The Walking Dead is unknowable. Though the occasional fan theory might strike gold, AMC’s juggernaut show has consistently destroyed expectations and the tender emotions that go with them. Even Robert Kirkman’s macabre comic has proved inconsistent as a roadmap for the series’ journey. Though they may miss the mark by a country mile, fan theories populate the internet like zombies in Atlanta. They are ubiquitous, and nothing will stop TWD loyalists from guessing until the seventh season returns on February 12th.
Some are thought-provoking, others are polemical, and a few are downright absurd. This is a collection of fan theories from all three categories, spanning the probable to the patently insane. You don’t need to worry about encountering too many spoilers here, but in the event that one such theory proves true, kindly remember where you heard it first.
Here are The 15 Craziest Walking Dead Fan Theories.
15. The Zombies Are Solar Powered
After all that stumbling, crawling and wandering, how do the walkers keep going? Considering they often go weeks without proper, FDA-approved sustenance, their continued survival is nothing less than a herculean feat. According to an aspiring Redditor scientist, however, it’s not just sheer will that keeps the walkers walking: it’s solar power.
That’s right. Like Superman himself, the yellow rays of the sun keep the zombies in motion. As this gonzo theory states, the mutated cells in the zombies now thrive on a diet of sunlight, the greenest energy of all. Too bad the walkers aren’t in their right minds to appreciate their scientific achievements. Thanks to the online Einstein over at Reddit, this theory also explains why the zombies stuck in deep, dark places are so catatonic, while their nature-loving allies have seemingly boundless energy. Like a Duracell battery, the walkers who go weeks without sunlight flip to “economy mode” and coast until they can get some vitamin D. Can someone please get ahold of Rick Grimes and tell him that the cure to the zombie apocalypse is 60 SPF sunscreen?
14. It’s A Parable for Human History
When “the incident” happened and the events of The Walking Dead began, the reset button of human civilization got slapped. Everything that had been developed moved in retrograde, and though the last vestiges of technology and industry remain peppered throughout the scorched landscape, mankind was basically sent back to the stone age.
According to this history-buff driven theory, The Walking Dead doesn’t just start back at year one, it follows the cultural development of humanity with surprising accuracy. Consider the wandering stages of post-coma Rick, fighting off all manner of zombie beast to find shelter and family. When he finally gets back on his feet, he stumbles across Hershel’s farm, the very beacon of the hunter/gatherer approach to survival. A miniature culture was born again, and though there was peace in Hershel’s idyll, they knew they weren’t safe and needed more. After pressing on, they move through the Roman Empire-like world of the Governor and Woodbury, then encounter the black-plague-like epidemic in season 4. Like the scourge of the middle ages, this localized influenza cleaned house and ultimately led to the aristocracy of Alexandria, where the Sturm und Drang of the outside world briefly subsided.
13. Every Character is Practically Deaf
This theory was born out of a simple and persistent question: how come every character on The Walking Dead never hears the zombies before they attack? They’re sniveling, mouth-breathing, and perpetually hungry creatures with no capacity for stealth. You’d think Rick and Co. would be able to tell before a zombie attack began, right?
This introduces a bold, but not terribly improbable theory that suggests the reason for every survivor’s lack of anticipation: every one of them is 97% deaf. They’ve been shooting guns without ear protection, screaming relentlessly, and in the case of Rick, even surviving a zombie attack in the echo-chamber of a tank. The survivors have basically been fighting a years-long war without any of the instruments needed to protect their eardrums. Like socialites outside the club at closing time, they talk at their friends with the same volume they used on the dance floor, not knowing they’re still screaming.
12. Walter White Started the Virus
Call it The Breaking Dead, Walking Bad, or just “that Breaking Bad theory.” If you’ve ever wondered what caused the zombie outbreak, you can look no further than Heisenberg, Walter White himself. In his pursuit of concocting the ultimate methamphetamine, Walter succeeded with flying colors. Blue sky meth was so potent that it seemingly found its way into Merle’s possession way back in Season 1 of The Walking Dead. When Daryl later describes his brother’s dealer, he calls him “a janky little white guy” with a penchant for calling people “b*tch.” Jesse Pinkman, anyone? As for the patient zero of TWD, this same theory suggests that Gus Fring took Walter’s meth, got blown to smithereens, then reanimated as the founding father zombie of The Walking Dead.
But that’s not all: remember that fire-red Dodge Charger with the black racing stripes that Walter bought for his son? That exact car broke the Breaking Bad barrier and was mysteriously driven by Glenn in The Walking Dead.
11. Rick is a Zombie
The simplest answer is often the truest. Though he has survived countless zombie acts, personal tragedies, and attempted murders, Rick Grimes withstood the most sustained attack of all: languishing over a month (46 days!) of bedridden time in the hospital without care, food, or water. Gandhi survived three weeks without food, but as giving as he may be, Rick isn’t quite on that level. Though food is important, it’s the lack of water that should’ve killed the hero of this apocalyptic tale. Considering the average human will die within three days of water deprivation, there’s only one way to explain how Rick Grimes survived the hospital: the guy is a walking, talking, functional zombie.
