Spoilers: all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Season 5 of Angel
Personal Website: Spinning-in-Infinity.com
(thanks to bitterbyrden for the excellent beta work.)
Andrew Wells is by no means the most controversial character in the Buffyverse. As far as I know, he wouldn't even make the Top 10 list. Yet, there are people who violently dislike him, as well as people who adore him, so there's got to be something about him that sparks this.
Throughout his two years on BtVS, Andrew went from an almost-villain to an actual-villain to an almost good-guy. As an Andrew fan I should finish that up with "to an actual good-guy," but let's face it - people are more interesting when they're gray as opposed to black-and-white. Andrew's never going to be anything but gray, because once you mix white with black; it can never be purely white again.
Andrew first appears in episode 4 of Season 6 ("Flooded") alongside Jonathan and Warren as part of the trio of geeks hell-bent on taking over Sunnydale. He's kinda twitchy and goofy, and hates being known only as "Tucker's brother." "That wasn't me! How many times do I have to say it? The prom thing was my lame-o brother, Tucker." (For more Tucker, see episode 20 of Season 3, "The Prom.") He's also immature, as shown by the line, "We could stay up all night if we wanna!" He shows no signs of maturity when next we see him either; which happens to be the subsequent episode of the season, "Life Serial." He is seen painting a giant likeness of the Death Star on the side of the van, clearly oblivious at the need to "not draw attention to ourselves!" (Warren) To me, this seemingly innocuous event shows one of the major flaws in Andrew's character - he does not comprehend when he is doing something wrong. Further proof of Andrew's immaturity (as well as the rest of the Trio) comes throughout the course of the episode, as the three of them treat interfering with Buffy's life as if it were one big game. They try to find out Buffy's weaknesses, scoring each others' performance in each event. Andrew's contribution to the group was to summon demons (a skill he learned from Tucker), which proves to be most useful to the Trio in later episodes.
The last vestiges of childish malice appear in episode 11 of Season 6, "Gone." In it, the Trio accidentally turn Buffy invisible. Once again, Andrew is overshadowed by his older brother, as neither Buffy nor Willow have any idea who Andrew is until he's clarified as "Tucker's brother." However, just two episodes later, we are given our first view of Andrew as an
The crucial episode that pushes Andrew into this category is episode 13 of Season 6, "Dead Things." It is easy to overlook Andrew's villainy, as the episode is more widely known as "The One Where Buffy and Spike Have Sex on a Balcony." However, Andrew actually becomes frightening in this episode. Warren orchestrates a plan in the episode to get back his ex-girlfriend, Katrina (see episode 15 of Season 5 "I Was Made to Love You"), by hypnotizing her into loving him again. When Warren kills her by a blow to the back of her head with a champagne bottle, Andrew can't stop crying. He's horrified at what has happened; the game he so willingly agreed to play nine episodes ago has suddenly become very real. However, this lesson is not something that will stick with him. As we have seen before in his reaction to being known as Tucker's brother, Andrew wants to be noticed for who he is, and what he's accomplished. Warren utilized Andrew's demon summoning skills previously and always called Andrew by his name (unlike Jonathan), so when Warren orders him to call up demons to try to trick Buffy into taking the blame for Katrina's death, Andrew agrees. By the end of the episode, the three boys have seemed to successfully escape the grip of the law. Warren, naturally, is extremely pleased by this, as it was his idea in the first place. Conversely, Jonathan seems to be wracked with guilt over the whole thing. It is Andrew's reaction; however, that is the most surprising. Previously, the dynamic in the Trio had been Jonathan and Andrew, with Warren as their leader. With Andrew's declaration of "We really got away with murder. That's ... kinda cool," the dynamic subtly shifts to Jonathan versus Andrew and Warren.
Andrew's reaction is shocking because this previously awkward young man with visions of staying up all night has shown that he is perfectly comfortable with the idea of murder. Andrew views everything Trio-related as a game, and the murder of an innocent woman follows the Code of the Supervillain. Supervillains Get Away with Murder. It's what they do. It's in the handbook. He's so entrenched in his own view that he fails to see the truth of the situation. Or, possibly, he doesn't care, which is equally as terrifying to me.
Andrew continues down this path for the rest of the season, ending in episode 19 of Season 6 - the explosive "Seeing Red." In it, Warren has acquired temporary invincibility due to an ancient demon weapon – the Orbs of Nezzla'khan, and uses the acquired strength for an armored car robbery. As is to be expected; Buffy shows up to stop the Trio from accomplishing this feat. Warren fights Buffy, now able to match her strength, and Andrew becomes his driven-by-bloodlust cheerleader, saying "Kill her! Kill her!" After Buffy inevitably defeats Warren, we learn that Warren and Andrew had been plotting against Jonathan by setting him up to take the blame for the robbery while they escaped. After Warren escaped and the remaining two were sent to jail, Andrew and Jonathan formed an uneasy truce, later escaping to Mexico to avoid the wrath of a vengeful Willow.
