‘The Walking Dead’: The 10 Craziest, Er, Best Fan Theories About the Series

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in ‘The Walking Dead’ (Photo: AMC)

To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of  The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.

Rick and Daryl blinking to each other in Morse code? All the apocalypse survivors are deaf? Better Call Saul is the Breaking Bad prequel, but The Walking Dead is Breaking Bad’s sequel?! In honor of San Diego Comic-Con, which is all about the fans, and the “Old Man Rick” theories about the newly-released Season 8 trailer, we’re rounding up a selection of our favorite TWD TV series fan theories, including those, ahem, very imaginative aforementioned suppositions. Do you agree with any of them? Have better theories of your own? You know the drill… sound off in the comments.

The Breaking Dead

The evidence is slim for this theory, which suggests the apocalypse may have been sparked by Walter White’s powerful, signature blue crystal meth. Netflix even cooked up a video outlining the idea that the meth Walt cooked up is directly connected to TWD. Highlights: In the Season 1 episode “Guts,” the black and red Dodge Challenger Glenn drives through downtown Atlanta to distract the walkers is the same one Walt bought for Walt Jr. in Season 4 of Breaking Bad. In Season 2, when Daryl whips out a bag of brother Merle’s drug stash, he mentions it contains crystal meth, and we can see at the bottom of the bag that it is the same color of blue meth made by the man known as Heisenberg. Then, in Season 4’s “Still,” Daryl tells Beth about Merle’s drug dealer, “this janky little white guy, a tweaker,” who said things like, “I’m gonna kill you, b***h.” OMG, that sounds exactly like Jesse Pinkman!

(Credit: AMC)

Now, during that story, Daryl also says the tweaker in question had a kid, which was not true of Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. And though that blue meth in Merle’s stash looks like the Heisenberg brand, the theory doesn’t explain how the meth would have caused the virus that led to the outbreak. In other words, fun theory that connects two great series, but not very likely to be true in the storyline.

On the other hand, Robert Kirkman did confirm Merle’s meth was a little shoutout to his AMC brethren at Breaking Bad. Still, Breaking Dead? Probably not.

Apocalyptic Cousins

Because of her baddassery and her Southern accent, Kim Dickens’s Madison Clark, from Fear the Walking Dead, might be related to one of The Walking Dead’s leaders, like Rick Grimes or Daryl Dixon. Or so says a fan theory that became very popular during FTWD’s stellar third season. Fear showrunner Dave Erickson has said he doesn’t think it’s true, though Erickson is leaving the show at the end of Season 3, so maybe that will change in the future. Robert Kirkman also said the two series’ timelines are so different that it would be tough to hook up that connection with a character crossover between the two shows. But Dickens has her own idea, which she shared during a press conference at SDCC this week: “I think Madison is, probably, might be, related to Daryl Dixon,” Comicbook.com quoted her as saying.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon (Photo: AMC)

And that really would make a lot of sense: Maddie and Daryl would seem to be cut from the same resourceful, tough, protective, loyal, smart, irreverent cloth. So while we don’t have any official confirmation that Madison Clark might have been Madison Dixon pre-marriage, this is one we officially hope turns out to be true.

Blinking Brahs

Remember in Season 7’s “Service,” when Negan brings his hostage, Daryl, to Alexandria to torment both Daryl and Rick? And remember when Daryl and Rick stared at each other, but couldn’t talk? Well, they did blink, a lot, and that led fans to surmise that perhaps the BFFs were secretly communicating with each other via Morse code. Because, you know, there is that artwork depicting Morse code in Rick and Michonne’s house. So, it’s plausible, right?

(Credit: AMC)

Not so fast, said TWD showrunner Scott Gimple.

“I would say this theory makes it official that this show has the greatest viewers and fans around,” Gimple told Yahoo TV after the episode aired. “I would say I would desperately like to live in a world where Daryl Dixon intimately knew Morse code, and intimately knew that Rick knew Morse code. I’m not even kidding. That is completely badass. I love that. I love the amount of attention and imagination that is brought to this show by the audience. That is why we take the crazy risks that we do. That’s why we try to invite the conversation that can occur with big huge story turns.

“I will also say it was an incredibly sunny day,” Gimple continued. “Also, Andy [Lincoln] and Norman [Reedus] are really close. I think the theory actually could be correct, but not within the story. Meaning, I don’t put it past those two gentlemen, who are now so unbelievably close, that maybe Andy and Norman were communicating with each other, like they were saying, ‘Oh, that was a good take. I really like what you did there. You’re really bringing it.’ Or, this could be a whole ruse, and there was Morse code in there. I will say this… this is a super busy time… so I have not read the [theory] on this too much, but I was talking to folks about it on set. Again, I’m just blown away by the fans of this show. I feel very, very, very lucky that in this time, even with their phones in their hands and their Xbox One in the corner of the screen, and maybe tweeting on an iPad with their feet, that they’re paying that much attention, that they are giving us that much attention… that we have this level of engagement and intelligence from these fans.”

OK, so probably no blinking Morse code happening in Alexandria, but there is a very famous incident involving the use of blinking Morse code to communicate distress. The late Jeremiah Denton, a Vietnam War prisoner and later a Republican senator, was being interviewed on TV in 1966 by the North Vietnamese government, for a propaganda film. During the video, Denton pretended his eyes were extremely sensitive to the light, but he was really blinking a lot because he was using Morse code to blink the word “torture” to American officials who might be watching.


The Walking Deaf

This theory’s pretty simple: Because of all the gunfire they’ve heard since the apocalypse began, all the survivors have suffered near total hearing loss. That’s why they often fail to hear the shuffling approach of the walkers.

