The Walking Dead May Have Just Revealed The Zombie Virus Origin

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This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: World Beyond series finale.

Though The Walking Dead is a third of the way through its 11th and final season, The Walking Dead franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. AMC has already announced a whole host of new spinoffs for the zombie series including the Tales of the Walking Dead anthology and a set of feature films for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).

This means that if The Walking Dead Universe is going to continue on forever, like AMC appears to want it to, it may have to reconsider some of its own mythology. Robert Kirkman, originator and writer of The Walking Dead comic series, followed through on his promise to never address the real source of the world-ending zombie epidemic. But based on a post-credit scene in The Walking Dead: World Beyond series finale, the television franchise based upon his work is apparently ready to delve back into the source of it all.

Yes, The Walking Dead: World Beyond came to a conclusion on Sunday night. Through two seasons the close-ended limited series didn’t build up much of an audience nor did it feel necessary as part of the larger TWDU picture. But that all changed with a truly revelatory post-credits scene that could end up changing everything we know about this world. Read on to learn more about The Walking Dead: World Beyond’s shocking conclusion.

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Are Zombies All the French’s Fault?

Maybe! 

After credits roll on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, a post-credits scene (COMPLETELY unrelated to anything that happens in World Beyond) begins in a dilapidated lab covered in dust, cobwebs, and French graffiti. When translated to English that graffiti reads “The Dead Were Born Here.” A woman, later revealed to be a doctor or medical scientist, arrives at the lab and watches an old video transmission from a special guest star (more on him in a minute). Her computer time is interrupted by the arrival of a man who points a gun at her.

The conversation between these two unnamed characters is very revealing. It’s all in French too so subtitles very helpfully transcribe the entirety of it as follows:

Gunman: Are you one of the doctors?
Doctor: Yes.
Gunman: You’ve been running…hiding all this time?
Doctor: Yes
Gunman: Are you a member of the Primrose team?
Doctor: No. Violet.
Gunman: Where is the Primrose team? What happened to them?
Doctor: They weren’t here when it happened. When you all did what you did. They were at the conference. In Toledo.
Gunman: In Spain?
Doctor: Ohio. America. I hoped against hope that they…were here. That somehow they came back. And that they were working. And that they were close. 
Gunman: Why would you come back?
Doctor: I was tired of running. And I had that hope against hope. And I had to try. If they were to return here…to their work. They might end all this…even after all this time.
Gunman: They should be dead. If they aren’t…and they somehow come back like you…we won’t jail them like the others. We’ll kill them. End this? You started this. All the teams. Then…you made it worse.

Well, there is a LOT we can glean from that. It’s unknown who the gunman is or what organization he is with, but if he’s right, then French medical researchers were responsible for both the start of the zombie apocalypse and for “making it worse.” The fact that the doctor doesn’t dispute any of these claims makes it likely that these teams of French doctors, two of which are named “Primrose” and “Violet”, caused the end of the world. Any doctor who could be found has been jailed for their crimes. 

But if French doctors made the zombie virus, how did they also make it worse?

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What Are the Variant Cohorts?

The answer lies in both the first part and the final part of the post-credit scene. Remember that video that the unnamed French doctor was watching? Well, it was a transmission from none other than…CDC virologist Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich)! Longtime Walking Dead fans will remember Dr. Jenner from his appearance all the way back in The Walking Dead season 1 finale. Back then he mentioned that the French were making some compelling headway in finding a cure for the virus.

“It was the French. […] They were the last ones to hold out as far as I know. While our people were bolting out the doors and committing suicide in the hallways, they stayed in the labs till the end,” Jenner told Rick Grimes and friends. 

Now, in this transmission from Jenner, we see why he was so excited about the French’s progress. Jenner says he’s viewed the French scientists’ data and that he “likes their approach.” What follows is a lot of heavy jargon that includes concepts like: “activating systems to work against reanimation,” “jumpstarting circulatory systems,” and “short-circuiting the brain” to deal with “variant cohorts.”

