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Why Some The Walking Dead Fans Are Confused About The Zombie Well

If there's one thing that "The Walking Dead" has taught us, it is that you can do a lot of fun and gruesome things with the undead. Some of the grisly walkers brought to us by Greg Nicotero over the years have become downright iconic. There's "Bicycle Girl," of course, the very first zombie we actually see in the show's first episode. Michonne's (Danai Gurira) "pet walkers" – her undead loved ones with their jaws and arms removed and chained to her belt -– probably rank up there too, if only because they reveal their owner's macabre sense of survivalist creativity.

Then there's "Well Walker," whose brief appearance in Season 2 is still enough to make any of us squirm. This is the walker discovered at the bottom of a well on Hershel Greene's (Scott Wilson) farm. Afraid that this oozing and water-logged undead corpse might contaminate the drinking water, the group of survivors try to haul it up, only for it to split apart at the well's lip, its bottom half and guts spilling back down into the well.

On the one hand, it's pretty gross, not to mention effective in hitting home just how dangerous the world of the zombie apocalypse is. On the other hand, the scene seems to confuse some fans of "The Walking Dead."

Fans aren't sure the science of the well walker adds up

At the r/thewalkingdead subreddit, u/bunybunybuny asked exactly what might contaminate the supply of drinking water on Hershel's farm. When Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and T-Dog (Irone Singleton) first discover the oozing fiend, T-Dog is about to take a drink of water from the well, which a suddenly suspicious Dale intercepts, the implication being that if T-Dog were to drink water that had a walker in it, he too might turn or at the very least get sick.

In short, the commenter asks what exactly about the walker might contaminate the water. If it is just the blood, then hauling the walker up likely wouldn't have done much anyway given that open wounds on the walker's skin would have already contaminated the water. Other commenters, like u/yawnyjay, suggested that they might have been able to boil the water, but the amount of viscera that spilled back in when the well walker came apart just left it too far gone. Still others, like u/DaneOnArrival, pointed out that the Greene farm likely had multiple wells.

While these types of discussions often lead nowhere, bogging down the enjoyment of the show in ultimately inconsequential details, they can also help illuminate that plot, as well as the characters' actions.

The rules matter in the zombie apocalypse

Think back, for example, to Michonne's "pet walkers." With their abilities to grab and bite neutralized, they are no longer a threat, but their smell is enough to throw other walkers off her scent. This tells us that Michonne understands the rules of this new world and is able to exploit them to her advantage, in turn reminding us just how cutthroat survival in the zombie apocalypse is. "She's realized she's the higher life form," Danai Gurira said to Entertainment Weekly. "So how do you make the lower life form work for you?"

The basics of walkers — and the Wildfire Virus that makes them –- are most effectively laid out for us by Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) in the Season 1 finale, "TS-19." Those bitten contract the virus, succumbing to it sometime later, and are soon reanimated with only their most basic brain functions and a ravenous hunger for human flesh intact. Jenner also tells Rick (Andrew Lincoln) that the virus is airborne and that anyone who dies will come back as a walker, though this isn't revealed until the Season 2 finale, "Beside the Dying Fire."

Other revelations come later. In Season 3, Episode 2, "Sick," we learn that bitten limbs can be amputated to prevent the virus from spreading. However, Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) still dies after being bitten in Season 5 even though Michonne amputates his arm. It could be, then, that the lack of clarity over just how dangerous the well walker is only serves to deepen the sense of the unknown. Maybe we aren't sure whether a walker's mere presence in water infects it, or maybe Dale and T-Dog are just being cautious. Can't say we blame them.