After the shocking twist on the premiere of Sunday night’s True Blood, I got to thinking about other crappy television character deaths. Andrew touched on this topic last fall, with some of the laziest TV deaths of all time, and while it’s kind of a grey area, what I see as the “crappiest” are television deaths that do an injustice to either the character, viewer, or both. Maybe they were poorly thought out or not particularly fulfilling, or just flat out shouldn’t have happened at all — although in the latter instances, often times circumstance forced a showrunner’s hand.
Obviously there are going to be spoilers ahead, although I will say only two of the deaths have taken place in the past year, so tread lightly. Here they are, in no particular order:
Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon has this great thing that he does (and by “great” I mean the opposite of that) where he likes to take two star-crossed lovers and brings them together, or in this case back together, juuuuust before he kills the crap out of one of them. And while yes, this is effective for an emotional gut punch — albeit in the cheapest way possible — I expected better. Okay fine, I will even admit that while maybe Tara’s death was integral to the storyline to make Willow go all black-eyed super witch (I GUESS, don’t even get me started on that yellow crayon nonsense) but did they seriously have to shoot her? Did they seriously have to shoot sweet, kind-hearted yet dopey Tara? WITH A GUN? This is Buffy we’re talking about, and Tara just deserved better than that.
Fans were so upset enough about Tara’s demise that a season seven storyline bringing Amber Benson back to play an incarnation of Tara as The First Evil were scrapped, as to not further traumatize anybody.
Matthew Crawley, Downton Abbey
Matthew Crawley’s death was due to one of those aforementioned circumstances about forcing a showrunner’s hand, which happens quite often on Downton Abbey thanks to the way the UK deals with actors’ contracts. But while they were forced to eliminate Matthew Crawley’s character, they handled it in absolutely the most laughable way possible by having Matthew in his car, on his way home after seeing his wife and infant son, with a dumb dumb Golder Retriever expression on his face — and then all of a sudden he crashes and he’s dead. Bye, Matthew. You survived the war and miraculously learned to walk again, but in the end your undoing was driving a f*cking car.
Ben and Vivian Harmon, American Horror Story: Murder House
When this happened, I was actually physically mad. All season was leading up to the reveal as to what the mystery of the murder house was, why ghosts were resigned to being trapped there and what turned it evil in the first place — plus, INFANTATA anyone?? — and then they go and mess up the whole end of the series by having Connie Britton die in childbirth because of the evil ghost baby trying to get out of her and Dylan McDermott getting hastily and anticlimactically murdered by the ghost of his former lover. Then the entire Harmon family lives happily ever after singing kumbaya around the Christmas Tree. I was so disappointed I vowed never to watch any subsequent season of American Horror Story — but since that didn’t take, look for my recaps this fall.
Tara Thornton, True Blood
Obviously Tara was the inspiration for this post, and even though I mentioned it yesterday, it bears repeating: Tara’s death was about as crappy as they come. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was a huge fan of Tara or anything, but how do you kill off an A) season one series regular, B) off-screen, C) before the opening credit even roll in the premiere of the final season, and D) NOBODY CARES? It’s honestly mind-boggling.
Cordelia Chase, Angel
Oh hi, remember what I was saying before about Joss Whedon and his hard on for killing off star-crossed lovers? In the season three finale of Angel, just as Cordelia and Angel are finally about to confess their love for one another, Cordelia is whisked off to a higher plane of existence where she is eventually possessed, sent back to earth causing mayhem, sexes Angel’s son Pete Campbell (ew), has a demon god baby and falls into a coma.
The whole pregnancy storyline was written in due to Charisma Carpenter’s actual pregnancy and the resulting coma for her maternity leave. When Cordelia comes back 11 episodes later, however, ostensibly awake from her coma in season five and finally kisses Angel — it turns out she was actually just some kind of physical spirit embodiment and she never awoke from her coma and died off screen. Bye, character we spent almost eight entire seasons of television with.
Lisa Kimmel Fisher, Six Feet Under
Nobody really liked Nate’s first wife Lisa, who he married after getting her pregnant and having his child, but for an otherwise fantastic show — and I mean really, really fantastic — the way they did away with her was pretty awful. Having her disappear, wash up on the beach and then turn into an adulterer with her sister’s husband without even being able to defend herself? It’s been years since I’ve seen the show but I still remember throwing things at the TV that night. The whole plot just felt tacked on and cheap.
Even though this just happened a few years ago I had to look it up to remember how Bobby died because I think my memory chose to repress it based upon how awful it was. But it wasn’t so much the way Bobby died that was crappy, being shot in the head by the head Leviathan (ugh), but the fact that Supernatural — full on in its heavy decline into mediocrity — brought him back as a ghost, conveniently ignoring all of the ghost mythology the series had established by making his spirit attached to a physical object and able to possess human beings. Bobby was the heart of the series for six seasons — he deserved an honorable death, not some flaccid half-assed “he’s dead but not really” turd that won’t cut off of a situation that makes you actually feel bad for the actor that plays the character. He eventually gets sucked into hell by Crowley and then Sam saves him and lets his spirit go to heaven or some bologna. I don’t know.
Hey kids, tune into season ten of Supernatural, starting his fall!
Bill McNeal, NewsRadio
Okay, let me just start out by saying I’m fully aware of how controversial of a pick this is. The character of Bill McNeal was killed off between seasons four and five of NewsRadio, obviously because Phil Hartman was tragically murdered by his wife. And the series and cast, for what it’s worth, actually did a stellar job of handling the tragedy. To this day I can’t watch the scene where they read off Bill’s last testament to his coworkers and the cast breaks character because of their actual overwhelming grief. The series was then cancelled following season five after Jon Lovtiz admirably tried to take over as Phil Hartman’s replacement. So if that’s not a crappy deal, then I don’t know what is. You’re still missed, Phil.
Santiago, Friday Night Lights
Season two of Friday Night Lights was cut short, victim of the 2008 writers strike. When season three returned, the series decided to abandon several plot arcs and the character of Santiago — the troubled youth with his sad, sad Eeyore face who Buddy Garrity takes in — just flat out disappeared, with viewers left to assume that his home planet needed him. RIP, Santiago.
Eli Roosevelt, Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy obviously kills off a LOT of their characters, but none felt so ugly as when Roosevelt was murdered at the end of season six. We all knew Tara wasn’t going to make it out of the series (and likely season) alive, but having Juice shoot him to protect Gemma, who is the WOOORRRSSST? That just felt dirty. I mean christ, the poor guy just lost his pregnant wife the previous season and this is how they do him — meanwhile that walking tumor Unser is still kicking it despite having cancer for six entire years? Man, this show.
Buck the Dog, Married With Children
Hear me out, here. Buck was pretty badass as far as TV dogs go — he was a veritable sex machine and otherwise all around cool dog dude. But when the dog who played Buck (named “Michael” of all things) retired at the age of twelve in season ten, his character went to dog heaven and was then reincarnated as a derpy Cocker Spaniel named “Lucky.” Poor Buck, that’s no way for a dog to go out.