shocked you the most
and hit you the hardest?
On Sunday night viewers of Fox’s long-running cartoon sitcom Family Guy were shocked and disturbed when the show made the unusual step of actually killing off one of its regular characters–an act virtually unheard of in the world of animation, where the players are essentially immortal.
But as unexpected as the death of Brian (the Griffin’s talking pet dog) was, it definitely wasn’t without precedent. For decades now, TV shows have been using death as both a dramatic tool and occasional professional punishment (“Really? You want how much more money?”) with varying results. Usually we shrug and move on, but sometimes the effects can last with us long after the actual show has ended.
In my case, all of the deaths that first spring to mind come from one show–Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Set in a universe where high school literally was hell, a lot of people died over the course of the series (and it’s spin-off, Angel) but there were at least four that hit me like a freight truck.
I suspect most people would pick the death of Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mom, as the most emotional–largely because it stands at the center of one of the best hours of television ever devoted to the subject of death–while others might select the deaths of Tara Maclay and Buffy herself (she got better, but it wasn’t pretty) as the ones that really hit them in the gut, but for me the first one stung the hardest.
The death of Jenny Calendar (nee Janna Kalderash) in the second season marked the first real time that a character on Buffy we had came to like and root for was suddenly and cruelly killed and it forever changed the stakes of the show. Actions now had real consequences and the safety net we assumed were inherent in such a production now didn’t feel so safe or sturdy. If Jenny could die so suddenly–her neck snapped by Buffy’s sadistic former-lover–then all of the Scoobies faced similar danger, which added a tension that elevated the show’s famously quippy dialogue.
So, that’s my pick. What’s the first one that comes to your mind? Is there one that still makes you mad? Or misty-eyed if you think about it too much?