Zombie culture has always been a thing, but the emergence of The Walking Dead as a hit TV show in 2010 really helped cranked the interest in all things undead up to 11. The AMC drama has regularly been one of the highest-rated shows on television, even as it sometimes suffers through some highs and lows when it comes to quality. The show, based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, is more than just a standard zombie thriller. It focuses more on the survivors of a deadly apocalypse, and how they manage to work together to survive (or not, in many cases).
Along the way, the various writers and directors have snuck a ton of clever Easter eggs into the show. You probably missed most of them on your first watch through, unless you happen to be an incredibly eagle-eyed viewer. For the rest of us more casual fans, here are 11 hidden references and secret tidbits from The Walking Dead that prove the people behind the show are way smarter than you might think.
12. Rick’s Home County
While The Walking Dead doesn’t exactly belong in the horror genre, there are plenty of moments that are both scary and/or gruesome. There is, however, a subtle nod to master horror novelist Stephen King in the series. Before main character Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital bed to the frightening realization that society has gone into the crapper, he was a sheriff in Georgia’s fictional King County — as in Stephen King. The show has never been shy about using real-life locations, including places like Alexandria (a short distance from Washington, D.C.) or Terminus (the unofficial original name of the city of Atlanta). So making up a fictional county was definitely for the sole purpose of paying tribute to King.
11. Heisenberg’s Blue Meth
In Season Two, the show makes a clever nod to one of AMC’s other smash hit series. When Daryl Dixon is rummaging around in his brother’s drug stash, hoping to find something that can treat an infected cut on T-Dog’s arm, there’s a distinct baggie underneath all the pill bottles. Yep, that definitely looks exactly like Sky Blue, the legendary meth created by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. It’s not the only reference the two shows share, either.
Darly mentions that Merle’s dealer was a “janky little white guy” who liked to use the word “bitch” a lot. Sounds a lot like Pinkman. Finally, the red Dodge Challenger that Glenn uses to escape from Atlanta in Season One is the same make and model as the car that Walter buys his son in Breaking Bad. Both vehicles suffer grim endings — Walter sets his on fire when Skylar orders him to return it. Glenn’s model gets stripped for parts in attempt to fix the group’s RV.
10. The Pirate Governor
The Governor was a perfectly normal looking fellow until he crossed Michonne, who stabbed out his eye. After that, he donned his trademark eyepatch and truly revealed himself as a power hungry, cold-blooded killer. Even though the character was a serious villain in the show, the director of one Season Four episode couldn’t help but poke fun at actor David Morrissey’s new look.
After being cast out of Woodbury and basically abandoned by humanity, the Governor is rescued by Tara and her family (who obviously have no idea about his evil past). In once scene, the Governor is shown waking up from a nap and the pillow under his head has a parrot strategically placed to make it look like the bird is perched on his shoulder. Eye patch. Parrot. Yep, he’s a proper swashbuckler now!
9. Morgan References the Whisperers
Still one of the best episodes that The Walking Dead has ever produced, Season Three’s “Clear” brought back one of the series’ most beloved characters when Morgan reappeared, albeit a littler bit crazier, for the first time since the pilot episode. Distraught over the loss of his son, Morgan has lost his marbles and spends most of the episode rambling about making sure things are “clear.”
As Rick tries to talk some sense into his old friend, Morgan mentions that he sees people wearing the faces of dead men. Comic readers will recognize that description as one that matches the Whisperers, a group of villains from the books who terrorize Alexandria after the threat of Negan was neutralized. They haven’t appeared on the show in any form yet, except for this reference.
8. Gabriel’s Bible Verses
Gabriel, the selfish preacher, has a guilty past. He eventually admits that he locked his entire congregation outside the church to be devoured by walkers, because he was too scared (or selfish) to let them inside. When the group eventually come across him, trapped on a rock surrounded by walkers, they retreat to his church for shelter. On the wall are five bible verses, and they aren’t random.
Romans 6:4, Ezekiel 37:7, Matthew 27:52, Revelation 9:6, and Luke 24:5 all contain references about people dying or people being raised from the dead. This Imgur user compiled all the verses:
7. Lee’s Hometown
If you’ve never played Telltale’s video game The Walking Dead: Season One, you’re missing out. While the sequels that followed are also pretty good, the original point-and-click adventure still stands out as the best of the bunch. It stars Lee Everett, a recently convicted felon who never quite makes it to prison when the police car transporting him crashes in the early hours of the zombie outbreak. Later in the game, your group of survivors head to Macon, Georgia, which is Lee’s hometown.
