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The Most Confusing Moments In The Walking Dead Explained

"The Walking Dead" fans know there's something endlessly compelling about a zombie story and the idea that humanity's dominance over the planet could fall apart at any given moment. Survivors trade the daily grind and mundane struggles that fill our lives for a fiercer, more animalistic existence where daily life is distilled to scavenging and hand-to-hand combat over basic resources. And despite the constant fight for survival, the zombie apocalypse frees humanity from the unseen forces that once ruled their lives — free from difficult bosses, mortgage payments, and the countless seen and unseen forces that govern our lives, including our dependence on technology.

In this lawless, post-apocalyptic reality, conflict is everywhere, from the man-versus-nature conflict of human-against-zombie to the man-versus-man conflict as warring groups lay claim to what few resources are left. While most zombie films and series start with the same basic premise, all seem to focus on the importance of relationship-building as a key to survival from the canal-cruising survivors of "Zomboat!" to the crew of affable oddballs in "Z Nation." And they all have one additional thing in common: the requirement of a hefty suspension of disbelief, from everlasting car batteries and gasoline that never seems to go bad to nonsensical zombie biomechanics.

"The Walking Dead" has no shortage of such baffling moments, with its ample plot holes and occasionally confounding storylines. But for every in-universe physics violation and shameless act of plot armor, there's an explanation to be found in the wilds of the internet. As we continue to await the impending zombie apocalypse, let's take a closer look at some of the most confusing moments in "The Walking Dead" — and how some have tried to explain them.

When Sleeping Rick Wakes Up

In "The Walking Dead" universe, unbelievable near-death experiences are common. But Rick Grimes' near-miss in Episode 1 ("Days Gone By") makes less sense than most. Pre-apocalypse, Sheriff Deputy Rick is shot while on duty, an injury that lands him in a coma. When Rick finally becomes conscious, the hospital is abandoned, trashed, covered in blood, and strewn with corpses.

Exactly how long he was in a coma or how he managed to remain alive without any medical care is a bit of a mystery, although the dead floral arrangement in his room and numerous corpse cocoons in the parking lot seem to indicate it's been a minute. The early zombie apocalypse timeline has always been a bit of a fuzzy math problem. But showrunner David Erickson told Insider that according to writer Robert Kirkman, "Rick was probably out four to five weeks." If that is true, then how did the strong and silent hero avoid bedsores, severe muscle atrophy, and death by dehydration?

The answer might be hidden in "The Walking Dead" webisode series "The Oath". When Karina (Ashley Bell) and Paul (Wyatt Russell) arrive at Rick's hospital seeking medical assistance, the audience sees that the zombie apocalypse is already in full swing. There, they encounter angel of mercy Gale ("Little Shop of Horrors" actress Ellen Greene), who may have been caring for patients along with a hospital intern for an indeterminate amount of time before she went full Annie Wilkes. If this is the case, Rick may have been partially conscious at some point, waking up after his caregivers stopped administering fluids and medications due to their untimely demise.

Glenn's Miraculous Dumpster Survival

Long before Glenn's senseless and gruesome death in Season 7 at the hands of Negan, "The Walking Dead" writers gave his demise a baffling test run with the notorious Season 6 dumpster scene (Episode 3, "Thank You"). With a sleight-of-hand move that Vanity Fair would later dub "the worst-kept secret in Walking Dead history," a cornered Glenn (Steven Yeun) appears to fatefully fall off of a dumpster into a gaggle of zombies and become walker meat. His implied death was doubly tragic since he was pulled down by the weight of his friend Nicholas, who had chosen suicide over potential zombification. As walkers indulged in a rhapsody of blood and intestine, a supine Glenn screamed desperately underneath them.

Although the internet buzzed with rumors for weeks, it seemed unlikely Glenn was alive since he was last seen framed by what looked like his own innards. It was beginning to look like Glenn was toast, until Episode 7 ("Heads Up") revealed that he was still alive. In a frustrating twist that even M. Night Shyamalan would meet with incredulity, the same scene is replayed from above, where it becomes clear the gore belonged to Nicholas, who had landed on top of Glenn. After watching his former pal get deconstructed, a blood-drenched Glenn slides under the dumpster. A few walker kills later and Glenn had his own version of a sandbag bunker. At the end of the day, the escape was so obvious that the whole fake-out went over poorly with fans, with Greg Nicotero later admitting he knew fans would hate him for it in a Season 6 bonus feature.

Negan's Change of Heart About Killing Kids

Over the years, the morally enigmatic Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has become a fan favorite in the "Walking Dead" universe, and the writers have had plenty of time to demonstrate his softer side and establish a complex backstory that gives added layers of meaning to his more controversial moves. But one of his Season 10 comments sent the fandom into an uproar as it seemingly contradicted his previous actions.

