OMG, they killed Fill in the Blank!

I know, I know. We have all been so distracted by the recent political bloodbath, some of you have totally missed this important breaking news on the cultural front:


We now know that they never really killed Kenny. Or rather, that he can’t be killed. Because he won’t stay dead.Or something like that. Bastards!

Yeah, so it’s totally jumped the shark, but one reason I loved Kenny’s constant dying and returning, then really dying and being gone for a while, then coming back and dying every once in a while, and now being a superhero who can’t stay dead is because it’s the greatest wank ever on one of my favorite television tropes:


Why is it so simultaneously delicious and awful when we get gobsmacked by a tragic and ruthless character death and the subsequent emotional onslaught? Well, if you ever sat through a class on Greek drama or Philosophy 101, and if you stayed awake, you might remember Nietzsche’s take on the essence of classical tragedy: by combining Apollonion and Dionysian extremes, tragedy allows us poor little humans with our tiny scared minds to experience the transendence of catharsis. The higher the body count, the more undeserved and/or random the loss, the more transcendent the payoff.

So, in light of last week, I thought it might help us to wallow in some shockingfictional bereavements. Hey, I’m a giver. Also I have a sick mind.

And please, this is BYOC (Bring Your Own Catharsis) so feel free to add your own favorites in the comments as what follows is a highly subjective short list and I know all you peeps who watchLost and24 andHeroes got plenty to add.

Finally, this is TV, so Wash buying it inSerenity doesn’t count. But damnnnnnnn, right?

Warning. This post contains spoilers (albeit some of them rather ancient) to various fictional narratives as well as imagery some may finddisturbing. If you don’t want to be spoiled or disturbed, don’t proceed. If like most of us, you are spoiled and disturbed beyond all telling, do carry on.

“Yo, a lesson here Bey, you come at the king, you best not miss.” I doubt that murderous little fuck Kenard was on the corner the nightthat lesson went down but nonetheless, it was just some punkass kid took out Omar Little.

Completely spoiled but still totally shocked. “Clarifications,”The Wire.


Jenny Calendar. The moment we realized Joss Whedon wasn’t just playing around and could, would in fact, fuck us up in our heads. “It’s do or die! We’ll pay the price. Hey, I’ve died twice!”

And we would come back and ask him to do it again.“Passion,”BTVS.


Excruciating Gypsy dialect and Orb of Crapuleh notwithstanding, this ep was chilling. Poor Giles.


“Mom…Mom…Mommy?”Joyce Summers. See above, re not playing around. See also: how to make television history. One of the few eps I can’t rewatch. “The Body,”BTVS.



She didn’t miss a day of work in 14 years.Dolores Landingam, “18th and Potomac,”The West Wing.

Couldn’t locate video of the actual reveal at the end of that ep but of course what we will remember most is that it was losing Mrs. Landingham that inspired the epic “you feckless thug” shouting-at-God-in-Latin scene in “Two Cathedrals,” arguablyWest Wing‘s finest moment.

Also, extra points for “Yes, so you’re having a bit of a day” best post-death visitation pwnage ever:

“You know if you don’t want to run again, I respect that. But if you don’t run cause you think it will be too hard or you think you’re going to lose, well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.”


No, actually, I didnot know that NCIS stood for No Character Is Safe. Not even adorable badass Special AgentKate Todd?

Bonus points for extra cruelty on the psych out. Also, ghost Kate totally rocked. “Twilight,”NCIS.

Hey, at least she saved … uh


never mind


Simon “Sunshine” Donavon. A bit on the heavy-handed side for TWW but still makes the cut for gutwrenching. No Milky Way for Simon, no sunshine and flowers for CJ. See also above re cruel psych out. “Posse Comitatus,”The West Wing.


DidDualla Adama want to die or was she just tired? The Old Man said some of the foxes would turn and fight and some tried to make it to the shore, but a few just let the current take them.


So damn much was happening in the middle of that last season, every BSG ep felt like it took about seven years off your life by the time it was over and yeah, anyone could die, but when the voice that called everyone back home chose permanent radio silence, you knew things were going to get even more fracked up than you ever imagined. “Sometimes a Great Notion,”Battlestar Galactica.


After five seasons, was any death onSix Feet Under really shocking? Well, despite foreshadowing up the wazoo, Nate Fisher checking out was still a gut punch. Mostly because he was being a total shitheel at the time, even by Nate Fisher standards. We were all, you can’t die right now, we’re so fucking pissed at you for everything you’ve put us through!

