Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walking Dead: In Defense of Andrea

Until this week, I've seen the Andrea/Michonne thing entirely from Michonne's point of view, and as anyone who's been reading the Walking Dead analysis by myself and Joshua Winstead knows, I've been calling her out on every stupid thing she's done from the beginning of the show. But now I'm stepping back for a second and looking at it from Andrea's point of view, and it's no longer so black and white. (By the way, for the first time this year, Josh and I got our review of this week's episode out by Tuesday! You can read it here.)

The last time the prison gang saw Andrea, she was saving Carol's life and throwing herself in front of a zombie. For all they knew, she was dead until Michonne told her otherwise. And yet Carol was the only one with enough decency to remember that not-so-small act of heroics.

Has anyone ever seen Michonne smile? She might be a tough SOB and, well, pretty much the one you want to align yourself with in a zombie apocalypse, but it's probably been a pretty dark, sombre year for Andrea hanging with her. In Woodbury, people might have the wool pulled over their eyes, but Andrea's choice to just drink the Kool-Aid and hang out with people who are HAPPY isn't her being stupid; it's her being human.

Yes, she sided with the Governor, the man who (from her POV) she was sleeping with, who had put this town together, who was protecting these people... the person who loved his daughter so much he lovingly brushed her disgusting hair every night and was doing everything in his power to bring her back to life, who lived for her daily, who loved his wife dearly and was grief-stricken over her loss... the man who watched her impaled by Michonne (who admits to Andrea that she didn't return to Woodbury to show her the error of her ways, but to make her hurt... that sort of lessened her behaviour for me, I actually thought she had returned to show Andrea she'd been making a mistake and to try one last time to convince her to come with her), and the man who snapped when he lost his final tie to the world he'd had before this one.

Again, let's not forget that despite throwing around the term "evil," which even I've done (many, many times) when talking about the Governor, he's just as human as the rest of them. The man is on the other side of a nervous breakdown after losing his daughter, losing his eye, and losing his way.

We could also look at it this way: The Governor is putting together a village of people whom he protects against the walkers in the outside world, and along comes Michonne: bitter, angry, distrustful, wielding a sword and looking pretty damn dangerous. He tries to bring her around to his side and let her stay, but she'll have none of it, and so he casts her out.

Tyrese and his gang find their way into the prison, show their best behaviour while being locked up, they're polite, and tough, and good people, and have never exhibited an ounce of enmity towards Rick and his people. But Rick doesn't welcome them, doesn't try to bring them around, doesn't try to help them in any way, shape or form: he casts them out into a world of danger and zombies, probably sending them to their deaths, and he knows it.

To us, Rick = good; Governor = evil. Is it so clear cut?

Rick has chosen to be the leader - "this is NOT a democracy" - and makes no bones about him telling everyone what to do. And by losing his wife and killing his best friend, he's become unhinged.

The Governor clearly was rather powerless before, and now is enjoying the power that comes with his self-professed leadership. We saw him kill the army guys, and he's full of ulterior motives, so that is the main thing that sets him apart from Rick (the writers had to give him something to make him evil, and that was it — BUT, remember, Andrea doesn't know he's done any of these things) but otherwise, he, too, lost his wife and now his daughter, and has become unhinged.

And yet, in Breaking Bad we see Walter White mow down anything in his path because he now has power where he didn't before, and he uses fear-mongering to keep everyone in line. And we root for him every time, despite his antihero status. Or look at Tony Soprano. Or Vic Mackie. TV is full of antiheroes that we look up to, and Andrea has chosen the Governor for many reasons.

I truly believe that Andrea isn't stupid (I've revised my opinion of her after this episode**), but is willfully choosing a life that just seems easier after the hell she's been through. If I watched my sister die, and then tried to commit suicide and made my peace with it and was thwarted, and then continued to be with a group of people who shunted me to the side all the time and treated me differently, and was left behind for a year after saving one of their lives, and then lived with an angry woman who barely spoke and just glowered all the time (perhaps she was different with Andrea but we haven't seen much of that from her onscreen), I think I'd be ready to give up and just want something easy for a change. I think many of us would.

Andrea's just as human as Rick, Carol, the Governor, and the rest of them.

