Every Zombie Type In The Walking Dead Explained


The Walking Dead‘s zombies come in more types than you might think – here’s all three kinds encountered… so far. Zombies in The Walking Dead are consistently inconsistent. From the infection’s behavior to how much movement reanimated corpses are capable of, The Walking Dead has constantly bent (and sometimes totally rewritten) its own rules in the name of narrative convenience. 99% of the time, The Walking Dead and its various spinoffs lump all undead together under one banner, whether that be “walkers,” “biters,” or “toe-tags.” All of these nicknames generally refer to the same thing.


Nevertheless, The Walking Dead has subtly differentiated between types of zombie, both on TV and in the comic books. No character has ever sat down and delivered a lecture on precisely which zombie categories exist and exactly what sets them apart, sadly, and this has allowed The Walking Dead‘s monsters to be as flexible as the story demands. With The Walking Dead season 11 (re)introducing “variant” zombies, however, undead classification will inevitably come under the spotlight once again. These are the unique flavors of zombie seen thus far in The Walking Dead.

Related: The Walking Dead’s Zombie Outbreak Virus Origin Explained

Roamer Zombies

Think of a typical The Walking Dead zombie, and it’s almost certainly the roamer type that springs to mind. Roamers are far and away the most common zombie type in The Walking Dead – almost to the point where other strains are considered anomalies. Named as such because they constantly roam around in search of their next meal, roamers draw the most direct inspiration from George A. Romero movies. They’re painfully slow, desperately unintelligent, and herd-like in their behavior. These zombies are also ceaseless when pursuing food, further justifying the name. A Walking Dead roamer will keep trucking along until it sees, hears or smells something that triggers an instinctive desire to feed, and it’ll then give chase until the target is either lost or devoured.

Due to their lack of intelligence and limited senses, roamers often collect into groups not-so-affectionately known as herds. These herds have a nasty habit of combining with other herds as they roam, creating the kind of massive zombie groupings that have assaulted Alexandria and other communities in The Walking Dead.

Roamers are the biggest cause of zombie-related deaths in the United States, but The Walking Dead‘s zombie virus works in mysterious ways. Everyone has already been infected with the virus and death is the trigger for turning, yet countless survivors become zombies after suffering even the smallest nibble from an undead denizen. The Walking Dead‘s official infection explanation is that bacteria from the zombie’s mouth kills the victim and then reanimation commences, rather than any viral load actually transmitting via the bite itself. The logic is iffy at best, especially given the amount of times Rick and his friends cover themselves in zombie guts, but it means roamers aren’t spreading the virus, despite their prevalence.

Lurker Zombies

The Walking Dead‘s distinction between roamer zombies and lurker zombies is more pronounced in the comic books than the AMC TV series, but the line – however blurred it may be – has been demonstrated in both. As the name implies, lurkers stay in one place rather than roaming around. They still feel the urge to eat, but instead of actively seeking out food by moving around, they lazily wait for food to come to them, only attacking when stirred.

Related: The Walking Dead Heavily Teased The CRM Returning In Season 11

In Robert Kirkman’s original Walking Dead comics, lurkers ignore survivors that aren’t within immediate reach, but because they’re usually silent and hidden, they’re arguably more dangerous than roamers. Indeed, it’s a lurker that claims Hershel’s leg in the comic books, slithering out from its unseen hiding place to bite the unsuspecting farmer’s ankle. Lurker zombies manifest a little differently in The Walking Dead‘s TV adaptation – the most obvious example being the “sleeping” zombies from season 11’s premiere. A team of protagonists lower themselves into a room covered in zombies that aren’t moving or trying to eat them. The group scavenge for supplies and almost escape without waking the dead beneath their feet, but a drop of blood proves enough to spur the lurkers into action. Lurkers have also been prominent in The Walking Dead: World Beyond, suggesting they’re becoming increasingly common as the outbreak progresses.

Despite the separation between roamers and lurkers, there’s no evidence to suggest one type can’t transition into the other. Eugene theorizes as much in the Walking Dead comic books, and although the zombie virus hasn’t been explained clearly enough to be sure, it’s possible that an unstimulated roamer eventually becomes a lurker, and a stimulated lurker can become a roamer. Because of this fluidity from one side of the undead fence to the other, the “roamer” and “lurker” tags are perhaps more accurately described as states than inherent groupings.

Variant Zombies

If roamers and lurkers are closely related, variant zombies are a different beast entirely. Original to The Walking Dead‘s TV series, variants began as something of a happy accident, as when the AMC adaptation was still finding its feet in season 1, The Walking Dead‘s zombies could move quickly, pick up weapons, and open door handles. These advanced attributes were quickly phased out in favor of the more traditional roamers and lurkers, never to be mentioned again… until The Walking Dead: World Beyond season 2’s post-credits scene, that is.

According to a video left by Dr. Jenner, “variant” zombies were detected in France during the earliest stages of the outbreak, although, as mentioned previously, some (like Morgan’s wife and the child zombie Rick kills in episode 1) were present on U.S. shores too. The Walking Dead season 11 brings zombie variants to the fore, which suggests they’re growing in number over time. The Walking Dead hasn’t yet explained why variants happen, or if a regular zombie can evolve into a variant. The transformation could be triggered by a different pathogen altogether, or the variants might evolve naturally from roamers and lurkers. The Walking Dead: World Beyond‘s post-credits scene did at least offer one hint. The research team that caused the outbreak apparently “made it worse” afterward, implying variants might’ve been the accidental result of a misguided attempt to halt the outbreak.

Related: Finally, The Walking Dead Gets Revenge For Rick Grimes

Zombie variants have shown an array of special skills since appearing in The Walking Dead. Many of them move faster than roamers – not quite a run, but enough to catch someone escaping. Zippy zombies include the little girl from episode 1, the French scientist from The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and some Commonwealth zombies from season 11. Plenty of variants seem to possess superior intellect and memory retention also. The dead French scientist still knew where the door to her lab was even after reanimation, Morgan’s wife tried to open her own front door, and Aaron speaks of zombies climbing fences in The Walking Dead season 11. Though not quite as clear-cut, some zombie variants might also possess super-strength. When the French scientist hammers on a metal door in the final moments of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, her fists leave a visible imprint upon the heavy blast door – surely a feat even human hands couldn’t manage.

Next: Daryl’s Glenn Line Proves Nothing Is Holding Him Back Anymore In The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead continues Sunday on AMC.


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