So out of pure boredom and the fact that I can’t write or do work without something playing in the background, I decided to re-watch The Walking Dead from episode one and my wife & I started to notice a few thing:
Rick was trigger happy back in the day; he was shooting everything that moved.
Zombies aren’t even a big deal in the current time of the show.
And the zombies seemed more intelligent in the beginning.
The zombie genre is fantastic, but when it comes down to it all, it’s pretty simple. The virus turns people into zombies, and humans must fight the dead and the living to survive. Few people ever really dive into the overall intelligence of the zombies or where they go after infection. I always figured they would decay and after sometime re-die out, but what happens to their intelligence seems to vary depending on who’s telling the story.
Let’s take a look at Papa Zombie Master George A. Romero:
In Romero’s dead series, we start to see the growth of zombie intelligence over time. Night of the Living Dead starts it off, but we’ll overlook that being that it’s the infancy of the genre. Let’s start with Dawn of The Dead. Now while it may seem that the zombies are just mindlessly walking about, you have to keep in mind where they all end up. A whole hoard of zombies just seems to hang around outside the mall. We could blame it on the target practice shots, but there was still a large amount of them before our survivors made themselves known. I feel the zombies made their way toward the mall-based off of some deep subconscious thought or pre-zombie instinct that told them humans would be there. We all know that malls are the epicenter of most communities. Teenagers go there to meet up; people go there for dates, old people go there to walk. So I believe the zombie-infected mind taps into that knowledge, and that’s what caused them to seek out the mall. Romero takes us even deeper down the undead rabbit hole by giving us Bub from Day of The Dead. Bub is the first time that we see humans actively trying to educate and maybe even domesticate zombies. Bub shows signs of understanding, reasoning, grief and in his most significant moment, pettiness...I don’t care what you all say, that salute was pure petty, and I loved it. Land of The Dead gave us an even greater sign of evolution when we got Big Daddy, a former gas attendant he seemed to be set on doing his old job until his attention is pulled away by a group of survivors. Big Daddy doesn’t just follow after these survivors or their fireworks, and he leads an undead army to the doorstep of what was left of humanity. Bub had a handgun, but Big Daddy carried an assault rifle across the city, knowing he would need it for the coming war.
George started it all, but many have continued the ever-growing look into Zombie intelligence. From small growth like in:
“It Stands The Stand Red”
To extream leaps like in:
“The Girl With All The Gifts”
It seems there is a fanbase who want to see inside the mind of the dead and understand them more, and there are creators who are willing to do that. Now, back to the walking dead, with this ever growing theme of advanced zombies why does it seem like Walking Dead’s walkers are devolving? I guess they would like to stick to a realistic form of the genre, but to be fair, we know that the walker virus restarts the brain stem, so who’s to say it doesn’t continue or that it isn’t different in everyone. Z Nation shows us that their zombies seem to remember on the moment of death or an event that happened to them. You can see that clearly in the episode with the mailman that killed the whole town, but it’s also shown in the incident with the plant zombies, and when Murphy and Lousie read the zombies thoughts, you know that there is more going on. I think The Walking Dead is missing something, and I always felt they need to dive more into why this is happening and what they can do to stop it, instead of just living with it. I think once the new movie “The Cure” comes out we will see a lot of people tackling the idea of life beyond the virus and the mental wherewithal and impact that the apocalypse is having on not only the people but the zombies.
So what do you think? Are you ready for some smart zombies or are you okay with your standard dumb walkers? Let me know in the comments below.
Also if you want to dive deeper into Romero's work and the theory of intelligence in zombies, check out this awesome YouTube video: