- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “TWD: World Beyond” finale.
- The series’ final minutes reintroduce a minor, important character from “TWD” season one.
- You may have missed the scene seemingly confirms the zombie apocalypse was started by the French.
“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” ended on Sunday with an extra five-minute scene, which brought back a face we never expected to see again.
The surprise cameo seems to set off new avenues of exploration in the ever-expanding “Walking Dead” universe.
If you were baffled by the scene and what to make of it, you’re likely not alone. You really need to watch the scene at least twice to capture all of the dialogue going on in the foreground and background.
To help make sense of it, Insider asked showrunner Matt Negrete and “TWD” universe chief content officer Scott M. Gimple what they could tell me about the scene, its implications moving forward in “TWD” world, and the unexpected cameo.
While they didn’t reveal a lot, the dialogue revealed a few interesting pieces of information, including that the zombie outbreak may have started overseas.
Let’s unpack it piece by piece.
This is your final warning before spoilers.
What happens in the bonus ‘World Beyond’ scene: Dr. Jenner returns to deliver a vital message about the undead.
During the scene, an unnamed woman accesses some dusty, old videos on a laptop.
When she plays one of the videos, we see Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich). Gimple confirmed to Insider that wasn’t archival footage of Emmerich. They filmed that for “World Beyond.”
“Working with Noah was awesome because I was a fan that first year [of ‘TWD’],” Gimple told Insider. “I didn’t work on the show those first six episodes. I watched every single one of them live and I loved Noah on the show. There are things he said that stuck with me. The series seven premiere is a bit of dialogue from Jenner. So it was thrilling to do.”
It was also a full circle moment for Negrete, who previously worked with Emmerich on “White Collar.”
As a reminder, Jenner was the Center for Disease Control virologist Rick and the survivors stayed with briefly on season one of “The Walking Dead.” (Yeah, a real blast from the past!)
Jenner and his wife were trying to find answers to the walker outbreak. After her death, he finally gave up, blowing up the CDC and taking his own life. Before he died, he gave Rick vital information: Everyone was infected.
On “World Beyond,” we’re watching a video from early on in the walker apocalypse when Dr. Jenner’s wife was still alive. (We’ll come back to that shortly.)
The mystery woman is interrupted from Jenner’s video by a man with a gun. The two proceed to have a conversation in French.
Because this seems like vital information, here’s how that convo goes down, according to the show’s subtitling:
Unnamed man: Are you one of the doctors?
Man: You’ve been running … hiding, all this time?
Man: Are you a member of the Primrose team?
Woman: No. Violet.
Man: Where is the Primrose team? Where did they go?
Woman: They weren’t here when it happened. When you all did what you did they were at the conference in Toledo.
Woman: Ohio. America. I hoped against hope that they were here. That somehow they came back and that they were still working. And that they were close.
Man: Why would you come back?
Woman: I was tired of running. And I had that hope against hope. And I had to try. If they were to return here to their work they might end all this even after all this time.
Man: They should be dead. If they aren’t and they somehow come back like you, we won’t jail them like the others. We’ll kill them. End this? You started this. All the teams. Then you made it worse.
The man then shoots the woman dead, in what appears to be the head (That’s important). As she lies head down on a table, Jenner continues to speak and mentions “variant cohorts.” He says they haven’t seen anything like that “here,” in the United States.
The woman unexpectedly wakes up, turned into a member of the undead despite being shot in the head. She appears to move a bit quicker than the walkers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on “TWD” and its spin-offs and starts banging on a door.
As the camera shifts to the outside, we see she’s in a room labeled “la Biomédicine DDMI” and the scene ends.
Wait. What’s on Dr. Jenner’s video? Turn the episode captions on and you should be able to read it on screen.
Before we dissect the scene, let’s rewind a moment.
You may have noticed Jenner’s video continues to play in the background as the two mystery figures speak French. It’s audibly too low to hear. But, if you’re watching the episode with captions on, you can see what Jenner is saying in that video.
Here’s what’s said if you missed it or didn’t have the captions on:
“The problem, as I see it, is that the samples we have simply aren’t fresh. There’s just too many variables involved on how the clock affects them, and even after a few minutes, we — we can’t get an accurate picture of the biology involved, at least from the start. We obviously have seen the end. Again and again. Still, we will have fresh samples soon. That’s a certainty.
