whether the Zombification is supernatural or scientific.

In The Walking Dead it’s made clear that the brain dies. All the synapses that make cognitive thinking and bodily functions shut down, resulting in clinical brain death. The body is dead.
Then the virus takes over the motor part of the brain and uses the body as a host. The body reanimates but is now a vehicle driven by the virus. It is alive, but not the same lifeform it once was. What makes something alive only means that a spiritual or mental or artificial force is moving a “body”. If my brain could be implanted in a car and I still had all my current thoughts, but the car was now my body, wouldn’t that make it “alive”. Is that any different than when I drive a car now? I essentially make the car “come to life”. Does “life” have to rely on biology?
It’s all relative to your spiritual believes really. Take Wall-E for instance. he’s just a robot, no biomechanics, but he’s alive.

One theory is that the zombie virus can only live in the body while it is still “alive” so it’s main purpose is to make the body find food. If the virus just sat in a dead unmoving body, after time the body would dry up and decompose and the virus would die having nothing left to live off of being primarily a parasite.

Another motivation of why the zombies want to eat you could be just for the sole purpose of spreading. Maybe eating for sustenance has nothing to do with the virus and it is just a primal instinct left over in the human brain, the main purpose being the “bite” to spread the virus. The left over primal instinct (remember dude’s wife continually returning to her house?) brings up another point. There is still something left of the “real person”. Is it just residual memories? Is the person’s soul still in the body? Are they trapped knowing what is happening, not able to control? can they control a little? Just that opens up volumes for debate.

That brings up the point of why they eat? Is it just to spread the virus or do they really need the sustenance? Does their digestive system work? but they don’t breath and their heart doesn’t pump, or does it? I think it all does. Depending on how intact the body is would determine how long the zombie would live. All it needs is the brain and nervous system to move. but without a digestive system and a working heart the body would shrivel up and dry up and decompose within weeks. This brings up a whole new world of zombie debate. How much of the bodies systems that sustain life are working, what systems does the virus depend on for longevity?

Look up time lapses of decaying body experiments, it happens faster than you would think. Ever seen a deer on the side of the road dead that the DNR or DoT neglects? It doesn’t last very long (even without scavengers). In reality (a very twisted reality where there actually were existing zombies) I believe the problem would readily fix itself. The zombies would decompose very quickly (within weeks). There would be no flesh for the nervous system to control (it would all fall off the skeleton or be too mushy to pull on the bones). Animated skeletons are not zombies. Although there is plausible scientific explanation for the zombie theory (look up zombie insects and parasites(real world), it’s quite interesting) I’m sure moving skeletons can only be explained by the supernatural.

3. What are the walkers attracted to?

In the walking dead definitely smell. Pluchar’s theory of sight and sound first and smell to confirm makes sense but the plain truth is that the writers of Walking Dead are not sticking to their rules. There are times when only smell attracts the zombies. Sounds always definitely does. But there are times when smell doesn’t. Maybe it depends on the “mood” of the zombie at a given time. That’s the only explanation i can come up with for the zombies blood thirst at one moment and their indifference to scent at another. (perhaps it depends on the level of decay of their sensory organs)

Smelling isn’t only dependent on the nose either. You have to think of how smelling works. Small particles of something float in the air and land on special nerves in your nose. Those nerves send a signal to your brain”hey guess what I found in the air”. Those nerves could be anywhere. You could smell with your bellybutton if you were wired right. Some animals/insects “smell” with antenna, some with their tongue some with their skin. It all depends where the “smelling” nerves are branched out to from the brain. It could be possible that the zombie virus (being a virus that directly manipulates the nervous system, hence the walking) could manipulate the way your body smells (detects particles of something in the air). A zombie may still smell with his nose, but if it rots off he may be smelling with his eyes or ears.

just opinions, what are your thoughts?

RRL

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25 Responses
  1. Trevor Mayes says:

    A lot of keen insights Vector/RRL. Thanks for posting your comment! If you’d like to give me a different name, I’ll update the above post with it.

    The issue of residual memories is a good point. Do the memories remain because part of that person’a “soul”/brain remains? Or does it mean that the virus has co-opted those brain cells for its own use?

