Coping with the deaths of fictional characters

Saying goodbye to our favourites

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

These days prominent characters are being killed off during the run of our favourite TV shows more than ever. Whether it be Degrassi, The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones (almost everyone!), The Walking Dead (ditto), or Teen Wolf, it seems no character is safe from a tragic ending. A genuine mourning period often ensues when this happens, both amongst the show’s cast and the viewers who are emotionally invested.

To avoid spoilers, I will refrain from using specific character names so we can all experience the “feels” when our favourite character dies.

The response by fans to major characters kicking the bucket is often manifested in interesting ways. Recently, MTV launched a website where fans can mourn the death of a major character on Teen Wolf. The site,, features tribute videos, fans discussing their feelings on the death, and even cast eulogies. The latest fan comment states: “When I saw [this character] die, I was absolutely heartbroken and bawling my eyes out. [The deceased] was always such an inspirational character, and to me [they] will always be alive in my heart.”

Such TV deaths are frequently marked by large social media reactions, fan tributes, or even entire tribute episodes. These are usually characters who the viewers have been invested in for years. They had personality, growth, and often a genuine charm. A character death can initially be as devastating to the viewer as if they knew them in real life, especially if they were a favourite on the show.

For me, I remember when a prominent character died near the end of Breaking Bad. The actor portrayed the character beautifully and they were one of my favourites. I sort of knew it was coming, but the rest of the series was definitely missing their presence after the death. The characters replacing them weren’t nearly as exciting to watch.

So I went back and re-watched the seasons where the dead character was still alive, which worked pretty well in helping to deal with the loss. It also helped that Breaking Bad is the type of show that can be watched over and over again. Watching reruns of a show where a deceased favourite character is still alive can be just as enjoyable as new episodes after their death.

But it isn’t just TV that’s guilty of emotionally devastating deaths. Many book series and movies are equally ruthless in their offing of beloved characters. Many times, a character’s death in a book can be sadder than on screen. One major death scene in the A Song of Ice and Fire series was much more emotional while reading it than watching it on Game of Thrones because the entire chapter was told from that character’s perspective. Having it end suddenly due to their death was incredibly unexpected and heart-wrenching. While the show portrayed it well, most viewers were accustomed to frequent deaths and violence by that point in the series, so a gory, on-screen, sudden death had less impact than the book’s version.

Sometimes a deceased character even returns, whether for plot purposes or by popular demand. The Harry Potter series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Avengers movies—all of which span multiple forms of media—have all featured characters whose deaths didn’t stop them from appearing again in some form. Whether it be flashbacks or ghosts, not being alive doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of a beloved character. In some cases, the character will be resurrected somehow and brought back to the show—especially if they were a fan favourite.

While fans openly discuss their feelings online after a character’s death and binge watch old episodes where the character is still alive, in time the show’s plot goes on and the character fades into a memory.