Sunday, March 24, 2013

Defending Andrea

I feel as though I am forever defending the ladies of the Walking Dead tv series. People first hated on Lori, later Carol, and now Andrea is suffering the full wrath of irate fandom. 

To be fair, there were complaints about her from the very beginning, first about her age, later her anger towards Dale, her relationship with Shane, and her willingness to let Doodlebug shuffle her ass off this mortal coil. However, since coming to Woodbury in season three, the complaints have escalated greatly, probably because Lori was retired as Fan Target Prime.

I won’t say that the complaints are without justification – the writers have frequently employed stalling tactics to pad out this seasons 16 episode run, and Andrea has been their tool of choice. I also see no reason to address the hostility aimed at Lauire Holden. Any idiot who would attack an actress, especially who loves her job and is doing her level best to serve her character, for decisions made in the writers’ room should not be allowed to further their lineage.

The complaints seem to break down into two separate (albeit related) categories.

First, there are those who whine about who Andrea is not, namely that she is not the same as the character from the comics. To be fair, this is true.  Comic Andrea is one of the few characters to have (to date) survived the 100+ issue journey with Rick Grimes, and has endeared herself to fans for being “kick ass.” Actually I would challenge that notion. Andrea is not “kick ass” – Michonne is, but Andrea is not. She is a crack shot, far and away the best marksman in the group, but take the gun out of her hands and her combat skills seem more on par with Maggie’s.  Good thing the ammo factories are running full bore during the zombie apocalypse, or Andrea would be spending a lot more time doing the wash.

While the show has hinted at Andrea’s skills with a gun, she hasn’t had much chance to show them off, and they would serve her better by letting her do so. However, this is still a tv show, not a comic, and I’m not sure the change in medium facilitates the level of awesomeness that is Andrea Dead-Eye. Comic readers are used to Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. We come to expect characters to pull off superhuman feats on a regular basis. I’m not sure the average tv viewer would give the same degree of latitude.

The real problem here is that there is not much else to Comic Andrea (at least not up to issue #96, the last I’ve read to date). Basically, she loved her sister until she died, loved Dale until he died, and then shot stuff. She didn’t really have much to do when she wasn’t shooting at things. TV Andrea has probably had a lot more “screen time” in two and a half seasons than Comic Andrea has had in 8 years. Like most of the other characters – Rick, Shane, the Governor, Carl, Carol, Hershel  - TV Andrea has been forced to develop a depth that her black and white counterpart never had to. This is not to say you have to like what they’ve done with her, but there simply was no way she was ever going to be exactly what was in the book.

The second, and most frequent, type of complaint is about what Andrea is on the show, regardless of her comic book incarnation. Namely fans complain that she is irrational, stupid and disloyal.  I’m not going to bother defending what she did in past seasons – those doors have long closed, and the writers responsible have almost all moved on- but let’s look at what has happened in season three.
Andrea begins the season having spent some 6-8 months with Michonne (based on the progress of Lori’s pregnancy). They are “rescued” by the Woodbury crew, and allowed into a last bastion of civilization sporting food, running water, electricity, medicine and what appears to be a normal, stable community. Michonne choses to leave, but Andrea decides to stay behind and bed the Governor. When tensions arise between Woodbury and Rick’s crew, she finds her loyalty tested.

This is what seems to drive people nuts. How can she remain loyal to the man with the zombie head fish tank, and turn her back on the people she spent two seasons with?

While I won’t defend every one of her actions, the problem in broad strokes is that viewers are failing to recognize that there is a difference between their experiences and Andrea’s. Andrea was with the Atlanta group for an unknown amount of time before Rick showed up. That was a group led by Shane, that included her sister, Dale, Lori, Jim, Merle, Darryl, Glen, Carol and Carl. There was, at most, two months that passed between the time Rick found (and took over) the group, and the end of season two. Most of those that she knew from that original group had died. Those that remained included Rick – the man who killed her lover Shane- and members of Herschel’s family, who weren’t exactly on the best of terms with our characters for most of season 2. By the time she makes her way to the prison in “I Ain’t a Judas”, the composition (and character) of the group had changed dramatically, and she had been separated from them far longer than she had been with them. In fact it seems she’s been in Woodbury almost as long as she was with Rick. There really was no reason to think she would automatically chose one side over the other. 

What about Michonne? Easily they have spent a great deal of time together. Didn’t she betray Michonne?  I don’t see how. Michonne was the one who chose to leave her, without once bothering to explain why. When Michonne returns it is part of a violent, and in her case, vicious assault. 

What of the Governor? He’s clearly a bastard and she couldn’t peel herself from her bed. But again this is from the view of the omniscient viewer. We saw Phillip kill the soldiers and behead the pilot and feel up Maggie (which, really, was creepy and pervy, but I think is being overstated in its level of depravity).  Andrea didn’t see any of that. The Governor told Andrea it was Merle who took Maggie and Glen, which set off the conflict. Knowing what she did of Merle, why wouldn’t she believe that? In her mind then, the conflict was under false pretenses, and Rick & Co unfairly blaming (and attacking) Woodbury for Merle’s actions. It makes sense that she would try to bring about an accord.

Shouldn’t she have known better when she saw Penny and the Fish Heads? Maybe. Maybe not. It was a busy night. A lot happened, including Michonne gouging out Phillip’s eye. She didn’t get a chance to see what was going on before, only the aftermath. Besides, Rick’s right hand man is the guy who wore an ear necklace, and his chief advisor kept his zombie family locked in a barn.  In the zombie apocalypse, “normal” is an elusive concept.

It really isn’t until after the summit in “Arrow on the Doorpost” and the revelations in “Prey” that the Governor is making a torture chair and planning on killing everyone regardless that she finally understands just how far gone the Governor is. Before that it was easy to dismiss what little she saw of his actions, because, again, she didn’t see it. At best she had untrustworthy reports about a man she may have loved, or at least one she respected and admired and, let us remember, had saved her life. The behavior of her “friends” was at least as irrational from her point of view.
As I post this, Andrea is tied down in Phillip’s torture chair. Having read the comic, I have an idea just how far the Governor could go. We are minutes away from the third season’s penultimate episode. I am hoping Laurie Holden survives for at least one more season. I understand fan frustrations with Andrea, but think they have unfairly been turned into a deep hatred. The last thing I want is for people to be cheering when Andrea leaves.