It’s February 14th – Valentines Day! And you know what that means: giving the true love of your life exactly what they want… the telly remote so they can kick off the second half of Season Six of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, with the episode entitled ‘No Way Out’! It’s the gift that keeps on giving – and you didn’t even have to wrap it!
Yes, that’s right – Rick, Daryl Glenn, Maggie, Carl and the rest of the bunch, barely hanging on to survival by their fingernails, return for another struggle against forces both undead and shuffling about, and those very much living. But after all the horrors and the hardship, in which we’ve seen time pass and jump around (with even more of that to come in the upcoming episodes), can we actually deduce when the series is physically set at this point? AEISD Contributor Kristina Meek thinks that we can…
NOTE: Spoilers for FEAR THE WALKING DEAD; minor ones for THE WALKING DEAD. Read on at your peril.
Kristina: As of this month, we’ve been watching Rick and his pals walk, run, shuffle or crawl around the apocalypse-torn south for five and a half years on screen. We’ve watched them go through many, many deaths, one birth, and more blood than most emergency rooms see in a lifetime. But while that may be out here in the real world, how much time has really passed for them in THE WALKING DEAD on-screen universe?
It’s tough to rely on the landscape to work from as it can be hard to gauge the seasons in Atlanta at the best of times – even more so in Los Angeles, where FEAR THE WALKING DEAD finally gave us a starting point for the collapse of civilization. So calculating the passage of time requires us to piece together a lot of disparate clues: these are the ones I’ve managed to assemble…
(These speculations draw from the canon of the TV shows only – FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, hereto refered to as FEAR…, and THE WALKING DEAD, (TWD) – not the comics. If you think I’ve missed something or if you’ve noticed others, of course, please weigh in in the comments below. )
“Let’s begin at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
Calculating the time frame of the shows requires some kind of baseline. Lots of online discussion has asked how long Rick was in his coma, but now that we can start counting from FEAR…, it happens that that detail doesn’t actually matter. (More chatter on this here, however, if you’re interested.)
Southern California schools don’t all run on a traditional school year (some are year-round), and it looks as if the soccer team is practising, but that could happen in either spring or fall. What we have to go on is Alicia‘s remark that she has one more year until college. If the events of TWD Season 1 take place in the same year that it aired, 2010, then let’s hypothesize that FEAR… gets under way from around Labor Day of 2009 (EDITOR: that’s the 1st May for us non-American types).
Season 1 Episode 5 of TWD (“Wildfire“) is the first time the audience learns any background about the disease, with Jenner stating that ‘…it’s been 194 days since “Wildfire”’. The assumption has always been that that’s when civilization fell. However, it seems like the group, led by Shane, has been on the run a relatively short time. They’re clean, groomed, and relatively healthy looking. Indeed, in Episode 2 (“Guts“), Glenn pointedly asks Rick, “Where have you been for the last month?”
We don’t know precisely how the outbreak in L.A. aligned with the event referred to as Wildfire, but let’s say it’s roughly close to the day that Salazar breaks open the arena and releases the horde. A few weeks have passed during the episodes of that series, so that would place the Wildfire Event in October 2009.
However, fans with sharp eyes for technology have pointed out the presence of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, making it at least late 2010. (More on the technology, here.)
“Is this the real life…?”
Now zip back to the Eastern time zone with me. Atlanta had a historic flood in September of 2009, but there’s no mention of that particular event in the show. Still, whether we’re looking at 2009 or 2010, the passage of 194 days would take us to spring, meaning Shane, Lori, et. al, survived the winter on the run. From November through January, low temperatures would be below freezing, difficult though probably not impossible to survive in flimsy tents.
So we need to back up and ask what the term “Wildfire” actually refers to. We know from FEAR… that something was going on long before the general public became aware. Maybe there was a point at which the government knew the disease was spreading beyond control (like – hey! – ‘wildfire’), that no one was aware of. So let’s count, instead, from the point when the disease went global – which Jenner says was 63 days ago. That makes more sense if the events of FEAR… take place in late summer/early fall, meaning we meet the Atlanta group in early November.
Based on the iPhone evidence, we’ll shift it from November 2010 (real time) to November 2011. Now how about that Hyundai that drove everyone so nuts? It was a 2012 model, which viewers found ridiculously unrealistic. However, an argument could be made that a 2012 car could have been purchased as early as August of 2011.
“It’s getting hot in here…”
In Season 2 Episode 10 (“18 Miles Out“), Shane and Rick discuss the approaching winter, and characters are wearing warmer clothing. So despite the fact that some viewers felt Season 2 lasted an eternity, it seems only to have lasted a few weeks. It’s approximately December 2011 by the time it ends. Winter takes place during the break, and Season 3 finds us in spring of 2012.
I would like to say we can use the birth of baby Judith as a marker but, to be honest, her timeline just doesn’t add up. By the end of the season, it’s cooler weather so we’re on to fall or early winter. They seem to get pretty settled in at the prison after that, so they must at least ride out the winter, spring, and maybe part of summer there, again during a break. Then it would be fall 2013 by the time the Governor returns and everyone who is left standing is off to Terminus.
The events of Terminus must be fall of 2013, since there are fall leaves on the trees the whole way there. However, around the same time (Season 4 Episode 14, “Spend“), Carol remarks that Judith can’t walk yet. We learn of Lori’s pregnancy in early Season 2, which would put Judith’s birth at the prison in summer 2012. So either that’s one slow-developing child or Lori’s pregnancy was unnaturally long!
The weather still appears warm as the group wanders north toward Alexandria, so have they spent another whole winter in Alexandria? It doesn’t seem that way, but that would mean we’re now in spring 2014… in other words, a LOT of shit has happened in a few short years.
From the previews we’ve seen, it looks like not much of time has passed from the collapse of the Alexandria Safe Zone to the “present,” so my final deduction is – drumroll, please…
THE WALKING DEAD is still set way back in early to mid-2014!
Let’s hope they’re prepared for the Polar Vortex. And please, no more bitching about the damn Hyundai!
What do we think? Has Kristina got it right? Is there anything you think she might have missed? Let us know in the comments below.
KRISTINA MEEK is a writer and social media marketer with a penchant for pop/geek culture. She blogs about television pilots new and old a lot, and you can read more of her work at www.anatomyofapilot.com