In the first season Shane says that Rick died and had no heart beat. That in itself would qualify him as "dead."

So how is it that Rick has not turned into a walker, while

Shane and Randall both died of non-bite- or scratch-related deaths and both turned to Walkers.

I thought it could have been that it wasn't airborne yet, but Jenner told Rick about it in the first season. Jenner also mentioned he was put down there in the beginning of the outbreak, so if he knows it’s airborne, then it must have been since the beginning.

So is Rick immune or the key to a cure, or am I overthinking it?

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    Having no heartbeat doesn't, in and of itself, qualify him as dead.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 4:54
  • Oh my god, Rick is immune to the virus and already 'turned' alive.
    – Secret
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 17:07
  • 3
    Shane was probably lying, never expecting to see Rick again. Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 18:59
  • 1
    I always thought that Shane just couldn't feel Rick's heartbeat. That doesn't mean that Rick actually had no heartbeat, it just means that Shane couldn't find one in his rushed and panicked state.
    – ZenLogic
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 1:03

5 Answers 5


If I remember correctly, test subject 19 (Jenner's wife) turned only after being brain dead. It seems likely that brain death is the defining criterion for death, not the stopping of the heart.

So, following this definition, Rick was never dead to begin with.

  • Hm, I just saw that @Jeff posted the gist of my answer as a comment on the question six hours ago. - I'll let mine stand, though, as it adds a little info. Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 11:29
  • A lot of people have died with various ways and turned. Also, if your hearts stops and doesn't start to beat again, won't your brain die also? Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 11:30
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    @Shevliaskovic Yes, the brain would die of the lack of oxygen that results from not getting any fresh blood to the brain, wouldn't it? But a stopped heart will only lead to death but isn't death itself. - German organ transplantation law, for example, requires a donor to be dead, defined as "finally and irreversibly ceased function of cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem" (translation by me). Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 11:40
  • Anyway, look at Lori for example: She died in childbirth and turned Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 11:56
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    Brain death is when the brain dies. It usually happens shortly after the heart stops as the oxygen supply is cut off. If you die from other causes you still experience "brain death".
    – Tim B
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 14:29

I wouldn't count Shane as a reliable source considering he was in love with Rick's wife. He had motive to lie; to save face and to "justify" his sleeping with his friend's wife.

Shane was probably lying, never expecting to see Rick again since he was leaving town with Lori and the others.

  • 4
    It's also possible that Shane was just mistaken. Taking a heartbeat is something that takes a decent amount of skill, and Shane wasn't exactly in the most calm frame of mind or possessing of the best training in first aid. A weak or thready pulse could have easily been missed.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 4:54
  • 1
    @Jeff - Technically as a police officer he should've known/been able to check Rick's heartbeat properly. This what always pisses me off when it comes to shows starring or containing police. All police are trained in basic first aid, which includes checking heartbeats - 1-2 fingers along the carotid artery (the one in the neck) is the proper way.
    – Robotnik
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 5:09
  • @Robotnik: Sure, they're trained. But training has to be kept up. If you don't use it, you lose it. In a stressful situation, training can be forgotten. This is especially true when the training has been unused for a while...and Shane didn't exactly do a stellar job when Rick got shot, now did he?
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 6:02
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    @Robotnik: The (fictional) sheriff's department of King County, Georgia may not be as strict about first aid certificates. Or maybe Shane barely passed his first aid recertification and then forgot most of it; and given that the dead had risen, society was breaking down and he'd just seen soldiers murdering unarmed civilians, we can forgive him for freaking out a little. Or maybe he failed his first aid course and persuaded his good buddy Rick not to fire him for it. Whatever the explanation, I'd say Shane being rubbish at first aid is both plausible and dramatically justified. Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 9:51
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit - Still, I don't know if there's a level of being scared/crap at first aid you have to be at to use your ear instead of your fingers
    – Robotnik
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:03

Well no one can answer with certainty, as this has never been explained neither on the TV show nor the comic.

The only logical explanation is that Shane lied to Lori and Carl OR Rick's heart actually stopped for a while, but the doctors where able to save him.

Also, on the comic book, it is mentioned that every person takes different time to 'turn' since he is killed (not bitten). So, Rick might have died for a few seconds/minutes, but he was stronger than other people and didn't turn immediately and the doctors brought him back to life, wired him up and then left/died.

Lastly, Rick has mentioned quite a lot, that everyone is infected. We haven't seen anyone who has died (whichever way) and not turn. As far as we know, no one is immune.

  • 1
    Also, a stopped heart doesn't imply death.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 13:08

There is a difference between being dead and having no heartbeat. As can be seen in this scene, Shane only stayed for a short time where Rick had no heartbeat:

Instead of Ricks heart really stop beating, it could be that the machine was broken and Shane was too nervous to feel the heartbeat or that he had an absent pulse for some time, see this article. So, it could've been an absent pulse for like a few seconds due to the shock of the bombs and then the heart simply restarted.


Here is my opinion. . Rick was shot and Hospitalized before the outbreak.. I believe that the cure actually was within all patients that were in the Hospitals that were on Oxygen. Being on Oxygen at the time of the release of the Virus into the atmosphere. Those patients did not absorb it so there for their blood was not infected. When the dead started killing and things went into a panic. Patients were either killed by walkers or by people or the military from the outright panic of what was happening. Being Rick is the lone survivor of the Hospital and he was on oxygen while being a patient. And that Carl was given a blood transfusion and It was Ricks blood. Both Rick and Carl are immune to the Virus. If this is ever discovered by a Doctor examining blood samples with a Microscope.He may discover the difference between infected Red Blood Cells and Red Blood Cells that are not infected by the virus. Pure Oxygenated Red Blood Cells not infected could or would look as if they have a Outer Halo around them as of a protected shield. This could probably be discovered by the Doctor using a colored glass slide in order to cause the Halo to stand out and be noticed. With questions from the Doctor to Rick about what happened differently in his life at the time of the outbreak maybe a key to figure out the cure. The only way Carl or Rick can be infected is just by being bitten. If they were shot or stabbed and died. They would not change over and become one of the Walking Dead.

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