*intro music from the walking dead* wanna know when the zombie threat in "the walking dead"will end? the producers have been leaving you clues since the very beginning. but today, we put it all together. *film theorist intro song plays* hello internet, welcome to film theory! the brainiest youtube series dedicated to film in tv. which, unfotunately, makes us a prime target come the zombie apocalypse. so you can bet i've been watching "the walking dead", taking notes on how to survive in the event of that happens.
over six seasons, "the walking dead" has remained the biggest show on television by constantly re-inventing itself. like in season 2, when rick and carl sought refuge at a farm. at first, hershel and rick didn't get along, but after a while they came to understand one another. everything was great, until zombies raided the farm, forcing rick and carl to flee. or like the time in season 3 & 4 when rick and carl sought refuge at a prison. at first, the prisoners and rick didn't get along, but then after a while they came to understand one another.
everything was great, until zombies raided the prison, forcing rick and carl to flee. or like the time in season 5 & 6 when rick and carl sought refuge in alexandria at first, rick and alexandrians didn't get along, everything was great, until zombies raided alexandria forcing rick and carl to... huh, maybe i was a bit too hasty saying "re-inventing" itself. all routing aside though, are rick, carl and the rest doomed to reenact the goriest version of "groundhog day" over and over again until they get careless and wind up trapped under a dead man in a zombie swarm? i mean, look how excited we got when eugene said he had found a cure to the outbreak, and then...
we see how well that panned out... are these survivors going to save the world by the end of the series? hate to break it to you, but no, no they won't. they're just average survivors trying to get by, not super-humans saving the world. but that's not to say they'll be permanently stuck in a zombie hellscape. in fact, i'm here to tell you today that the zombies won't be posing a threat much longer on the walking dead. that's right! zombies are going extinct! and that expiration date is approaching far sooner than you may realize! now first, i need to address one big caveat;
not all zombies were made at the same time. turning into a zombie is contingent on 2 factors: when you die and/or when you're bitten. but it is important to note that the overwhelming number of the walking dead zombies were turned in the first two months of the outbreak. how do we know this? well, rick wakes up two months after the outbreak began, and the world's already descended into a complete post-apocalyptic wasteland, with only clusters of survivors left. cities are empty! you can go weeks without coming across another survivor. and as we learned from doctor jenner at the cdc at the end of the season,
this is also true for the rest of the world. even france is overrun by zombies! "it was the french." "what?" "they were the last ones to hold out as far as i know." now, zombies gain their power through sheer numbers. it's these hordes that have plagued the remaining survivors from the very first episode, where rick gets trapped in a tank surrounded by zombies, to the most recent season, where rick gets trapped in an rv... surrounded by zombies.
but as much as i joke about repeated tropes in the series, it's these swarms that have shown the most reliable changes, and these changes are our biggest clue to the way the whole series will end. look closely at the evolution in the design of the zombie hordes across the seasons of the show. we start season 1 with everyone pale and fairly well intact. by season 3 and 4 they're looking pretty rough, and seasons 5 and 6, these guys are faces only a zombified mother could love. very clearly, the creative team of the walking dead has been consciously making the human zombies gradually look more and more grotesque every season.
it's a conscious choice. but why? well, it's not just for scare tactics. they're doing it because these zombies are actually decomposing, and like everything that decomposes, eventually they'll be nothing more than a bundle of bones and dust. based on this information we can predict a timeline for when this series will end. decomposition of a body is broken down into 5 general stages: initial decay, putrefaction, black putrefaction butyric fermentation, and dry decay. over the course of the walking dead's six seasons, the zombie hordes have slowly progressed through these stages.
in the first season, the zombies showed symptoms often associated with initial decay, or as it's referred to, the "fresh stage" of decomposition subway, eat fresh! after the heart stops beating, the body goes into a complete meltdown, breaking down on the cellular level. during this "fresh stage", the body's temperature drops. since the heart's stopped beating, all remaining blood in the body drains to the lower portions. the skin gets tighter, turns grey. the eyes begin to sink into the skull.
in the first season of walking dead, most zombies we see fulfil a lot of these qualities. the first zombie rick encounters is a grey little girl with sunken eyes. the zombie horde rick hides from in the tank are also, you guessed it-- pale with sunken eyes. zombies from season 2 through 5 of the walking dead are emblematic of the second stage of decomposition: putrefaction - often referred to as "the bloat stage". and it's not because they're feeling bloated after eating a bunch of carbs.