Which of course was the ultimate point of the show, of all these shows, all the way back to the damn Greeks. Death should never shock us because it always ends up happening and it doesn’t give a shit about our agenda.

In the context of the whole series, of Nate and Dave’s relationship, this sequence was perfection (were they both dreaming?) and left us sobbing for the man we were still furious with, not to mention bringingStrawberry Letter 23 back to life. One of my favorite pieces of television. “Ecotone,”Six Feet Under.

18 thoughts on “OMG, they killed Fill in the Blank!

  1. Two Cathedrals is incredible, but for my money Game On is TWW finest hour. Everything good about that show in one ep. Plus, Jed gets to make good on his threat to do Ritchie in.

  2. “Death should never shock us because it always ends up happening and it doesn’t give a shit about our agenda.”
    True dat.
    Or to put it another way, Death is what happens to you while you’re planning what you’re going to have to do tomorrow.

  3. Actually, the original TV trope was NOBODY EVER DIES. It was MASH that changed all that in the mid 70s when they killed off Col. Henry Blake. That got such a positive response for its “bravery” and “realism” [insert eyerolly here] that killing characters instantly became a TV cliche.

  4. A couple from Babylon 5: Marcus sacrificing himself for Ivanova. Sheridan, going to meet the gods in “Sleeping in Light,” which I still can’t watch unless I have like a week to recover.
    Mrs. Landingham was a sucker punch. And Jenny Calendar … poor Giles.
    I’m still mad about Wash. Fucking Whedon.

  5. Well, in the SciFi world, at least, there’s dead, there’s mostly dead, and there’s almost absolutely dead. But even that can be revoked from time to time đŸ™‚

  6. Kosh’s death hit me a lot more than Sheridan’s in B5, but I can’t watch either without saturating the couch with my tears. And I’m waiting for someone crucial in Sons Of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire to bite it. Any day now.

  7. Gummo, I’d argue with your second assertion. It was hugely impactful but not some instant watershed that made it okay to kill off major established characters.
    The dad in Good Times died the next year, that was a major character death. Chuckles the Clown on MTM – a funny death episode. People may have died on tv more often but not so much main characters. I think the major character death shocker didn’t really start rolling as a “cliche” or “trope” status till the 80s. Edith Bunker, Bobby Ewing (psych!) come to mind at the start of that era.
    Athenae weren’t you a big Robin Hood fan? Does Marian’s death count? I didn’t watch that series but I remember a big hullabaloo.

  8. When I saw the title I thought you were referring to the woman on “Wheel of Fortune” who solved a phrase with just one letter the other day.

  9. Talking about “Lost” I found Sun and Jin’s death to be the ones that “shook” me the most. They were not really “shocking,” but god damn that scene is brutal. Every. Frakking. Time. I. Watch. It.

  10. I missed that darrel. Talk about cultural events.
    torteya, Lost is one of those shows I have never watched, partly because the timing was wrong and partly because I didn’t really have to since I could almost follow along just from everyone else in the world talking about it, you know? I’m sure I’ll set down five years from now and surf through the whole show on DVD and then be all, “Whoah, this is great!” and there will be no one to talk to about it… Same with 24 and Heroes (though I gave HEroes a serious attempt)

  11. Roseanne’s hubby Dan Conner. I’d stopped watching the show because it jumped the shark years before it ended, but when I caught that final episode (years later) it really pulled my chain.

  12. Oh, hell, how many times did HTLJ kill of Iolaus? It got to be a joke.
    But the one that suckerpunched me — until tonight, because where I lived TWW wasn’t on at a time I could watch it — was Marcus, the Ranger, on B5. It just seemed so damn useless.
    Now, I get to see Mark Harmon buy the farm, again. (Remember his character dying in St. Elsewhere?)
    Gives me the shakes ’cause I’m an NCIS fan (and an NCIS LA fan, and damn near the first thing they did was kill off their sweet innocent new kid).
    There were other instances … anybody remember Adam Cartwright going to sea?

  13. Black, you mean Hoss? Sheldon Leonard was known for actually “killing” characters and Hoss was one. But did Adam die?
    I don’t remember Mark Harmon on St. Elsewhere but he’s been on 9 million shows so I don’t doubt it.

  14. Tracy I thought about putting Dan on the list. Roseanne was an amazing show for most of its run, but I hated the way it sputtered to an end. The whole dream thing just pissed me off.

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