Friday, February 7, 2014

Editorial Freak: Are Movies And TV Series' Overusing Fake Out Death?

Warning! This Contains Spoilers For: Sherlock (Seasons 2 and 3's finales, specifically), Supernatural (mainly season 9), The Avengers (and to an extent Agents of SHIELD), Thor: The Dark World, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who)

You know, I kinda did...
 So, the last episode of Sherlock season 3 has aired in America, and revealed the next cliffhanger: Moriarty (or as I've started calling him here: "Scottiarty") is alive as well. I kinda suspected it (Moffat kept insisting he was dead a little too much for me). So, I figured this was a perfect time to discuss something of a trend/trope that seems to be cropping up in the movies and TV shows I like: The Fake Out Death.

 Yes, it seems that a lot of shows are using this. They pretend to kill a character (or in some cases, legitimately kill) a character, only to bring them back. And to be honest, it's gotten kind of old.

 I started feeling this when I saw Thor: The Dark World for the first time. As many who saw that know, somewhere around the third act, Loki is apparently impaled through the chest and killed by Skurge. It's sad (legend says you could hear Tumblr collectively go comatose with shock), but then at the end it's revealed Loki has survived being mortally wounded, and has in fact taken Odin's place (literally).

 Now, besides me wanting more explanation as to how Loki survived, I felt a little bored with this sort of thing. It seemed to me like it came up too much in the last two years.

 Two big offenders of this are Doctor Who and Supernatural.

 I read a very interesting post (that I highly recommend), that brings up how Steven Moffat doesn't really "kill" many characters off in Doctor Who, when you think about it. Heck, the most notable example is Rory. Every time he got killed, he seems to come back. When he finally did bite it, it was that he just died years after being time-displaced (long story). Not being killed (presumably).

It's Rory, Amy. It's 33.3% of his shtick.

 There was also the recent Christmas Special where The Doctor regenerates, but the whole episode The Doctor goes on and on about Eleven being his last regeneration, and that if he dies at the time of the special, it's forever, yadda yadda. Yeeeah, we already knew about Capaldi being the next Doctor. But that's more an issue of false/failed drama than anything else.

 Supernatural does it worse, though. While the show has an infamously high death toll (at this point, it's easier to count the living characters), there has also been quite a bit of characters un-dying. Especially in season nine, where we not only have Cas briefly die in one episode, but the next bloody episode Charlie freaking dies for a few minutes. While it's nice when a beloved character comes back (especially with the dwindling number of reoccurring characters), I think this is also a flaw with the show. It starts getting harder to accept the legitimate deaths when they arise. Seriously, let Death do his job, writers!
Maybe, Death. Maybe...
 I think this is one of the things I like about Game of Thrones: that when they kill a character, they stick with it. There's not even that "I'm a main character/regular" immunity. Nope, sorry, Ned! Being on the poster won't save you now! And don't get me started on the Red Wedding (there's one way to wrap up a subplot). Heck, the one time they had a "revival" it went bad and ultimately led to that character having to die for good. Death is death.

 Now, am I completely against bringing characters back from the dead? No. I can accept some of them.
What? It's not too soon, anymore!

 Let's take one of the most famous "recent" examples: Sherlock's faked suicide at the end of season 2. We knew he was alive at the end of the episode (heck, anyone who'd read "The Final Problem" knew he'd live...) Besides the inevitability of this, I was fine with it because it had weight to it. There was the aftermath for everyone, the suspense of how everyone would react to seeing him again, the mystery of how he did it... It worked to the story's advantage and had repercussions. (Heck, I'm actually looking forward to seeing what they do with Moriarty's return in season 4. The story opportunities...)

 There's also The Avengers, where Coulson "died"...
XD I love this bit from the gag reel...
 That also had weight. It helped motivate the team to get their crap together. But it also had ambiguity. We couldn't be sure that Coulson was coming back. All we had was confirmation that Fury lied about Coulson's trading cards being on his person when Loki impaled him through the chest (yeah, I'm starting to believe people in the MCU can't be killed by impalement...). It also provides an early mystery in his spin-off, Agents of SHIELD. Heck, even when it's revealed how he's alive, there's the ramifications of Fury playing God and Coulson dealing with this reveal.

 My problem with Loki's "death" in Thor: The Dark World was there was little weight, I felt. He died and it was just: "Welp! On to the next thing!" (The same could be said of Frigga's death, but that's another thing). It doesn't leave much impact.

 I guess what I'm saying is: writers, if you're going to kill a character and bring them back, at least let there be ramifications or some degree of weight to it. Or, if not, at least use Fake Out Deaths sparingly. And please, just cool it on them for a while, okay? Okay. We're good.