The confusion arose after near-salivating Saviors toxic fanboy asks Negan about the rumor that he made Rick cut Carl's hand off and then shot Carl (Chandler Riggs), to which Negan replies, "I never did that, and I never did that to Carl," before firmly telling him, "I would never kill a kid." The moment sent the fandom into a frenzy, grabbing their clickers to double-check the Savior storyline for clarification. Negan's comment appeared to be in contradiction with his past actions, which saw the leader nearly force Rick to amputate Carl's arm and later come perilously close to swinging Lucille into the boy's head.

Amid the internet controversy over whether Negan was lying or the writers had merely goofed, AMC tweeted, "We call that growth." It is possible that Negan, who often used fear to manipulate others in his Savior days, had merely been practicing brinksmanship, never intending to follow through with his attacks on Carl. But it is also just as plausible that present-day Negan is struggling to come to terms with his past misdeeds, as evidenced in "Here's Negan" (Season 10, Episode 22), where we see Negan struggling to process his past before burning Lucille and returning to Alexandria.

Sophia in the Barn

Despite a rocky start, "Walking Dead" farmer Hershel Greene and his daughters Maggie and Beth would eventually become beloved members of Rick's group. But in the beginning of their relationship, relations between the family and the survivors were a little less certain. 

After Hershel's son-in-law Otis (Scott Wilson) accidentally shot Carl as Rick's group was searching for Carol's lost daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz), the survivors remained on the family's property while the boy recovered and they continued to look for the missing girl. But tensions between the groups approached a breaking point after Glenn accidentally stumbled on to the Greenes' dark secret: they'd been warehousing walkers in their barn. 

While Rick agrees to help Hershel round up more walkers humanely, as the Greenes believe the dead to simply be sick, an increasingly unhinged Shane insists the walkers be killed (Season 2, Episode 7, "Pretty Much Dead Already"). In a fury, Shane shoots the zom-barn locks, walkers roll out looking for a snack, and to everyone's horror, Sophia is among the dead.

In addition to this being one of the series' sadder moments thus far, it also left many fans scratching their heads. After all, Hershel had been all too eager to get Rick's group off his land, even telling them earlier in the episode that they should leave after finding Sophia. Since the Greenes had been feeding the walkers, surely they would have known Sophia was among them. So, why didn't they reveal Sophia's status to Rick's people? While it is possible that Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn the entire time, his demand that Rick's group leave after she was found doesn't seem to fit. The best explanation posited by several Reddit users is that Otis came across Sophia and put her in the barn, but died before he had the chance to tell anyone about it.

Jadis Finds Herself a B

Eleven seasons of "The Walking Dead" means there are plenty of plots and side stories to analyze, and one that many viewers may have forgotten about happened all the way back in Season 9, which was several years ago in the "Walking Dead" timeline. Amid all of the background lore in the "Walking Dead" universe, there lurks a mysterious organization that marks its helicopters with three interlocking circles, and apparently, the Scavengers are in cahoots with them, with a little human trafficking side hustle uncovered by Gabriel in Season 9, Episode 3 ("Warning Signs"). When terrible neighbor and part-time trash panda Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) scavenges Rick after he is severely injured in an explosion, she radios a hovering helicopter, telling them frantically, "I have a B. Not an A, I never had an A" (Episode 5, "What Comes After").

With Rick's mysterious disappearance and a years-long time jump, fans were left to puzzle the meaning of this alphabet soup for years, with the answer later partially revealed in "The Walking Dead: World Beyond," where we also learn that CRM stands for Civic Republic Military, the armed forces for the Civic Republic. Expanding on a test subject scene from "World Beyond," showrunner Angela Kang told Insider that A-designated abductees "get zombie bites applied to them," while B's are given "a different kind of treatment." Insider goes on to speculate that B's may be more likely to agree to the CRM's M.O., while A's may be less likely to fall in line, making them suitable as guinea pigs only. With Rick's story to be continued in the upcoming "TWD" movies according to content officer Scott M. Gimple via The Hollywood Reporter, it looks like a more detailed explanation could be on the horizon.

The Governor's Prison Envy

"The Walking Dead" universe is populated with more than its fair share of villains, from the devilishly charming Negan to the utterly psychotic Alpha. One of the most terrifying is the Governor (David Morrissey), whose charismatic politician energy is the spoonful of sugar that helps people swallow his more dictatorial and murderous tendencies. Like many autocrats, the Governor's results are hard to argue with, with Woodbury a testament to the despot's community planning skills. That's why many viewers found his obsession with gaining control of the prison puzzling. After all, Woodbury has creature comforts like solar power and hot showers and is well-fortified.

