The Walking Dead has no shortage of creepy things—from tense sequences to jump scares and everything in between. But there is one element of The Walking Dead that often goes unnoticed, and it’s definitely one of the creepiest things of the show, once you know how to pay attention to it.
The creep factor? The zombies. Not just in general—although they are, of course, pretty darn creepy—but their evolution as the show has progressed in time. As the show’s creative designers have revealed, the zombies are designed to mimic human decomposition as time goes on. Meaning that the zombies from season 1 are much more “fresh” than the zombies in the current season.
Consider the look of the zombies in the first episodes—most of them, with a few exceptions, look like they were recently deceased. Many of them have most or all of their skin intact, and have little signs of decomposing outside of a loss of color and a general lifeless to their appearance… In season 2, many of the zombies can be seen with sunken eyes, exposed bits of muscle and bone, as well as more decomposed skin that make it more obvious that they are further along in their decomposition. Seasons 3 and 4 likewise follow suit: by season 4, many of the zombies look like true rotting corpses.
But the evolution of the zombies isn’t limited to their appearance. Even their movements and deaths differ between the earlier season and the later seasons. In the earlier seasons, when the zombies were killed they fell mostly like human bodies. In the later seasons, watch the zombies as they are shot—their bodies often fall apart easily. Why? Because a human corpse, rotting and exposed to the hot Southern weather, would be much more likely to crumble apart the longer it’s exposed.
There’s no telling just how far the ‘zombies’ in The Walking Dead will progress in terms of decomposition and general wear and tear. Theoretically, they need their brains in order to keep functioning, since the science of the show attributes their behavior to a virus that affects the brain and brain function—if this science continues to hold true for the show, perhaps humanity could just wait out the apocalypse until the zombies brains fall off the bone due to decomposition.