The game is considered canon, and even includes a brief visit to the Greene farm, where Hershel and Maggie lived before all hell breaks loose. In one point in the show, Michonne is seen studying a map of their area. As her finger traces across the page, she makes a distinct pause over the city of Macon. Robert Kirkman would later confirm it was intentional, although the show and the game haven’t really had any further crossovers.
6. Decaying Title Screen
This Easter egg is quite subtle, but it’s a nice touch by the producers. Every season, the show’s logo gets a little more, shall we say, rotten when it displays at the end of the opening credits — much like the walkers on the show continue to rot and decay as each season comes and goes. The degrading of the logo is also a thematic parallel to the breakdown of society, as we’ve seen on multiple occasions the evils that some people (who were presumably good, law-abiding people before the outbreak began) can commit. Even Negan was nothing more than a high school gym teacher before he stared into the vacuum of power created by the fall of all authority figures and established himself as a leader of men. Not a nice leader, but a leader nonetheless.
5. The X-Files Connection
Breaking Bad isn’t the only fictional universe that The Walking Dead might exist in. The fictional brand of Morley cigarettes has been seen multiple times on the show, most notable by Daryl, Dwight, or Dale. Much like the Red Apple brand of cigarettes ties together the Quentin Tarantino movie universe, Morleys might point to a bigger picture.
Other popular shows that have used the Morley brand include Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Perhaps most iconic of all, though, is that Morleys are what the infamous Smoking Man preferred on the the sci-fi classic The X-Files. Could the zombie virus actually be a huge government conspiracy? Or perhaps an alien attack? Someone get Mulder and Scully on the case.
4. Save The Turtles
In one of the show’s more nausea-inducing scenes, we see a flashback to when Enid lost her parents to walkers and then struggled to find any food to keep her alive. Things got so bad, that she desperately ate a turtle. Well, not the shell, but yeah, she ate a turtle. It was not cool.
Later, when Morgan runs into Eastman (who teaches him pacifism and the martial art of Aikido), the bald survivor is wearing a shirt that says “Save the Terrapins.” Katelyn Nacon, the actress who plays Enid, noticed right away and thought it was awesome. On a more deeper level, though, the shirt symbolizes how Eastman is the opposite of everyone else on the show, as he prefers to live alone and in peace.
3. This Romero Nod (and all the others)
Before the current zombie craze, one man was responsible for bringing the undead into relevance in pop culture — George A. Romero. His original Night of the Living Dead helped popularize the entire genre, and the people in charge of The Walking Dead constantly pay homage to works. There have been multiple walkers who are dressed exactly like famous Romero zombies, along with shot-for-shot recreations of certain kills.
In Season Five, as Rick and the group are escaping from the cannibalistic survivors at Terminus, there is a brief glimpse of a crate that says “”Ship to Horlicks University via Julia Carpenter.” This is an exact quote from a similar crate in the Romero movie Creepshow. Although we don’t see what’s inside the crate on The Walking Dead, the Romero version of the crate featured a man-eating monster.
2. Carl Likes Robert Kirkman Comics
Robert Kirkman rose to fame as a comic book writer, not a television producer. Along with The Walking Dead, Kirkman has created a number of other comic series. And many of them are hidden in different episodes of the show. In the early days of the show, Carl Grimes can be seen wearing a T-Shirt with the Science Dog logo on it, one of Kirman’s creations.
More recently, Carl finds some kids reading a copy of the fictional Wolf Fight comic, which is both a nod to The Wolves (a group of murderous survivors who attack Alexandria) and to The Astounding Wolf-Man, another one of Kirman’s comic books.
1. The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be
The Season Seven premiere was probably the most anticipated episode of The Walking Dead so far. Negan had arrived, and some mystery member of the group had met the business end of Lucille, creating an agonizing cliffhanger between Seasons Six and Seven. That episode was titled “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” which is actually a phrase that has been uttered on the show before.
You have to go all the way back to Season One to hear Dr. Jenner tell Rick that “the day will come when you won’t be.” Of course, then the man in charge of the CDC tries to murder everyone with a massive explosion to save them the hardships of living in the outside world. Glenn had to wait six full seasons, but his day finally came (and Abraham’s too, but we haven’t known him as long).