    I’ll be watching for an instance of zombie infection that doesn’t occur from a bite in this universe. Because if it can only be passed from blood to blood, that does diminish the threat of open mouths and water supplies, and would explain a few things.

    Even with the AIDS virus, ingesting the virus is extremely unlikely to give someone the diseases… unless there are cuts in one’s mouth or throat (i.e. blood to blood).

    I like your theory about the possibility of zombies dying from starvation. That could explain the desiccated “zombie” bodies that are prevalent in the traffic jam area.

    Lots of great stuff in your post. Thanks again.

  2. Vector says:

    Hey, thanks, I’m glad you thought my ranting was coherent enough to upgrade to this post. Although now I’m embarrassed about spelling grammar mistakes. :) Leaving my name the same is fine.

    I had thought about mentioning the AIDS virus as an example also. Glad you pointed that out. In the case of The Walking Dead it seems that the Zombie virus is similar in the way it is transmitted.

    The residual memories (that have been hinted at in the series) would be a good point for the show to dig deeper into, especially if there is some awareness of the former self left in the Zombie. I suspect there isn’t and it’s just like you said; left over memory cells that are not attached to the “soul”.

    I haven’t seen the “traffic jam area” episode yet and assumed from your post that the bodies were not infected, just regular dead bodies. Either way it does need some explaining. Just how long a zombie can live (with and without sustenance) would be fun to expand on. I expect a whole zombie would live longer than just the upper half (like the zombie crawling across the park in the first episode. They eat so a digestive system must do something good for them, unless like I said it’s just instinct and it’s only the bite that spreads the disease that counts) and that a decapitated zombie head (like the one at the campsite that keeps on a bitin’) wouldn’t last very long at all, death blow to the brain or not.

    Makes me think of real life occurrences like chickens with their heads cut off. Everybody has heard that saying, but not everyone knows it’s truth. Ask someone who butchers their own chickens (ok, I realize that not everyone knows someone that does.) but I have a few relatives who do, and it’s a common occurrence. After cutting a chicken’s head off if it will flap around for a while. If enough of the brain stem is left intact it will have enough motor memory brain cells left to actually run around for a bit (quite a complex task as opposed to flapping around).
    There is even a case when a chicken with its head cut off ran around… and didn’t stop. It lived for about a year, headless. A good chunk of its lower brain was still intact. The farmer fed it grains through its neck. Think I’m full of crap? check it out yourself
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken

    That’s a little off the subject, especially since that’s about the body living on, and not the head, but what it makes me think brings up another huge contradiction in the Walking Dead. It is the lower brain and brain stem that controls motor skills. In the CDC in The Walking Dead it is shown that is where the zombie virus controls the body. But there are many times when a zombie is shot through the forehead, leaving the brain stem in tact. That shouldn’t kill it. Following the writers own theory, there are many Zombies that shouldn’t be dead even after the “death blow”. It needs to be the lower brain and/or brain stem that is smashed, not just any part of the brain.

    If enough people catch on to that “script wreck” the old saying is going to have to be ironically changed to “running around like a zombie with its head cut off.”

    RRL

  3. Trevor Mayes says:

    Hey Vector, great analogy with the chicken. I hadn’t though of that, but it makes a lot of sense. If it’s really just the lower brain and brain stem that is controlling the body, then a regular head shot wouldn’t necessarily do the trick.

    Thanks for the insightful discussion!

  4. Scott says:

    Trevor, you and Vector both referenced “if there is some awareness of the former self left in the Zombie…”

    I think there was a least one big moment where it happened: in one of the first episodes in the house where the mother/wife was wandering around outside on the porch. I think she was purposely shown to experience some recognition. And it was very effective.

  5. Vector says:

    Scott, I did mention that in my first post. quote : remember dude’s wife continually returning to her house?

    We were debating whether it was really a part of her “soul” or her real self awareness left over or if it was just residual memories from left over brain cells that the virus “activated”.

    It could go either way and would be interesting both ways. I wonder if it will be expanded on which I suspect it will, or just ignored, otherwise why would they hint towards it?

    That was the only instance I could think of that hinted towards a part of the real person left in the zombie. Were there any other instances?

