Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday’s “Faith” episode of The Walking Dead. What do you call the variant walkers on The Walking Dead? Capable of climbing walls and wielding weapons, these smart zombies are a rare breed. If you ask virologist Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich), they’re “variant cohorts.” Ask Jerry (Cooper Andrews), they’re “aberations.” Ask Aaron (Ross Marquand), they’re the stuff of rumors and nightmares. “I’ve heard stories about walkers like this that can climb walls and open doors,” Aaron said in “Variant,” after encountering one such walker exhibiting abnormal abilities. “I was never sure if they were just stories. Maybe there’s other kinds, too. I hope not.”
The stories are true. And on Sunday’s “Faith” episode, The Walking Dead‘s variant walkers receive a name: “Climbers.”
Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) coins the term when Lydia (Cassady McClincy) runs at a walker to kill it. “It could have been a climber,” he says of the walkers that can climb walls, scale fences and ladders, and pick up blunt objects to use as weapons.
“Everybody needs to stay alert. We don’t know if that was a one-time thing or not,” warns Aaron. “Might be more of those things out here.” (Spoiler alert: there are.)
“In some way, it is a throwback to some of the walkers we saw back in the very, very first season of The Walking Dead. But not everybody ever encountered those walkers,” Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang explained during San Diego Comic-Con. “It’s almost like it was a variant that was regional. And anytime there is a change to the rules, that means that people just need to be that much on their game because they’re realizing that the methods that they used to survive don’t quite work the same way.”
These regional variants are not entirely new to The Walking Dead. “Climbers” can be seen as early as Season 1 Episode 2, “Guts,” chasing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) through the streets of Atlanta.
Variants also appeared on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which ended with a coda connection between France and Ohio — home state of the Commonwealth on The Walking Dead. Next, Daryl (Norman Reedus) will encounter walkers and climbers in the Walking Dead Daryl Dixon spin-off set in Paris, France.