Whenever fans learn that a favorite film or TV property is getting a prequel, they usually expect that prequel to answer some lingering questions about the original. How did Vito Corleone become The Godfather? How did Luke Skywalker's father turn to the Dark Side? How did Professor X and Magneto meet? So it's natural for AMC audiences to expect the network's newest drama, Fear The Walking Dead, to explain how the zombie virus started. If AMC simply wanted to produce another show about a random group of people fighting walkers, they could have set it at any point post-outbreak — but it chose to set the spinoff during the first days of the disaster. So can we expect some concrete answers from Fear?
Unfortunately, probably not. In April of this year, Robert Kirkman — author of The Walking Dead comic books, and executive producer of both TWD and Fear (and also creator of the latter) — revealed at an event in Las Vegas that, "[Learning the origins] is not the priority in Walking Dead; that's not the priority in Fear The Walking Dead. Every other story deals with that stuff and we're concerned about the heart." The "heart" in this case refers to protagonist Madison Clark, her children Nick and Alicia, and her boyfriend Travis... even though many viewers are likely wishing Kirkman would concern himself with a heart of a more contaminated, un-beating variety.
But that doesn't mean we can't piece some answers together ourselves. In fact, some theories have been circulating on the internet ever since the premiere last Sunday that claim to have solved the puzzle of how the zombie outbreak started. At the end of the first season of TWD, we learned that every human was infected with a virus that ensured they would turn into a walker after they died — whether that death was by walker bite or natural causes. This is a marked departure from traditional zombie lore, and Fear holds to it. We don't know how Gloria died and there didn't seem to be other walkers around who would've bit her, but she came back and attacked her friends; the man in the highway shooting had likely just perished in a car accident; and Nick's dealer Calvin reanimated after Nick shot him.
Some theorists take this to mean that everyone was somehow infected simultaneously; that the whole world already has the virus and it's just now starting to manifest. This would certainly seem to imply some sort of fast-acting, airborne contaminant. However, others disagree, stating that the slow speed at which the outbreak is beginning implies that not everyone is infected yet. Worldwide, about 108 people die every minute of every day — if everyone already had the virus on Fear, the sudden onset of the outbreak would be catastrophic, not mere scattered reports in five American cities. To these theorists, the reality of the situation implies a slower contagion, likely by water or food source.
Redditor funeralcasual believes that the pilot's conspicuous focus on water is a hint at how the virus is being spread. When we first meet Nick, there's a jug of water between his legs as he wakes up on the floor of the church; when we first meet Travis, he's fixing the faucet of a sink; when we first meet Alicia, she's still wet from the shower; when we first meet Calvin, he's washing his car; and again, when Nick and Calvin meet in the diner, there's noticeable focus on the water they're drinking.
If the zombie virus is indeed spread through contaminated water, how did it get there? Through some sort of government or military experiment? Could it have something to do with that flu vaccine that kept getting mentioned in the pilot? Or is it something more... natural? The key to the whole thing might lie in Travis' ham-fisted monologue about Jack London's 1908 short story To Build A Fire. The moral of the story, as Travis helpfully points out, is that in the battle of man vs. nature, "nature always wins."
Is The Walking Dead actually a Shyamalan-esque tale of nature's effort to rid the planet of the virus of humankind by unleashing its own virus on the unsuspecting populace? That plot does have more than a little in common with M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening... but it actually makes a lot of sense given the clues on display in the first episode of Fear.
Some viewers may be disappointed by Fear's lack of explicit answers regarding the cause of the zombie virus. But then again, maybe we should be careful what we wish for. Imagine how much more disappointed we'd all be if someday we found out the answer was "midichlorians."
Images: Justin Lubin, Screengrab/AMC; Giphy (3)