As this transcendent theory goes, Rick didn’t make it out of his gurney alive. He died in episode one and has been a zombie ever since. The catch? Rick hasn’t shown signs of being undead because the disease lies dormant in him. That means Grimes will get particularly grimy over the coming seasons as he starts to turn.
10. Why Carl Refuses to Cut His Hair
For posterity, some moms take clippings of their baby’s hair and put it in a locket. Though he’s well into adolescence, Carl Grimes apparently knows about this tradition. Over the years, his hair has grown longer and longer, almost to the point where it can cover up his bandaged eye. Is it a stylish choice, perhaps the grunge look of the apocalypse? Not according to this tonsorial theory, which postulates that Carl lets his hair grow in honor of his dear mother, Lori, whom he ushered out of this world himself.
Way back in the first season, Carl received a first-rate cut from his doting mother. Though the boy is hardly enjoying himself, Shane remarks, “You think this is bad? Wait ‘til you start shaving. That stings. That day comes, you’ll be wishing for one of your mama’s haircuts.” Carl replies, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” and not long later, he gets his wish. To preserve the memory of his mother, Carl hasn’t gotten his hair trimmed since.
9. Aliens Brought the Virus to Earth
The Walking Dead is so captivating that it has managed to hold onto its millions of viewers without explaining the origins of the disease. It’s one of the biggest and most sustained McGuffins in television history. Though any major catastrophe could be blamed for the destruction of humanity (water poisoning, chemical warfare, Mother Earth going militant), The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman, has given us a hint that’s hard to overlook.
When he first pitched the series, Kirkman was rejected, “simply because there had never been a successful zombie book in the history of comics.” In a Machiavellian moment of brilliance, Kirkman flipped the tables and said, “I forgot to tell you that this is actually a big setup for an alien invasion.” According to his now legendary pitch, Kirkman described the zombies as being the creation of an alien race hell-bent on commandeering Earth. Since uncovering Kirkman’s pitch, many fans have speculated that aliens will eventually be revealed as the puppeteers of Rick Grimes and his life of tragedy. Therefore, the walking dead aren’t just a group of brainless thugs, but a weaponized version of humanity bent to enslave planet Earth for alien marauders.
8. It’s All A Coma Dream
For the inevitable detractors, let’s be clear: Robert Kirkman debunked this theory on his Twitter account in 2014. That being said, we bring it to you once again because in the age of “it’s not Khan,” nothing can be taken at face value. Given the series’ creator once revealed that The Walking Dead might have a “hopeful ending,” the “it was all a dream” trope deserves a seat at the table.
Dorothy went through it all in The Wizard of Oz, and her subconscious projected a crazy world almost as nutty as The Walking Dead — a talking tin-man, lion and scarecrow? Be honest, that’s terrifying. As happens in the Judy Garland classic, however, could all of the characters in The Walking Dead become similar projections of Rick’s subconscious? Maybe Hershel is his doctor, perhaps Shane and Lori really did do the dirty, and maybe Negan is just his high school bully hyped up in a fever dream. Robert Kirkman might’ve smacked this theory down, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
7. The Curious Case of Daryl Dixon
Let’s be real: Daryl Dixon is beloved by all. It’s hardly surprising, then, that people would speculate about the character’s personal persuasions, as seems to happen with virtually every person who enters the public eye. Beyond his romantic interests, Daryl Dixon is just a fascinating individual whose tastes are not readily obvious. In the zombie apocalypse, people become full-fledged carnivores who scuttle their ego to make way for their id. Not Daryl, who lurks in the shadows of subtlety without planting his flag in anything other than his crossbow. Could the tension of the zombie apocalypse have eradicated his natural born drives? Indeed, many fans have speculated that Daryl is more asexual than anything else.
The younger Dixon brother has been so unknowable that even the writers aren’t sure what he prefers. When pressed about the matter, both Robert Kirkman and Norman Reedus have hemmed and hawed, keeping all options on the table. Frank Darabont allegedly intended the character to be gay all along, but then again, who can ignore the sexual tension between Daryl and Carol? The jury’s still out on Mr. Dixon.
6. Carl Is Narrating the Story as an Old Man
History revolves around stories, and as the back half of season 7 approaches, many fans are expecting The Walking Dead to end with quite the finale. In both the comics and the TV series, TWD exists as Rick Grimes’ odyssey, but according to this grandiose theory, that’s an illusion. It’s not Rick who’s truly at the heart of the tale, but Carl, who is reflecting the entire story to his grandchildren as a wise, old man.
Perhaps that’s why Rick is portrayed as this impossibly heroic and devoted man, the kind of dad sons like to brag about. This theory would explain why Carl’s storylines are particularly detailed and deliberate, filled with the specifics only an eyewitness could include. As for that visual, there’s something Homeric and mythological about a one-eyed man recounting the greatest adventure known to man.