If there was any question about the Governor's intentions with the prison, the Season 3 mid-season finale ("Made to Suffer") puts them to rest as Merle and the Gov are surveying a map and discussing the prison. After the Governor comments that the "prison's a perfect place to hole up," Merle asks him if he is considering relocating Woodbury. The Governor quickly shoots the idea down, explaining, "People love it here because it feels like what was. Move them to damp cells surrounded by barbed wire? No."

But not wanting to move in doesn't mean he's willing to let Rick's group stake their claim. Knowing that another group is out there living their best life under someone else's leadership is something the Governor cannot let stand, so he plans to take out Rick's group. After those plans go awry in the Season 3 finale ("Welcome to the Tombs"), the unhinged autocrat turns on his own people, gunning down most of them and then burning Woodbury to the ground both literally and metaphorically. With Woodbury gone, the prison was the only viable option left for his new group in Season 4, and suddenly damp cells surrounded by barbed wire didn't seem so bad after all.

Siddiq's Death Fake-out Fake-out

If Glenn's dumpster dive was the most egregious death fake-out of "The Walking Dead" and Rick's was the most frustrating, they certainly weren't the only ones in the series. Merle, Michonne, and Beth are just a few of the characters that get a ding-dong-ditch from the Grim Reaper over the course of the series. That's why it's completely understandable that fans were perplexed when Rosita's baby daddy Siddiq (Avi Nash) seemed to maybe-die, maybe-not in the Season 10 episode "Open Your Eyes."

The death was complicated by the fact that PTSD-riddled Siddiq had been dealing with flashbacks and hallucinations for some time, the result of watching his friends die horrifically at the hands of the Whisperers. Emphasizing his mental decline to play with viewers' sense of reality gave the writers plenty of opportunities for Alpha attack psych-outs, making Siddiq something of an unreliable narrator. Unfortunately, they had done it so much that when medical assistant Dante was revealed to be an Alpha plant and suffocated the good doctor, many viewers wondered if it had really happened or was a product of the doc's traumatized mental state.

Viewers and critics alike puzzled over the scene that Paste dubbed "the most confusing and easily misinterpreted death scene" in the series, with Chris Hardwick going out of his way to clear things up in "Talking Dead." Showrunner Angela Kang confirmed the death in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, explaining that Dante had been poisoning the town's water supply and that the Whisperer prisoner had recognized him but kept silent. As to how Lydia didn't recognize dad-joking Dante? In a Season 10, Episode 8 ("The World Before") flashback, as Alpha assigns Dante's secret agent directive, she mentions that her daughter doesn't know him since he joined the Whisperers after Lydia had left, and with Dante's sociopathic tendencies, he fit right in.

Michonne's Exit at Virgil's Island

Season 10 of "The Walking Dead" saw the writers playing around quite a bit with trippy headspace, between Siddiq's PTSD journey and Michonne's psychedelic adventure in "What We Become" (Season 10, Episode 13). After Michonne (Danai Gurira) falls for the apocalyptic equivalent of a free candy van and follows Virgil (Kevin Carroll) in pursuit of free weapons, things quickly go south when he slips her a jimsonweed mickey. The hallucinogen sends her into an altered reality where she envisions her life if she had joined Team Negan instead of Team Rick.

After the trip ends, a presumably more enlightened Michonne discovers Rick's boots and a phone with an image of her and Rick etched on it in a room on the island. She radios Judith from the boat, who tells her Alpha can no longer harm the group and insists Michonne find her dad. Despite the fact that she has only the word of a clearly-biased child to go on, Michonne abruptly abandons both her plans to find weapons and her children, one of whom is fairly young, without so much as a goodbye hug.

Many fans found it stunning and implausible that such a devoted mother would essentially orphan her children, leading them to wonder if Michonne was truly taking off for good. As one Redditor noted, even with the clues she found on Virgil's island, Michonne had precious little evidence that Rick would still be alive after all this time, and it's hard to believe she would take off without confirming Judith's claim about Alpha or telling RJ good-bye. However, Gurira confirmed her series exit at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, leaving little doubt that Michonne would not be returning. Still, with a trilogy of Rick Grimes movies in the works, it's likely we haven't seen the last of the katana-wielding mom.

The Post-Rick Time Jump

Time jumps are nothing new in "The Walking Dead" universe, but some are more jarring than others, like the one that took place in Season 9 after Rick Grimes' departure. As Season 9, Episode 6 ("Who Are You Now?") kicks off, it's clear that some time has passed; Carol's Rapunzel-esque locks and the fact that Little Ass-Kicker has grown into a certified Big Kid are none-too-subtle clues, complete with the Big Kid Hat handed down from her dad and brother as well as her dad's leadership qualities.

