I’m not saying death is good. It’s not. But death is a part of life, it’s just something that exists no matter what. And when characters go entire seasons without anyone they even remotely know dying, it just starts to feel unrealistic to me. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just morbid.
I’m the kind of girl whose reaction to television death is usually one of three things:
- Good! That character deserved it, because they were bad and mean.
- NO! My baby, you can’t die, I love you too much.
- I’m sad that you’ve died, yes, but I’m also applauding the writers having the courage to kill you off.
3 is my pretty constant refrain when watching, say, Buffy (I was originally going to make this a statistics problem, comparing how many people die in various television shows that represent various genres, but then I realized that it would take too long to count how many people die on Buffy, because seriously, SO many people die, random people and important people both; one of these days I will do Depressing Whedonverse Deaths, but that’s not today). Lately, though, I’ve been attributing it to other things: True Blood, at least the last season (which we all know), and though Sons of Anarchy hasn’t killed off that many people, it’s putting a lot of people in near-death situations this season.
When characters are prone to dying on television, it’s more high-stakes, and that makes it more fun for me. If I think that a character might actually die, I get tense, and I get more wrapped up in the story as a result. If I think that a main character could die, I have to applaud the writers. It’s not unheard of, but it’s rare. (To say again how much I adored this last season of True Blood, I will just point out that they spent the first two seasons playing it pretty safe. They killed off random waitresses that boinked people and random vampires and random hillbillies, they killed off their Big Bads. Season three was a little more risky. Season four, though… I mean, the season finale saw the deaths of how many characters in the opening credits? Four? And Marshall Allman, who played Tommy, had died previously, but was still in the credits, so that makes five. That’s a lot of death.)
Not every show has excuses for massacres, and that’s perfectly all right. It makes more sense to have higher body counts on Buffy or True Blood or The Walking Dead or even Dollhouse, because of the nature of the programs. There are monsters (or technology, or guns, or some combination thereof) that will kill you, period. You don’t have to kill off everyone on, say, Mad Men, but I wouldn’t be opposed to someone not ancient (I’m looking at you, Ida Blankenship [Randee Heller]) getting killed off somehow. (Not my girls, my Joanie [Christina Hendricks], Peggy [Elisabeth Moss], Sally [Kiernan Shipka], not Don [Jon Hamm], but someone… maybe a little bit less important but still important enough to have more than one episode’s worth of impact, like Greg [Sam Page]. He should die due to army things.)
Generally, the number of television deaths can be sorted out pretty easily:
- Anything Joss Whedon touches
- Other programs about monsters or an apocalypse; sometimes war-related things too
- Miscellaneous medical/criminal dramas
- Network dramas
- Regular comedies, if you’re lucky
- Sitcoms (seriously. During the entire run of Friends, less than ten characters died. That’s not even one per season.)
I know. I’m morbid. I don’t even care.
–your fangirl heroine.