Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Case of the Hateful Hero: Andy's Finest Moments

As previously noted, Wesley Lau, being brought in to ease Ray Collins’ work load when his health started to decline, originally was given dialogue meant for Tragg. It sounded very strange and wrong to hear another character say the same things that Tragg had said in the past. I wonder if viewers during the show’s original run really noticed.

It was in the sixth season when they decided to really allow the character of Lieutenant Anderson to grow. Perhaps by then they knew that it would be impossible for Ray Collins to ever be able to work as much as he had before and that it would be ridiculous to keep giving Wesley Lau dialogue meant for him.

As early as the first aired episode in season 6, The Bogus Books, Andy seems more like his own person and less like Tragg’s shadow. We find out a bit about him: he lives in a house (as opposed to an apartment), he has to relight his heater’s pilot light once a month, and he falls asleep very quickly. But it’s The Hateful Hero, several episodes later, that is generally hailed as Andy’s breakthrough episode.

As with many Perry episodes, I saw it years ago. I remembered parts of it very well when I finally saw it again last week on my local station. I loved it back then and I love it now. It is truly a unique and amazing venture.

And it is Andy’s moment to shine. There is no question of that. It opens showing him visiting a police precinct to talk with his close friend Otto Norden. Andy’s cousin Jimmy is being promoted from a beat to a patrol car. Otto will be his partner. All looks well.

But everything swiftly goes downhill when there is an apparent robbery at the Wilson Plastics building. Tragg comes to Andy, somber, and tells him Otto has been killed. Worse, it looks bad for Jimmy, who seems to have run away. Later, the security guard at the building is also killed, and Jimmy is arrested for the murder. Andy goes to Perry for help.

Things are complicated by a growing suspicion that Otto may have been a dirty cop. Andy can’t bear to even suggest such a thing to Otto’s mother, who has become a surrogate mother to Andy. He also can’t believe Jimmy is guilty of murder. But, he tells Perry, both agonized and determined, if he finds sufficient evidence pointing in that direction, he will put Jimmy in the gas chamber himself.

The episode shows so many facets to Andy’s character. Previously he had been mostly a dogged “just the facts” cop. Occasional moments of playfulness were written with Tragg’s words. Here he shows a wide range of emotions. We see his loyalty and love for Jimmy and the Nordens, as well as his determination for justice to be done, even if that means his cousin will be executed. He does all he can to uncover the truth, longing to believe that both Jimmy and Otto are innocent. Eventually they are indeed both vindicated.

The scene where Tragg comes to tell him about Otto’s death is so heartbreaking. And, though short, it depicts their close friendship in a most poignant and revealing way.

The amazing character actress Jeanette Nolan portrays Mrs., or Mama, Norden. She is noted for her ability to perform with different accents. Here, she is a little Germanic woman, devoted to her son Otto and refusing to believe that he could be a dirty cop. She is bitter against Jimmy, believing him responsible for both murders. But when Jimmy’s name is cleared and the mystery solved, she is able to begin moving past her grief. She welcomes Jimmy then, as another surrogate family member.

Otto himself appears only briefly, despite being so important to the overall plot. He is played by the wonderful William Boyett, who is most well-known for his assortment of upright policemen characters.

There is only one area where this episode falls a bit short, and that is where Mr. Burger is concerned. Unless something else involving him was cut, he appears only in the one courtroom scene, for a short period of time. Considering that Andy is his friend, as Tragg also is, I would have thought he might be seen a bit more. I would have loved a behind-the-scenes scene depicting him talking with Andy, perhaps concerning how the hearing would be handled. Or he could have been in the climax, when they caught the real crook. The writers were so busy showing how awesome Andy is that they ended up skimping on Hamilton’s screentime.

It’s no secret that Hamilton is my favorite character. I’ll freely admit that I even have a little crush on him. Ordinarily I would complain much more about his lack of screentime. But this episode is just so amazing that I’ll let it slide this time. I know it’s difficult to spotlight every character in a story, especially if one particular one is supposed to be the star. Someone will end up not having as much screentime in favor of fitting in everything that really needs to be shown.

I wish Jimmy and Mama Norden would have turned up in other episodes, or had at least been mentioned again. I have a great love for oneshot characters, particularly ones who are very close to characters in the main cast. The reason is likely because they help to further develop the main characters and round out their personalities and who they are. I’m planning a post devoted to The Fatal Fetish and the Germaines in the future.

Otto’s friendship with Andy is going to come into play in my current Perry mystery, The Case of the Macabre Mansion. Andy is a bit haunted by the resemblance Paul’s operative Pete Kelton bears to Otto. Later on, Otto himself will play a critical role in a scene towards the end. But I won’t say more on that subject.

Overall, Andy had already moved up on my list of favorite characters. The Hateful Hero pushed him all the way to the top, so much so that I believe he may be in my top three tier, along with Hamilton and Perry. And as I write for Andy in The Macabre Mansion, The Hateful Hero has helped me with his characterization more than any other episode. He has a close friendship with Tragg. His usual seriousness can be broken by moments of mischievous levity. And he is devoted to justice and doing what he must to uncover the truth, even if it is something he does not personally want to do.

I always find it interesting how I usually am very lukewarm towards any replacement characters, but then eventually they work their way deeply into my heart. Andy is certainly not an exception. And the episode they wrote to spotlight him is nearly perfect.

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