For various scheduling reasons (Oscars, Sundance, SXSW), I wound up watching the final five episodes of “The Walking Dead” Season Two on Sunday, including the finale (review here). One of the things I hate about even the best reality television, from “Survivor” and “Project Runway” to “Top Chef” and “American Idol,” is how poorly the women fare. I root for strong intelligent forceful confident women, and all too often, the female contenders on these shows let me down with their inability to take charge, hold it together, own their identity and compete with–and beat–the men. While there are notable exceptions to the rule, usually it’s not women’s ability or smarts that keep them back. It’s their long-held attitudes, programming, how they were raised, deference to men and emotional vulnerability that does them in, almost every time.
So it’s no surprise that my favorite character on AMC survivor show “The Walking Dead” is Andrea (Laurie Holden), the woman who has moved from suicidal after the demise of her zombie-bitten sister to tough, gun-toting, grave-digging, one-of-the-guys dame. Sure, over the course of the series, some of the other women learn how to protect themselves with a gun, but Andrea is the one who who is relied on to perform guard duty and guts and kicks zombies around with aplomb. She’s the character who shows a mix of masculine and feminine attributes. She’s not butch. And she’s no patsy.
The other women are clearly assigned roles as wife, daughter, mother or girlfriend–utterly dependent on the love and protection of their men. (Terry Curtis Fox addressed this here.) Even Sophia’s grieving single mom Carol (Melissa McBride) turns to Daryl (Norman Reedus) for support. SPOILER ALERT And as the series progressed toward the end of Season Two, character issues devolved into alpha males Rick and Shane (Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal) competing for dominance over the tribe–and possession of pregnant Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies). Lori and Andrea even have a clash over their respective roles in the group–Andrea doesn’t want kitchen duty, while Lori insists that she and the other women are holding the family together.
SPOILER ALERT After the final battle, various groups get split up as they flee a zombie horde invasion on the Greene farm where they’ve been seeking refuge. Left alone and abandoned is Andrea–the single woman with no protector. She runs through the woods, shooting zombies, inevitably falls…and is saved (for the moment) by a mysterious hooded creature with a sword leading two armless chained men. This is one of several cliffhangers.
Obviously, given the success of the series, most folks–and given the series’ violence, most are men– are not unhappy with the way the show has gone. (UPDATE: the finale was the highest rated episode in the series with 9 million viewers, double the season one finale; “The Walking Dead” is the number one drama series in basic cable history for key demos including adults and men 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54.)
But let me put it to AMC this way. As another alpha male, The Governor (David Morrissey) joins Season Three this October, I’m glad a powerful female is entering the series as well, in the form of the comics’ Michonne, to be played by “Treme”‘s Danai Gurira. But if Andrea doesn’t make it, I’m gone.