And so it’s come to this: a death in The Walking Dead that’s not shocking, but hurts. A lot.
This issue could’ve gone a few ways as far as how the story was presented. You have the Saviors waiting for Sherry, unaware that she’s dead. The communities have to regroup in the aftermath of dealing the the massive roamer herd. And in the middle of this, you have Andrea on the verge of death. Sounds like a lot to balance in one issue.
But Robert Kirkman doesn’t take that approach. Instead, this issue is all about Andrea. Well, with one small exception.
And it’s an exception that we couldn’t do without, given how close it happened before Andrea stumbled in on Rick. We couldn’t avoid talking about Sherry’s death, even for a bit, and Dwight’s reaction when Rick tells him what happened shows that there’s some suspicion lingering. Yeah, Sherry was a terrible person and she left Dwight for Negan, but she was still Dwight’s wife. Part of him would still love her.
So for him to learn not just that she’s dead, but that Rick was responsible for it is going to no doubt make him angry. I’m sure he’ll understand and I doubt that Dwight would go rogue and turn on Rick, but I imagine there may be a bit of tension between them now. But given what Sherry and the Saviors had in mind for Alexandria, Dwight will, I assume, get over Sherry’s death soon.
Can’t say the same for how everyone chose to process their feelings as Andrea’s conditions worsened. I enjoyed her conversation with Carl. She’s been a mother to him ever since Lori’s death and I like how practical she was with her words about relationships. In a way, I sort of agree with her: no one is made for each other. Relationships last because the people involved are happy.
And if one part of that pair is happy, chances are they’ll make their partner happy as well. Puts a damper on the notion of trying to find a perfect partner. At the end of the day, we’re not special- we just want to be happy and share that happiness with someone else. Even though she’s at death’s door, it’s nice that Andrea can impart some wisdom to her surrogate son and tell him to stay tough.
Really, everyone has to stay tough at this time. It shows how much Andrea doesn’t want this to turn into a real sob moment. Everyone has reason to be upset, but she’d rather they all stay strong. She tells Rick to leave until he gets his shit together, and even though Eugene has every right to blame himself for Andrea getting bitten, he can’t show any weakness. That’s not what Andrea wants in her final moments. More on that in a bit.
Great panel here with everyone saying their goodbyes to Andrea. If everyone got a long conversation with Andrea like Carl and Rick do, the issue would be too long- not that I’m complaining about a long issue. But we get some nice, brief vignettes with everyone having one last conversation with Andrea.
There are some highlights here: Magna and Yumiko, despite not knowing Andrea as long as the others, thanking her for her kindness. Jesus notes that how Andrea went out is going to be one hell of a story- and I agree. And even Negan gets a moment to admire how much of a badass Andrea is and how he’d be honored to have been killed by her. Now that is high praise.
But even with all of these sappy moments, Andrea doesn’t falter in her badass resolve. She remains tough to the end and I like how she’s not about to let Rick or anyone else take blame for what happened. Andrea doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Like so many people before her and what awaits others long after she’s gone, she’s dying.
But unlike others who die alone or end up devoured by the dead, Andrea reminds Rick that she at least gets to be at home, surrounded by her family and friends. That’s because of Rick. And Andrea knows as well as Rick does that she doesn’t need saving. She made the decision to go back and rescue Eugene. And she’s paid the price with her life, but that was still her decision to make.
But that’s not enough for Rick, and it’s not often that we see him in a moment of weakness like this one. He’s doubting himself, saying that he can’t go on without Andrea and acknowledges how tough things are with the gate down and the Saviors still ready to attack Alexandria. We’ve seen Rick in tough situations before, but in many of those instances, he had Andrea at his side. Now that she’s dying, he’s ready to quit altogether.
But Andrea isn’t gonna have that shit and I love that she’s so pissed at Rick for even thinking of quitting right now. She knows that he’s built something. And who can everyone rely on if Rick hesitates? Whether he wants to accept it, Rick is the leader. He’s made, as Andrea put it, an oasis in a world of shit. If he loses morale, others will lose confidence in him, and that can’t happen.
Otherwise, why even fight so hard up until this point? Why take up arms and go to war against the Saviors? The Whisperers? Massive herds invading Alexandria? Even after the death of his wife and daughter? Rick has had multiple opportunities to quit because life kicked his ass, but he toughed it out and has led a community that’s rebuilding itself in a hopeless world. People are working together in addition to surviving.