    Maybe the scene where the sister stays by her dead sister until she reanimates and then blows her brains out? It seemed to me that the zombie sister “recognized” her sister. The “clean” sister seemed awfully careless as she looked into her zombie sister’s eyes and let her reach for her face. Instead of clawing her eyes out like a good zombie should, the zombie sis seemed to want to affectionately rest her zombie hand on her sister’s face before the blood thirst took over. I bet there are other instances that are more subtle. Anything like that in Season 2?

  6. Scott says:

    Yes! And I agree with your assessment of the sisters scene. There haven’t been any other instances I can think of.

    Wouldn’t you just love to be in the writers’ room on this one, slinging around ideas? Imagining the creepiest places to get attacked by zombies and then working backwards to figure out how to get them all there?

    For me? Subway tunnels. Eesh, nuff said.

  7. Vector says:

    Any enclosed area like a subway, sewer or even an upper floor of a building makes for a very intense Zombie attack. Adds much more suspense than being attacked out in the open where you could just run away.

    One of my favorite scenes was in the first episode where the main character crawled under the tank and just as he put his pistol to his head, thinking there was no way out, he saw the open hatch on the floor of the tank. That was intense.

    I’d like to see them trapped in a building and when the zombies get in they take to the air ducts to hide, but then the zombies get in the ducts to. Being trapped in a ventilation shaft with zombies crawling after you from both ways would suck, although you know there would have to be a vent grate to open up and jump through into an open room, but wait! the room is full of zombies and now they see you and are trying to get at you through the vent door that was your only escape! sigh. It’s probably been done but it would be fun to figure out how to get them out, there are countless possibilities in any situation. Cutting a jagged flap in the side of the vent (assuming you have a big knife) and pulling it open towards the closest zombies creating a temporary shield while you crawl into the space between ceiling and floor where all the duct work, plumbing and wiring is would be fun, until you fall through the sheetrock or weak tiles of the false ceiling into another room full of zombies.

  8. Scott says:

    Tank scene – awesome. And I like the Die Hard air duct scenario: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, kill some zombies…”

    What about being chased by zombies under water? Imagine the swimming scene in The Abyss or any movie where someone had to swim from one spot to another for air with zombies chasing them.

    I can’t imagine seeing a zombie scene on a ski run: it might be too comical to ski or snowboard circles around them.

  9. Vector says:

    Very interesting and inspiring ideas. Can a zombie live underwater? I’d like to think so. would be fun to come up with reasons why they can or can’t.

    A ski run zombie scene would be comical, especially if you put one or two of the zombies on skis.
    That would have to be done as comedy as everyone knows a “real” zombie doesn’t have the coordination, even if its former body owner was a skier, or maybe that’s why it can ski. :)

    Thinking of a situation why there would be zombies on a ski hill would be fun to come up with in the first place. Makes me wonder about how low temperatures might affect zombie life. Maybe that could be the key to their demise. Lure them all into a stadium and crank up the air-conditioning like in that old movie “killer bees” I think it was called. (of course that was bees not zombies but you get my point. :)

  10. Demut says:

    “Makes me wonder about how low temperatures might affect zombie life.”

    Have you not read the original TWD comic? They freeze.

  11. Trevor Mayes says:

    I think he’s like a lot of us. I haven’t read the original comic either. So it sounds like Rick was on to something when he conjectured about Winter’s effect on the Walkers.

  12. ash786 says:

    I always wondered how they could smash walkers with no concern of blood splatter in their faces and all over their mouth. If being contominated was posibble only blood by blood that would kill justifying how it spread so quickly and wiped all humanity. Similar to aids, humans will move on. My theory is that they alreay contiminated and when they get killed or die, they turn but I remember one of the members were infected and thefirst symptom was a fever, they left that member in the woods so maybe he never turned and he never was infected.maybeeee they already are walking dead and its a matter of time before they become a flesh eater. In recent episodes they have discovered two cops turned and dead with no bite marks. They also have revealed shane dying and turning with no bite but a stab wound.

  13. Trevor Mayes says:

    ash786 – I like your theory. The virus must be airborne, and everyone living is infected. But perhaps the virulent form of the virus only kicks in after death.

    It’s kinda like AIDS insomuch as the people can have HIV, but not full blown AIDS. I thought this week’s episode (Better Angels) was pretty good (except for Shane’s poorly executed plan, and everyone trying to force a handgun on a young kid).

