For every beloved character that dies there is a following in mourning. Fans all over the world attach themselves to fictional characters of comics, literature, film, and television, and are grief-stricken when they are lost to a plot line. From superheroes to wizards these characters had the most tragic endings that left fans everywhere wishing for a dream sequence.
Gwen Stacy, The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”
She may not have been Mary Jane or Black Cat, but Gwen Stacy was an integral part of Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s life. Losing her almost meant losing Spider-Man, as his devastating loss despite his efforts to save her was felt through the the comic’s pages. This death was a monumental moment in comic history, mostly because the death of a loved one for any character, and the way they handle that death, determines whether they become a hero or villain. Spider-Man grapples with feelings of grief followed by vengeance as he tracks the Green Goblin down and almost kills him. His choice to refrain from beating the Green Goblin to his death maintains Spider-Man’s hero status, and in turn makes him stronger. Seeing Gwen Stacy beautifully lifeless in the arms of her lover is eerie, but serves a greater purpose in the long run. If you can’t stand the tragedy, see what could have happened in the fan favorite comic series “What If? #24”.
Buffy Summers, Season Five, “The Gift”
In the fifth season finale, ironically also the 100th episode, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy learns that the blood that flows through the veins of her and her younger sister, Dawn, is the only way to open and close the portal opened by Glory, a powerful God in another dimension. The “key” to open the doors between all dimensions was carefully hidden from her to prevent the apocalyptic melding of all worlds, and all hellish creatures dwelling within them from entering ours. When Buffy finally becomes aware that she is too late to stop the portal from opening, she remembers a saying from the primitive “First Slayer” who told her, “death is your gift”. With those words in her mind, and a sense of purpose in her tearful eyes, she meets Dawn at the top of a tall rafter and says a final goodbye before her leap into the circle of light that inevitably kills her, but saves the world. The episode, and season, ends with the gang’s heartbreaking reaction to her sacrifice and a pan out of the gravestone they chose for her which reads, “she saved the world a lot”.
Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
With Harry Potter finally finding that he does have an existing family member, he’s no longer left feeling all alone in the worlds of wizards and muggles…until Bellatrix LeStrange utters the unforgiveable curse “avada kedavra”. The moment the light leaves her wand, fans reading the book and watching the movie knew they were now audience to Harry Potter’s most devastating loss to date. As Sirius is struck by the greenish bolt, he peacefully slips into and through the veil, leaving Lupin to hold back the young Harry Potter as he cries out in pain. As in most stories of hero’s journey, this death, although tragic, gave Harry Potter a choice when he eventually corners Bellatrix. His anger and vengeance make killing her appealing, however his strength and good heart plead for him to seek justice rather than deal his own. That choice maintains his strength in the good fight, but leaves him once again, alone. Sirius was a guiding voice, but unfortunately between Azkaban and battle, never lived the life he deserved.
Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead, “Too Far Gone”
In the fourth season of The Walking Dead, we face yet another interaction and face-off with the Governor, who can’t seem to let bygones be bygones when he captures Hershel and Michonne in an effort to use them as leverage to take the prison that Rick and his group have been living in. In hopes for peace in a world left in ruin, Rick attempts to plea and convince the Governor that nothing has happened yet, they’re “not too far gone”, and that coexistence is not only possible – it’s necessary to survive. While reminding the Governor that the war is between them and the walkers, not between man and his brother, he makes eye contact with Hershel and for a brief moment we see a peaceful smile on Hershel’s face (knowing that in this world, there is still hope and our humanity has not been lost). Immediately after that brief meeting of great minds, the Governor whispers “liar” and suddenly uses Michonne’s sword to forcefully hack into the side of Hershel’s neck in front of the group and in front of his two surviving daughters, leaving the viewers at home shocked and uneasy. The action spirals into a war which thankfully sees the ending of the Governor, but also tears everyone and the prison they were fighting for apart.
Superman, “The Death and Return of Superman”
While some speculate on the real meaning of the symbol Superman bears, no one will argue that it spawns hope in the hearts of many. When fans saw their beloved hero dead in the arms of Lois Lane, followed by a funeral attended by Justice League members, it felt as though hope was lost. Seeing an iconic “strong man” defeated by Doomsday made him feel mortal, and more human. Our man of steel does eventually return, but let’s face it, seeing the strongest and toughest lying broken and bloody in the arms of his leading lady is any comic fan’s kryptonite.
Big Daddy, Kick Ass
From what started out as a seemingly normal father-daughter day out turned into a lesson on how to take a bullet in a kevlar vest. Kick Ass introduces you to Big Daddy, a Batman-like real life superhero that taught his young daughter, Hit Girl, how to shoot, fight, and be incredibly agile. He’s the father every female viewer wanted because let’s face it, Barbies and iPhones pale in comparison to quality time with assault rifles and knife throwing with a man that looks like Batman. He was not spared a quick death, and slowly burned while tied to a chair in front of his daughter, who eventually got her chance to say good bye, as his burns were fatal. Watching a daughter lose her father and role model was a tear-jerker, but what a way to go.
Catelyn Stark (or any Stark), Game of Thrones
Every episode of HBO’s critically acclaimed series Game of Thrones is more like a game of survival, as most fan favorite characters eventually bite the bullet (or the sword) one way or another, and most when it’s least expected. The most shocking episode to date is titled “The Rains of Castemere” for the eerie song played at what is called the “red wedding” before the guests are locked into the Frey halls and massacred. One of the final characters to die is Rob Stark, known as the King of the North, who had just watched his new (and very pregnant) wife repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen. As he barely stands to face Lord Frey, his mother (Cat) pleads for his life in exchange for her own, begging not to watch her son die or she’ll kill Frey’s new young wife – whom she’s holding at knifepoint. Against her pleas for mercy he is murdered before her eyes, causing her to slit the girl’s throat and stare blankly for the inevitable end of her life. The attempted end of the Stark bloodline and later shameful and crass celebration that follows, including the executing and dismembering of the wolves, leaves this series of deaths most barbaric.
Have another character death that left you shocked and yelling at your book or television? Comment below!
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