Army of the Dead has two zombie types, and while Zack Snyder draws on other zombie films, they’re most like Game of Thrones’ White Walkers and wights.
While Army of the Dead is influenced by several zombie movies, its two distinct types of undead are more like the White Walkers and wights from Game of Thrones. Zack Snyder’s movie takes plenty of cues from the zombie genre, with nods to everything from George A. Romero’s classics to more modern fare such as Zombieland, by way of referencing his own 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. But for all he takes from zombie movies, the director makes some additions as well.
The zombies in Army of the Dead are split into two distinct groups – Alphas and Shamblers – with the former being smart, fast zombies, and the latter the more traditional kind. Both are ruled by Zeus, the Alpha King, while Snyder also throws some robot zombies into the mix for good measure. The Alphas and Shamblers – and the dynamic of their kingdom – don’t share too much DNA with other zombie movies, old or new, but they do feel similar to the undead in Game of Thrones.
Both Army of the Dead and Game of Thrones contain a riff. on the more traditional notion of zombies. The Shamblers particularly so, but they’re echoed in Game of Thrones by the wights; often shuffling (though with the ability to move quickly, unlike Shamblers), mostly mindless creatures whose greatest strength is in their overwhelming numbers. Like the Shamblers, they have some key weaknesses (such as fire), and they’re commanded by a more intelligent species, the White Walkers; much harder to kill, considerably stronger in a fight, and capable of creating more wights, the dynamic between them feels very similar to that of Alphas and Shamblers in Army of the Dead.
Leading these two respective armies of the dead – both terms which factor into the movie and show – is the King. In Game of Thrones, this is the Night King, the first White Walker; in Army of the Dead, it’s Zeus, the first zombie. Mysterious characters with murky motivations, much of the origins similarly unknown, they command their armies, often from undead horseback, and are chiefly responsible for swelling their ranks. Like how seemingly only the Night King can create other White Walkers, only Zeus can make other Alphas. Both are ostensibly much more powerful than any of the others, although of course the Night King is a more magical being (who was once human), whereas Zeus was presumably the result of some government experiment. They each have a fondness for undead animals too: Zeus has a zombie tiger patrolling Las Vegas, the Night King has a wight dragon and a wight polar bear.
Even the opening scene of Army of the Dead feels somewhat indebted to Game of Thrones, with a crew of men out in the wilderness, who are then suddenly sprung upon by a dangerous, mysterious monster. The framing of these cold opens only teases the White Walkers and zombies, but sets them up as the overarching threat and shows just how dangerous they are, while marking their first victims too. Both are effectively done, offering up a sense of creepiness and horror that immediately establishes the stakes and just what the human characters will be up against.
A key difference with the Night King and Zeus, though, is what happens if you kill them. Game of Thrones introduced the rule that, if you kill the Night King, you kill all of the White Walkers and wights as well. It meant that he needed to be the only target, but with Zeus that doesn’t appear to be the rule. While all the zombies are wiped out after his death, it owes to the nuclear blast, and there’s likely more to come too. Army of the Dead ends with a tease of Vanderohe becoming the new Alpha zombie king, suggesting the mantle can be passed on, unlike with the Night King, allowing for the cycle to continue.