TWD Spinoff Set up a Major Walking Dead Twist

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "Variant" episode of The Walking Dead. "It was the French," virologist Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emerich) told Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and survivors in the first season of The Walking Dead. It was at Atlanta's CDC that Jenner revealed French scientists "stayed in the labs until the end," believing they were close to a solution for the Wildfire Virus: the airborne contagion causing the dead to reanimate as flesh-eating walkers. More than 10 years after Jenner exploded the CDC lab, he returned in a video diary played in a post-credits scene ending The Walking Dead: World Beyond.

The scene, which aired during last year's series finale of the Walking Dead spinoff, takes place inside the La Biomédicine DDMI lab in France. Long abandoned, the lab is defaced with graffiti reading: LES MORTS SONT NES ICI. "The dead are born here." 

In the five-minute epilogue, a French doctor (Carey Van Driest) plays the old recording of Jenner intrigued by the mention of "variant cohorts." While the variant walkers have since appeared throughout the Walking Dead Universe, the American scientist says, "We haven't seen anything like that here at all, nothing close."

(Photo: AMC Studios)

As the French doctor watches Jenner's recordings, an armed man (Oryan Landa) demands she reveal the whereabouts of the Primose team. In French, the doctor tells the man she was part of the Violet team. "They weren't here when it happened," she says. "When you all did what you did. They were at the conference in Toledo." 

The man asks if it's Toledo, Spain. No: it's Toledo, Ohio. The French doctor hoped that if the Primose team "were to return here to their work, they might end all this. Even after all this time." Suggesting a man-made version of the virus was born in this French lab, the man with the gun says: "End this? You started this. All the teams. Then... you made it worse."

The armed man then shoots and kills the woman, who quickly reanimates as a walker with abnormal aggression, speed, and strength.

The Primrose team's conference in Toledo could explain the variant walkers in the Ohio region, home to the sprawling Commonwealth community on The Walking Dead. In the Season 11 episode "Variant," Aaron (Ross Marquand), Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) encounter a variant walker that exhibits abnormal behavior: it climbs a wall, opens a gate, turns a doorknob, ascends a ladder, and picks up a rock to use as a weapon.

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These smarter zombies have not been seen since the first season of The Walking Dead, where Rick Grimes, Morgan Jones (Lennie James), and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) each had encounters with walker variants in Georgia

"We know that we have some different kinds of walkers in the show already. We started the season with this idea of the lurkers, which are the ones that can go dormant sometimes but are still dangerous when they wake back up," executive producer and showrunner Angela Kang explained on The Walking Dead: The Final Episodes Preview special. "The people that watched the pilot really, really closely, might have noticed some zombies climbing up a fence in the background."

In the 2010 pilot, a zombified Jenny Jones (Keisha Tillis) and the little girl walker (Addy Miller) "turned doorknobs and grabbed [stuffed] bunnies up from the ground," Kang said. "We just think that, depending on where you're at, there may be walkers that develop a bit differently at times. We've never seen them en masse somewhere, so you'll have to watch and see."

These faster and smarter walkers will be the primary threat in the Walking Dead spinoff focused on Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), who winds up in Paris, France.

Follow @CameronBonomolo and @NewsOfTheDead on Twitter for TWD Universe coverage all season long. New episodes of The Walking Dead's final season premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+.