Now might be a good time to go into the dynamic within the Trio, seeing as how (an episode after the Trio breaks up), Warren is killed off by Dark Willow. As previously stated, Warren used to be the leader of the Trio, while Jonathan and Andrew were the bickering brother-types. They all got into petty fights, but it was usually Jonathan and Andrew against Warren (see episode 4, "Flooded," and episode 5, "Life Serial"). However, with the death of Katrina, an interesting new partnership between Warren and Andrew was discovered.
I think that Warren realized that he was going to need someone firmly in his corner if he was going to accomplish all that he wanted to do, and (after witnessing both Andrew and Jonathan's reactions to Katrina's death), he viewed Andrew as the more easily-manipulated one. A line in "Seeing Red" offers some sort of speculation as to how Warren turned Andrew to his side by exploiting his need to feel appreciated. "How could he do this to me? He promised we'd be together. He was just using me. He never really loved... hanging out with us." Of course, nothing beyond a platonic relationship is ever explicitly stated, so my speculation remains just that – speculative. Whatever the relationship, it is Andrew's twisted devotion to Warren that leads him to his next incarnation as an
Actual Villain (continued)
Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduced us to a villain viewers met in Season 3, episode 10 ("Amends"). The First Evil, or "the First," as it apparently likes to be called, takes the form of dead people in order to accomplish its nefarious schemes. Andrew was targeted by the First, and with Warren conveniently dead and all... well, it was almost as perfect as if it had been scripted out in advance by a crack team of writers.
So yes, the First appeared to Andrew as Warren, starting during the time Jonathan and Andrew spent in Mexico hiding out from Evil!Willow (see episode 16 of Season 7, "Storyteller"). "Warren" convinces Andrew to return to Sunnydale with Jonathan in order to unearth this Big Evil Seal which is an opening into the Hellmouth. Of course all evil rituals require a sacrifice; in this case, Jonathan. Andrew stabs Jonathan in cold blood, killing him and spilling his blood over the Seal.
This is the perhaps the single most defining point in Andrew's life. Up until this point, he had never killed anyone directly. Even if he was truly conscious of what he was doing, I tend to think that he viewed it as just another random action in the RPG of his life. This is also the reason that seems to pop up the most when people say they don't like Andrew. I can understand their argument. Jonathan had been around since Season 2, while Andrew was just a newbie. Jonathan had always seemed redeemable, while Andrew was weak-willed and a follower. It is true in a later episode ("Storyteller") that Andrew tries to claim he was completely influenced by the First, but it comes out eventually that he was completely cognizant of what he was doing. However, while the First mainly seemed to be an ineffectual villain, one cannot deny that Andrew was easily swayed by "Warren's" words and promises. It was inevitable that Andrew, living in his own little fantasy-land, would be an incredibly easy target for the First to manipulate. He seems regretful for his actions, telling the First (in the form of Jonathan) that "I didn't want to kill you. Warren made me." As we can see, he may be regretful, but he isn't readily willing to admit to what he did, and it isn't until he owns up to his actions that he becomes an
Andrew, conned by the First into buying blood, runs into Willow outside of the local butchers' shop (Season 7, episode 9, "Never Leave Me"). He's scared to death, but this is not the Willow he ran away from months before. "Hey, your hair's not even black anymore." He's dragged to Buffy's home, and becomes a hostage, though he prefers the term "guestage." Throughout the next 5 episodes, Andrew interacts with the "good guys," slowly learning what they deem acceptable. That's something vitally important to Andrew's character - he can never truly be good, because he is so desperate to be liked that he'll go along with whatever people say. Buffy notices this trait in him, saying in episode 12 ("Potential"), "He's not evil, but when he gets close to it, he picks up its flavor like a mushroom or something." If he's around good people and is influenced by them, it then follows that he'll act more like them in order to be accepted. However, as the season continues, his need to be a good person seems more genuine, but it is still tenuous at best until episode 16, "Storyteller."