Well, in brighter news, I reviewed the latest data on your side, and the use of cardiac plaques as a host medium for steroidal therapies to jump-start the circulatory system in the hopes of short-circuiting the brain or perhaps regaining function to cause nerve confusion is a fascinating approach and we are all anxiously awaiting anything that comes back from your first trial. We all have to work together here. Solidarity right?
Fact of the matter is, we only have so many supplies left. We’re not getting any more, so everything counts that much more. Every collection. Every test. I almost broke a petri dish yesterday and almost put my fist through [the] wall. Glad the other Dr. Jenner stopped me. The infirmary is closed. Sealed, actually. We’ve been venturing out for the basics. The “other Dr. Jenner” has gotten pretty damn good at it.
But getting back to the data — the idea of activating systems to work against reanimation is a promising idea. But, as we’ve discussed — the systems themselves have to be studied to see exactly how they’re working or not working. For example, can we build up acids in bodies that don’t have blood flow? Of course, that gets right back to that idea of jump-starting circulatory systems. We need to do two things simultaneously — observe this and attack this.
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. I hope this finds you as well as you can be. I hope you don’t lose faith. The day will come when we are going to beat this thing. At least that’s what the ‘other Dr. Jenner’ keeps telling me. And as you know, she’s smarter than me. Solidarité. A bientot. [Goodbye].”
It sounds like, at some point, scientists were trying to figure out a way for people to still be in control of their own bodies or fight reanimation if they were infected.
That is a really important detail if you also tuned into Sunday’s “Fear TWD” mid-season finale. We learn that Alicia was bit and amputated her arm, but a few months later she’s still feverish at times. It’s unclear if she’s simply fighting off some other bacterial infection or if she’s delayed the process of turning into a walker herself.
This is all information that would be useful to the scientists on “World Beyond,” who are trying to find a way to rid of the dead.
What does this all mean? Gimple is pretty tight-lipped, but says it’s setting up a new story in ‘TWD’ universe that he hopes will ‘surprise’ fans.
This five-minute scene brings up so many questions:
- Who are these people?
- Who were Dr. Jenner’s videos going to?
- When and where is this scene taking place? Is this parallel to the “World Beyond” finale?
- Did the French start the walker apocalypse? (Sure seems like it.)
- Variant cohorts? Are we finally going to see some more aggressive walkers in “TWD” universe?
When asked who these characters are, when this is taking place in TWDU,” and what we’re supposed to take away from this scene in terms of what it’s setting up, Gimple responded, “Well, you know me, I’m definitely not telling you. I want you to use your imagination.”
Gimple relented a bit, noting, “There are little hints that we worked hard on set about. Those are dusty hard drives. If you compare the stamps on Jenner’s video to his earlier video [from ‘TWD’ season one], they line up.”
What about those two mysterious people?
“These are two folks that are speaking French, fluently,” Gimple said. “It doesn’t seem like their second language.”
As for the rest of the scene and our questions, Gimple said “people should theorize about it” and see where they “accidentally put tells.” (Don’t worry, we’re about to get to that.)
“Obviously, it’s setting up a new story. Its connection to ‘World Beyond’ isn’t as direct,” Gimple said, adding, “It’s one big story and it’s the start of a new chapter of that story.”
Gimple continued, “I don’t think people will expect at all what that chapter is from what they saw. So we really hope to surprise people. It’s the beginning of new things with a very obvious tip to the past.”
What about that ‘variant cohort’? Gimple confirms we see a ‘different’ type of walker in the coda.
In Dr. Jenner’s tape, he mentions learning something about a variant, a word which hits close to home during the pandemic.
“He seems pretty intrigued that he’s been told about something different going on,” Gimple told Insider.
In the scene, we see a woman reanimate pretty quickly, move swiftly, and start banging on a door, immediately, almost as if it was aware of the events that just transpired to lock her in a room.
Typically, when a walker reanimates, it takes a few hours, or longer, to become a member of the undead. On season one of “TWD,” Jenner said resurrection times varied wildly. The quickest report they had of someone turning was three minutes. On “World Beyond,” this was much quicker. It took about 28 seconds (I counted) for the woman to reanimate.
When the undead come back to life, they’re usually slow to start, moving thoughtlessly around a room. But this one, on “World Beyond,” seemed to move with purpose.
“We see that walker, which is not super-powered, but different,” Gimple said. “I hope that people’s imaginations are ‘activated on’ to what that could mean and what we could see.”
