Do zombies have intelligence?
After watching a lot of zombie movies and television shows, I think zombies do show intelligence in the most rudimentary sense. The classic case is of course from Romero’s trilogy of zombie movies, where we see zombies going back to a mall, using weapons, or otherwise doing habitual things. The Walking Dead television show on AMC also has examples of this. Can you think of any?
Episode one has the most obvious examples of intelligence, such as when the little girl picks up the teddy bear or the woman trying turning a door knob to get home. Zombies seem to have as much intelligence as common animals, who also do iterative, habitual things. Even dogs can be taught simple tasks.
Collections of zombies walk in herds and I can’t seem to explain this. Why do they congregate together? It might be a pack mentality, despite having their brain impaired in many ways. It is clear that Romero’s zombies are of the evolving breed. The zombies found in the Night of the Living Dead are much different from those in Land of the Dead. Clearly, Romero wanted zombies to try to emulate their former lives by imitating their former habits. There were even cases of zombies using tools or weapons they’d pick up from the ground. They would only do this if they had some preconceived notion about what a tool or weapon was, which may even put zombies above dogs on the chain of intelligence.
In episode two, zombies are shown sitting in a burned-out bus, though it is clear that they did not die there. This is more evidence of habit like that seen in Dawn of the Dead. Later in the episode, a zombie with a rock tries to bash its way into a department store.
If someone gets bit, dies and comes back from the dead, they are a zombie. Zombies are bad. They eat and crave warm, human flesh. They spread their zombie plaque around to create pals for themselves. It is kinda impossible to imagine we wouldn’t be able to contain this sort of slow-moving apocalypse, but I guess if every single dead person came back to life, we’d really have a problem.
I’m not sure Romero or Robert Kirkman have an idea of what caused zombies to reanimate. Clearly, it is not viral or fungal, as explained in The Walking Dead. I suppose it could be an evolution of a genetic weapon. As described in episode one of the Walking Dead, fever and death are brought on by a zombie bite, which carries deadly bacteria due to zombie decomposition.
I don’t think we will ever know for sure what caused zombies, but it could be hinted at in the rest of season 4. As found out by Rick and the group, whatever causes zombies is already inside the characters of the Walking Dead. Clearly this was put there, or evolved somehow inside us, otherwise the apocalypse would have happened much earlier.
A zombie seems to have about equal intelligence amongst its peers, which is strange. They are certainly smarter than dogs. No matter how it is raised from the dead, a zombie has the same cravings and the same obsessions with walking around aimlessly. This is strange. It has no compulsion to do much else but feed and wander around, attracted and drawn to noises, smells, and people who are alive. All zombies do it and I’ve never seen a zombie who didn’t. Even Romero’s evolving zombies still wanted to eat us in the end, despite gaining more ability with tools, as in the Land of the Dead.
Knowing that zombies are all the same is important because then it becomes safe to assume that the cause is the same for everyone. Something in the genes of the people in The Walking Dead has changed and pre-disposed them to become zombies no matter how they die. What caused this is a mystery.
Can zombies be trained?
Clearly, Michonne has a handle on carting around zombies on a leash, but I don’t think they can be trained like dogs. The zombie obsession with feeding on us blocks any capability to be something more than just a hulking monster. Although zombies seem to have skills, as in using weapons, this is not a form of training. It is self-adaptation or the kind of instinctive learning a dog goes through.
But it might be interesting to learn if a zombie can actually be trained based on reward, much like the scientist was doing in Day of the Dead. When promised a reward and knowing it is capable of nothing else, the zombie might be trainable. The extent of this training is not known, but it couldn’t be much more than moving around, picking up objects, or delivering them. This could be a new field and of more interest to the retail industry.
Seriously though, I think it is more interesting to think a zombie has intelligence. This is because intelligence, or self-awareness, makes zombies more intense and threatening. If they all are the same, methodical beasts, their threat becomes ordinary and only really threatening under certain circumstances, like if they were in a pack. This is why some parts of season 4 of The Walking Dead are as boring as all get out, because the prison has basically illustrated the greatest weakness of the zombie backdrop they are using: zombies have become so commonplace on the show that nothing short of a mental evolution can make them real, horror-filled threats individually.