Carl’s one of Robert Kirkman’s favorite characters and among the steeliest survivors on the show. At the end of the day, this would be the kind of reveal that breaks the internet and devastates fans while hitting a note of optimism in the show’s finale.
5. It Exists In A World Where Slavery Never Happened
Who caused it? What are we going to do it about? And what do we call them? Of the three questions, the third is the least urgent but the most troublesome. After seven and a half seasons, no one has called the walkers by the name we viewers choose to use: zombies. Though all manner of language is used on the show, the z-word is off limits.
Why? In killing two birds with one stone, this theory proposes that the word zombie never entered the popular culture of the world The Walking Dead inhabits. The z-word allegedly hails from Haitian folklore by way of Africa. As the hypothesis goes, the same rumors of the undead in Africa would have traveled to the states via the slave trade, if in fact the commerce of human trafficking exists in Robert Kirkman’s dystopia. As for the racial ratio on the show, many fans have mocked the fact that TWD only has one black male character on at a time. This same theory posits that the lack of black representation might make sense if it were set in New England, but given its presence in Georgia, the numbers don’t align. According to the 2010 Atlanta census, 54% of the city was black, so how do you explain the fact that the majority of those on the show (walkers included) are not?
4. Babies Born Post-Outbreak Are Immune
There was a time when those living the hell of TWD sought a cure. The CDC became the bees knees, and everyone hoped for an antidote that would turn the moldy men and women of the zombie horde back to their normal, lovable selves.
That wish never came true. Fortunately, sandwiched somewhere between the litany of tragedies that have befallen the survivors, clues about a cure have been revealed. From the death of Lori Grimes was born baby Judith, who not only represents the continuation of the Grimes line (and Shane Walsh’s, of course) but also holds the key to immunity for the years to come. As this theory states, babies born after the apocalypse have a new set of evolved DNA that makes them resistant to the zombie disease. As a tiny infant, Judith may have little to say, but she has everything to represent. She’s a symbol of hope and a promise of a return to normalcy. Perhaps that’s the reason Judith was kept alive in the show, despite her brutal death in the comics.
3. Gingivitis Caused The Apocalypse
Your parents gave warnings, you failed to listen, and now the zombie apocalypse is on you. This, against all odds, is the zaniest theory of them all, and it comes quite literally from the mouth of the dead. To be fair to the dear Redditor who concocted this dental disaster, it’s true that the #1 problem with human and zombie interaction is teeth. The bicuspids have turned many an innocent soul into a flesh-eating monster.
Somewhere along the line, an especially virulent strain of gingivitis or some truly malevolent dental disease crept into the system. It’s scientifically proven that poor dental hygiene can do a number on your brain (and even promote early onset dementia). So, nasty and halitosis-ridden mouths degenerated into something truly vicious, creating the first zombies that did their part to spawn even more. If anyone can point out a Crest white strips ad during The Walking Dead, the final piece of this theory will have fallen into place.
2. North America is a Quarantine Zone
Detractors of The Walking Dead occasionally complain that the show devolves into soap opera. How could it not, considering the parochial world its characters inhabit? With no knowledge of the rest of the country’s health, the matters of the here and now are especially important. But it’s not just Rick Grimes and his clan who live in the dark. The audience has been endowed with zero additional perspective on the outside world, and we only know what the characters have experienced.
According to this buzzy theory, this myopia is intentional, because all of North America is in a quarantine zone. Whether it was a chemical attack or a domestic accident, the USA went from being the leader of the free world to a global pariah. The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave suddenly became the stomping grounds of hell’s finest, with the United Nations and the rest of the globe packing their bags, sealing their borders and leaving them behind. Sooner or later, we’re going to get a bird’s eye view of The Walking Dead, and it’s not going to be pretty.
1. It’s Just A Remake of Toy Story
This one has been around for a while, but if you haven’t heard the tale of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Rick Grimes, it’s worth reading. The similarities are uncanny. In both Pixar’s fantasy world and the grim story of Robert Kirkman, the narratives center on a sheriff with a dour worldview. These guardians of the law lead a motley crew of misfits, and both sheriffs have a kid they’d do anything to protect.
In both narratives, Carl and Andy get distracted by another, more interesting male presence. In Toy Story, Andy trades in his love for Woody for the macho Buzz Lightyear, just as Carl identifies Shane (the highly virile leader) as his new father figure in The Walking Dead. Woody stages an uprising against Buzz as Rick kills Shane, and both insurrectionists are attacked by the undead. Woody gets mauled by headless and deformed toy soldiers, while hordes of zombies charge at Rick. This is only the tip of the iceberg. From the first Toy Story to the last, the comparisons with TWD are eerie.
What are your favorite theories for The Walking Dead? Do you know of a crazier one than what we’ve listed here? Let us know in the comments!