To the layperson, it seems what Jenner is describing are the French scientists’ attempts to introduce a shock to infected individual’s systems to halt the zombification process. This seems like a good idea in theory but as any Dr. Frankenstein could tell you, introducing energy to reanimate a corpse might make it a touchhhh stronger than you anticipated. Perhaps that’s what Jenner is referring to when he discusses “variant cohorts.” 

As we’re all now very tragically familiar with in the real world, any virus worth its salt will learn to mutate into new variants to outpace living creatures’ immune systems. Corpses reanimated with the “zombie virus” on The Walking Dead almost always behave in the same way, but we’ve seen a small handful of deviations throughout the franchise’s lengthy run. Recall that way back in season 1, some zombies (like Morgan Jones’s wife) exhibited a sort of primitive memory of their time pre-zombification. Now, on Fear the Walking Dead, lead character Alicia appears to be infected with a zombie bug that is progressing at an unusually slow place. 

Then, at the end of this post-credit scene, we see yet one more example of the zombie virus operating unusually. The gunman shoots the doctor in the back and within seconds of her dying, her zombified corpse springs into action, runs to the door, and vigorously claws at it as if it is trying to immediately avenge its death. Quite simply, we have never seen a zombie operate with this level of speed and savagery. 

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It would appear that the French “made it worse” indeed. 

What’s Next for Team Primrose? 

No disrespect intended to Fear the Walking Dead or The Walking Dead: World Beyond, but sometimes it feels as though something in the Walking Dead universe isn’t truly canon until it happens on the actual flagship program. Thankfully, something about the conversation between the gunman and the doctor suggests that we’ll be seeing more of the French doctors who messed everything up on The Walking Dead proper soon.

The gunman assuming that “Toledo” referred to the Spanish city and not the American city probably isn’t just a joke at poor Ohio’s expense. According to this unnamed French doctor, the “Primrose” team was in Ohio before the apocalypse truly got going. This means that they were still in America when things got bad and some of them could have conceivably survived through 10 seasons of The Walking Dead

If we put our extensive knowledge of Midwestern U.S. geography to good use, we know that Northwest, Ohio isn’t too far from West Virginia, home of The Commonwealth. If Rick’s crew can make it from Atlanta to Virginia to West Virginia, then a group of highly valuable French medical researchers can easily make a much shorter trip. Perhaps we will see Team Primrose (or what’s left of it) in The Walking Dead season 11’s final 16 episodes. 

How Does Rick Grimes Factor In?

The Walking Dead: World Beyond always felt like it was destined to address Rick Grimes’s fate in a major way. The show’s main antagonists were the Civic Republic Military (CRM), whose helicopter with a distinctive tri-circle logo carried Rick off in The Walking Dead season 9. That expectation only grew when the last character to see Rick alive, Anne a.k.a. Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), was added to World Beyond season 2.

Alas, a major Rick update wasn’t in the cards for the show. He doesn’t factor into the post-credits scene at all…unless you count the mention of Toledo, Spain as an homage to Rick’s brother Jeffrey in a Spain-set comic side issue “The Alien.” Before the post-credit scene, however, The Walking Dead: World Beyond finally does address why Jadis called Rick a “B” in her dispatch to the CRM.

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Mid-melee with Huck (Annet Mahendru), Jadis describes how she “traded someone” to gain entry into the CRM. That much we could have guessed, as she’s clearly referring to Rick. But she then goes on to add that this someone was “special” and an “A” but she said he was a “B” so he wouldn’t end up in the CRM’s lab. It turns out that the CRM does indeed want special people but not to join their ranks. It wants to kill them and study the zombification process so it can better understand how to stop it.

By Jadis lying and saying Rick was merely a “B”, he was spared this particular fate. What exactly is Rick up to at the CRM then? We’ll have to wait for those movies to find out.

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