AMC may have begun “The Walking Dead” on Ocotber 31, 2010 but without all the trappings of modern technology, the universe created by Robert Kirkman felt untethered by time. WHEN the zombie outbreak began was less important just than surviving to see another day. Cell phones and tablets were just really fancy paperweights. Without the endless cycle of technological upgrades to date the series, “The Walking Dead” existed in an ether where it could be any year.

Read Alan's review of the premiere here

Now with the addition of “Fear the Walking Dead,” that ambiguousness comes to an end. The zombie outbreak that destroyed the world began sometime in the winter of 2012.

Let’s examine the evidence.

Since “Fear the Walking Dead” is set before zombie outbreak, there is plenty of technological evidence pointing to what year the characters are living in. As this is Hollywood, literally everyone — from the public school teachers to the teenagers to the drug dealer — are using iPhones. Like the rings on a tree, the model of the iPhone tells us what year we’re in. When Curtis calls his son Chris, audiences get a good look at the bottom of the phone. The wide docking port and squared off shape tell us this is an iPhone 4 or 4s.

Image Credit: AMC

An iPhone 4 would make the most sense since it came out in 2010 — the same year “The Walking Dead” premiered. However, there is are two hiccups to that theory.

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One is Alicia’s iPhone. The mute button placement aligns with the top of the screen, a minute change added to the iPhone 4s. The first Apple phone to be equipped with Siri, the 4s was released on October 25, 2011.

Image Credit: AMC

Yet this could be merely a trick of angles, since Alicia and all other characters have phone cases that cover the telltale black line situated above the mute button on the 4s. But the mystery is solved later on in the pilot when the teachers gather around an iPad to watch the leaked zombie footage.

Image Credit: AMC

You have to lighten up the contrast to see it, but there are clearly two holes cut into the case of the iPad, making it a second generation tablet. The original iPad was released in 2010 but had no built-in camera and the cases reflected this. It was only when the iPad 2 was released on March 25, 2011 that the covers were reconfigured so users could take photos and video without removing their device from the protective casing.

So why do I say the zombie outbreak occurred in the Winter of 2012 instead of the Fall of 2011? Background cues. At the school, students are wearing hoodies and light sweaters but there is no indication of an upcoming holiday in any of the classrooms or hallways. No pumpkins, no Christmas lights, no Valentine’s Day dance fliers. This indicates we’re in the celebratory “dead zone” of late February/early March, when it’s still cold outside but no major holidays are in sight. This theory is solidified by the handful of bare deciduous trees peppering the park.

Image Credit: AMC

Winter of 2012 also aligns nicely with the seasons as they unfold on “The Walking Dead.” One of Madison’s students mentions the outbreaks have occurred in five states by the opening of “Fear the Walking Dead.” Most people still seem unaware that any of the illnesses are related, much less cognizant the dead are reanimating (with hints the government is keeping the public in the dark on purpose to keep panic at bay). 

Whatever the cause, the zombies seemed to be spreading erratically but with increasing speed, making it completely feasible for Los Angeles to be infected in the winter and Rick to awaken post-coma in the Georgian spring (based on vegetation), to a completely devastated world tipped over the edge by a zombie event horizon. Let’s say it’s late February in “Fear” and Rick awakens in late May. That’s three months from fully functional society to dystopian wasteland.

Using this timeline that would set the cast of the original show somewhere in the tail end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

But what about the comically low gas prices? You’re guess is as good as mine, since history shows gas in Los Angeles never hit $2.35 a gallon at any point between 2010 and 2012.

Image Credit: AMC

However, gas did take a nosedive that low in early 2014, so it may just have been the actual price of gas when they were filming the pilot.

Also, check out why we think the female lead is headed towards the dark side in the video below:

Mom. Wife. Geek. Gamer. Feminist. Writer. Sarcastic. Succinct. Donna has been writing snark for the Internet in one form or another for almost a decade. She has a lot of opinions, mostly on science-fiction, fantasy, feminism, and Sailor Moon. Follow her on Twitter (@MildlyAmused) for more of all these things.