**I reserve the right to change my opinion on this and call Andrea crazy-as-a-shithouse in a few week's time...


Colleen/redeem147 said...

People may criticize Andrea for not slitting The Governor's neck (of stabbing him Dexter-style), but it's not just that she hasn't killed a human, it's that she loves him. Love may make us do stupid things, but loving isn't stupid.

I think it helps when understanding someone to do what you did - look at all the events through that one person's POV. We are the omniscient viewer - they aren't.

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yourblindspot said...

Penny... where did you go? I thought it was a good question! We only occasionally touch on the content of the written TWD precursors here, but I always kind of hope more people will bring them up in the comments so I get the selfish opportunity to discuss it myself.

To your point: I'm not sure how much of that backstory they intend to carry over, either. Having read both the novel and the full run of comics to date, I often find myself struggling to keep the show and the written work separate from one another in my head, but I believe the writers' intention is that we view them separately. For example -- and I phrase this as carefully as I can to prevent spoiling anything for those who are only aware of details we've seen in the show -- if they were to export all (or even most) of the events from the novel, I don't see exactly how we would ever learn those details within the context of the tv narrative unless Philip Blake himself chose to reveal them, as I'm relatively sure there isn't anyone else still around from that period of his life. And as a character who doesn't even like to reveal his name, I'd rather doubt he's the type to voluntarily expound.

In addition, the photo that we've seen in the show several times now is of a man, woman and child, posed together like a typical family photo, and would seem to indicate that he's been on the level with his story, that instead of the more twisted (and, let's face it, cooler, but probably also less realistic) version of events as chronicled in 'Rise of the Governor,' the show was going for a much simpler, more streamlined and grounded backstory for him. Likewise, I get the impression they would have us think it was the straightforward loss of his wife, and then his daughter, that pushed him to the brink of sanity, and then Michonne's coup de grace with the katana sent him over, as opposed to anything more psychologically complex.

Of course, that's strictly my own opinion. I still like the shading that the novel's events add to my view of the Governor, regardless of whether they're intended to be canon in the tv version of his history.

Efthymia said...

As a person who identified with Andrea the most during Season 1, I still can't excuse her for how she acted during the following Seasons.

First of all, she wasn't allowed to commit suicide? Really? If she wanted to kill herself, she would have killed herself. Personally, if I thought this world isn't worth living in any more and a nice person who liked me (Dale) offered to accompany me to death, I'd welcome him, and I would have let us both explode in the CDC. But even if I accept that she believed that Dale didn't really want to die and she didn't want to feel responsible for his death and therefore left with him then, she could still have killed herself afterwards; it's not as if they lacked the means. She kept telling Dale "you took my choice and free will and whatever away" but as far as I recall, she spent ours alone with a gun in her hands, yet she shot Daryl, not herself.
And for someone who spent so much time clamouring her right to choice and free will, she very easily gave them up to the Governor, and trivialised Michonne's concerns over the loss of them -because I'm sorry, I can't see the Governor's "I'll take away your guns and keep you in here and protect you from zombies as I see fit" as very fee-will accepting and democratic.
It was not a question of whether she liked Michonne as a friend, but of whether she trusted her, and she should have trusted her. She made her choice, and Michonne accepted it, but she didn't have to like it.

As for how the rest of them greeted her, while I agree that they were colder and harsher than they should, why don't we use the their-POV with them as well? Glenn and Maggie were abused in the place she chose as her home by the man she came to kind-of-defend -and let's not forget, to Maggie Andrea is the person who tried to enable her sister's suicide attempt. I think these recent memories trump the zombie faceoff at the farm, where, after all, everyone did their best, not just Andrea. The three survivng farm people never really got close to her -she spent most of her time there outside alone or with Shane or arguing with Dale, so we're really talking about how Rick, Glenn, Daryl and Carol greeted her: the unhinged one, the one abused by the Governor, the one she shot and witnessed being pitted against his brother in an arena and the one who didn't have any problem with her -who was also the one who welcomed her and was nice to her.
And when they tell her what the Governor did all she has to say is "Well, I didn't know" and then she tells THEM to make a truce and not escalate things?