"Storyteller" is the ultimate Andrew episode. It is told from his point of view, through the subjective lens of his camera, and we finally gain insight into his character and his motivations, about which we could only speculate before. Andrew spends the entire episode painting himself in a positive light, telling grandiose stories about his life, spinning events so that he's either the ultimate hero or the supreme villain, and acting as if what he did had no bearing on anything. When Buffy confronts him about opening the Seal covering the Hellmouth, Andrew replies, "But, I-I'm not a part of this. I document, I don't participate. I'm a detached journalist, recording with a neutral eye." Once again, Andrew is stuck in his fantasy-world, pretending that everything that happened was just a game and didn't have an impact on anyone's life. Honestly, that statement right there makes me so incredibly angry that I want to beat him with a stick - and I'm an Andrew fan - so I can only imagine how people who don't like him might feel. It isn't until Buffy actually threatens him with death that he admits what he's done. "I killed him. Because I listened to Warren, and I pretended I thought it was him, but I knew - I knew it wasn't. And I killed Jonathan. And now you're gonna kill me. And I'm scared, and I'm going to die." The episode ends with him talking to the camera once more, finally saying what needs to be said:
"Here's the thing. I killed my best friend. There's a big fight coming, and I don't know what's going to happen. I don't even think I'm going to live through it. That's, uh, probably the way it should be."
Only then, after he has admitted to his faults, his flaws, and his actions, can he start to actually become the good person he had previously just been pretending to be.
Another Interlude (Andrew's relationships with the White Hats)
Oddly enough, the person he becomes closest to throughout the latter part of Season 7 is Anya. I can't definitively say why that is, but in my opinion Andrew and Anya were very similar. Both had done things that they regret and others despise, and instead of being killed off for their actions, they were forced to live with what they'd done (see episode 5 of Season 7, "Selfless," for Anya's story). They were also outsiders within Buffy's group. After Anya and Xander broke up (Season 6, episode 16, "Hell's Bells"), Anya had no strong ties to anyone and nowhere else to go. This was also true of Andrew. In addition, Andrew was in awe of Anya, and Anya loved to be admired.
Andrew also had relationships with Dawn and Xander, but both to lesser extent. Andrew is what Xander might have become. During the beginning of Season 4, Xander was directionless. He switched jobs and lived in his parents' basement. In addition, Xander was a huge geek, though he started to grow out of it as the years progressed. In fact, it was only until Andrew was reluctantly brought into the fold that Xander finally had another male to talk to (since Oz's departure in Season 4), as well as a fellow comic aficionado. He even started to stand up for Andrew in defense of all things geek. "Matthew Broderick did not kill Godzilla. He killed a big, dumb lizard. That was not the real Godzilla." (Season 7, episode 18, "Dirty Girls"). Andrew also seemed to have a sort of hero-worship thing going on towards Xander, and like Anya, Xander liked to feel important. "Look at the fine work Xander did on replacing that window sash. You can't even tell it's new, it blends in so well. He's extraordinary." (Season 7, episode 16, "Storyteller")
Andrew's relationship with Dawn was tentative, but she's really the first one of the regulars to warm up to him, (despite the fact that she punched him while he was unconscious in Season 7, episode 10, "Bring on the Night"). Andrew and Dawn seemed to share the same sort of bond that Andrew and Anya shared, in that Dawn, even though she's the Slayer's sister, was still not really considered a core member of the group, as Buffy usually considered her too young to be involved in Slayerly business and she was often excluded.
These relationships with Anya, Xander, and Dawn, also helped to guide Andrew on his way to becoming an
Almost Good-Guy (continued)
Andrew finally achieves his goal of becoming a useful member of Buffy's group during the Series Finale. He fights alongside Anya in the battle against the First, and though he's uncoordinated and scared, he fights to the best of his ability, stabbing a Bringer (one of the First's minions) in the chest. He's horrified and shocked when he realizes that not only is he alive, but that Anya, the woman he admired as "the perfect woman" (Season 7, episode 21, "End of Days"), is dead. Ultimately, it is his penchant for storytelling (which so often got him in trouble) that is his true power. When Xander asks Andrew about what happened to Anya, Andrew replies, "She was incredible. She died saving my life." (Season 7, episode 22, "Chosen"). Andrew lies in order to give Xander a memory of Anya that he would be able to cherish, as opposed to the true senselessness of her death.
And then Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended, and I was sad. My boy Andrew's story felt incredibly unfinished. He had to deal with the guilt and live with the pain of his life as well as learn how to survive in the real world. I wanted to know how that would affect him and how his personality would change because of it. All seemed lost.
Oh, but then Angel's fifth season started, and I became a happy Fab indeed. Which brings me to Andrew as an
Almost Good-Guy (the Angel: the Series version)
In episode 11 of Season 5 of Angel, "Damage," Andrew came back as a representative of Giles's group, sporting curly hair and a suit, and hunting down a psychotic Slayer named Dana.
