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Kill Your Darlings: The Perpetual Killing off of TV Show Characters

This has become a popular trope in television. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are in many ways based on the suspension created by killing off starring characters on a regular basis. Why has this become so common, and why does it appeal to audiences? Is this a positive or negative thing?

  • It may also be intriguing to investigate this from a show-runner's perspective. Are there advantages when writing stories to killing off characters? I'm thinking of things like story cohesion and budget concerns, but I'm sure that there are more reasons than just those. – Matt Sautman 4 years ago
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  • The killing of beloved or popular characters is a trope that has developed in recent years as a response to years of "invincible" characters typical of shonens or a lot of Western television or movies. It seems that there is little in the way of struggle, because it always seems evident that the main characters will triumph in the plot. Even so-called failures in these mediums are boring because the character will always regain confidence. Deaths of characters are far more permanent and damage the characters far more, leaving interesting shifts in tone, characterization, and plot far more open-ended. – shadedfall65 4 years ago
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  • I don't really think it is necessarily a trope, in fact its strength when charcters don't have plot armor. In a show like Game of Thrones, which is still largely based on books Martin started writing 25+ years ago. It's also fair to point out that the worlds of TWD or GoT are very dangerous and crazy universes and it would be silly if characters didn't die often. – ivanly 4 years ago
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  • I think it is also interesting to look at when characters are killed off. Are they killed in the middle of the season? Are they killed in a cliffhanger at the end? Are they killed to create suspense for next year? To hook readers into a new season?The timing of deaths in T.V. is very important to the effect it will have on the audience. – SeanGadus 4 years ago
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  • It's interesting that one show in particular, Orphan Black, has been hesitant to do this (major spoilers ahead). On the one hand, the fact that Tatiana Maslany plays almost every major character on the show makes this sensible--Orphan Black simply doesn't have to deal with turnover of actors like other shows do. On the other hand, though, it would be easy to kill one of the clones, because Maslany would still have a job and all of the other ones would survive. In some ways, the fact that no major clone on Orphan Black has died yet could be a strike against the show, because the stakes are arguably lower than they are on a show that makes a habit of killing off characters--even when Sarah or Cosima or whoever seems to be in trouble, viewers can assume that they'll make it through fine because there's no precedent for a clone dying. Then again, the first time that a clone does die (should that happen), it will likely be even more shocking and devastating because it was put off for so long. – mrgawlik 4 years ago
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  • I believe that what made The Walking Dead so powerful it's first 3 Seasons was the grounded human element of the show. It was a show about mere mortals in a crazy world. Character deaths on The Walking Dead used to be a regular occurrence, and weren't dwelled on for too long because of the fact that in a world with so much death going on, the characters would have to learn to deal with such heartbreak quickly. I feel as though recently it's become every other show out there. They've made a big deal about random characters we barely even know dying. They've made marketing campaigns out of deaths. It's annoying how loud and obnoxious the show has become. I remember when the dialog sounded unrehearsed, and natural. I remember when characters died, a small funeral happened, and they moved on. I remember when I could name the amount of characters alive on the show. They need to scale the show down in my opinion. Make it simple again. – FamousWolf 4 years ago
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  • This is one of my favorite topics because there's so much going on around the world and television has been such a great entertainment for individuals and families for so many years. From reality shows to scripted no matter how busy I am I love the fact that I'm able to DVR my favorites and go back and enjoy them alone and with my family. – PrettyBigDeal3 4 years ago
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  • A show like Walking Dead shows how unpredictable the apocalypse can be, so obviously people are going to die sooner or later. One of the most important aspects of a character death is the aftermath; what are the repercussions? How does it affect the other characters going forward? This is a rather significant part of Walking Dead, especially after that Season 7 premiere. If you have your audience outraged and heartbroken over the death of a fictional character, then that means you've done something right. Death, when done the right way, can be a positive thing for TV shows that call for it. – joegonzo913 4 years ago
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