Please note this might include possible spoilers for shows that you haven’t seen before–both past and present shows.
The most recent episode of The Vampire Diaries has really caused a lot of chat around the web about the freshman series. And honestly, who can blame them. To kill of a character that was in the prime of a storyline takes guts. And apparently executive producer Kevin Williamson has them.
In a recent interview about the show, Williamson said the following:
No one’s safe on this show. We’ve reached the point when we’re watching TV that there’s no jeopardy, no risk, no stakes, when we know our lead characters aren’t going to be killed. Well, that’s not true on this show. I’m starting with the supporting characters and I’m working my way in. Everyone’s going to die on this show. This is a show where characters you love may die, and it’ll be unexpected and shocking, so get ready for it. It’s as simple as that. And [Vicki] was the first casualty.
I love it. What balls! And honestly, I feel like that’s the failure of so many shows: the fact that they’re afraid to do anything to lead characters.
It’s not that I’m a fan of aimless death of characters. Without a purpose, there’s no reason to do it. Or, on the other hand, if it’s just a publicity stunt, that’s a waste of a viewer’s time (and usually, not as big as you’d think).
From someone who’s a fan of Joss Whedon’s work, there’s clearly a bias on my end toward character death. He knew how to do it, when to do it, and how to do it with the most emotion involved possible. Taking the death of Tara McClay alone–it was a heartbreaking moment that really turned the character of Willow. Right as we were growing more and more attached to Tara overall.
And then there was Doyle from Angel, another risky move by a freshman series. But without his death, who’s to say that Cordelia’s story would have progressed in the way it did. No visions? Plus, Whedon took the extra risk: to kill off a new character–one who’s name was recognizable from Roseanne fame–only a few episodes in. Sound familiar, Vampire Diaries?
I feel like that’s even more of the struggle. It’s one thing to kill someone off, but what if they’re someone that people love? Well, that just makes that much more of an impact.
No, I mean the actor? What if people love the actor?
Welcome to Heroes. Heroes made a great move by creating an ensemble cast filled with new names and famous ones. The problem is, they won’t get rid of any of them. Sure, there’s a death this year, and there have been before. But no one ever leaves. Now the show is more unruly than ever before!
The problem is, some people think a show is quality because of its actors. In some sense, it is. But there are also directors, writers, producers–and entire treasure trove of people that come together to watch a show. Sure, actors might bring a viewer in, but substance keeps them watching. I didn’t stop watching Joan of Arcadia because they killed off Judith. I didn’t stop watching Tru Calling because they killed off Luc. I kept watching because I knew something must be coming that made that death worth it.
And House? Having a doctor commit suicide when you didn’t even know something was wrong gave the show the turning point it needed to get House as a character out of his rut and developing as a person all over again.
So yes, I’m a fan of character deaths, and I adore that Vampire Diaries has jumped in with both feet, knowing that they’ll risk it all. They’ll risk characters lives. It’s a dark show. They should! And Williamson has a point: If you can’t be scared for the people you care about, how can you be invested in a show like this? Something has to be at stake.
Pardon the pun.