remember--these guys are a bunch of protein eaters. no, it's because gases start to accumulate in the body,causing it to swell, especially around the face. the eyes and tongue in particular, start to protrude outwards. we're not quite to arnold schwarzenegger "total recall" levels of the eye popping-ness, but we're close. the gases that accumulate in the body have nowhere to go, causing ruptures and tears in the skin
much the same as the proactiv-challenged skin of the walking dead season 2 and season 3 zombie hordes. it's also during this phase that the body's skin tone becomes marbled, revealing a pattern of blood vessels in the face, abdomen, and chest. look across season 3 and you find yourself some "usda prime marbling". after two weeks, the skin becomes so loose that it can easily be pulled off of a corpse. does that sound familiar? in season 5, rosita grabs a zombie out of the woods and, that's right, pulls the skin right off.
which brings us to the third stage of decomposition, "black putrefaction", which is even nastier than those first two stages combined. during black putrefaction, or, as it's commonly referred to, "active decay", the skin of the corpse turns black. the corpse then flattens out like a penny, as all the gases escape. the internal organs liquify, turning the body into a soupy fluid. mm-mm-mmh.
coming soon to an overpriced whole foods near you. hey- its organic, alright? in the past 6th season of the walking dead, zombies show clear signs of finally entering this 3rd stage of decomposition, showing black discoloring of their face and torso. you can also see - or, not see, that the eyes of many of these zombies have completely liquified, leaving black empty chasms in their place. after this stage, things get pretty dull.
during the fourth stage, buteric fermentation, aka "advanced decay", the body and all remaining flesh dry out. and then finally, during the fifth stage, "dry decay", all that remains of the body is just the bundle of bones. now, you loyal theorists may be wondering, "how do you time these post-mortem changes?" "it's not like people just lay bodies out in an open field and then watch them slowly decompose, right?" well, actually that's exactly what happens. they're called "body farms".
but instead of growing plants, vegetables or fruit, forensic investigators plant dead bodies, and then watch them decompose over time. which, little known fact, is 10 times more exciting than watching season 2 of the walking dead. *crickets chirping* body farms aid investigators in solving murders, and establishing a time frame for the deceased. from this research, we know that the first stage of decomposition generally occurs between zero to three days post death. putrefaction occurs four to ten days,
black putrefaction in 10 to 20 days, butyric fermentation within 20 to 50 days, and the 5th stage, dry decay takes between 50 and 350 days post-death. there are a number of factors, though, that actually increase this rate of decomposition in a cadaver. first and foremost-- exposure to the elements. according to "casper's law of decomposition" - wait, are you serious? casper? casper like the friendly ghost?
who comes up with these names? scientists, real talk. i love the nerdy tongue-and-cheek naming conventions that you use, but sometimes its really hard to take you seriously when you're naming laws after children's cartoon characters, or proteins after sonic the hedgehog. anyway, "casper's law of decomposition" states, quote, that "a body left in the open air decomposes twice as fast as if it were immersed in water... ...and eight times faster than if it were buried underground." end quote.
so those zombies, just by rising up out of the ground, have increased their rate of decomposition, eight-fold! the second key factor here is temperature. heat accelerates the rate of cellular breakdown and increases the rate of putrefaction. the hotter and more humid the temperature, the quicker the body will decompose. so obviously, the zombies on the show aren't decaying at the rate of a typical human body,
but what exactly is this zombie decay rate? the walking dead, up to season 6, has taken place over 552 days since the zombie outbreak began. a typical human cadaver would have decomposed twice over, at least, at this point. so given that season 6 depicts zombies in the latter days of black putrefaction-- blackened skin, liquified organs--which tends to happen around 20 days post death in a normal cadaver,
we can use this as correlative evidence to predict when complete zombie decay will occur. if 20 days equals the typical amount of time for a cadaver to reach black putrefaction, and the same process for the walking dead zombies is 552 days. then using some simple math, 20 over 552 equals 50 over x the unknown complete dry decay for a zombie. we can predict that the zombies will have completely decayed in 1,380 days. this would be the complete life cycle of a zombie on the walking dead. which means that we still have 828 days,
a little over two years, until the zombies become nothing more than just dried up bones. now, i know what you're thinking, "so what? two years? that's a really long time!" "look what's happened in just a year and a half on the show." "plus, then the zombies would just be skeleton zombies." by then the walking dead will be hiring ray harryhausen. sorry, that was an obscure reference. ray harryhausen was a pioneer of stop motion animation,
and perhaps his most famous scene is a skeleton battle that happens in the movie jason and the argonauts. now you know! it's one of those lesser known pieces of cinematic history that definitely deserves some celebration, so worth mentioning here. but that being said, the walking dead isn't jason and the argonauts. the one thing that keeps the zombies going isn't their skeletal bodies, it's their brains.
