Vаriаnt Wаlkers on Tһe Wаlkinɡ Deаd, Explаined

The Walking Dead’s new variant of walkers creates a harder path toward survival, but this isn’t the first time viewers have seen this type of walkers.

The Walking Dead Walker


  • Season 11 of The Walking Dead impressed viewers by bringing back the intelligent variant of walkers from Season 1.
  • Maggie Rhee experienced a new (and big) type of walker in the sewers of Manhattan on Dead City.
  • The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon also dramatically increased the threat of walkers with new variants in France.

In 2022, The Walking Dead universe gave its zombies new names that were a little head-scratching. It also unveiled a cool scientific moniker that no one will ever use when referring to them. But its biggest challenge yet was changing the “walker” game forever by bringing back the intelligent zombies from Season 1.

Season 11, Episode 19, appropriately titled “Variant,” gave viewers exactly what it promised. Aaron’s group came across a new variant of walkers on the road to Oceanside, and their walker-killing skills were put to the test. No longer were walkers inferior creatures that the survivors had mastered. It’s a clean slate for humans, who had to re-learn all they know about walkers and their habits. But what exactly was The Walking Dead‘s walker variant that Season 11 brought to the table, and what other variants have been introduced in The Walking Dead franchise over the years?

What Are The Walking Dead’s Walker Variants?

Variant of walkers climbing a wall in The Walking Dead
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Aaron’s group (consisting of himself, Jerry, Lydia and Elijah) were hounded by what Aaron initially thought were Whisperers. He wasn’t in the wrong to think this, since walkers are incredibly slow and mostly just growl and bite people. Their arms are practically just accessories at their stage in life. Also, the Whisperers weren’t technically extinct; Aaron and Lydia let the last Whisperers live when they were seeking refuge in an abandoned Hilltop. These “Whisperers” were grabbing weapons, pushing humans, opening doors and climbing walls. One even picked up a rock with the intention of beating Jerry to death. But Aaron found out that they weren’t humans — these were walkers who had seemingly evolved into a new state close to human intelligence.

Before anyone gets too excited, these are not the same running walkers (known as “cohorts”) that were seen in The Walking Dead: World Beyond post-credits scene. It’s a little disappointing since viewers haven’t seen much of those walkers at all, and Season 11’s variant of walkers were just… mediocre. They’re frightening and more human-like, but don’t spark the same fear that would come from seeing a walker sprinting at a person. Even when they took over the Commonwealth by climbing over walls, they were still an easy threat that were wiped in one episode. At most, these walker variants were exactly how Aaron described them: ones that still had some control over their brain and much more awareness of their surroundings.

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As showrunner Angela Kang teased since the final trailer for Season 11C dropped, this wasn’t the first time survivors have come across this climbing variant of walkers in The Walking Dead. Season 1 was full of walkers who have problem-solving intelligence. One of the most famous was Morgan Jones’ wife who creepily turned a doorknob — a fantastic shot that made it into the opening credits for years. One walker threw a rock at a glass door to get access to a shopping center and lead a horde to a group of humans. Others seen in Season 1 were much faster, climbed fences and were as strong as living humans. Given this, the walkers survivors typically encounter probably weren’t evolving; they were just a rare form or mutation that mysteriously appeared again.

The only survivors who encountered these walkers in Atlanta (at least on-screen) were either dead or missing. Rick Grimes is the only one alive who can attest that these walkers aren’t new, but he wasn’t around to prove Aaron’s point. It made the group’s situation much more harrowing, as this variant seemed like an entirely unique problem that had never been dealt with before. The only current character who could have possibly encountered these walkers was Daryl Dixon, since he spent some time in Atlanta to look for his brother

But there was still a messy plot hole that remained until the finale: since these are probably the same walkers from Season 1, where had they been this entire time, and why did they mellow out in the first place? Season 11 didn’t give the answers and the survivors surprisingly sweep the issue under the rug. They pretty much go, “Well, that’s a thing. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about it anymore,” and they never do. Walker variants have yet to make another appearance, even in the spinoff Dead City, reinforcing their role as a nostalgic hit.

The Walking Dead‘s variant walkers were possibly the biggest scientific discovery in the world since the dead rose in the first place. How can the survivors not be freaking out about this? Their willingness to just move past it like a bad night on the town hinted that this wasn’t the only time these walkers will be seen. And sure enough, The Walking Dead finale stepped up its walker game by introducing hundreds of the variant walkers, leading the survivors to be the heroes the Commonwealth desperately needed.

The Walker King Variant in TWD: Dead City

The Walking Dead: Dead City

Maggie and Negan travel into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland. The city is filled with the dead and denizens who have made New York City their own world.

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Dead City‘s lack of climbing walker variants was disappointing, but it did make up for their absence with a bigger and tougher competitor: the Walker King. Yes, it sounds eerily too similar to the Rat King in The Last of Us Part II, and shares relatively the same features of the other apocalyptic monster, but it’s still thrilling nonetheless.

The Walker King was found in the sewers of Manhattan, and was formed by multiple walkers stuck together. It was relatively dormant until it was alerted by Maggie Rhee and was exceptionally fast and strong when fighting her.

The sewer walker in Dead City
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By far the most impressive walkers in The Walking Dead universe have come out of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. Not only did the spinoff series take the franchise to another continent, but it also introduced two new variants that pose a larger threat to Daryl as he navigates his way in France.

The first, and less threatening of the two, variant walker are burners. Burners were seen in the premiere episode of Daryl Dixon in an abandoned market where they appear as lurkers, meaning they don’t roam around or move until they’re alerted by a nearby presence. They have acidic blood that burns the skin of their victims when touched. Thankfully, the burns can be cauterized and treated. These flesh-burning walkers appear to be relatively common, but exclusive to France.

The second and most dangerous variant is one similarly encountered in The Walking Dead: World Beyond’s post-credits scene, but is actually not the same. Daryl Dixon shows a more enhanced version of cohorts known as “hybrids,” created by Dr. Lafleur and are still in the experimental process. They’re known to be the most aggressive with increased agility, speed and strength, and will attack other walkers if engaged. Depending on the experiment, some have the acidic blood and distended veins of a burner, while others can climb like The Walking Dead‘s Season 11 variant. They typically have black eyes and their heads will explode in 30 seconds due to poor mutation. Even if The Walking Dead‘s final “big bad boss” walker variants were a bit of a let-down, Daryl Dixon amped up the excitement with these two threatening walker variants.

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