I cannot talk about Andrew without mentioning his complex and strained relationship with Spike. Andrew worships Spike, and has for quite some time, ever since episode 18 of Season 6, "Entropy": "He is so cool..." Spike is what Andrew wishes he could be, as evidenced in the beginning of episode 9 in BtVS Season 7, "Never Leave Me." The opening scene starts out with a shot of someone walking; we only see their feet, but they're wearing black pants, black shoes, and a long black coat - Spike's usual outfit. We're meant to think it is Spike, but then the camera pans up and it turns out to be Andrew. And once Andrew is held captive at the Summers's house, Spike is one of the only people who isn't outright nasty to him. He's not especially kind to Andrew, but he doesn't hit him or verbally abuse him like the others do. The only time Spike gets violent with the boy is when he's under control of the First and bites Andrew. In fact, Spike pretty much ignores Andrew up until their trip to the monastery in episode 19 of Season 7, "Empty Places." During their mission, they get along pretty well, even discussing their penchant for onion blossoms. But then Spike dies in the series finale, only to come back in the beginning of Angel's fifth season, which brings me back to Andrew as an
Almost Good-Guy (the Angel: the Series version... continued)
In "Damage," we learn that Andrew has been seeing a therapist - a realistic and wonderful touch to his character, because he truly would benefit from therapy. One of the things he talked to his therapist about was his wish that Spike would return. "It's you. It's really you! My therapist thought I was holding onto false hope, but... I knew you'd come back." We can tell that Spike has a tolerance for him, because when Andrew hugs him in front of Angel, Spike lets him do so, looking suitably mortified all the while, but not shoving him off. Spike is incredibly embarrassed, but also possibly flattered by the attention. Andrew spends most of the episode trailing around after Spike, trying to engage him in conversation and impress him with his newfound training. "And-and so I say, 'Well, the two of us disagree with you, hombre.' And-and he's all... 'The two of you?' And I say, 'Yeah. Me and my electric net.'"
By the end of the episode, we have seen how much Andrew's character has progressed. He stands up to Angel, who is a good head taller than him, as well as a heck of a lot stronger. Andrew takes control of the situation and manages to get Dana away from Wolfram & Hart. Spike is suitably impressed, and actually tells Angel so: "Andrew double-crossed us? That's a good move. Hope for the little ponce yet." The way that Spike shows respect for Andrew in front of Angel makes me feel that Spike, in his own way, actually kind of likes him.
The Andrew and Spike relationship is shown once more in episode 20 of Season 5 of Angel, "The Girl in Question." Andrew's in Italy for... some reason involving his house being blown up, and he's living with Buffy and Dawn. This implies (to me) that Buffy has actually started to tolerate Andrew as well, probably along the same lines as she tolerated Anya. Spike and Angel travel to Italy, only to encounter Andrew again at Buffy's place. Just as before, Andrew greets Spike with a hug in front of Angel, and once again Spike lets him.
It's true that when I first saw him on BtVS, I thought of Andrew as a cookie-cutter stereotypical Geek. In fact, I couldn't tell any of the members of the Trio apart, as I had always been a casual viewer up until that point, and had regularly missed episodes. But as I watched the show and began to gain insight into the characters, Andrew began to capture my interest. He wanted so much to be liked and accepted that it made me pity him, but he was so amoral at times that I couldn't believe it. I loved how random he was, and how, even at his most evil, he had an incredible innocence to him. For example, when Warren tries to explain to him when it will be time to put their plan into effect using a comparison to the length of time milk stays fresh, and Andrew responds with, "Well, we got it on Friday and I remember noticing that there wasn't a full two weeks on it, but we did get it into the fridge pretty quick, unless I'm thinking about the two-percent..." (Season 6, episode 18, "Entropy")
I'm not expecting that anyone who reads this is going to rush off to learn more about Andrew and read Andrew fic in which he is paired with many different people, but if you do, I'd normally recommend that you start at Funnel Cakes and Flying Monkeys. (I may be a bit biased, as I co-run the site, and as a co-webmistress, I have to share the horrible news that the site is currently on the fritz.) Also, you can visit the Andrew section of the BtVS Writers' Guild. I'm particularly fond of the Andrew/Anya site and the Andrew/Warren site (both of which I happen to run).
The pouting, the over-the-top reactions, and the other various and assorted quirks about him, are why I adore Andrew Wells. So, instead of a pithy ending for this essay, I'll just leave you with a few lines of what I like to call the Andrew Anthem:
Do you have the time
to listen to me whine?
About nothing and everything
all at once?
I am one of those
Neurotic to the bone
No doubt about it...
- Green Day, Basket Case