Battle to the Un-Death: AMC Zombies vs HBO Zombies

By Mark Gale

Apr 2013 - Battle to the Un-Death SMALL

Two popular shows with seemingly uncommon elements have stolen the hearts and minds of adults 18-49.  One is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a band of survivors try to scrounge up some existence of a normal life.  The other is set in a medieval, mystical world that is engaged in all-out war.  What do these two shows have in common?  Zombies – or at least some variation of them.

AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Game of Thrones were in the top five in the Nielson ratings on Easter Sunday (March 31, 2013).  This was the first time the two shows had paired off against one another with The Walking Dead having its season finale up against the Season Premiere of Game of Thrones.  Although The Walking Dead took the victory in the TV ratings, how would their “walkers” stack up in a fight against Game of Thrones “white walkers”?

Numbers: White Walkers.  The “walkers” in the Walking Dead are clearly only a threat when either using the element of surprise or using overall numeric force.  Clearly, as shown in Atlanta, there are vast numbers of them.  Originally, you think these examples would lead them to winning this category.  However, in the Season 2 Finale of Game of Thrones, we saw the “white walkers” were easily able to hold their own in this category as well.  The tie-breaker came down to the fact that it seems the “walkers” would prefer to eat living creatures where as the “white walkers” would prefer to just kill living creatures thus turning them into more “white walkers”.  Therefore, in the long run, the “white walkers” numbers can grow at an exponentially greater rate.

Stealth: Walkers.  The Walking Dead “walkers” seem to pop out of nowhere ALL THE TIME.  Even though they groan constantly, they seem to be able to repress this when needed to jump out and eat someone.  Due to the bright blue glowing eyes of a “white walker”, I have to give the nod to the “walkers” (even though “white walkers have stayed hidden in the far north for thousands of years).

Agility: White Walkers.  A lone “walker” from The Walking Dead is slow and seems generally unable to move.  Additionally, as pointed out in the first season, they have limited thinking capability and are just moving based on impulse reactions.  As shown in the Season 3 Premiere of Game of Thrones, the “white walkers” can move much quicker and can also effectively yield weapons such as swords, axes, and shields.  It took a wolf the size of a horse to eventually subdue the creature.  Additionally, the “white walkers” seem to move with a purpose, which makes them much more dangerous than just creature that aimlessly lumber around.

Diversity:  White Walkers.  As demonstrated by the lead “white walker”, they are able to convert creatures into “white walkers” as well.  This means that “white walkers” can have cavalry.  The Walking Dead zombies thus far do not seem capable of turning animals and thus prefer just to eat them.

Survivability:  White Walkers.  I first must go on the general assumption that environmental conditions don’t seem to drastically effect either pair of zombies.  They both seem to be able to survive in a harsh environment without too much food, water, or shelter.  Therefore, this assessment is based on their survivability against humans.  The Walking Dead “walkers” seem to have a severe vulnerability when it comes to the neck and head region.  The smallest of hits to the head seems to render them obsolete.  Additionally, their lack of intelligence seems to disable them on the crudest and simplest of “booby trap” type devices.  With their lack of intelligence and agility, it seems that unless they attack in great numbers or surprise someone, they are killed relatively easily.  However, the “white walkers” seem much more formidable and can also utilize weapons of their own.  In Season 1 of Game of Thrones, it took two men to barely subdue a newly risen “white walker” – one that wasn’t even battle tested.  Between this incident and the incident with the direwolf in the Season 3 premiere, it is clear that it is much harder to kill a “white walker” than it is to kill a normal “walker”.

The facts don’t lie.  If I was leading an undead army or trying to avoid one, the “white walker” army takes the prize.  The survivors of The Walking Dead had better hope there are no “white walkers” waiting for them around the Arctic Circle.

  • Gary McCullors

    Good article; however, it looks like the White Walkers are more vampire than zombie. Zombies are typically non-thinking, stimulus-reaction kind of creature with no ability to communicate, organize, or use tools, and their human victims are re-animated in their likeness. The White Walkers can communicate, organize, use tools, and re-animate with purpose (the Wights). If a White Walker can use weapons and ride re-animated horses, they are more than just a mindless creature wandering around looking for something to eat.

    Just my two-cents worth of observation.

  • Kevin Dupre

    Fascinating topic, Mark. Often when zombies and other monster’s appear
    in literature, movies and television shows, they represent collective anxieties. Zombies originated from Caribbean cultures with Africa heritages; they come out of slavery, wherein slaves were “going through the motions” of living while subjected to subhuman status under deplorable inhumane conditions, all in the service of 19th-Century capitalism.

    Zombies, vampires and various monsters seem to be everywhere in contemporary literature, movies and television. While they may be cool to many to read about
    and watch as they lumber across our high-definition screens, I wonder what
    collective anxieties they might be reflecting in our 21st-Century capitalist society? Who are the enslaved, “going through the motions” subjected to subhuman status and inhumane conditions, the walking undead? Of what are their fears reflective?

  • Stacie Hughes

    Great article, Mark! Having never seen Game of Thrones, I can’t argue which would win. But I can say that the “walkers” definitely get in your head. I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead, even though I stay tensed up the whole time I’m watching or reading it. Recently, I was sitting in the back yard by the pool watching my dogs chase each other around. It was a gorgeous, relaxing day and I’m an educated, rational person, but I still found myself shaking my head, looking at my yard, and thinking, “this fence would never keep the zombies out.” And, if I’m being completely honest, I went on to contemplate how best to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, at which I don’t feel I would be very successful. Now, because of your article, I’m going to have to watch Game of Thrones just to see if there are other impending threats that I should consider when pondering the security and durability of the six-foot wooden fence surrounding my back yard. I believe in being prepared.

  • Diane Trout

    Game of Throne’s white walkers win hands down! Just beware of the obsidian. The books are even better though (of course). I can not wait for another season and for Martin to come out with the next book. My husband likes Walking Dead and I just can’t get into it like GoT.

  • JoeDogDaddy

    Don’t forget the zombies of World War Z. They don’t shamble, they run. Also, if you watch the evolution of zombies from Night of the Living Dead, which was a trail blazing movie for the 1960s in that the hero was African-American, through the Day/Dawn/etc of the Dead movies, the zombies get more mobile but not like WWZ. I would like Chris Otto to discuss zombie physiology–plausible or pseudo-science. By the way, this is Ron Fritze writing, JoeDogDaddy is my nome de plume on CHE and it somehow got linked into this account. Joe is my venerable, oldest dog.