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This Was The Year That... Everybody on TV Died

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Spoiler Alert!
Remember when being the popular star of a hit TV drama was considered a safe job? In 2013 big characters became even bigger targets. Highlights from the lengthy death reel include Showtime’s Dexter killing off conflicted cop Debra Morgan, AMC’s Breaking Bad saying goodbye to DEA agent Hank Schrader and meth legend Walter White, Showtime’s Homeland hanging Nicholas Brody, FX’s Sons of Anarchy offing former biker kingpin Clay Morrow and Tara Knowles, ABC’s Revenge casting off Declan and Fauxmanda in its season 2 finale, and HBO’s Game of Thrones out-bloodying everybody with the insta-notorious Red Wedding massacre. Do you want a reason for this bloodshed? It’s partly coincidental. After long protecting their core casts, Dexter and Breaking Bad naturally snuffed some major roles in the homestretch, while the sixth season of SOA (which should now be called RIP) likewise ramped up the body count deep into its run. But we’d also make the case that two years ago Thrones and The Walking Dead started a blood-red sea change: That’s when Thrones stunned viewers by beheading its main character — played by the show’s biggest star, Sean Bean — during the first season, a move that had never been done before. And Walking Dead‘s second season started throwing fan favorites to the walkers. This creative fearlessness was rewarded by a sharp rise in ratings, shattering that fretful, long-held network assumption that an audience’s favorite characters must survive or viewers will flee. But after all the carnage, what’s the next huge shocker? This question — also known as Ryan Murphy’s Conundrum — could launch a gory space race as shows try to turn beloved characters into one-night-stand trending Twitter topics by offing them. Will Alicia Florrick gun down the Lockhart/Gardner legal team? Will a plague wipe out Downton Abbey‘s kitchen staff? At some point there might be a second shift when shows realize that it’s indeed possible to leave a cast feeling hollowed out. But until that happens…seriously, nobody’s killed that King Joffrey yet? C’mon!

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