"I’ve got a very bad feeling about this."
I am either the best or worst superhero ever, depending on who you ask. Eclectic geek. Fandoms galore. Costumes. Video games. Comic books. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Television. Movies. Culture. History. I really like GIFs.
A frequent complaint I seem to have with TV, especially within the last 5 years or so, is this industry standard that killing off characters is a way to keep a story fresh and exciting. this feels especially true in supernatural/fantasy esque stories. Like these writers want to keep us on their toes, and they aren’t creative enough to do it in any other way other than teasing a potential death, building it up, and (9/10 times) eliminating a mostly minor character who is well liked and under developed. The show can collect its shock and awe points and generate some internet buzz and keep people talking into the next season.
Writers for these shows are like broke addicts huffing paint thinner for a quick fix. Its lazy and unprofessional. More that that, its predictable. It eliminates effort to create truly stimulating art. It eliminates the responsibility that writers have to pump out a finale/pre finale/episode that will shock you by it’s own merits. It’s part of a culture of television that bores and frustrates it’s most passionate viewers, who groan upon hearing the announcement that there will be “two shocking deaths” by the end of the season. “Of course there are”, we think. There always is. Who is the most expendable. Which character did you decide to shortchange for the sake of shock this time? How many episodes will it take for that character’s name to leave the lips of the surviving cast forever; for that character to be erased and cemented as a plot device in an unnecessary attempt by writers to deliver a promise of unpredictability and brutality to it’s fans.
But heres the thing. True Detective wrapped up it’s first season a few months ago without a single major/supporting character death. Despite it’s wild west feel, almost every major character in Deadwood survived it’s finale. The most shocking, skin crawling scenes in Breaking bad weren’t the moments of a characters death, but the scenes of quiet, tension between two characters that were still alive. Doctor Who is one of the longest running scifi/fantasy shows of all time and the large portion of it’s successful run was spent preaching and practicing mercy.
and i’m not saying that character deaths are inherently useless; or even that killing off multiple characters is inherently problematic. Some series manage to pull this off without a hitch; the difference being that the deaths in question all work fluidly within the world the death occurred. When people talk about Breaking Bad, nobody complains that ____ shouldn’t have died. You don’t hear ASOIAF/Game of Thrones fans say that ____ was unfairly killed off.
There is a level of acceptance in these deaths because they were all centered around pragmatism and story telling, not thrills. It doesn’t feel as if somebody tossed names into a hat and conjured up a cheap exit for the unlucky winner(s). Writers aren’t beating their chests and teasing spoilers about these deaths to drum up viewership or trick fans into thinking that the stakes are higher than they actually are; and that killing characters is akin to great/moving writing.
This new trend where developing characters and plucked from the their stories by ambivalent writers who have either dug themselves into a hole or can’t conjure up enough organic tension really does nothing but frustrate fans and make us believe a little less in the shows that we have attached ourselves to. im pretty sick of it.
in short: stop being lazy.
Even the people who are very critical of Lost would probably agree that its character deaths were highly effective because they were all surprises, they all meant something, and they all left a resonating wake. That was a show where anything could happen to anyone, but it wasn’t a drawn-out marketing gimmick. It was a well-developed ensemble in a dangerous situation, and every loss felt like a real sacrifice.
If your “drama” is so badly-drawn that you’ve resorted to repeatedly gloating over your power to kill of your characters whenever you feel the need to generate interest, you’re probably not doing your best work.