Maybe, just maybe, children really are the future in The Walking Dead.
Fans have been speculating all season about the strange flash-forwards to Old Man Rick’s time and whether or not the little girl he treats like a daughter is Judith or the new baby Grace. Some think it all means that Judith could die, making way for Grace to grow up as Rick’s new adopted daughter. But this theory could relate to another that’s been bandied about for years among The Walking Dead’s fanbase, one regarding the nature of zombie virus.
Fans have speculated since Season 3 that new babies like Judith could be one of the only characters in the entire world that are immune to the zombie virus. Even though there’s virtually no evidence to support this, from a narrative standpoint, The Walking Dead could be setting up Judith’s death as an emotional way to deliver this revelation later this season. The lasting implications of this would change the show forever.
According to Dr. Edwin Jenner at the CDC in Season 1, the zombie pathogen in The Walking Dead lies dormant in every living human. The nature of how it was created and distributed remains a mystery, but any person that dies, even if they’re not bitten, transforms into a Walker. Getting bitten or scratched just accelerates the process.
We can assume the same would happen to Judith regardless of what might kill her, but we’ve never actually seen a person born after the initial outbreak die. Because we know so little about the nature of the virus, it’s at least possible that any new babies born could be immune. Why not? The scientific explanation behind this probably wouldn’t make a ton of sense, but since when did the show respect science anyway?
In order for this theory to be confirmed, we’d have to see Judith die in some way that isn’t a gunshot to the head or its equivalent. If she died and didn’t turn, it would devastate Rick, but it also might inspire people, giving them all a reason to have hope. What if they just had to wait for a generation to die out before mankind finds peace?
In the comics, Judith died much earlier in the story, so some fans read that as an indication that she’s overdue. When Rick appears bloodshot and crazy in that scene from the premiere, he raves about “mercy” prevailing over “wrath.” What if that happens moments after he’s seen Judith get killed in some fashion? Grace could then grow up with Old Man Rick in a more hopeful future.
Zombies have become a fact of life in The Walking Dead, but if this were proven true, it would be a total game-changer. The “hope” that several characters on the show still talk about could be rekindled, making way for characters like Grace and Maggie’s unborn child to create a new future for humanity one day.
Better yet, it might give Old Man Rick a reason to smile.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. Eastern.