and it probably comes as no surprise that its not just the external body that decomposes post death, but internal organs do, too. and so, when in the decomposition timeline does the brain liquify? black putrefaction. the very stage the zombie horde is currently in. rick doesn't have to shoot or stab a zombie in the head to kill it. he just has to wait for nature to take its course.
step 1: find another prison. step 2: build a stronger fence. step 3: profit!!! so how long should rick expect to be a dirty camper? at the cdc in season 1, dr. jenner shows them the onset of a zombie. per dr. jenner, zombies don't function on the entirety of their brain, just the brain stem. "the frontal lobe, the neo-cortex, the human part,
that doesn't come back." thus, it's not even the entirety of the brain that needs to decompose, just the stem. in a typical cadaver at room temperature, this process would take a month, tops. if 20 days equals the typical amount of time for a cadaver to reach black putrefaction, and this same process for the walkers is 552 days, then using the same formula --20 over 552 equals 30 over x,
the amount of time for zombie brain melting, the brains in zombies will completely melt in 828 days. subtracting out the time that's already happened on the show, rick and the gang only have to survive 276 more days until the majority of zombie horde brains turn to complete mush. however, this decay rate isn't accounting for the temperature, the humidity, or the exposure to the outside. all of which increase the rate of decomposition tremendously. so using casper's law of decomposition,
we can predict that this process will happen at least 8 times faster in the world of the show. which means that the survivors have a little over a month, 34 days, until the zombie brains turn into pea soup and their lifeless corpses will be just that. lifeless corpses once more. if that isn't enough, look no further than the show itself. this past season has been set over the course of two days.
never before has the show jammed so much stuff into a 48-hour period. why would the show slow its timeline down so much? because the creators themselves know that the zombies are on borrowed time. if you need more proof, look at the location. alexandria, virginia according to the kã¶ppen climate classification system, alexandria is classified by hot, humid summers and has a sub-tropical climate.
so you would think that the zombies would decompose quicker there, but remember rick and the gang came from atlanta georgia, where seasons 1 through 4 were set. a substantially hotter and more humid climate. you think it's a coincidence that rick and carl are moving to colder temperatures? in georgia, the zombies would probably have fully decomposed by now. the only way the writers can justify continuing
the show is by a), slowing down the timeline to a halt and b), moving the show to colder temperatures where zombies will decompose slower. so get ready for the walking dead season 15 set over the course of 1 hour in a blizzard in antarctica. try as hard as you want amc writers, but there's no stopping the inevitable. it's not a question of if the zombies will go extinct, but a matter of when. time is a zombie's
biggest killer, and soon time will end the zombie threat. and the walking dead as we know it. but hey, that's just a theory, a film theory! aaaand cut! and before you go, did you know that the walking dead has hidden references to the roman empire sprinkled throughout its various seasons? it's true!
the parallels are actually fascinating. if you want to find out more, click here to check out a brand new video from my friends over at wise crack where they are picking apart the series to uncover the deeper meaning hidden under its fleshy folds. in fact, here you go. click their logo to check out the whole channel. if you're a fan
of my theories, then you're gonna love their interpretations of all things pop culture from the matrix to rick and morty. so head on over and tell 'em matpat sent ya. they'll appreciate it. and finally in case you missed it a couple weeks ago, here's a link to another theory i did on the walking dead. exploring how, technically, everyone on the series should be deaf. not dead, deaf. it means rick and the gang are literally the walking deaf.
(ba-doom ching) so there you go, some good options for you. and remember guys, that's just a theory. a film theory! aaand cut! * video ends *