Television: ‘The Walking Dead’: Individual Leadership vs. the Collective

AMC

In “The Walking Dead,” zombies come and go. What remains unchanged in this sci-fi action-thriller – the program just broadcast its mid-third-season finale – is the issue of survival (Saturn), ultimate power (Pluto), and the conflict between individual leadership (Sun and Mars) and the collective (Uranus).

“The Walking Dead”’ arrived with an intense archetypal underbelly, which has solidified its appeal to viewers who like a bit of reach in their dramas. When the show debuted, law enforcement (Mars) officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a hospital patient newly awakened from a coma who’s trying to figure out where the rest of the world has gone. He could well have been the only person left on earth having to survive marauding zombies. But he finds a band of comrades, which includes his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) – his police-world colleague who had informed Lori that Rick was dead and began a relationship with her – was also part of that collective (Uranus) bundle.

Rick’s arrival threw a wrench into Shane’s self-proclaimed alpha-male persona. Suddenly the small haven is confronting two eruptive egos (Sun, Mars), each man with different leadership styles, even as the group tries to maintain friendships (Uranus) and ties for the sake of survival (Saturn).

With Shane’s double death and Rick’s declaration that the tiny society he’s commandeering is no longer a democracy, the show moved into a radically more collective realm. The transitional moments were arguably a pas de deux: Rick thanked Lori on behalf of the group (Uranus) for saving Hershel (Scott Wilson). And Lori makes her newborn female child a bequest to the future and vision (Uranus) of the makeshift collective.

Further refining the notion of the collective is the introduction of Woodbury – the safe haven whose residents are subservient to The Governor (David Morrissey) – which has now been set upon by Rick’s ever-shrinking group. Will the brothers – Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), who’s now the enemy of The Governor, and the captured Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) – somehow conjoin into their own collective to help defeat Woodbury’s dictator? Michonne (Danai Gurira), who seems to reside simultaneously both on the earthly and mystical planes, seems to be her own leader without followers and behaves as a collective of one.

“The Walking Dead”’s incessant manipulation of how individual and collective leadership is defined is now as expected as zombies bobbing up on the horizon. And the humans, ostensibly guided by reason, seem nevertheless to be relying on their instincts, just like their virus-infected shadows.

Rating: ☉♂/♄/♅/♇ (Sun/Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto)

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