The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Variant Walkers’ 7 Wildest Abilities

A season 11 episode of The Walking Dead introduced a walker who seemed to possess some special skills that had main characters terrified.

Fans were blown away when the final scene of The Walking Dead spin-off, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, revealed the existence of a walker running at a high rate of speed and banging furiously on a door. It suggested there might be changes to come for the main show and the upcoming spin-offs if there are more of these variant walkers. Here are all of the variant Walking Dead walker abilities seen on the show. With The Walking Dead now at an end, audiences are waiting for the premieres of its various spinoffs, such as the Maggie and Negan-led Dead City and the Daryl-focused The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.

So, even though the main series is over, more variant walkers have an opportunity to appear as these fan-favorite Walking Dead characters explore uncharted territory. Indeed, the 19th episode of season 11, fittingly titled “Variant,” presented a walker that was more capable than the slow-walking undead the group has encountered to date. These variant walkers have abilities that, for a live human, are nothing remarkable. But for a walker, they’re terrifying. Here are all of the variant Walking Dead walker abilities seen thus far in the franchise, and how they change the game when it comes to taking down zombies.

7. Turning Doorknobs
A fisheye view of Morgan's undead wife staring into the home's peephole in The Walking Dead.

Over the years, there have been a lot of things about zombie logic in The Walking Dead that make no sense. In a season one scene and the early series opening credits, Morgan’s undead wife walked up to the door of the house, peered through the peephole, and began turning the knob, displaying even more Walking Dead walker abilities.

None have appeared to do this again since, but evidence suggests that, at least with some variant walkers, that if they get close enough to a door and can somehow harness that cognitive ability, they can figure out that turning it one way and pulling or pushing will open it. This creates a whole world of danger for the group that would, at least by closing a door, consider themselves safe provided a large enough hoard of walkers didn’t approach and literally break it down. Now, locks and barricades will be necessary.

6. Climbing Stairs

A walker hoisting itself up from a ladder on The Walking Dead

In one of the most shocking scenes, a walker approaches a set of steps up to the balcony/fire escape area where Jerry and Aaron are hiding. He is quite agile, going up step by step using both his hands and legs until he gets to the top and hoists himself up to the flat surface, showing audiences even more Walking Dead walker abilities.

This is one of the most dexterous moves fans have seen walkers make. Turning doorknobs just requires a flick of the wrist and grip of the hand, but climbing stairs requires multiple movements at once. It means all those times the group found safety by climbing higher where the walkers presumably couldn’t get to them will reveal themselves to be ineffective.

5. Fighting Back

A walker on the ground with its facial skin pulled off, looking red on The Walking Dead

After Aaron – the best new character of his first season on The Walking Dead – strikes the walker, thinking it was a Whisperer, the walker begins attacking back. This further convinces Aaron that it’s a Whisperer wearing walker skin on their face, though he’s confused about the knife in the chest that would make it difficult for a human to survive through, much less fight.

But the walker was strong, attacking Aaron, fighting back and displaying new Walking Dead walker abilities. Usually, if a walker grabs a hold of someone, the person can fairly easily fight them off. Now, it seems walkers would be able to do more than just passively be killed while trying desperately to feast. This changes the entire game for the survivors who won’t be able to restrain them as easily.

4. Moving Very Quickly

The post-credits scene on Walking Dead: World Beyond of a walker pounding on a door.

This skill was mostly seen in the post-credits series finale scene of Walking DeadWorld Beyond when the variant Walking Dead walker abilities were first introduced. In France, while a CDC researcher is watching a video of Dr. Jenner on her computer, a walker is seen sprinting towards the door and furiously banging on it. Meanwhile, based on the captioning, Dr. Jenner is saying, “I want to know more about these ‘variant cohorts’ you referred to in our last communication. We haven’t seen anything like that here at all, nothing close.”

Fans were floored as they had never before seen a walker use such strength, determination, and speed. While such a walker is yet to be seen on The Walking Dead, it’s likely to rear its head either by the series finale or in one of the spin-offs. Should this happen, it will surely get fans excited about the many spin-offs to come and how they could be much different.

3. Going Back To Known Places

A walker turning around in a scene from The Walking Dead.

Again, one of the first pieces of evidence of these new Walking Dead walker abilities was when Morgan and Duane continued to peer outside to watch their wife and mother continuously circling around the neighborhood, even walking up to the door and peering into the windows. Walkers typically travel in herds, but she somehow felt compelled to stay in that area around her home.

Another instance is in the spin-off Fear The Walking Dead when Alicia, one of the most likable characters in the series, is intent on locating something called PADRE. She is convinced the reanimated version of a man named Elias, the only man who purportedly knew the location, could still lead her there. She bases this on a theory that walkers can sometimes return to familiar places. It’s unclear if this is true, but if it is, walkers could actually become useful in helping survivors locate important places.

2. Wanting More Than Human Flesh?

These particular Walking Dead walker abilities have a question mark because fans wonder if these new, more intelligent walkers are out for something more. Consider the walker that climbed the stairs and picked up the rock. If he wanted human flesh, why didn’t he just launch at Jerry and start chomping away? He easily could have done this, as Jerry was incapacitated with an injured leg.

This leads to an important question: why did the walker want to strike him with a rock instead? Did he simply want to kill or felt it would be easier to feast once Jerry was dead and couldn’t fight back? Which poses another question: was the walker able to consider these facts and be capable of rational thought and deduction?

1. Better Awareness

Aaron looking confused, Jerry looking on at a walker on the ground on The Walking Dead.

The actions of this one walker would suggest that these variants not only still maintain some level of control over their brains, but other Walking Dead walker abilities prove they are also more aware of their surroundings. This means hiding in the bushes a few feet away or walking slowly by a herd of walkers facing the other direction might no longer work at redirecting them.

They might start looking around, checking their peripheral vision, and scoping out the area more than ever before, unlike other The Walking Dead zombie types. There was evidence of this when, despite all the commotion, the same walker who later attacked turned and look straight at Aaron. It’s a frightening thought for the group who might find going on missions beyond a community’s walls much more challenging than ever before.

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