AMC’s hour-long drama, The Walking Dead can be seen Sunday nights at 9 o’clock. Based on a comic book by the same name by Robert Kirkman, The Dead is centered around a band of survivors of a zombie apocalypse as they try to make their way through zombie infested western Georgia to something that resembles a safe haven. I think the Walking Dead is an amazing show which is funny considering I have yet to read any of the source material because I abhor zombie comics. [i]
Like most zombie movies or shows in the genre the Dead is more about the actions of the people who are still alive rather than the droves of undead scum who want to eat them. Like many works where the back-drop is an unspeakably horrible disaster, the Walking Dead is a study in sociology of how good, bad, and meh people become when life takes a hard and abrupt left. Who the characters are at their core is usually amplified for the betterment or detriment of those around them. Some actions are surprises and some aren’t. Seemingly good men do bad things and vice versa. Murder, selfishness, kindness, empathy, and lust all come out to play.
Just like other stories, interpersonal conflicts drive the show. The one relationship that stands out to me is that of the series’ protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his “friend” Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). Via flashback we find out that prior to the great state of Georgia being overrun by zombies, Rick and Shane were sheriff deputies in a rural county. After being shot in the line of duty Rick is in a coma while Shane, Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are left wondering if officer Ricky will pull through. Before any of this can happen zombies start tearing through the Georgia country side like William Sherman or Ben Roethlisberger after a dubious bathroom break. [ii]
Shane goes to check on Rick at the Hazard County Hospital before him, Lori, and Carl make a run for safety in Atlanta. Shane finds Rick alone in the hospital still in a coma. In the first of many cowardly acts Shane leaves Rick in a locked room in a hospital right before a horde of brain munchers inundates the place. [iii] In his second act of cowardice, Shane tells Lori that Rick was dead. He then quietly takes Rick’s place as the head of the Grimes household as they begin a trek to safety. He soon becomes the father figure, protector, provider, and metes out orgasms to Lori when little Carl isn’t around. [iv]
Rick awakens to a world gone to pure d hell. Quickly wrapping his mind around what’s happening and the fact that there are actually zombies, Rick wanders around his hometown until he encounters a survivor and his son who give Rick the rundown. The consummate family man, Rick then prepares to find Lori and Carl by swinging by the Hazard County Sheriff’s department to get guns and a fresh uniform. We next see Rick wearing a large-brimmed Stetson, a sheriff’s uniform, and carrying a Colt-Python. [v]
Through the magic of storytelling and the suspension of disbelief Rick catches up with Shane, Lori, Carl, and a group of other survivors after having a bad time on the streets of Atlanta. Lori and Carl are genuinely happy while
Jody Shane feigns happiness while contemplating that there will be A) No more licking on Lori and B) Rick has usurped his position as the lead dog in the pack. After a few more zombie attacks another survivor Dale (Jeffrey Demunn) catches Shane training his rifle on an unsuspecting Rick, thusly upping Shane’s cowardly act total.
After making it to a farm owned by a doctor named Herschel (Scott Wilson) in Western Georgia more conflicts arise. Shane does not care to take orders from Rick (Or anyone else) anymore, Sophia (Madison Lintz) a little girl among the survivors goes missing, and Lori reveals that she’s preggers and tells Rick that she was smanging Shane. [vi] As time passes the inability to find Sophia, restlessness, and an increasingly agitated and tactless Shane, who publically questions Rick’s leadership causes constant strife.
The final point of contention arises when the scrappy band of survivors find out that Herschel and his family have a barn full of zombies whom Herschel refuses to believe are only sick and not dead. Finally, Shane blows a gasket because he STILL thinks Rick is a punk. Things get worse when Shane opens the barn to the horror of Herschel and others. The walkers all stagger out of the barn like y’all do after staying in the club too long. (The only difference is the walkers wanted to dine on flesh but y’all go to the Waffle House.) This prompts the armed survivors to unleash a volley of fire turning Herschel’s barn into a zombie turkey shoot.[vii]
After the gun fire stops the survivors all try to let the adrenaline settle down but the audience and the survivors hear more groaning and see a pair so shuffling legs coming out of the barn. To their dismay it’s the source of many of their conflicts; Sophia. As her mother Carol processes the notion of her daughter being an undead monster and freaks out the rest of the crew are stuck somewhere between disgust and dumbfounded. As Sophia approaches, doing that nasty zombie hissing thing, Shane with all of his prior bombast and bloviating muted, just stands inert-whimpering. It is Rick Grimes, who according to Shane is unfit to lead steps up to kill Sophia… again. The onlookers and audience are then reminded why Rick Grimes wears the big hat and carries the big gun while Shane Walsh, wannabe alpha male, just takes orders.[viii]
I think the Walking Dead is one of the better fictional displays of the battle of Alpha males. It’s much better than Jack vs. Sawyer from Lost or Cyclops vs. Wolverine because at the end of the day Wolverine and Sawyer took orders whether liked them or not and were good soldiers. Shane Walsh on the other hand is an excellent example of how not ready for primetime; attitudinal types can screw up the team dynamic because they felt like they should be the man or woman.
Are you the Alpha male or female in your circle? At work? I’m not. I don’t want to be. I’m happy to be Wolverine to someone else’s Cyclops. I’ll lead when needed but I’m all about the squad. Have you ever been a part of a work or school project or a team that was ruined by someone who didn’t know their role and questioned leadership? Tell it.
Vaya con Dios.
[i] I hate zombie comics the same way I hate anime.
[ii] Doesn’t he look like someone who will burn your sh*t down? Down to the ground… down to the ground. #goon
[iii] Please keep note of Shane’s many acts of cowardice? It goes to character. Wu
[iv] Zombies or not I guess Lori didn’t want to answer the question “Mommy, why did you keep telling Uncle Shane to “Hit harder.” last night?” That sh*t would be mad awkward.
[v] Please remember the big hat and the big gun also.
[vi] Lori: “I thought you were dead…” Rick: “I’m headed home/almost there/I’m headed home/I’m almost up the stairs”
[vii] I always wanted to use the phrase “Turkey shoot” in a blog. I also wanted to use anther endnote.
[viii] As we all know this doesn’t end Shane’s ideas of his ability to be the man.