Pop Culture

Five TV Deaths that Shocked Me

This year’s TV landscape seems to be littered with bodies. No spoilers, it’s just that shows have killed a lot of people. We have obviously addressed some of these issues already on Persephone. I had a coworker remark that four shows she watched had deaths in one week, in mid-March I believe. Obviously, the grim reaper is becoming busier in TV land. 

It used to be that death was not featured regularly on television; it was definitely used for more shock value. Rather than dying, characters would just be put on a bus and were never mentioned again. I know on the screens of today, a character death is hardly shocking. Though this season of television has provided a few shocking moments, I am not going to focus on current deaths, and I’m also limiting myself to one Joss Whedon character because this list could include at least three.

5. Maude Flanders – The Simpsons

I remember hearing that someone might die on this show but I figured they probably wouldn’t do anything to someone that had an integral part in the every day life of the Simpson family. I mean, when Phil Hartman left this world, they kept animating his characters in background scenes. I just assumed that a Simpsons death was not permanent, or if it was, it would be to a one-off character. I was wrong. The back story on why they killed Maude is unfortunate. The voice actress left a year earlier than the death over a pay dispute. They hired another voice actress to take over Maude and other characters, but the writers decided that killing off Maude would open up story lines. The most shocking aspect of the death was how it happened. The Simpsons and Flanders were at a sporting event and Homer wanted to get all the T-shirt cannons fired at him. He bent over to pick something up and the T-shirts hit Maude and knocked her over the back of the grandstand to her death.

4. Mrs. Landingham – The West Wing

Everyone’s favorite presidential secretary won our hearts on the first season of The West Wing. She seemed to be the only person who could wrangle the president and keep him in line. How and why she was killed shocked me at the time. Bartlet’s actions after her death affected the entire series. The writers did a great job of finding a reason for Bartlet to run for reelection. “Two Cathedrals” may be my favorite episode of the entire series.

3. Omar Little, The Wire

Much like Tyrion or Jesse, Omar became the fan favorite without necessarily being the lead on the show. All three of these characters are fan favorites because they are fucked up, weird, awesome individuals. What I appreciated about Omar is probably what a lot of others did. In a world full of Wills and Jacks, Omar provided a gay voice that wasn’t some middle class white guy. Omar’s motivations were not based on his sexuality. I appreciate well-rounded characters and Omar’s death was a full circle one. His killer, Kenard, is just a kid, but a kid who was seen imitating Omar the season before, a move is symbolic of what Omar creates and how easy it is to die and kill in the world of The Wire.

2. Dr. Dennis Gant- ER

If it wasn’t for number 1 on this list, Gant’s death on ER might have personally affected me the most. My parents gave me a TV to put in my room in 1994, one of the combo TV/VCRs. This allowed me to watch a lot of TV shows and I got sucked into ER. I watched that show from its debut, I had always been fascinated more with dramas than comedies as a kid, I think because the characters seemed a lot more real. When Omar Epps was introduced, I immediately took a liking to Dr. Gant. His character was bullied by another character and when you are dealing with bullying in real life, you empathize with characters and people who are also being bullied. I believe this allowed a gateway for me to get some of my negative energy out, rooting for Dr. Gant to win. Unfortunately, Dr. Gant committed suicide. I remember where I was when I watched it happen. I had just gotten home from a middle school music concert and I popped on ER to catch up. At one point, Dr. Benton (Gant’s bully) and Dr. Carter get a patient who jumped in front of the train. Dr. Benton tells someone to page Dr. Gant. The patient’s beeper goes off. Realization sets in that Dr. Gant is the patient. I cried my eyes out that night, I was so shocked.

1. Tara Maclay- Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon, FUCK YOU. Why couldn’t it have been Xander? Xander could have set off Dark Willow — they were best friends from childhood. Why did you have to kill innocent, sweet, cute, Tara? She and Willow had just gotten back together and you do this to them. I cried my eyes out the first time I saw this episode and I still cry my eyes out every time I see it. “Your shirt” absolutely slays me. Just say that to me and the waterworks will fall. I think what I am most sad about is that Willow and Tara were the first queer couple that I identified with on TV. Willow has always been the character most near and dear to my heart. It’s not like I used the actress’s name spelling for my name or anything. Watching an awesome queer couple be split apart like that just really fucking hurt. Whedon’s killed a lot of people and ruined many relationships, but this one still hurts the most. He knew exactly what he was doing.

There are some more recent deaths on TV but I chose to leave them out because they haven’t had the lasting impact on me like some others. What about you, dear readers? Which character’s death makes you want to roll up in a ball and cry? I am sure there is plenty to argue about.

By Alyson

Queer Pop Culture Junkie in the Northwest. Addicted to Coffee, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fantasy Sports, The Mountain Goats, and Tottenham Hotspur.

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