Sorry, Nikki, I just cannot defend her. I'm probably just not as kind as you are. :)

Austin Gorton said...

Yeah, I have a hard time defending Andrea as well, though I'll freely admit a lot of it isn't her fault.

As Colleen mentioned, Andrea is not the omniscient viewer - we are. Yet that makes if difficult for us to sympathize with her, because we KNOW just how bad the Governor is, we KNOW she's on the wrong side of things, and as a result, she comes across as dumb for not sussing that out.

Or, to put it another way: Rick and the prison are the good guys, the Governor and Woodbury are the bad guys. Yes, it's not that simple: Rick is as crazy in his own way as the Governor, most of the people in Woodbury are just ignorant innocents, and that kind of complexity makes for good drama.

But at the end of the day, the show has clearly setup that Rick=protagonist, Governor=antagonist, and through no fault of her own, Andrea is siding with the antagonist. That makes it harder for us, as viewers, to sympathize with her.

(And it isn't like she isn't privy to some of the Governor's more questionable actions - the fact that she had to sneak out of Woodbury should have set off an alarm in her head, the whole zombie fights, pitting Merle and Daryl against each other, hell, the fact that he kept his daughter alive).

And while it's certainly true that Andrea is taking the easy way out after a recent life of hardship, that does little to endear me to her, because that comfort is coming at the cost of others, and while she may not know the extent of just how much, she knows some of it, but is still choosing the life of comfort. That's not heroic, it's selfish, and that makes it difficult to root for her.

Bottom line: I can grant Andrea some latitude for being seduced by both the comforts of Woodbury and the Governor, but we're now at a where her continued ignorance of the truth behind both of them comes off less like a reasonable choice and more a choice born of stubborn ignorance and/or willful and plot-mandated stupidity designed to draw out the conflict between the Governor and Rick, and that makes it really hard to view her as anything other than a blithering idiot beholden to the mechanics of the plot.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Nikki - didn't she see all the severed heads he'd saved and still went back to him?

-Tim Alan

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I collect action figures.

Everybody's got a hobby. ;)

Old Darth said...

Andrea has become the new Lori.

Does she love the Governor? Really? I feel she loves what he represents - a chance to build a new life.

The popularity of this show saddens in a way because of how poorly the characters as a group have been handled.

Daryl, and Merle because of Michael Rooker's acting chops, are the only interesting ones.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Does she love the Governor? Really? I feel she loves what he represents - a chance to build a new life.

Okay, maybe it's I love David Morrissey. I'm projecting.

If the Doctor saw what he was up to now, he'd be very disappointed.

Nikki Stafford said...

Colleen: HAHAHA!!!

Old Darth: Even if she just loves what he represents - a chance to build a new life, as you said - is that so wrong? There are people out there every day who "settle" because they think nothing better will come along, or this person was the "safe" choice that will get them where they need to go, even if they don't love that person. And that's without a zombie apocalypse. I would think the number of people who would settle during an apocalypse would be far greater. At that point, if you're craving human intimacy, you'd be happy to find another human being, even if they smelled like garbage. The Governor is clean, good-looking, powerful, and charming. And as I tried to point out in my post, Andrea's not privy to the things we are privy to.

Old Darth said...

Wrong? No, not necessarily. But it does imply a compromise and while that may suffice in real life, in fiction it makes it hard to empathize with a character.

Even in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Which seem to be what is happening with how Lori is being viewed by fans.

Austin Gorton said...

@Old Darth: But it does imply a compromise and while that may suffice in real life, in fiction it makes it hard to empathize with a character.

I agree there's definitely a double standard at work. There's definitely cases where a character on a TV show does something that absolutely infuriates me, yet if someone I knew in real life did it, I'd be far more understanding.

Bottom line, Andrea's actions may be defensible if we were all living in that situation, but we're not. She's a fictional character and we have (perhaps unfair) expectations of what she should do as a result, and thus far, she's failing to meet those expectations.

Same thing with Lori: her reaction to her situation was perfectly normal and understandable, but that doesn't mean it was fun to watch. In fact, it often got in the way of watching something that would be fun to watch, and hence, she became an irritating character even if her actions were, in a real world setting, totally excusable.