Death, be not proud — unless you happen to be on TV. Killing a character is one of TV writers’ favorite devices for change — because it works. I mean, you have to deal with a death, even if the deceased character is going to come back time after time in various dimensions and times (I’m looking at you, Lost).
This week EW.com published a list of its 20 Most Shocking TV Deaths. (If you’re behind on any shows, please slowly back away from the spoilers.) Most of the people EW chose did, indeed, come to a shocking end. But we can always improve on lists, right?
First, a few of theirs:
Agent Caitlan Todd (Sasha Alexander), NCIS (2005)
You hear about people who survive plane crashes and then die after falling in the bathtub. This was like that. Kate had just taken a bullet (in the vest) for Gibbs. When curmudgeonly Gibbs praised her, she said, “Wow. I thought I’d die before I ever heard …” POW! Right between the eyes. I honestly didn’t forgive the NCIS writers until this week, when I read that Alexander got a new series. Not that I have a problem with taking TV personally or anything.
Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009)
I literally cursed at the television when Ianto died. He was one of the best characters on the show, not to mention the love of Captain Jack’s life. The outcry from Ianto fans was immediate and intense — and I still can’t believe it. They killed Ianto. B–tards.
Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), The West Wing (2001)
Mrs. Landingham was one of the few people who could speak her mind to President Bartlet without hesitation. Her death in a car crash was sudden and devastating.
Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur), L.A. Law (1991)
The shocking death that set the standard for shocking deaths was when the antagonistic Roz stepped into an elevator that wasn’t there and plunged to her death. The fact that it was sort of funny didn’t make it any less jolting.
EW.com lists more bombshell deaths, including Rita on Dexter, Adriana on The Sopranos, Joyce Summers on Buffy and Dee on BSG here.
But I would be remiss not to mention some notable omissions.
Tara Maclay (Amber Benson), Buffy (2002)
The bullet Warren fired after he thought he felled Buffy was the shot heard round the lesbo world. The newly reconciled Willow and Tara are getting dressed as the stray bullet strikes Tara in the back. She dies in Willow’s arms, ending one of TV’s best lesbian relationships — and almost ending the world when dark Willow sought vengeance.
Dorothy Sheedy (Beth Grant), Six Feet Under (2004)
This is a personal favorite — one of the always-shocking deaths that introduced each episode of Six Feet Under.
The L Word season we’d most like to forget culminated with the death of the series’ best character. The show was never the same and we have never forgiven Ilene for killing Dana. And why should we?
I can’t resist adding another name, but in the category of Least Shocking Death:
Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner), The L Word (2009)
We knew Jenny was dead before the season started. Then she died in the first episode of the season. The rest of the season was devoted to the events leading up to Jenny’s death. By the time she finally drowned, no one cared. Sigh.
OK, your turn. Which TV character do you think had the most shocking death?