Did ‘Walking Dead’ Just Change Everything?

Why a new character is kind of a big deal

Two years ago, the showrunner of “The Walking Dead” said the show’s writers didn’t know what caused the zombie apocalypse — and didn’t much care. But now there’s a new showrunner, and Sunday’s episode suggests he may have another approach.

A new character named Eugene Porter (played by Josh McDermitt) suggests that he knows what created zombies, and how to stop them. That could create an ultimate goal for the show, or even point toward an endgame. It could be a major shift for TV’s top-rated drama, which has often felt aimless this season.

Also read: Review: ‘Walking Dead’ Comes Back Strong, Thanks to Robert Kirkman

Or it could all be a big fake.

Glen Mazzara, who led the show for its second and third season, told TheWrap in January 2012 that it didn’t really matter, to him, what created walkers. “Internally, we don’t know where the zombie outbreak started, how to cure it, anything like that,” he said. “We haven’t really discussed it. We’re more interested in the continuing storylines.”

Also read: ‘Walking Dead’ Is in ‘Lost’ Mode

But Sunday’s episode, the 11th in the show’s fourth season, gave us the first real introduction to Porter, a mulleted fellow who claims to be a scientist who has been in touch with other scientists about how to bring the end of the world to an end.

Is new showrunner Scott Gimple planning to solve the mystery of what created walkers?

Also read: ‘Walking Dead’ Writers: We Don’t Know What Created Walkers

Not necessarily. As the Newark Star-Ledger’s recap suggested, Porter’s haircut alone raises questions about his credibility. (Kind-of spoiler warning: Fans of the comics know how the Porter storyline resolves — not that the show will stick to the comics’ approach.)

I’d love it if Eugene truly has the cure to zombie-ism. As I wrote at the midpoint in the season, “The Walking Dead” is starting to resemble “Lost” in the way it keeps splitting up and reuniting its characters, to no apparent end.

The second half of the season has been better as its focused more on character. But a common sense of mission might make us more invested in the show.