We finally know what caused the outbreak!
Just kidding! I know that was a little mean, but I had to get your attention somehow. To be completely honest, we will likely never find out what made the world take a nose dive into zombie land. Showrunner Dave Erickson explains:
"I had a couple of early pitches that touched on that and Robert [Kirkman] shut me down. For him, it's never been about what caused it; it's always been about the impact it has on people."
While this particular piece of news is a bit of a bummer, it might be for the best. However, that being said, we do have the next best thing! Our friends over at HitFix were kind enough to consolidate some pretty convincing evidence that might possibly reveal when the walker apocalypse originally started!
The following evidence originates from the record-breaking Fear the Walking Dead premiere episode. While iPads and iPhones are a thing of the past for our friends in The Walking Dead, their LA counterparts seem to still be enjoying the luxury of technology in blissful ignorance of the chaos to come. In fact, these seemingly mundane electronics might be the key to revealing the start date of the outbreak!
Let's start by taking a closer look at Curtis's son, Chris, and his iPhone.
For those of you too technologically updated to remember, iPhones used to have much larger, much more square charging ports just like the one seen above. The 30-pin connection is a dead giveaway that this phone is likely either a 4 or a 4S. The iPhone 4 originally came out in 2010, which perfectly coincides with The Walking Dead's Halloween premiere date of October 31, 2010.
Pretty cool, huh? Sadly, HitFix found a bit of a problem with this theory.
The mute button on Alicia's phone seemingly aligns with the top of the phone, indicating that it could be the 4S that came out on October 25, 2011.
Additionally, the iPad the teachers used to watch the bridge zombie shooting also confirms that the apocalypse probably started after 2010. The original 2010 iPad did not feature a built-in camera. However, if you look closely, the case used in Fear clearly has two holes that accommodate the camera and the home button, making the tablet a 2011 iPad 2.
Finally, using the hoodies and sweaters the characters in Fear were huddled up in as final evidence, HitFix concludes that the outbreak likely occurred in the Winter of 2012. However, judging by a simple statement made by a student at the high school, I have an alternative theory to offer.
Tobias, clearly shaken up by rumors he's heard, brings a knife to school as protection. Guidance counselor Madison Clark brings him into her office and understandably asks who was bothering. In a moment that can only be described as chilling, Tobias nervously responds:
"We're safer in numbers. No one's doing anything they think they are. They say it's all connected. Reports in 5 states. They don't know if it's a virus or a microbe. They don't know, but it's spreading! People are killing!"
So here's my simple theory. Georgia is on the east coast while California is on the west coast, correct? From what Tobias described, internet rumors of killings and potential viruses are originating from states that have already been affected by the mystery diseases. Since LA has yet to be hit, the affected states must be located to the east of California, and the formal authorities are keeping the general public in the dark about the true nature of the outbreak, since Madison Clark is clearly unaware of the dark truth behind Tobias's panic.
Judging from the information Tobias has gleaned from the internet and Madison's obvious naiveté, I believe the outbreak could have started somewhere on the east coast and worked its way over to the west and ultimately to Los Angeles. The attempts of the authorities to keep the disease at bay could have slowed down the spread (maybe by a couple of years), but even then, it eventually makes its way to California. If this is the case, it is plausible for the outbreak to have started in Georgia in 2010 (coinciding with the TWD premiere) while California didn't get affected until a couple of years later.
Alas, as mentioned before, Kirkman seems to like ambiguity and maintaining juicy details as cryptic as possible, so we might never receive official word on the start date of the outbreak. One can dream though, right?