    And T-Dog actually got more than one line, so that was kinda thrilling in and off itself.

  14. ash786 says:

    I’m most thrilled about the fact that they will be getting off that stupid farm or at least some zombie herd is coming towards them. Also I don’t know if you remember but when they showed how shane got them out of the city, they showed city being bombed by army. My theory is that it could be goverment experiment that got out of control, so it first spread through defence. Civilians were relying on its being under control. Because if it first spraed through civilians , army should be able to kill zombies. .

    I also think when they went to disease contol center, that he lost all communication and there is no hope.I think that it could just be in a contained area and all communication killed because they know there is no hope for those people in that area and they want to contain it.
    Also that scientist said something to Rick but they never revealed. I think they don’t want to reveal to much to have people talking about it.

  15. ash786 says:

    Ohhh and one more thing, it could also be like trevor mayes said. It could be that some peoples immune system fight it off and they only turn when they are bitten or dead somehow.because that would explain some zombies with no bite marks.

  16. ash786 says:

    Also one more question, wouldn’t it be reasonable that after some time , maybe 6 months corpse will be in a condition that it can’t walk so if they wait out for maybe a year, most zombies should be harmless?

  17. Trevor Mayes says:

    Ha! That’s hilarious — and a great point! Yeah, if they just wait it out then the corpses would/should degrade to a point where they’re no longer capable of locomotion.

    Perhaps the “living” part of the zombie is enough to stave off decomposition.

    And yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that the zombie virus was caused by the military. Suddenly having a ton of dead bodies resurrect would certain explain why the military was overwhelmed.

    Finally getting off that farm! Well, at least for next season.

  18. dethbee says:

    I’ve had my gripes with the show too concerning the zombie behavour.

    One, it’s inconsistent as hell. Both in terms of behavour (what attracts zombies: sight, sound, smell) and the simple fact that they’re not just everywhere, spread out. Most of the time they just pop up whenever the plot requires some zombie gore. In fact, it seems each ep is designed to have at least one zombie scene… and why is the farm not overrun with zombies? I mean that fence (when we finally saw it) wasn’t all that impressive. And does it encircle the entire farmland? No, it doesn’t as that herd got throught the forest. (I joked to my gf that the fence should’ve been loaded with zombie, all tangled up in the wire, unable to move.)

    Two, the herding. At first it bugged the shit outta me… I was tired of seeing this in modern day zombie fare. A character is running around a corner and suddenly there’s a million zombie just waiting for their cue! But I now think it’s a logical zombie thing, thinking they’re stimulated into movement/action by movement/action so a herd of zombie slowing growing larger makes sense… kinda like a planet and it’s satilites/moons…

    The matter of the dead bodies everywhere that don’t have any decernable head trauma now makes cause as it’s been revealed that (spoiler!!!!) they’re all infected to begin with… so I guessing thoase dead bodies that didn’t reanimate simply weren’t infected/and or were immune to the virus.

  19. Trevor Mayes says:

    Yeah, I never understood why they didn’t spend more time fortifying the defenses of the farm. I guess it’s the old fallacy of human nature: “Well it’s never happened before…” Usually the zombies got trapped in the bog and never made it to the house. But still, you’re living on a farm with nothing else to do, why not make things a little more secure?

    Yeah, I can go along with the herding too. And had the same gradual acceptance as you.

    And yes, you’re right — now that they’ve explained that everyone’s infected, that finally makes sense. Strange that the characters wouldn’t have realized this before now though, given everything they’ve seen in their travels. Does that mean Sophia could have died from hunger? I guess Rick was right after all to keep looking for her.

  20. dethbee says:

    Having given some thought about zombie apocalypse’ actually occurring (haha, I have way too much time to think while at work) I don’t think it’d last long. A year or so, max.

    If, for example, zombies require sustenance as a base need, which is why they eat, and their bodily functions still work (heart, lungs, bowels), what would logically happen is that there would be way too many of them and not enough to eat, so after eating most of the living they could get their hands on (including animals) they would eventually starve to death, and wither away and/or die from exposure or whatever, much like the Infected in 28 Days Later, which wouldn’t take very long… so even if a few remains, there wouldn’t be many. All they’d have to worry about are a bunch nasty shit/piss covered zombies in great need of a shower…or a square or two.

