Walking Dead Season 11’s New Smart Zombies Explained By EP

The executive producer ofThe Walking Deadexplains the origin of season 11’s smarter walkers. The long-running drama, which is based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, has been airing on AMC since Halloween 2010 and will be premiering the third and final part of its eleventh and final season on October 2. For over a decade, the series has followed the trials and tribulation of a group of survivors attempting to find safety in an America overridden by undead flesh eaters known as walkers.


The trailer for the final eight episodes of The Walking Dead season 11 premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 earlier this summer. One of the most prominent lines in that early tease was Aaron saying, “I’ve heard stories of walkers that can climb walls and open doors. I was never sure if they were just stories.” Cue the unsettling sight of a doorknob slowly turning, presumably with a walker right behind it.

This week, EW ran a cover story about the return of The Walking Dead, in which they followed up with executive producer and director Greg Nicotero about the tease of smarter zombies. He explained that the seeds for the new, smarter walkers actually stems from some inconsistencies the creators spotted in earlier seasons when they were still figuring out exactly what the rules were for the walkers. Early on, walkers could be seen climbing ladders and using rocks to smash windows (in an homage to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead), and Nicotero admitted that “we’re kind of playing into the idea that some of these are out there and they’re just encountering them now.” Read his full quote below:

There was a lot of talk during production about going back in time and watching episodes from season 1. And in season 1, episode 2, when they’re in the department store with T-Dog and Andrea, there are walkers up against the wall, and one of them is kind of smashing the window with a rock. That came right out of Night of The Living Dead. That was right out of Barbara in the car with the first-ever zombie, Bill Hinzman, using a rock.

The truth is we hadn’t really figured out yet what the rules for the zombies were. They were also a bit faster in the first episode when they chased Rick down the street on his horse. There’s another scene where Glenn and Rick are being chased down the alley and they start climbing up a fire escape, and there are walkers climbing up behind them. We were still figuring it out. But we decided that it was an opportunity.

We sort of played into that as if there might be certain walkers in certain regions that might have different abilities that we really haven’t seen before. We’re kind of playing into the idea that some of these are out there and they’re just encountering them now.

Considering how much The Walking Dead owes its DNA to the Romero Dead films, it’s perfectly fitting that their early reference to Night of the Living Dead should lead to smarter walkers down the line. One of the things that the iconic horror director was interested in exploring as his career progressed was the idea that zombies would begin to develop their own intelligence and ability to use tools. He began to explore the idea in 1985 with the smart zombie Bub in Day of the Dead, pushing it even further in 2005’s Land of the Dead, which includes a zombie leader organizing a full-scale attack.

Nicotero was a frequent collaborator with Romero as well, beginning working in the makeup and special effects department on Day and moving on to Land, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead along with other non-zombie projects like 1988’s Monkey Shines. Given how many spinoffs of The Walking Dead

are currently airing or in production, it’s possible that Nicotero will be responsible for his own vast Romero-style universe. It makes sense that the zombies would evolve similarly, though that spells extreme danger for the characters at the center of any upcoming projects.

Source: EW

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