While AMC’s The Walking Dead may not be the ratings juggernaut it once was, it still has a loyal and sizable fan base, and is too well-produced and acted to be considered truly awful. However, there are moments within the show that make us question if even its creators have a firm grasp on the rules of the world they're continually building.
To be fair, Image Comics’ series from which the show is (loosely) adapted has played with reader’s expectations regarding how a zombie virus works in that everyone is a carrier for whatever disease causes reanimation, which is both fascinating and terrifying. But by and large, the rules are pretty standard: If you get bit, you get infected.
While this leads to death and subsequent reanimation, infection can be stemmed by amputation if caught early enough, a fact that is pretty well-regarded as a given by fans of the genre. And before we go any further down this rabbit hole, yes, we know how silly it is to discuss the platitudes of a fictional disease, but here we go!
This week’s episode of the Walking Dead ended with the current primary antagonist of the show, Negan, covering his barbwire-wrapped baseball bat with a fresh coat of blood and sinew from a walker. He claims his bat will now “taint” anyone who is struck by it. To a casual viewer, or someone who doesn’t pore over the minutia of certain fandoms, this moment could be written off as the shows way of introducing its own version of chemical warfare, which would be fine if it wasn’t so grossly ridiculous. Zombie guts don’t work like that and the show knows it.
In past episodes (the series premiere included), survivors have utilized walker remains to camouflage themselves in order to traverse herds of the undead. Pretty much every single character in the show has been covered with copious amounts of walker viscera as some point. Yet, not a single one of them have shown signs of infection because of this.
Now, one could argue that they just didn’t have any open wounds or they never got any of it in an orifice, but how many times have we seen blood splatter one of our heroes’ faces or gotten in their eyes or up their noses? How many characters have had their bare hands covered in walker gore? Are we to think that none of these people have cracked skin, scraped knuckles or hang nails were the aforementioned gore could fester and infect them?
We call malarkey.
When the notion of “infected” weapons was used in the comic, it came off as slightly unbelievable, but still within the realm of reason. We, as readers, had not yet seen how these weapons would hurt other survivors. As it turns out, it’s to a limited degree. But the show has pretty much proven that “infected” weapons don’t work in this version of The Walking Dead. Rick has literally had his hand cut with a weapon that was used on walkers only moments before. Normally this would seem like information that could be disregarded if the show didn’t make a big deal out of it.
The best course of action for the show is to let Negan’s plan fall flat. The Walking Dead is already criticized for being rife with pacing issues, cheap cliffhangers that don’t pay off, and bizarre character plot beats. There is no need for stoke the flames with a healthy dose of bad continuity. Having Negan’s plan fail would also help lead to his ultimate capture and incarceration…if the show decides to take that path.