One of the enduring mysteries of The Walking Dead franchise is the origins of the zombie pathogen. Theories range from a man-made biological weapon to an ancient virus released from a defrosted glacier, or even a straight-up supernatural curse on Earth from the heavens. Creator Robert Kirkman isn’t giving anything away, though one theory that’s been mentioned a couple of times over the years is that it arrived from the inky blackness of space.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond dropped a big nod to this in last night’s episode “Truth or Dare.” During the outing, we see Annet Mahendru’s Huck remembering her time as a military sniper when the government was frantically trying to stop the crisis from spreading. Her commanding officer says that the “source or nature of the current crisis cannot be confirmed.” Later, we hear soldiers discussing what’s going on, with one saying: “I heard it came back in a rocket. That it started in space. Somebody breathed it in, it turned their stomachs, and then they got on a plane…”
This, of course, isn’t confirmation that the pathogen is extraterrestrial in origin and is more likely a reference to a long-running in-joke by Kirkman. According to him, when he and artist Tony Moore were pitching the project, they lied and told Image Comics they were eventually going to reveal that the zombie outbreak was a way to soften up the planet for an alien invasion.
Since then, Kirkman has refused to be drawn on the pathogen’s origins, saying in a 2018 Q&A that it’s irrelevant to the story of how the apocalypse began.
“It couldn’t be less important to the story and the lives of these characters. It would be completely out of place in the story. Honestly, if a scientist from Washington came to the characters and told them what happened … it wouldn’t change their lives at all.”
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He also reflected that:
“Maybe years after it’s all over I’ll just casually mention it in an interview. That seems like a very J.K. Rowling thing to do.”
But while we may not ever find out where the pathogen came from, the show might see the survivors beginning to find a vaccine to stop it in its tracks.
New episodes of The Walking Dead: World Beyond air Sundays at 10/9c on AMC.