Too Many TV Deaths Aren't A Problem, But THIS Is

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

This May, TVLine published a "scorecard" of all the momentous TV finale moments to come. The ratings bait fell into the categories you'd expect — births, pregnancies, weddings, break-ups, and of course, deaths. It also included "resurrections." Coupled with "big returns," this category wasn't simply for characters who had come back from the dead. But the inclusion highlights a big problem plaguing TV today — deaths just aren't as dramatic when your favorite character could simply return from the great beyond.
Characters coming back from the dead are nothing new. Buffy Summers crawled out of her grave back in 2001. But more recent shows have taken the "they're back" effect to almost comical heights. The worst offender, by far, is Supernatural. The show so old it premiered back on the WB killed off its two main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, and then brought them back too many times to count. Actually, someone did count, and in the first nine seasons alone, the poor Winchester boys were offed 117 times. Even the weepiest of fans would have a hard time getting emotionally invested in any more Winchester deaths, let alone attempts on their lives.
Advertisement
And shows that feature the kind of forces that can make beating death possible aren't the only ones calling actors who were killed off to make reappearances. Grey's Anatomy's previously deceased Denny haunts Izzie for half a season, years after his initial demise. Characters are dragged back through dream sequences (this year's The Good Wife finale) and alternate realities (another Grey's resurrection — Meredith's mom, back from the dead in a bizzaro-world version of the hospital). Though brief back-from-the-dead moments are often implemented to bring characters — and to some extent, the audience — some kind of closure, they often just feel forced and cheap. Like The 100 fan favorite Lexi sharing a final kiss with her girlfriend in a kind of virtual-reality universe, episodes after her death.

Each time a character returns after the show's characters (and fans) have mourned him or her, it mutes the impact of TV deaths in general. Sure, finale fatalities are sad on the surface, but they can't pack the same punch when you're already turning to an actor's Twitter feed to look for clues that he'll be back next season.
With Jon Snow's gasping return, he helped swing Game of Thrones into a stronger season. But his resurrection also strengthened the idea that, at least on TV in 2016, death is just no big deal.
Advertisement