Friday, March 22, 2013

The Walking Dead: Thoughts on Andrea

After The Walking Dead's surprising and kind of utterly depressing final moments, Sunday, I couldn't help but think back over Andrea's arc of this season. When you think back over every single time she chose to stay in Woodbury or chose the Governor, those moments seem so heartbreaking when thinking about what her fate might be next week. It's an interesting story and one I think has been underrated on the whole because of the more obvious frustration with her choices. But..I don't know I think a lot of her poor decision making has been very human and another way to explore how people behave in an apocalyptic world.

Andrea is not my favorite character, but she has always been one of the most interesting to me. She's the rare female character who is not someone's mother or lover. She was Amy's sister, but Amy died pretty early one which has left Andrea on her own. Her motivation and desire to stay alive was always about her, she has largely been on on her own since Amy's death despite her close friendship with Dale. She struggled to find a way to be a part of the group on her own terms last season and this season, she made a choice that split her from the one person that was loyal to her, who had saved her, and shown her nothing but friendship. In black and white it sounds so terrible, but if you consider their world and the circumstances she was faced with I think her choices have been largely understandable and rooted in her humanity. But the show really did a great job of escalating those choices to the point where she was literally running for her life and using every bit of strength and cunning she had to survive even if it wasn't and could never be enough.

It's easy to look back at the beginning of the season and remember feeling frustrated with Andrea for her blindness to the true nature of the Governor...but. Andrea didn't have access to the same information that the audience did. And I think it's important to remember she was left behind by the group and had survived a long brutal winter with just Michonne. Woodbury offered physical comforts, it seemed like life before the zombie attacks and the Governor treated her like she was important at first. Even though Michonne's instincts were right, Andrea's choice to stay in Woodbury was very human. The conversation she had with the Governor over his rather tame fights (tame in comparison to how things eventually wound up) reveals the conflict in Andrea's character, though. She is aware she has a darker side, but I think it's really important to note it is not that darker side that is driving her choices now, but rather her sincere desire to save as many human lives as possible.

I think, though, Andrea's desire for power, her acknowledgement of her own darkness, her weakness in choosing to believe the Governor--these are the things that make her an interesting character to me, but also I think hated by a segment of the audience? I think it's easier in some ways to love Michonne who is fierce and capable and very smart with a soft center. And male characters always get a pass.

While her decision to stay in Woodbury when Michonne left is the first obvious choice that set Andrea on the path to her fate last Sunday, it's kind of amazing how many times she had to make that choice again. As the evidence mounted against the Governor, it was no surprise she didn't want to believe it at first. She had chosen this man over her best friend, she had slept with him, and she had believed every single one of his lies. She had staked her future on him. And in all fairness, while he was disturbed before, it was Michonne killing Penny and taking his eye and besting him that made him come completely unhinged or at least become completely unhinged in a public way. When Andrea went to the prison and they told her to go back and kill the Governor she really contemplated it so much more than I thought she would. But she couldn't do it because she is not yet that person. Despite everything she's suffered, she's not yet at the point where she can see a living human as the enemy who needs to be killed at her own hand. I think if things go the way I suspect they will Sunday, that won't last.

And then when she tried to coordinate the talk with the Governor and Rick and she ended up going back with the Governor...this is the most fateful choice she made, something she thought she had to do to save lives. But she underestimated the Governor's cruelty and ruthlessness. When she saw his torture chamber with her own eyes and Milton told her the truth, she did the only thing she could and ran out of desperation.

And what a cat and mouse chase they showed us. Andrea, with no real weapon, using every ounce of her strength to literally try to outrun the Governor chasing her down in his truck. And she got so far! She was almost there and then...he got her.

I have to admit I'm really dreading Sunday's episode. The Governor is a sick man and that room had some sick things in it. But his actions, his cruelty and torture emphasize the thesis of this season if not of the entire show--the walkers are bad, but it's still their fellow man that's capable of the greatest harm. Because the decisions they make for survival in this world, the bonds they form, the ways in which love makes them both weak and strong--these things drive them to perform acts of unthinkable violence. The zombies are a threat, but the other survivors are the real enemies.

(The Walking Dead isn't the best with writing their female characters, but I stay on the very fringe of online discourse for a reason...people were actually saying Andrea deserves this fate....which. I just wish people would put a tiny bit of effort into trying to understand characters sometimes. ugh.)


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