The basic premise is simple: what happens to a select, if changeable, group of individuals in the aftermath of a 'zombie apocalypse' that has led to the total collapse of modern society, economy, and political structure in the United States (and presumably the rest of the world), accompanied apparently by a not-fully explained fall (over 95%?) of the population. Although the first season dealt mostly with the issue of how to survive against attacks by the zombies themselves, in the later seasons the zombies increasingly became part of the 'background' of this new world, as one more challenge to daily survival, added to the more mundane ones of finding food, shelter, fuel, weapons, and the like. The actual danger (and source of dramatic tension) shifted in the later seasons from the zombies to the several groups of individuals, or communities, the main protagonists encounter in their wanderings from their original area around Atlanta, Georgia, to their later settlement in Alexandria, Virginia. While the background of the zombie apocalypse remains integral to plot structure and character development, it has become secondary to the clashes between the different groups of survivors.
I argue here that the whole premise and basic plot of The Walking Dead can be summarised thus: a Gamma group (the main protagonists) successively meets groups that are either Delta or Beta. Encounters with the Delta groups are peaceful, resulting in either cooperation or in the Delta group being taken over or absorbed by the Gamma group. Encounters with the Beta groups are mostly hostile, resulting in violent conflict, although in a few cases some sort of precarious accommodation is possible. Once one of the above encounters with a Delta or Beta group is settled, the plot moves on to the the encounter with the next Beta or Delta group.
And - - that's it. That's essentially what the whole show is about. I believe this reflects the natural point of view of the series's creator, Robert Kirkman, a likely Gamma himself.
In making this case, I will not suggest socionics types for every single individual character. When I type a group of people as Gamma or Delta, I do not mean that every single individual member is of a type of that quadra, but that the group as a whole is. Generally speaking, though, the leader of each group is usually of a type of that quadra (but, again, not without exception).
So here is my quadra analysis of each of those groups in their order of appearance:
Rick's group (for lack of a better name): Gamma quadra. Led by the series's protagonist, Rick Grimes, an ESI in my view, this group is characterised by the following traits.
- intense sense of personal loyalty between the members, which is based on bonds of personal mutual trust rather than any sense of common identity or structure, united by trust and the goal of survival (R and F), providing most of the 'soap-opera' side of the series
- leadership is (mostly) exercised by Rick by common consent, as a person they naturally accept as the leader due to his personal qualities (R), even when he is in 'Ricktatorship' mode
- extreme suspicion towards outsiders, making a clear distinction between who is 'theirs' and who is not, especially in life-or-death matters (R blocked with F)
- however, once an outsider is accepted into the group (even if reluctantly), the former outsider becomes as solid a member as the others and equally suspicious of 'new' strangers (again R and F)
- no real sense of social hierarchy within the group (R)
- the criteria used to decide whether an outsider should be accepted are based on utilitarianism (i.e. do they have what it takes) and on whether they can be trusted. However, exceptions are made for people for whom the group feels some concern for, even if thought to be useless at first (e.g. Eugene and Gabriel) (P but with R overruling it)
- - instinct of immediate scepticism when situations or locations become too easy or comfortable - 'this is too good to last' or 'there is a catch' mindset: rather than enjoy it, their reaction is to assume that something is off (devalued S and hint of T).
The Farm: Delta quadra: led by Herschel Greene (perhaps a SLI). To keep it short, I will say that it shares most of the R traits above, but with a more generous and welcoming attitude to strangers, that is Rick's group, and even to the zombies, which they were extremely reluctant to acknowledge as no longer human: that is R blocked with I rather than F. Also much more focused on the daily practical matters of running their farm and preserving a normal, comfortable life as much as they could, rather than focus on its inevitable destruction. P blocked with S rather than T, and subdued F.
Woodbury: Beta quadra: led by "the Governor" (EIE). Essentially a few walled-off city blocks, trying to re-create for its inhabitants what normal life was like before the zombie apocalypse. Chief traits are:
- - rigid hierarchical structure, with the Governor at the top, aided by an inner circle of armed sidekicks and technical specialists, exercising rigid control over the 'civilians' e.g. when to allow them to go outside the walls etc. (F blocked with L)
- - approach to strangers is: either submit and join them, or be killed, even engaging on small-scale 'wars' to that end (F with L)
- - however, there is considerable focus on the need to keep said civilians feeling happy, safe, and confident in the Governor's leadership, also by keeping them in the dark about a lot of what goes on - focus on E, preserving the image of normality
- - also, an understanding that in order to sustain the above E image, things do need to work at a practical level, such as electricity, water, food, etc. Awareness of P
- - but in the end, the bottom line for that community was the preservation of the power of the Governor, even with the use of savage force (F).
