Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday’s TWD: World Beyond, “The Last Light.” After a decade of the undead, there’s fresh meat in The Walking Dead Universe. An epilogue ending the series finale of The Walking Dead: World Beyond connects to the first season of The Walking Dead, revealing an even deadlier breed of walker — and suggesting an origin for the unknown zombie virus that spread like wildfire across the globe in 2010. It’s the disease that CDC virologist Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emerich) told Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) about in a whisper in “TS-19”: Everyone is infected. If you die, you turn.
Ten years post-outbreak, a French woman (Carey Van Driest) dusts off hard drives and downloads Wildfire transmissions broadcast by Jenner in 2010. The Center for Disease Control studies samples of necrotic flesh that aren’t “fresh,” the long-dead Jenner says in the video, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of the biology involved.
The transmissions are from before Jenner’s wife, CDC scientist Dr. Candace Jenner, succumbed to a walker’s bite and furthered reanimation research as “Test Subject 19.” In the video, Jenner reacts to data forwarded from the French: “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.”
A man with a gun (Oryan Landa) approaches the woman, one of “the doctors” on the run and in hiding. The pre-recorded video plays in the background, Jenner talking about the promising idea of “activating systems to work against reanimation.”
The man asks if she’s a member of the Primrose team. She was team Violet. At gunpoint, he orders her to reveal the whereabouts of the Primose team.
“They weren’t here when it happened,” she responds in French. “When you all did what you did. They were at the conference in Toledo.”
Spain? No — Ohio. America. She hoped to find them here, this long-abandoned lab marked with graffiti: Les morts sont nes icl. “The dead are born here.”
“I had that hope against hope. I had to try. If they were to return here to their work,” she says, “they might end all this. Even after all this time.”
The man raises his gun. “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.”
He fires a single round into the doctor’s back. “I want to know more about these ‘variant cohorts’ you referred to in our last communication,” Jenner says in the transmission. “We haven’t seen anything like that seen here at all, nothing close.”
It takes only a minute for the doctor to reanimate. The zombified doctor stands and quickly lurches towards the exit, slamming against the door with a force unusual of walkers. It’s faster. It’s stronger. It’s angrier. The walker claws and thrashes at the door, the series ending with the walker’s guttural growls from inside the biomedicine lab.
“It was the French,” Jenner tells Rick’s group of Atlanta survivors in The Walking Dead Season 1 finale, “TS-19.” “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 till the end. They thought they were close to a solution.”
According to the man with the gun, the French made it worse — firing off a suggestion the zombie virus was man-made. On World Beyond, Civic Republic Military Major General Beale and Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) founded Project Votus, a research study furthering research on reanimation. Their goal: find a way to prevent reanimation and neutralize the flesh-eating undead as a threat — ending the walking dead.