1Archetypes of the Apocalypse— Breaking down the Walking Dead characters with ESPN's Fantasy MLB Columnist, AJ Mass

Archetypes of the Apocalypse: the 13 Archetypes of the Walking Dead Characters 

Podcast Posted: November 29th, 2016


In this exclusive Zombie episode, Michael breaks down the group dynamics of the AMC’s hit show, The Walking Dead, with ESPN fantasy columnist, AJ Mass. (You can follow him on Twitter here, or check out his newest book, “Yes, it’s Hot in Here” here).

Together, Michael and AJ talk about AJ’s crafter 13 Archetypes, like the ‘Old Reliable,’ ‘Loose Cannon’ and ‘Idiot Savant’ and apply them to specific characters like Carol, Michonne, Rick and Daryl. AJ says that these archetypes apply and work well, typically, in group situations where the group of people is working toward a common goal. So, it is for that reason that you will not see any villains (like Neegan or Dwight) in this list because they are not part of the core protagonist group. It is also important to note that we are drawing these conclusions from these characters at the time of the Season 6 premiere.



For what AJ calls Cannon Fodder in the episode, these are the types of people that are brand new to the scene and are unlikely to last long. Enter Spencer, Olivia (the rest of the Alexandrians), and most importantly Father Gabriel. We’re rolling our eyes but truthfully everyone was Fresh Meat back in Season 1…. except maybe Daryl.


Just a step up from ‘Fresh Meat,’ The Ninjas are the characters that AJ famously describes as the ones that, if you were going to rattle off all the characters in the group, this is the one you’d forget. Though we’ve grown to love Sasha and Rosita over the past couple seasons, their story lines are not necessarily driven by their own actions, but by their relationships with other characters, making them effectively… forgettable. For Sasha, this was first Bob, her boyfriend dying, and then Abraham dying, and for Rosita, it was Abraham dying as well. (Sidenote: Maybe this is changing now, with Rosita? As of mid-season 7, she had Eugene make her a bullet, and attempted to kill Neegan with it. Has her new aggressive plot-line graduated her from Ninja to maybe…… Idiot Savante? LOL What do you think? Tweet us and let us know.)


Known as the support system, the morel compass, and maybe even the actual symbol of hope for the group, the Cheerleader is a role we had trouble pinpointing here at UPC. On one hand, it seems as though this might be Maggie, with her uplifting, motivating attitude and emotional moment son the show. But wouldn’t you know it — her lifelong companion would take this one. Glenn’s complete and total inability to put himself first and unwavering martyrdom throughout the series proved to be the reason we all so dearly loved Glenn. AJ cleverly calls Glenn’s infamous Season 7 premiere death: The Death of Hope for the group. Who will step up in his place as the hope that this group now so desperately needs? Tell us your thoughts here!


In the episode, Michael jokingly guesses that Eugene would be the narcissist of this group for the way he cares about his mullet-style hair. Shockingly, AJ agrees, effectively making Eugene our Narcissist, for the reasons that he is unable to see past his own social anxieties and cowardice, and has set the group back quite a bit with his big lie about being some all-knowing scientist. Has Eugene switched spots in these archetype rankings now that he has stood up and told Neegan he is at fault for building the bullet? Let us know if you think he’s still the Narcissist, or if this move represents a much-needed upward character arch for our dear hopeless Eugene.


While you might be tempted to shout “Rick!” at this one, as did the UPC team, AJ reserves him for a seemingly more valuable spot later on, and gives this coveted loyal position to none other than Daryl Dixon. Reliable to the group, yes, but reliable to the viewer even more so. As the one character who’s quirks, habits, and outlook have not changed: Daryl is Old Reliable. As stated in the episode a couple times: “Daryl will always be Daryl.”


This one came with a lot of laughs and impersonations of Rick screaming “CORAL!” [Carl] on the podcast. You guessed it! The person of the group that AJ describes as the one that is still alive, but nobody is really sure HOW, is Carl. A lot of dumb mistakes, including scouting for Chocolate Pudding, Roller Skating to Hilltop with Enid and even stowing away only to shoot at, and then be captured by the Saviors, makes Carl our Idiot Savant for this group, no doubt. Do you agree? Share your thoughts!


As AJ describes, the person most likely to become extremely irrational at times, act out at inopportune moments, or, I don’t know, yell “Bitch Nuts” at someone about to smash his head in, this one is obviously claimed by Abraham. Was his unpredictable nature the ultimate reason he died? What do you think?


Though you may have been tempted to shout Maggie! for this one, as the show has continually pushed this ideas that she is the liaison between groups on the viewers, you would not be alone. However, as the person who has truly proven to be the peace-making, treaty crafting hand-shaker of them all, Aaron is much more deserving of the title Diplomat.


Described as being the person who knows all the rules, and so the person who most effectively breaks those rules, is the Captain Loophole Archetype. Given this title is none-other than Morgan, the one who disappears often, but has outlasted many by staying alone, and most recently, refusing to kill as a result of his monk-teachings.


The X-factor is someone who has something that makes them completely unique from everyone else, and drives their motives like none other. This is also the most time-sensitive archetype, as it often pops up situationally. For example, Michonne might have been the X-factor archetype when she was alone at the beginning of the season because of her sword. Now, that person is Maggie, simply for the reason that she is pregnant.


The Mad Scientist is the archetype in the group that is always looking for a new path, the one that strays from the group, and is plotting something new and strange. This person is wild, unpredictable, and maybe goes around masquerading as a Cheerleader or Fresh Meat…. Sound like anyone you know? As one of the easiest archetypes to nail down, we are hands-down naming Carol as our Mad Scientist for TWD and we hope she never changes. Do you also love Carol? We won’t hear it otherwise ;)

#2: BETA in the Marriage of Convenience

Two characters that are together in a convenient situation, be it romantic relationship or not, AJ calls these two: The Alpha and Beta in the “Marriage of Convenience.” And so we have Michonne, typically a non-Beta type (in any way, ha) but IS in this given situation.

#1: ALPHA in the Marriage of Convenience

Finally we have Rick, the Alpha in the Marriage of Convenience, in the protagonist group of AMC’s The Walking Dead, and the Alpha in all of our hearts.

— Michael Drane, MA, LAC, NCC

Season 1Corey StewartComment