Terminus: Beta quadra: led by Gareth (IEI or EIE) a community that functions in a far more passive manner than Woodbury, consisting of a small number of people (maybe a few dozens) who survive by luring to their site any wandering strangers, via several posted signs promising shelter, and then slaughtering and eating them (that is, they are cannibals). The Terminus community has these interesting traits:
- leadership far more based on a shared sense of purpose, mission, past, and even 'sin', than on the leader's charisma or brutal force (T stronger than F or E)
- that shared sense of purpose is sustained by the existence of a large room containing memorabilia of their dead, for emotional reassurance, in a quasi-religious way (T blocked with E)
- rather than immediately confront any unsuspecting newcomer directly, with force, their tactic is to lure them with an initial atmosphere of deceptive, warm friendliness (E stronger than F)
- apparently barely functional at a practical level, and unlike all other groups, resorted to cannibalism due to a complete inability to survive otherwise, by scavenging and the like (very poor P)
Although both Woodbury and Terminus are Beta, Woodbury had more of an EIE focus and Terminus, IEI
Grady Memorial Hospital: Beta quadra: led by Dawn (LSI), a police officer, this community is formed essentially of members of the Atlanta police force, medical staff, patients, and former patients now forced to pay back their treatment with indentured labour. It has given itself the purpose and mission (T) of providing hospital care to whomever may need it, but at the cost of maintaining an authoritarian, rigid set of rules devised by Dawn and ultimately enforced at gunpoint (L blocked with F). The focus on maintaining things running properly (P) is far greater than any feel-good or motivational concern (E). Although acting as yet another Beta antagonist of Rick's Gamma group, this community is portrayed as more humane and reasonable, and more open to negotiation, than the previous two Beta communities.
Alexandria Safe-Zone: Delta quadra when first introduced, led by Deanna Monroe (maybe LSE), this community is initially shown as living in a sort of 'bubble', the one that has managed to preserve the greatest resemblance to life before the zombie apocalypse. Centred on a neighbourhood that had been built with 'sustainable lifestyle' facilities such as solar panels and water treatment, their chief traits were:
- focus on the practical, technical features of their community that maintain their lifestyle - besides the above mentioned, also the careful construction of a properly engineered wall around the site (P)
- cautious opening to strangers to their community, with active 'recruitment' activities (R with focus on I rather than F)
- Deanna is leader due to common consent and trust rather than through imposition of force (again R but with little F)
- their approach to the future is to build upon, and improve, their existing facilities, with little awareness of the fragility of their existence (focus on S and I rather than F and T)
And, as with the Farm, the approach of Rick's group was to immediately 'see the necessity' of taking over control over Alexandria, due to a typical Gamma view of Deltas as oblivious to F and T dangers.
The Hilltop: Delta quadra, even if led by Gregory (ILE); it has Jesus (maybe EII) as its main character. Essentially the same general traits as Alexandria, but with P and S more focused on food production as the top priority (which would suggest that Alexandria has a higher focus on S than P).
At this point in the series, with the protagonists of Rick's group settling in one area and ceasing their journeys, rather than meet new groups in succession they start meeting new groups in a 'wider circle' way, with the general theme of Beta and Delta now happening simultaneously among several communities. Besides the Hilltop, these are:
The Sanctuary of the Saviors: Beta quadra, led by Negan (SLE). A very big group based on an old industrial facility (the Sanctuary) but with several outposts, its chief characteristic is its imposition of overlordship on the surrounding communities by brute force (F). Other notable traits are:
- the authority of Negan is sustained by the threat of savage punishment with no pretense of it being otherwise (F 'unsoftened' by E)
- power is exercised via a rigid hierarchy, with a privileged inner circle around Negan enjoying higher status and authority over the bulk of the Sanctuary's inhabitants, whose status is comparable to that of medieval serfs (F blocked with L)
- rewards and punishments are awarded rigidly, based on a set of fixed rules (again F with L) but with Negan also deviating from them according to his whim (more focus on F than L)
- existence of rituals aiming at emphasising Negan's superior status and everyone else's subservience, such as kneeling as he walks by (E used to reinforce F)
- focus on erasure of personal relational bonds: Negan takes as 'wives' even the companions of members of his inner circle, and there is an effort to erase the meaning of personal identity (the "I am Negan" routine) - all of that is extreme devaluing of R, even obliviousness to it
- nevertheless, the Sanctuary also places value on P matters, with things like electricity and food production functioning seemingly smoothly and with Negan micromanaging it (points to P with S)
What is very clear is that when thinking of groups that would antagonise the protagonists of Rick's Gamma group, Robert Kirkman could only think of the Beta quadra, and in trying to create groups as distinct from each other as possible, he ended up with groups that resemble each of the Beta types: EIE (Woodbury), IEI (Terminus), LSI (the Hospital) and SLE (the Saviors). Another example is:
The Oceanside: Beta quadra, led by Natania (LSI), based on an isolated beach campground, its chief trait is a ruthless no-exceptions rule that any person who learns of their existence has no choice besides joining them or being killed, even if they accept that the person is generally trustworthy (L blocked with F). Leadership is based on Natania being the obvious leader as an older, motherly figure (L with F). As with the other LSI group (the hospital), this group is shown as one that Rick's group sees as relatively reasonable.
The final group I will describe is The Kingdom: a mix of Delta and Alpha quadras, led by King Ezekiel (ESE). This community can be described as a sort of combination of the best traits of the Hilltop and Alexandria, on a larger scale, but interestingly with an added awareness of F (organised defence force) and E (Ezekiel's self-aware theatrical presentation as a medieval king acting as a beacon of reassurance and trust in his leadership). It's interesting that Kirkman's solution to 'improve' an otherwise Delta community was to add a benign source of F and E to it. It could be argued that the Kingdom as a whole reflects Ezekiel's type best, ESE, including the grudging focus on P and F, and that his policy of keeping most of his people "blissfully unaware" of the Saviors points to higher focus on E. Therefore a case can be made for the Kingdom as an Alpha community.
Conclusion: The Walking Dead, despite its apparent complexity due to the large number of characters and eventful plots, in the end it could be summed up as: 'Gamma group faces a succession of Beta and Delta groups. The Betas are always antagonists and need to be fought, the Deltas are allies but need to be helped or even taken over 'for their own good'.'