Friday, February 17, 2012

Ashley Williams

*From time to time, this blog will focus on the main cast of the "Mass Effect" games...first, everyone's favorite(?) Gunnery Chief, voiced by Kimberly Brooks!*

Many of the characters of the "Mass Effect" series wear their hearts on their sleeves, even some aliens...that's especially true of Ashley Williams.

Ash was there from the start in "Mass Effect" literally on Eden Prime when Saren and his Geth forces attacked with support from the Reaper Sovereign. Born into a military family, she enlisted in Earth's Alliance Navy following the footsteps of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Unfortunately, she was also born partly cursed: her great-grandfather was considered infamous, the only Human officer to surrender to the Turians on the Shanxi colony during the First Contact War. That disgrace hung over the Williams family like a shroud. Her father was passed over for promotion far too many times, and it seems Ash was fated to suffer the same stigma.

Then Eden Prime came along...losing her entire squad in battle, Ash met Commander Shepard and Lieutenant Kaiden she fought to hold back the Geth alone. The group then fought to reach the Prothean artifact, the logical objective of this attack. And so began the first steps Commander Shepard would take to stop the Reapers and save all life in the galaxy.

*Spoilers follow for those who haven't played the "Mass Effect" games! You were warned!*

As Shepard journeyed across galactic space, he (and we) got to know more about his fellow crewmates, including Ash. The Gunnery Chief often spoke her mind, in part because she's suffering the disgrace passed down from her grandfather, so what the hell does she have to lose by being honest? Ash was also very close to her three younger sisters (all non-military), liked to quote poetry, and is outspoken for believing in God. It's never made clear which religion she believes in, and Shepard (meaning you!) can have something in common with Ash and say he/she believes, too.

Ash is also very much someone who holds Humanity above other alien races...for her, human beings come first. Always. She makes it clear it isn't fact, she calls out others for even associating with racists! But she definitely won't go out on a blind date with a Turian, either. She also hates politics, and has little patience for bueaucracy.

A brief aside: the fact Ashley puts humans first and is religious has been a bone of contention for some "Mass Effect" fans. What I mean by that is, a lot of folks are vocal in their dislike of her! I don't see her as bigoted -- maybe she needs to be more open-minded, but then that can be said for those who sling arrows at her! Especially those who don't like her for believing in God. I know there are a lot of non-believers out there, but that doesn't give them the right to say someone is stupid to even terrible for having faith! I'd call people being so judgmental wrong.

Then the time comes in the game Shepard answers the distress call of a Salarian special forces group on the planet Virmire. Saren has a secret lab complex there not just investigating Sovereign's 'Indoctrination', but breeding an army of Krogan loyal only to him. A nuclear warhead is jury-rigged and set to detonate and destroy the complex, but Shepard must also choose who must live and who must die, Ashley or Kaidan. If Kaidan is left to die in the blast, Ash will be stunned with grief and guilt, and Shepard (that means you!) might also have the chance to have a romance with her. If you treated her with respect, then she will eventually become very receptive, and...ahem, she'll have some intimate time to spend with Shepard in his quarters just before they reach Ilos finish their journey. (For better or worse, there is no option for a FemShep having a lesbian relationship with Ash.)

When "Mass Effect 2" starts, Ash is still with Shepard when the mysterious Collectors attack...she and most of the crew barely escape before the Normandy is destroyed and, sigh, Shepard is killed in action. Briefly! The terrorist human-centric organization Cerberus gets ahold of Shepard and becomes the sole subject of the Lazarus Project, with the goal of bringing Shepard back to life as he (or she) was before. Two years later, with some cybernetic enhancements, Shepard is alive again...and he/she grudgingly agrees to help Cerberus and their leader, the Illusive Man, to discover why the Collectors are harvesting entire human colonies for the Reapers.

After Shepard awakens, it's revealed Ash has been promoted and is now serving a clandestine role in helping a human colony on Horizon get established. Without Shepard's knowledge the Illusive Man secretly gets information to the Collectors about Horizon, knowing they would have an interest in Shepard and anyone who knows him/her, for the purpose of creating the best chance to fight the enemy and learn even more about them. The Illusive Man's plan doesn't quite work out after he alerts Shepard about Horizon. The colony is attacked before Shepard can arrive, and Ash and most of the colony is paralyzed by the Collector's seeker swarms. Shepard and his team arrive and force the Collectors to retreat, but they leave with most of the colony captive on their massive ship.

Ash, thankfully, was one of the few left behind. Meeting for the first time in over two years, Ash can't help but be swept up by of those emotions, however, is anger! She's angry to not have heard from Shepard for so long, which is compounded by his alliance with Cerberus, an enemy they both fought before while searching for Saren. She was stationed on Horizon, in fact, because it was believed Cerberus was responsible for the loss of human colonies.

This is where I and a lot of fans of the series then had good reason not to like Ash, when she called Shepard a traitor to her and everything they stood for by working for Cerberus. She was letting her feelings get in the way of really thinking about the situation, that Shepard was working with Cerberus for the right reasons. My feeling is, if Ash really cared about Shepard, she wouldn't care if he worked with Cerberus or not. But she did, and she just turned away and left him. Not a good thing to do, Ash! Even though she sent a message of apology to Shepard, especially if a romance had been built between them, it didn't lessen the sting.

But what will happen in the third and final installment of this series? Ashley Williams will be coming back as a Lieutenant-Commander, but where will their relationship stand? Does it stand at all? How much has she changed over time? Hopefully, Shepard and Ash will have the time they need to get they launch into war against the Reapers in "Mass Effect 3"!

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