    So, realistically I don’t think the characters of TWD should really be worried and all hopeless and shit, cause shitty/pissy zombies I think could be dealt with, gross as that may be. Just grab a bunch of canned food, some good winter coats and head way up north (where what zombies there’d be, would be frozen and immobile) and lessen the chances of being bitten… of course, a cure is still required in TWD plot, as all are infected, but once yer dead, unless zombies are somehow conscience in some way, who cares?

    What’s got me curious now (I haven’t read the comics), is that individual at the end in silhouette with the two armless dudes in chains. Some have speculated the chained to be zombies but I have to wonder why they were so docile… armless or not, I think a zombie would still be all over that person? Has someone figured a way to domesticate some zombies? Already?… What’s the cronology of the show? It’s been, what, 3-4 months? Plus, what infected everyone, initially?…

  21. Trevor Mayes says:

    Hey dethbee,

    I think the zombies in the Walking Dead, are of the kind that will keep on going like the Energizer Bunny until they’re so broken down, they can’t move anymore.

    I’m curious about that girl with the zombies too. I was especially concerned by the fact that they didn’t seem to have anything covering their biting parts. If memory serves, I saw a JPEG of the comic, and the zombies in that one had something over their mouths.

    Domesticated zombies… That was sort of what they were doing at the farm, right?

    I think it’s obvious that there was some type of government experiment, or some such, that got everyone infected. What has me curious, is: What activates the zombie virus?

    If everyone’s already infected, does zombie saliva activate the dormant virus?

  22. dethbee says:

    Yeah, I figure they’ll go on and on… otherwise they wouldn’t have a show! And I’m not sure we’ll ever get a clear answer to how it all started. At least, from what I’ve read online, there are no major plans to explain the zombie plague…

    I imagine saliva and blood, so it’d be a good idea not to get any of that shit on you. Other then that, dying.

    I just read that they’re expanding the episode count for S3. This makes groan. I fell the show has gone downhill with S2. They didn’t have enough story to fill out the extra episodes and it really shows, especially in the first half of the season. It took ‘em like 5-6 eps to find that girl and the whole time I was like FUCK OFF!

    Also: another gripe I have is how certain aspects of the plot are quickly resolved… like one eps ending off with the question “what are we gonna do about Shane?” That was nice. But then it was kinda delt with right away the next ep and then dropped until the end of the season…i think…haha, my memory is not serving me well tonight, should watch the season again sometime…

    Also! Where are all the zombies?! They’re driving around everywhere, going into town, but there are no zombies! Oh wait, there was that one in the field – LOOK OUT! And that one on the road… It’s like the movie Zombieland but there are barely any zombies anywhere! (oh shit, they’re all at the amusment park. AHGAWD!!)

  23. Trevor Mayes says:

    Haha. I know a lot of people, including myself, started to get stir crazy with how much time they were spending on the farm waiting around for Sophia.

    The cool thing about S3 is that I’ve heard it’s going to be much faster paced. Fingers crossed!

    I guess these zombies mostly stay in packs. So it’s either a token zombie or a stampede.

  24. Amanda says:

    So, why is it that we find out in season 2 that everyone alive is also infected, and when they die, they will turn even if they died of natural causes, but they would still turn from a scratch or a bite? How is it that a scratch or a bite is as zombifying as dying? If the scratch or bite isn’t big enough to kill you, then how is it that it sets in motion what appears to be an infection, that you already carry???? And if you can still die from a bite or a scratch, which tends to lead to the idea that there is some transfer of fluids or germs of an additional type, then really, why don’t they Change when they get covered in the eyes and mouth by popped face zombie goo?

  25. Trevor Mayes says:

    You’re so right Amanda. I completely agree with everything you’ve said… And was thinking all of those things during the premiere.

    Perhaps the saliva and blood from Walkers somehow acts like a catalyzing agent, activating the dormant aspects of the infection in humans?

    But seriously, why don’t they at least wear scarves over their mouths while they’re doing all that close-quarters zombie splattering??? There was mention about getting a clean water source, so obviously they fear becoming infected via oral zombie fluid transmission, so WTF?

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