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'The Walking Dead' Fact Check: Just How Realistic Is This Zombie Apocalypse?

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Mar 23, 2013 | 2:59pm EDT

The Walking Dead Fact Check Realism

The Walking Dead does a pretty good job of convincing us that if a zombie apocalypse were to befall humanity, this is what it would look like. But there are a few elements that bring those of us who are just a little too detail oriented out of the drama and into our own heads. Questions like, "Why doesn't it ever rain?" and "Where are all the cats?" plague us (okay, maybe the cats thing only plagues some of us), so we took it upon ourselves to fact check some of these complaints. Just how realistic is The Walking Dead?

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1. Why Doesn't It Ever Rain on The Walking Dead? It rained once on the AMC series, in Atlanta when Rick and Glenn were wearing white lab coats covered in zombie guts in an attempt to blend in. Since then, it's been literal clear skies for the crew, but why? 

Does It Even Rain That Much In Georgia? Yes. The Atlanta area gets an average of 3-5 inches of rain a month, and that includes the sweltering summer months during which the majority of The Walking Dead takes place. So while it's not exactly Seattle, a storm here or there wouldn't be uncommon... unless the zombie apocalypse has also brought on a drought. But in that case, wouldn't our characters be consistently thirsty and withering away from the lack of water? (There sure as hell isn't running water in that prison.)

Well, they probably just wouldn't go out if it's raining, right? Sure, but how often do those of us with the power of smartphones with hour-to-hour weather widgets get caught in the rain? All the time. If this was real Georgia, Rick and co. would have run into rain on the road at least once or twice (but at least they don't have the "but I just bought these new suede shoes!" problem). 

So why no rain? The most likely reason: production costs. It's pretty difficult to shoot a scene in rain that's not being produced by some form of TV magic (really heavy duty sprinklers), but that is a pretty expensive trick for something that isn't a part of the plot. We want realism, but it's probably not worth bankrupting the show for a little rainstorm.

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2. Why Aren't There Any Cats or Dogs? Surely Owners Would Rescue Their Pets, Right? The animals on this show are few and far between. Other than the occasional rat in a cage on a skateboard or the bird Daryl killed in the season premiere, actual animals are rare on this show, especially considering what wilderness the characters live in. 

Where are all the trusty, super helpful dogs? Well, dogs share a bit of the same problem as babies: They are noisy alarms just begging for swarms of zombies at any moment. Intruder? Barking. Friend and visitor? Barking. Weird phantom ghost presence unbeknownst to any one else? Barking. Dogs may as well be ringing the dinner bell, and in most cases they and their owners are probably the main course. 

What About Cats? There really should be more cats. They're quiet and stealthy. Have you ever tried to catch a running cat? It's almost impossible. And when they are tested some cats prove to be more resilient than rats, just take the kitten who survived for 26 days without food or water in a shipping crate. There's probably not a lot for them to eat, but there'd likely be a handful of super-cats running around out there. Plus, I'm pretty sure even a zombie would be freaked out by that hissing thing they do. 

There should be rats EVERYWHERE. Rats actually survived while living in a nuclear testing site in the South Pacific. They can be flushed down a toilet and come out feeling A-OK. They can bite through metal, scale buildings, jump two (and sometimes three) feet in the air, squish their skeletons down to the size of a quarter in small spaces, and go 14 days without food. When it is time to eat, they will eat anything — including leather, seeds, insects, fur, and each other. The only animal that can last longer without water than a rat is a camel. Where the hell are all the rats on The Walking Dead? They should be outsurviving the survivors.

Again, this is probably as issue of production costs: why throw an animal into a scene if it's not part of the story?

3. How Does the Governor Still Have Whiskey? He's the only one with a whiskey supply and he's constantly drinking it. Does he have an old timey distillery behind all those zombie heads in jars?

Seriously, the guy lost his eyeball and his zombie daughter the same day. If any other normal human had their eyeball ripped from their face, that whiskey would have been gone in a weekend. But then again, a villain is a lot more sinister when he's also hoarding all the booze. 

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4. How Do the Survivors Always Have Enough Gas to Drive Around? Rick's crew and the Governor's rambunctious set are always driving around in huge trucks and gaz-guzzling old sedans. Where are they getting all this fuel?

Abandoned gas stations? Not likely.  While there are 5,110 gas stations in Georgia, I was unable to find any evidence of gas stations still using the old timey style of gas pump. Most modern gas pumps cannot be operated by hand when the electricity goes out. After all, if that were true, desperate people would be cutting the power and stealing gas all over the country. (Four dollars a gallon?! Hell no.) And even if they were able to crack their way into the tank underneath a gas station, that would be such an undertaking, it would merit a plot-point. They're not looting old gas stations.

More likely: siphoning gas from abandoned cars. This is more likely how they operate; after all, we've seen them do this before on the series. But their usage seems far beyond what the spoils of a few lucky abandoned car looting sessions could fuel. (Except for Daryl, whose motorcycle likely gets around 60 mpg.) If they're smart, they seek out abandoned cars on foot as often as possible, so as not to waste gas. But they aren't the only ones seeking fuel, many cars are probably abandoned because they have no gas, the survivors could likely only carry a gallon or two each (thar be zombies about), and at this point in time, they've likely used up all their walking distance car-fountains. Bottom line: they can find gas, but it is a very, very precious commodity.

But how much ground do they really cover? For this, we have to approximate because Rick's hometown in King County is not a real place and the prison used for shooting episodes is located fairly close to the actual Georgia town of Woodbury, so those are the markers we'll be using. Because these cars are probably going without regular oil changes and checkups, we can assume their gas mileage is pretty low, and since most of them are big, older trucks, we're looking at about 20 or so mpg. Atlanta to the Woodbury area is about 45 miles, which comes out to about 2.5 gallons of gas. Woodbury to Zebulon, the town in which Rick's prison is located, is about 19 miles, which comes out to about one gallon there and one gallon back. Add in all those trips to neighboring towns for supplies, and in rural counties like Woodbury's Meriweather County 20 miles between towns is common, and we're looking at two gallons of gas every time they leave home base. 

Bottom line: They are either very lucky in their searches for gasoline, the prison has a secret stash we don't know about, or this aspect of the show is wildly unrealistic. 

5. When Zombies Eat, Where Does All That Man Meat Go? Do they just vomit? Or do they just fill their rotting bodies until they burst? Why hasn't this question ever been addressed? We've watched zombies go to town on horses and fallen survivors, but there are never any consequences. What gives?

Fact: zombies are slowly rotting away, so how can they possibly eat without something rupturing? If you are rotting, your stomach, esophagus, intestines, and other organs are slowly wasting away. If you stretch them, they're going to burst, and that's assuming the zombie's body is still funtioning well enough to send it there. So by that logic, zombies should be rupturing at their sides constantly or just letting the blood and guts come right back out of their mouths. Whatever the truth, things would be a lot messier. (Yes, I am actually condoning more disgusting zombies on this show.)

6. Why Is Andrea's Hair So Perfect? Seriously, it's always perfectly touselled and shiny. Where are the zombie guts and dirt particles?

She lives in Woodbury now, maybe those hot showers also come with fancy water filters. But there's definitely some product and possibly a curling iron involved in that 'do. Maybe the Governor also stocked up on hair products? And we haven't seen the curling iron, but they do have that whole solar power thing going on.

Still, girl, why are you wasting time curling your hair? There's this little thing called Your Boyfriend Wants to Kill Everyone.

What unrealistic bits bother you on The Walking Dead? Leave 'em in the comments.

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

[Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC]


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