“By no means is it a tip to COVID,” he added, noting that the introduction of this variant group of the dead wasn’t inspired by recent world events. “We’re not giving a shout-out to COVID in any way. We have no interest in doing that. But, [Jenner] seems intrigued at some things he’s heard from them long ago.”
Something interesting to note is that this woman appeared to be shot in the head. Usually, when you shoot someone in the head, they die. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. Unless, the bullet conveniently missed the woman’s brain, the scene seems to suggest there’s a type of the undead who are much tougher to kill.
Here’s what I think is going on based on the end scene: The zombie outbreak started in France and there are other strains of the zombie virus we have yet to see on screen.
As Negrete and Gimple told me, there’s a lot to unpack in the scene.
Though they didn’t confirm or mention when this scene takes place in “TWD” universe, I think it’s safe to say it’s pretty recent. Gimple noted the dust collection on the Jenner videos. They clearly weren’t filmed yesterday. The woman also says, “after all this time,” suggesting that a long period has passed since the outbreak’s start.
I also believe this scene takes place in France because of the door seen at the end of the coda, reading “la biomédicine DDMI.”
A Google search of “la biomédicine,” brings up the Agency of Biomedicine. The real-life federal government office, located in Saint-Denis, France, oversees organ and tissue transplantation, stem cell harvesting and transplantation, medically assisted procreation, and human embryology and genetics. As for the DDMI, that may stand for Deputy Director of Military Intelligence.
Maybe whatever experiments were going on were being overseen by the military. Was someone trying to create their own zombie army? That remains to be seen.
I think the most telling reveal from this coda is the probable origin of the walker apocalypse.
Go back to the French dialogue between the man and woman in the end coda. Here’s an image of it for ease.
Out of their conversation, these two lines stand out:
Woman: “When you all did what you did they were at the conference in Toledo.”
Man: “End this? You started this. All the teams. Then you made it worse.”
This exchange means more when you revisit some of Dr. Jenner’s scenes from the first season of “The Walking Dead.”
23 minutes into the season one finale, Andrea (Laurie Holden) asks Jenner what caused the outbreak.
He simply says, “it could be microbial, viral, parasitic, fungal.”
Andrea tries pushing back, suggesting that “somebody somewhere” must know something.
As the CDC building starts to shut down, Jenner finally looks at Andrea and says, “It was the French.”
He adds, “They were the last ones to hold out as far as I know. While our people were bolting out the doors and committing suicide in the hallways, they stayed in the labs until the end. They thought they were close to a solution.”
While they may have been close to fixing everything, it seems like they may have done something to make things worse, and, possibly, create variant strains of the dead.
Why wait until now to introduce different types of the undead to the zombie apocalypse? Competition is a strong possibility.
“TWD” has been around for a decade. That was plenty of time to introduce different kinds of the undead to mix things up. Why start now when the series’ flagship is ending?
Variants of the undead were never broached in “TWD” comic. Neither was a cause or solution to the apocalypse. Those are things creator Robert Kirkman wasn’t interested in exploring. In 2015, Kirkman said he never planned to explain “the origin of the virus,” explaining in press notes for “Fear TWD,” it was “unimportant to the overall story.”
Though he’s aware of what’s going on in “TWD” universe space, Kirkman’s not as hands-on with the shows as he was for the first few seasons. He’s deservedly moved onto other projects, including “Outcast” and “Invincible.”
As AMC continues to deviate from “TWD” source material, it’s possible the network is anticipating what other creators are doing in the zombie space. As a result, “TWD” universe may be trying to stay ahead of or keep up with some of the new competition to the genre.
, Zack Snyder is building out his own zombie universe with “Army of the Dead,” which features more aggressive and smarter zombies. The streamer has predicted it’s one of its most-watched films.
HBO also has its big “TWD”-competitor launching next year with its anticipated “The Last of Us” video game adaptation. Though it doesn’t follow “zombies” per se, it follows a fungus that infects and mutates humans into mindless monsters (that basically look, move, and act very much like zombies). The difference? A young survivor who gets bit doesn’t wind up infected and may be the cure to save the world. (Interestingly enough, “Fear TWD” may have just introduced a similar concept on its mid-season finale with Alicia.)
With the network’s “TWD” spin-off “Tales of the Walking Dead” planned to launch next summer, we could be learning more in the coming months about the earlier days of the zombie apocalypse.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage here.