So no, even with Andrea ready to die, she’ll be damned if Rick is going to go soft on her. This is what’s so great about Andrea: she doesn’t bullshit her words or pull her punches when it comes to Rick. She could be a shoulder for him to cry on, but she’s made it damn clear that this isn’t a time for tears.
Time passes with Rick at Andrea’s side as she dies and at least Rick gets a chance to process his emotions with Andrea dying. When Lori and Judith were killed, Rick and Carl had to keep moving just to get away from the prison and the Governor. There was no time to deal with it at that moment- that came later. Here, he’s at least afforded the time to be with Andrea in her final moments and it’s all very touching.
So when she turns…it turns from touching to tragic.
Kind of like when Dwight put down Merle or Rick put down Sophia on the show, Rick hesitating with a turned Andrea is a strong moment. He is looking at this creature that’s not someone he knows anymore. We see Rick grapple with this impossible decision as he’s forced to put down the woman he loves…and he can’t bring himself to do it. It’s as if he’d rather die than put Andrea out of her misery.
It’s a rough, emotional moment for Rick when he finally puts the blade in Andrea’s skull and relieves her of her suffering. She’s not in pain anymore. She wasn’t devoured by roamers to the point where there was nothing left. She went peacefully in her bed at Rick’s side.
And Kirkman’s storytelling coupled with Charlie Adlard’s art illustrate the turn this has on Rick. We have seen Rick deal with deaths of loved ones before, but like Lori, this one is sure to stay with him for a long time. And I appreciate that the issue doesn’t just end here or Rick goes right from finishing Andrea to facing the others. The story gives plenty of breathing room and allows him to grieve this heavy loss.
More than that, he has the support of everyone in the community. I mean, Negan’s not there, but maybe he’s off doing clean-up work. But seeing Andrea’s final words of encouragement to Rick was a nice touch and I could see that translating to screen well. Rick may be down, but he’s not out and he can’t allow himself to look weak now because he has to continue leading the communities.
The world, or more specific, these people, need Rick Grimes to continue leading them as he’s done many times before. This is a major bump in the road for him, but he’ll get past it the way he always has. Losing Andrea is a major blow for him and everyone else, but there’s still much work to be done as The Walking Dead bids farewell to one of its longstanding characters.
This issue doesn’t have a Letter Hacks column at the end, as we get from most issues. Instead, we get a letter from Robert Kirkman explaining and apologizing for this. Not that Kirkman ever needed to do so. This story is his own. He makes the call. No matter how much we as readers may disagree with deaths and choices made at times, they are a part of the greater story.
It was a beautiful eulogy to a beloved character appreciated by both Kirkman and the fans and it was interesting to read just how much Kirkman didn’t want this. He wrote that he wanted Andrea to live and grow old with Rick, but here we are. Andrea is dead and her loss will have just as much an impact as Glenn’s did back in issue #100. Though Kirkman didn’t have to justify or explain his reasoning, I appreciate him doing so.
So…I’ll be honest, this death hurt. There have been deaths in The Walking Dead that have shocked me. Some have made me wince. Others got an audible reaction from me upon reading. The heads on the pikes at the end of issue #144- those deaths stunned me into silence.
But Andrea? A character who has been with us since issue #2, a woman who has been a bonafide badass, loyal to the end, and one hell of a sniper. And for Rick and Carl, she filled the void left by Lori’s death and managed to be there for them both.
So for her to die is a major punch to the gut. I love that it’s not grandiose at least. Sure, she didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, but she didn’t need to- she got bitten trying to help someone else and rather than bleed out or get eaten by roamers, she spent her final moments with Rick at her side. It was simple and effective at the same time.
But I still don’t like it and as I sit here writing this half-assed write-up, the fact that Andrea is now dead is something that’s difficult for me to process. I imagine we’ll see over time how this will impact Rick, and I can’t speak for other readers, but like Glenn’s death, it’s like bringing the story to a screeching halt. Things are about to change for our characters, but as Kirkman said, the story continues.
But it still hurts, and like Kirkman said, it’s the equivalent of losing a close friend. That’s the impact that Andrea’s character has had not just on the narrative, but how readers have warmed to her over the years. She could’ve lived to fight another day, but this is where the story has led us. I’m not angry at Kirkman for coming to this decision, but this death is going to remain with us for a long time.
And it’s here that we say our goodbyes to Andrea. You were a hell of a fighter, a fan-favorite, and all-around great character. You may not think you’re special, but you are to a lot of us and even though you aren’t immortal, your fighting spirit and the memories we have of you will be with us for years to come.