Television is the wave of the future. Long form media consumed over short amounts of time, leaving a week or more between installments causing the viewers to obsess about the fates of their favorite characters or plot lines. We have all done this and the phenomenon only seems to increase with each passing year. Most recently, who that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was going to beat with a baseball bat in one of the Walking Dead series was constantly obsessed and examined for months. Turns out it was actually two people, maybe. I did not really read that article closely. The man has an assault rifle now, I know that much. The Walking Dead, as rife with issues as it is, still managed to captivate their audience for months about who one guy was going to kill. It seems almost punishingly vague. Saying a character is going to kill someone, anyone, lessens its effects on the plot and harms the series from a critical standpoint. Sure, if you want to create massive buzz from fans about who is and is not going to die over a long drawn out summer. Then sure, tell them that one of their main characters is going to die and they will freak out. But, having him stand around them with that baseball bat, that is uselessly wrapped in barbwire. How can you swing that thing quickly when it gets all tangled up in their clothing and skin? You can’t. What I’m trying to say is the Walking Dead simply manipulated their fans when it let clever marketing techniques decide what was going to happen on the show.
Death in television has haunted us for our entire lives. Hell, death haunts us. That’s what it does. It lingers around every corner waiting for us. Shit, I almost died five times on the way to work today and did not even know it. That’s how spooky and haunting that shit is. So why do we treat every character on our favorite television shows like they’re above getting their hand caught in a toaster oven and burning up like gasoline on a Christmas tree. We grow so attached to them that we cannot seem to let them experience simple human experiences. Television has now gone beyond narrowly avoiding death for the television characters and turned it into some kind of circus to be marketed and poured over for weeks.
Between social media and the marketing minds at various networks you cannot avoid major spoilers for television shows that I don’t even like or want to hear about, but I can tell you who died on Walking Dead last night and who cares. Maybe, I’m revolting against the overindulgent marketing from the Walking Dead team and most shows aren’t that bad. Except when the dude from the Sorpano’s died and they left it vague so that maybe they could do a movie later. They should kill off the entire cast of Entourage in the next movie and turn it into a Saw-esque endeavor, where E fails to save all of them and in the end Jigsaw turns out to be the Asian assistant, turned agent. I hate myself for knowing that, I really do.
I love Game of Thrones unabashedly and even though most of their deaths have been pretty spectacular I feel they never crossed the line into needless marketing material. Each one, since it already happened in the books, felt like a timely placed death to advance the plot. I fail to see how major characters dying at the end of a series advances the plot. Shit, half of the characters in Harry Potter died at the end of the seventh book and I could not tell you why she decided she needed to let them all go. It felt like someone told her she was not killing off enough characters and she decided to do a good housecleaning at the end of the series. I do not remember how any of them died except it seemed like she was just listing names at the end. I remember Sirius Black’s death and Snape killing Dumbledore, those deaths seemed to be timely placed and with a good attempt to advance the plot. I think Lupin might have died at the end of Deathly Hollows but who really knows. One of the twins died, maybe. I have no idea. It’s as if Hollywood and fiction in general has become death happy and creates characters to simply be killed. Having a character die is far less interesting and compelling than having him face down his fears and accepting what transgressions really assail him.
In a show based on death, how can killing a major character be that much of a shocking event. I mean the show is called The Walking Dead. Billions of people are already dead, one more on the pile does not seem like that big of an issue. Sure, viewers had grown to love those two people but ultimately they should be happy they made it this long and Jeffrey Dean Morgan parading around the current survivors like he’s the best dude ever does not make that show more appealing. These days it seems like death and dying are taken very lightly and used to compel viewers to return to their favorites series to see who bites it. It’s almost if they can’t seem to come up with anything better to show after seven seasons of zombies. Game of Thrones stands outside the competition because many of the shows deaths had been foretold in something called the novels which have been out for a long time.
Ned Stark being beheaded near the end of the first season could have been spoiled for anyone reading those books in the last twenty years. New viewers have been shocked into the reality of Game of Thrones and its frequent use of main cast deaths. Many other shows have seen this and tried aping it. Except, instead of doing it in Game of Thrones fashion, where the character is horribly murdered and then they move on to the next one almost immediately. See, Red Wedding and Purple Wedding. They draw it out for months. Most of the Game of Thrones spoilers are kept under wraps, however poorly that may be.
Television drama should stop treating death as an easy ticket into being renewed for more seasons and start tackling some of life’s major problems. How are Carl and the gang going to deal with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his smiley face button, I’m assuming I haven’t seen him in anything since Watchmen. I assume the characters are the same. Apparently, they’re just going to let him murder half their cast and then who knows. All I know about the next season is that a couple people bit the dust and now no one is really happy how it all turned out. I’m not sure who is responsible for the moment falling flat, I can probably guess but, that would just turn out to be me placing blame on people who do not wish to accept the fact that The Walking Dead is lame. Please, for my sake and everyone else’s stop creating behemoth death cliffhangers. I am constantly wondering if Jeffrey Dean Morgan just showed up and said, “I’m going to kill one of y’all”. Then the camera cuts to black. Like that’s how his decision to kill one of them was made, just because he felt like it.