|Actor Michael Rooker |
plays Merle Dixon
When we see him again in Season 3, he's been taken in by the enemy band of survivors. He does more horrible things, although now he's acting at the behest of the evil "Governor". In his defense, however, it appears evident to me as a viewer that this group has "accepted" Merle and allowed him somewhat of a leadership role. He's trying to be an important part of the Woodbury community, and he has no love for the original group that left him stranded and defenseless on a rooftop.
But when Daryl sticks by Merle when he's barred from re-joining the original group, Merle starts to go through a slight change. Eventually he feels enough love for his little brother Daryl to try one more time to be accepted by the people Daryl has come to care about. Merle begins making amends to the people he has hurt and strives to be useful.
In his final episode, Merle has been selected to deliver Michonne back to the Governor, to be presumably tortured and killed by him. But at the last minute, he has a change of heart. He sets his prisoner free and devises a plan to instead ambush the Governor's group. Merle sacrifices himself, dying at the hands of the Governor, but saved Michonne and delivered a devastating blow to the Woodbury forces. I was shocked at how sad I was at Merle's death--I felt he had been redeemed.
Andrea, on the other hand, had a happy family life by all accounts before the Zombie Apocalypse. She does have to watch her sister die, and consequently must kill her when she reanimates as a zombie. During Season 2, Andrea tries to become more of a soldier and zombie-killer. But when she is separated from the group, it is the stranger Michonne who finds her, saves her, and protects her for 8 months. Andrea repays this kindness by turning her back on Michonne the minute she's offered a warm bed in Woodbury and an opportunity to romance the Governor. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Andrea continues to believe the Governor to be a sane and good person.
|Laurie Holden as Andrea|
Andrea died bravely by her own hand, as she knew she would come back as a zombie if she didn't. She spared her friends that at least. But I wasn't remotely sad to see her die--I had stopped caring about her character long ago.
Of course there are a number of things at play other than the character arc in the script: the acting of both the character in question and the supporting cast, the viewer's preferences, etc. But I'm impressed with how the writers were able to garner concern and admiration for Merle in his last episode, from me and the other fans of the show I chat with. As I writer myself, I'm trying to analyze the moments I began to change my mind about him, as well as the moments I began to stop caring at all about Andrea.
Because romance novels have happy endings by definition, I don't kill off many characters. But they are often in danger, and I want readers to care about their safety and pull for their survival. Realistic characters need flaws, but readers and viewers want to see characters learn from mistakes and grow throughout the story. Merle did this, and redeemed himself in the end, in my opinion. Andrea repeated the same mistakes over and over again, learned nothing, and I was ultimately glad to see her go.
A character's redemption is a powerful thing. Viewers are passionate about Merle's brother's character Daryl, so much so I've heard people threaten to stop watching if anything should happen to him. I admit I love him too, and he's featured in my related "Bad Boys with Good Hearts" blog post (my most popular post to date!). Characters that inspire this kind of loyalty are exactly the type writers should strive to create. I've had several readers ask me to continue Max and Claire's story in a sequel to Gull Harbor. I'm so thrilled people enjoyed their romance and adventure, and perhaps someday I'll come back to them. Right now, I have 2 WIPs that need my attention.
On the other hand, I will have a free hour on Sunday nights for the next 6 months until The Walking Dead returns...