Nonetheless, fans still found the timeline a bit confusing when Michonne picked up a pajama-footed youngling named RJ, since there was no sign of a baby on board before the time jump. The appearance of the little guy, largely unexplained, left fans scrambling for their calculators trying to math out whether Rick was his father and exactly how long it had been since the deputy disappeared. 

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Angela Kang clarified that it had been six years while confirming the cutie's paternity, noting that Rick and Michonne had talked about planning for a future "where children could thrive" back in Episode 3. Figuring in eight months of pregnancy, RJ's age fits the timeline. Hopefully, fans won't have to wait too long for Rick to find out about his second son.

Aaron's Unbelievable Basement Rescue

"The Walking Dead" is chock full of improbable rescues, but there's one that was so unlikely it left viewers pondering the laws of physics in utter bafflement. 

It happened in Season 11, Episode 9 ("No Other Way"), when Aaron found himself trapped in a flooded basement with a handful of walkers in the world's worst game of Marco Polo. After managing to American Gladiator his way across a ceiling pipe, quick-thinking Lydia tosses him a rope tied to a neighboring house, which Aaron somehow uses to escape after anchoring it to something across the basement, according to the taught angle of the rope.

While this made for a cool-looking escape, it wasn't clear how Aaron was able to tie the rope to something in the basement while hanging from the ceiling with only one hand and a wet mace prosthetic. Fans puzzled over the engineering conundrum, tossing around theories from Aaron's beefy pecs to an unseen second table. Sadly, the answer was never shown, with viewers left to fill in the blanks on their own. Whether Aaron slipped off the pipe and had to play walker Whac-A-Mole or the pals devised a clever teamwork solution seems to have been left to viewers' imaginations for posterity.

Teddy Bear Girl

Exactly how the zombies populating "The Walking Dead" universe work has been an ongoing point of debate among fans since the show's beginning, with enough questions to fill a textbook — like, how do walkers manage to keep eating without eventually exploding from becoming too full? Or, why they don't decompose? But one of the most curious, controversial zombie mechanics issues pertains to how much walkers can comprehend, with one special walker from Season One becoming a focal point.

For most of the series, walkers are seen as essentially reanimated lumps of dead flesh compelled to munch on living humans; while they can be terrifying, they generally seem to be fairly mindless. But in Season 1, a few zombies seem to retain an echo of their past existence, like the undead child Rick encounters in Episode 1 ("Days Gone By"). Unlike her later-season counterparts, who seem to be driven solely by a need to nosh, this walker (played by Addy Miller) picks up a teddy bear, clinging to it as she stumbles around in undead fashion. Later, Morgan's wife would show a similar echo of a past existence, coming around her house trying to get in day after day, while other early zombies smashed windows with bricks, ran, and climbed fences. But despite these early walkers, the vast majority of later-season zombies in the series would show no such ambition.

Alicia of "Fear the Walking Dead" would later speculate that zombies retain some of their past selves, a hypothesis that leads her to follow a very dead Senator Vasquez in search of PADRE. And a recent post-credits clip from "World Beyond," which takes place in the French DDMI biomedical facility and involves a clip from the long-dead Dr. Jenner, seems to indicate that the virus was developed in that lab and there is more than one strain. After a scientist in the lab is shot, she reanimates and immediately runs toward the door, angrily pounding on it. With multiple variants on the table, it's possible that Teddy Bear Girl simply had a slightly different strain.

Maggie Just Took Off

After the tragic death of Glenn, his late wife Maggie (Lauren Cohan) headed to Hilltop. For 37 episodes post-Glenn's murder at the hands of Negan, Maggie was hell-bent on avenging her husband. But that wouldn't be the reason she finally left the allied communities. Although it's true that Maggie was angry when Rick refused to execute Negan, she still stuck around Hilltop for some time as its leader, eventually coming to understand why Rick kept him alive in "What Comes After."

That's why it was so confusing to many fans when Maggie and Hershel Rhee pulled an Irish goodbye offscreen sometime during the Season 9 six-year time jump, revealed unceremoniously via a few seconds of expository dialogue between Jesus and Tara in "Stradivarius" (Episode 7). Maggie would later return in Season 10, revealing that she had been working with Georgie to build communities in the meantime.

The reason for Maggie's weird pseudo-exit comes down to Cohan's contract. Cohan left the series during Season 9 to film the short-lived series "Whiskey Cavalier," but she always retained the option to come back. After Cohan's series didn't pan out, Maggie returned to the "Walking Dead" universe, telling Daryl she hadn't returned sooner because she couldn't get over what Negan had done. Fortunately, she returned just in time to help fight the community's new enemy, the Reapers