(Credit: AMC)

It’s a mind-blowing idea for a second. But if you think about it longer than that, there really are no other signs that the living, as a group, are deaf. They communicate with each other in ways that don’t seem to include reading lips or difficulty hearing sounds. And we regularly see them reacting to noise, like the arrival of Negan and the Saviors at the Alexandria gates and that blaring truck horn that derailed Rick’s elaborate plan to Pied Piper the quarry walker herd away from the Safe Zone in the Season 6 premiere.

Back in My Day …

This may be our favorite fan theory, for any show, ever: Some viewers of the TV series and readers of The Walking Dead comic book believe both will end with the reveal that the stories told were the memories of Old Man Carl. That, the theory further suggests, is why the series and comics unfold as Rick’s story… it’s Old Man Carl relating the details (to his children, grandchildren, whatever group he may be with in his later years) of his life, and how he and his father survived the apocalypse.


(Photo: AMC)

Hair Today… Even Longer Hair Tomorrow

This is a sweet one: The reason Carl continues to grow his hair so long is that his hair is one of his remaining connections he has to mom Lori. Remember how important it was to her, in Season 1, when she didn’t yet know that Rick was still alive, to maintain the routine and the ritual of cutting Carl’s hair? And how Carl threw a hissy fit about the cuts until Shane bribed him with a frog-hunting lesson if he’d sit still for the haircut? Those memories are precious ones to Carl, according to this theory, and that’s why he doesn’t allow anyone else to chop off his locks.

Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes in ‘The Walking Dead’ (Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Again, nice thought, but the truth is that the length of Carl’s hair, especially after his eye was shot out in Season 6, is because of a much more practical reason: less time for Carl portrayer Chandler Riggs in the makeup chair.

“Because you figure as this show progresses, having a kid who would have longer hair, it would drape over the side of his face, and diminish looking at a bandaged head all the time,” TWD executive producer, director, and special effects guru Greg Nicotero told Yahoo TV after “No Way Out,” the episode in which Carl loses his eye. “It’s the same thing that we did with Hershel; once you saw Hershel’s leg a couple times, you never needed to see it again. You just believe in your head that there’s a stump underneath there, and that the clothing has been rolled over and stitched closed.”

It’s All a Dream

Like Bobby Ewing waking up in the shower, The Walking Dead, this theory goes, will turn out to be nothing more than the long dream of Rick Grimes as he lays in a coma after being shot in the events of the series pilot. While the nod to TV history and that infamous Dallas plot is cool, having the show be a clichéd dream is so, so not.

Jon Bernthal as Shane and Andrew Lincoln as Rick in ‘The Walking Dead’ (Photo: AMC)

We will say, if his wife having an affair with and getting pregnant by his best friend, his son nearly dying on multiple occasions, him nearly being eaten by cannibals, him having to bite out the jugular of a man whose group was going to rape and kill his son, and two of his closest friends having their heads bashed in with a barbed wire-covered baseball bat are fictional events swimming around in Rick’s noggin, dude needs to consider talking to a professional when he does awaken from that coma.

Mom Always Told You to Floss

Four out of five dentists surveyed say this theory is kooky, but also pretty clever. A Reddit-or named ThirstyOne posited that the apocalypse is the result of bad oral hygiene, which led to a super strain of gingivitis that is passed on when walkers bite people. “The condition of the zombies is caused by the proximity of the rotting teeth to the brain,” ThirstyOne writes. This would also explain why people become infected when they’re bitten by walkers, but not when they simply get covered in walker goo, like blood or splashed innards from when walkers are shot or stabbed.

(Credit: AMC)

Now, if it turns out ThirstyOne is really the Reddit identity of a very ambitious, TWD-loving dentist, we’ll be more skeptical, but as it stands now, this is the coolest, best thought out theory of how the apocalypse began that we’ve heard. And it has made us a bit more vigilant about brushing our teeth before bedtime…

Rick = Woody?

The Walking Dead is simply a live action Toy Story, with sheriff Rick as the human version of Woody the sheriff, Shane as the Buzz Lightyear-like frienemy, Carl as Andy, hordes of walkers as Toy Story’s little green army men, the Woodbury community as the Sunnyside Daycare of Toy Story 3, and The Governor as the seemingly charming, yet inwardly evil leader of Season 3, just like Lotso, the pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear in Toy Story 3.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in AMC's ‘The Walking Dead’ and Woody from Disney's ‘Toy Story’ (Photo Credit: AMC/Buena Vista Pictures)

It’s another bonkers, but incredibly detailed and well-developed notion, which ultimately says more about the tendencies of we pop culture lovers to forge connections between the TV shows, movies, books, music, comics, and other properties we love most than it does about TWD or Toy Story.

Walker Nation

Many fans of the show think the apocalypse may be limited to the United States, or North America, because, between TWD and FTWD, we’ve only seen the action unfold on both coasts of the U.S. and in Mexico. But this theory has been disproven on both series. First, in the Season 1 finale of The Walking Dead, CDC scientist Edwin Jenner mentioned he had been in contact with scientists in France, who were also dealing with the outbreak. And in the recent midseason finale for Fear the Walking Dead’s third season, survivor Victor Strand was on his yacht when he chatted with a cosmonaut stuck in space, via the yacht radio. The cosmonaut, named Vaschenko, confirmed the apocalypse is global.

(Credit: AMC)

More confirmation the apocalypse is global: In The Walking Dead: The Alien, a special edition of the comic written by Brian K. Vaughan (the only issue so far that was not written by Robert Kirkman), the action is set in Barcelona, Spain, as two characters attempt to flee that country’s walkers and return to the United States. One of those characters: Jeff Grimes, Rick’s younger brother.

The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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