Sun
Oct 6 2013 10:00am

Cut Andrea Some Slack: In Defense of The Walking Dead’s Whipping Girl

Andrea from AMC's The Walking DeadAt my day job, I’m known as the Zombie Girl—in fact, that’s what my newest manager called me for a solid month before she finally remembered my name. So, naturally, whenever a new movie or book hits the market, people ask me for my thoughts. And after every new episode of The Walking Dead, everyone’s eager to chime in with their two cents and compare them with mine.

This past season there was an almost overwhelming consensus after the third episode. Namely that Andrea was an idiot. So many problems would be fixed if only Andrea did the right thing. In fact, Andrea was the worst. By season’s end, she totally deserved what came to her.

Now, I remember well my rants during season two regarding Lori and her ineptitude, how she was essentially a waste of plot and airtime. (I still stand by those season two opinions, though I appreciated the grace with which Lori faced her death in season three.) So I’m not blind when it comes to ladies in this series acting like fools.

And am I disappointed with how Andrea’s character was handled, given the sheer badassery of her comic counterpart and inspiration? Sure.

But treating Andrea like the show’s whipping girl, publicly flogging her as a stupid and inept woman acting purely on lust who willfully let the situation with the Governor get out of hand? There I have to draw the line.

It seems that what the audience forgot throughout the season was the disconnect between what we knew as viewers and what the characters knew in the midst of the story. We saw, from his first episode, just what the Governor was. Andrea did not. We knew just how things really went down with Rick’s group; for much of the season, Andrea only had the Governor’s side of the story. And as was shown frequently, the Governor is a very persuasive man.

Look at the season from Andrea’s perspective: when we first see her and Michonne, things are very, very bad. Andrea is sick and weak, incapable of defending herself or moving quickly. She’s only still alive because Michonne is there to protect her and the pet Walkers are keeping most of the undead at bay. She knows she’s a hindrance, which is the last thing she wants to be for her friend.

Then comes Woodbury, which means security, food, and medicine. While Michonne’s naturally suspicious nature helps her see through the cracks pretty quickly, Andrea is in no state to be distrustful of the outstretched helping hand. The town and its leader are a savior to her, and of course she’s grateful.

On the surface, Woodbury is a functioning haven. People are happy, society is reforming in a positive way, and it’s possible to sleep in an actual bed for an entire night. If you were in Andrea’s position, sick and weary at a bone deep level after months of living uncertainly on the road, would you look too deeply into things?

Then there’s the Governor, who’s a world class charmer. The man knows his way around an explanation, can spin a PR story like a pro. He’s handsome, capable, and seems to genuinely care about people. Again, if you were in Andrea’s position, what would you think?

Okay, sure: but what about how things went down with Michonne? That was pretty bad, right? Absolutely! They were each other’s sole companion for months, and it is frustrating that Andrea didn’t believe Michonne when she voiced her concerns.

Andrea and Michonne in The Walking DeadBut, again: Michonne was not in Andrea’s position when they came to Woodbury. Michonne’s greatest pride lies in her self-reliance, her refusal to back down and determination to face all obstacles. She had been living on the road alone long before she found Andrea, whereas Andrea had always had a support system at her back. And Michonne was at full fighting strength, more than capable of continuing to take care of herself.

Andrea knew she was days away from death—finding Woodbury felt like a midnight hour reprieve from (I can’t resist) the governor. It’s understandable that she would be loath to leave that safety once she’d found it, when Michonne only had—at the time—suspicions.

By the last few episodes, Andrea is no longer in the dark. She’s spoken with her old group, now knows the truth about the Governor, and Carol even tells her to give him the night of his life before cutting his throat. She can’t go through with it. Which marks the only true misstep Andrea makes all season. She has all of the facts at her disposal, has a chance to stop the madness for good, and she hesitates.

But look at the whole picture. If she had killed the Governor right there, leadership would have reverted to his equally bloodthirsty lieutenants. The plans to storm the prison could very well have continued. Andrea would have been caught and killed. Woodbury would fall into anarchy. (In fact, Milton reiterates all of this when he stops her from shooting the Governor in the second-to-last episode.)

Andrea in The Walking DeadAt this point, Andrea feels as responsible for Woodbury as she does for her old group. She wants to help the unknowing townspeople—and so she hesitates. Her mistake is made with the best of intentions. And she pays for that with her life, which she takes by her own hand so as not to lay that burden on anyone else. Which takes a lot of strength and is pretty damn impressive.

Given the number of complaints and epitaphs laid on Andrea—stupid, weak-willed, and naïve among the choice ones—you’d think she was a useless piece of scenery. But throughout the season she: killed dozens of Walkers, de-limbed and de-jawed one to get her to the prison safely, set up a meeting between two violent factions in an attempt to broker peace, and managed to free herself from a torture chair and kill the undead Milton. Sure, she was still bit; but stopping a Walker from ripping you apart so you could die by a bullet sounds like a much better way to go.

Oh, and lest you’ve all forgotten, Andrea easily had one of the most badass moments in the entire season in her prolonged game of cat and mouse with the Governor in the slaughterhouse. Finding her exit blocked by an entire staircase full of Walkers, she calmly stares the bastard down before unleashing the whole horde upon him.

Pretty. Damn. Awesome. Especially for a so-called “useless idiot.”


 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Individual - You will receive an alert for each comment added to this post.
Digest - You will receive an end-of-day alert for all comments added to this post.
5 comments
1. Anonymous 7899
While I think the show didn't quite pull it off, an exploration of the charm of sociopathic leaders and the crowd psychology that allows basically good people to do evil would have been very interesting (see Philip Zimbardo's 'Lucifer Effect', for instance). And a little more emphasis on the Governor as a skilled Rasputin or svengali who could sway anyone would have bolstered Andrea's character arc--I think both the portrayal and the plotting made the Governor cartoonishly evil rather than psychologically omnipotent, and Andrea's character suffered.
2. Brian
I think the issue people have with tv andrea can be explained by the season being a tiny bit too long. I don't mean the number of epsiodes... I can't really recall any single episode being a "filler" episode, but there were certainly a few episodes that could have benefitted from being 5-10 minutes shorter, and I think andrea's story suffered the most from this. The way you explain andrea's arc sounds fantastic, and it would have been recieved much better had it been tightened up.
3. ralphie rocket
I'm telling you now, and I have been saying it since the end of last season...Andrea is NOT dead!!! Sure she was bitten, but you only become a zombie IF YOU DIE. Michone faked the headshot behind closed door, and began a healing process on her best buddie, Andrea. Mark my words
4. Aces0730
Ralphierocket, I am with you!! I hope that she really didn't die. I like to have faith.
5. George35410654164
Not only No, but Hell No... Andrea was an idiot almost from the start. She deserved to get killed off the way her character was written. By the end she was the character you were supposed to hate even more than the Governor.
Post a comment