Warning: The following article contains spoilers for All of Us Are Dead. Please proceed with caution if you have yet to watch the show.
On the surface, All of Us Are Dead has a very simple concept: a virus spreads through a school and turns the majority of its inhabitants into zombies, with a handful of survivors. But the plot soon gets complicated with the introduction of hambies ⏤ humans who get turned into half-zombies while retaining most of their conscience. Also, some got infected while others don’t, even when they come in direct contact with zombie blood. Why are some partially immune to the virus?
Before we dive into explaining the hambies and what sets them apart from the usual victim of the zombie bite, we need to understand the virus itself.
What is the Jonas Virus?
Unlike other films and shows where the zombie virus is created in a lab and somehow leaks to the outer world, in All of Us Are Dead, it’s the creation of a dejected father. Lee Byeong Chan, a science teacher at Hyosan High School, creates the virus after his son tries to commit suicide after being severely bullied multiple times. His intention was to make such a virus that turns someone’s overwhelming fear into rage by shooting up the testosterone levels. He hoped that with the virus in his system, his son would be able to beat his bullies, as the school was refusing to take any action. Instead, he ends up creating a monster.
When he injects his son with the virus, it stops his heart and destroys all of his white cells, effectively killing him, and then turns him into a zombie with nothing but mindless rage and a hunger for human meat. Byeong Chan does his best to cure the virus and/or lessen its effects with other drugs, but nothing works. He is forced to leave his son and wife (who was bitten by their son) bound in chains so they don’t attack him.
We all know what happens next. The lab rat in whom Byeong Chan had injected the virus to continue his experiments at school bites an unsuspecting student, and from there it spreads throughout the school.
How does the virus function?
Throughout the 12 episodes of All of Us Are Dead, we learn different things about the Jonas Virus. As explained by Byeong Chan himself, upon being infected, the virus immediately starts attacking the healthy white cells without giving them a chance to fight back. The virus then stimulates the brain to first feel extreme fear and then morphs the psyche to see hallucinations that trigger limitless rage, pushing the person to attack in order to survive. It then stops the heart, inducing a never-ending desire to munch on humans, and moves the body.
One only gets infected when either a zombie bites them or the undead’s blood gets into an open wound. Weirdly enough, ingesting the blood seems to have no effect, as we see Gwi Nam and later Su Hyeok fighting a zombie who is then killed right above them. And even though its blood gets right in their mouths and eyes, they don’t transform. Getting scratched by a zombie also doesn’t turn a human. But Gyeong Su, who had a simple scratch, got infected when Na Yeon rubbed a zombie-blood-stained handkerchief into it.
As for the transformation period, the time duration is a little dicey. There’s no rule saying that a fatal bite ⏤ on the neck, chest, face, etc. ⏤ would turn someone into a zombie immediately. While some turn instantly when they are bitten on their hands or feet, others take ample time to transform even when they have multiple fatal bites. Ms. Park is able to take Na Yeon to safety before she succumbs to the infection while other students and teachers are turned instantly.
This discrepancy could be due to a person’s body creating antibodies that fight better against the virus, something that also explains the complicated concept of the hambies.
Why are hambies different from zombies?
As is the case with real-life viruses, some people are immune or partially unaffected by them thanks to the unique antibodies they carry. Thus, when the zombie virus enters the body of such a person (Gwi Nam, Nam Ra, Min Eun Ji, etc), it fails to stop the heart and can’t destroy all the white cells as the antibodies fight back. In this case, the virus stops attacking the target cells and starts mutating, learning to adapt and co-exist with the human conscience.
Byeong San does say that in such humans, the virus “learns” human consciousness, thus creating a “new species of human,” who have been dubbed “hambies” in All of Us Are Dead. In them, the zombie virus hides and lays dormant in the RNA of the human cells. It can’t be detected normally and only manifests in the hosts randomly.
The hambies feel the same infinite rage and hunger but in a muted state. While rage is there, the virus works to amplify the feeling that’s more dominant. In Gwi Nam, it is the lust for cruelty; in Nam Ra, it’s her protective streak; and in Min Eun Ji, it’s the feeling of exacting revenge against everyone who has wronged her.
A hambie’s bite basically works like that of a full zombie’s ⏤ it depends on the person who is bitten and the kind of antibodies they have to decide whether they will completely or partially turn. Hambies are also not considered “food” by other zombies, who are only attracted to them when they speak. While zombies are drawn to certain frequencies and distracted, hambies are temporarily hampered by them, as they become weak and are unable to use their abilities.
Hambies have heightened senses like hearing and smelling things even far away as well as the ability to segregate one particular sound or smell and recognize it. They also possess superhuman strength. They can’t be killed, as evidenced by the trillion times Gwi Nam fell from a height in All of Us Are Dead, but they can be incapacitated for a while. Gwi Nam, for example, doesn’t instantly get up after falling, as it takes time for him to fully recover.
Two types of zombies
Recently, director Lee Jae Kyoo shared that the series introduced two new species of zombies apart from the obvious: the immortal and the immune. While Gwi Nam and quite possibly Nam Ra, as well as Eun Ji, fall in the immortal category, it’s apparent that the series also contains people who were completely immune to the virus, though it doesn’t explicitly point this out.
The most likely candidate could be Nam On Jo. In the fifth episode of the series, On Jo is seen searching for a drone in the science lab in order to look for the missing Cheong San. There are a couple of mice in the lab, who look suspiciously like the infected one we met in the first episode, sniffing On Jo. Seeing that the first one bit a student early on, it’s possible that this one could have nicked On Jo too. But she never shows any signs that she is turning into a zombie or a hambie. For the time being, this is speculation at best, and hopefully a mystery that will be ultimately solved in the yet-to-be-greenlit season two of the series.