Death is all around us. It’s inevitable, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s devastating and sometimes, despite the pain that it causes on those left behind, it can be beautiful. It makes us think about what we want in life, about the people around us, about what we wish we could’ve said and we could’ve done. So it makes sense that good fiction, which is often based on exploration of humanity, would show us death and how it affects its characters and everyone around them. But have we reached a point where death on television has stopped being gripping and interesting? Where it has become boring instead? I think so.
There are several blog posts written right now about the current death toll on TV. It seems that death is hitting our favorite shows more than ever and it is worth noting that the victims have been, save for a few exceptions, anything but straight, white guys. There are a thousand reasons behind this, but because I want to avoid the “not everything is about race/sexuality/gender” argument, let’s look at it at a different way:
Let’s put sexuality, gender and race aside (you will realize as I give my examples this is rather impossible, given the current panorama on TV, but I will try not to use it as part of the argument). If we take a look at television at the moment, it seems that death has become a very cheap, very repetitive resource to get out of bigger narrative issues that writers do not want to face. When I first created this blog, I wrote about the M.S.F.D. and here is how I described it.
It appeared out of the necessity to keep audiences engaged and thrilled throughout the Christmas hiatus, but the problem is, it has become dangerous. It no longer infects the viewers and leaves them wanting more. Instead, it destroys the subjects and leaves them in a constant state of anger, sadness and impatience.
The thing is, it’s no longer happening during midseason finales anymore: death on TV can come at any moment. Any character could die any episode, and while that should be something that actually makes it interesting and thrilling to watch, what’s happening is that it is exhausting for the viewer, because as much as they want to be entertained, they are also now more critical than they ever were.