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February 23 2016

(SPOILER) Should comic-based TV shows actually kill a hero? SHIELD and other television properties from Marvel and DC are talked over in this piece about good guy death in superhero universes.

God please yes.
Writers in comics usually loathe killing off heroes, since they are the stars of their comic. Instead they kill of secondary characters and girlfriends, leading to the infamous "girlfriend in a refridgerator" trope. Then there's also the real life problem of a character becoming public domain or open to purchase if they don't appear in some medium or another.

All that said, comic-based TV shows could stand to take more risks with their characters.
Killing off the titular character is problematic if you want the franchise to continue. Killing off any other character, super or otherwise, only matters insofar as it has an emotional effect on the other characters and/or the audience. I quickly lose interest in series that too often put major characters in "peril" that really isn't perilous given their known capabilities (*cough*Supergirl*cough*). I also lose interest in shows that want me to care about characters in peril without making those characters much worth caring about, or by making me actively root for their demise (cf. the daughter on 24).

When it's the same stakes in every show, whether it be death of a character (in TV) or destruction of the planet (in movies), any moderately-aware audience member knows what can and cannot happen by the end. That's why I love the ending to The Cabin in the Woods so much, because it violates that "rule" so wonderfully. But it is the exception that proves the rule. If more shows start breaking the rule — and there's only one way to break that particular rule — then it will just establish a new rule that will quickly become predictable.
I feel the stakes in Agents of SHIELD, pretty frequently. I believed they might have killed off Simmons only four episodes into Season 1 (we had two scientists, we arguably could've gotten by with one, and Mutant Enemy shows have both killed off seemingly important characters early on -- Jessie on Buffy and Doyle on Angel). The show also is unique in that it upended its core near the end of the first season and spun off in sometimes-wild new directions following that (even though it was Cap 2 that forced its hand, it was still a good move for the show). Having Ward turn out bad was a great twist. The show has killed Tripp and other agents. I felt sure they were gonna lose someone at the end of Season 2, but they all made it out, with only a lost hand. Season 3 killed Rosalind and might kill Andrew...plenty of stakes in AoS.

The show could go on without Coulson, if it came to it. Skye/Daisy is the natural choice for a leader, if not May. I realize some might prefer a more poetic bookending of the show completely just being Phil's resurrection and eventual return to the grave, but the concept has legs and if the first three seasons were his and a theoretical remaining two or three seasons belonged to a different leader, I would still watch that show.

AoS has no headlining Marvel superheroes -- so no one is really safe, moreso in this superhero universe show than any other aside from maybe Agent Carter (which is filling in the blanks of history and could easily kill anyone aside from its title character). Gotham's hands seem to the most-tied. Gave up on that one early in Season 1, though, just all Batman'd out to be honest (I'll see the combo film this summer and that's it).

[ edited by Kris on 2016-02-24 22:58 ]
In a word, "No".

First, the death isn't real and the character comes back. I've always felt that cheapen the image of the hero. You don't kill the hero unless you really impact the death and the affects it has on those around them.

Meaningless death is just that.
DC is actually in a good position to break this trope if they really wanted to.

Legends of Tomorrow is an ensemble show, meaning no single character is the star of the show. Theoretically, they could kill off anyone, and they actually have. However, given that the show has been on the air for such a short time, that character's death had no emotional impact

Also, these are all B and C level heroes on Legends of Tomorrow, so they could get away with killing any of them if they wanted to.

They could easily kill off Barry on The Flash as well. We've seen that multiple speedsters as well as multiple Flashes exist in that universe due to different earths and different time lines. And we've seen that there are different ways for someone to acquire the same powers that Barry has. There is absolutely no reason they couldn't kill off Flash in season 3 or 4 and replace him with a new Flash. It would be a bold move on the part of the writers.

Supergirl plays into this too, as it's clear that the upcoming Flash/Supergirl crossover will likely involve Flash crossing over (no pun intended) to Supergirl's alternate earth. You could actually introduce a Supergirl on Arrow, Flash, or Legends of Tomorrow who is different from the one on her own show and kill her.

More than likely though, none of this will happen as it doesn't seem like anyone wants to buck the status quo, but it would be so much easier for DC to break this trope than Marvel given the rules that have been established within their current TV shows.

Virtually all TV shows (in this day and age) are an open-ended form of serialized storytelling, and since the Hero (aka the combined protagonist/main character archetype that's synonymous with the entire superhero genre) is an embodiment of the component that's essential to that story reaching its completion, there exists no scenario in which actually killing off the Hero would make any sense.

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