WARNING: This post has spoilers for the TV shows Castle, Downton Abbey, ER, Robin Hood, and Being Human.
I will admit, I love the television show Castle but I haven’t been as loyal a viewer as I used to be. For the years it was appointment television I was definitely a CasKett shipper and would find myself cheering every time they got closer or getting upset for each missed opportunity. When news broke that actress Stana Katic was leaving the show I was quite upset with the online chatter claiming her character Kate Beckett might be killed off in the season finale. In the fictional world of the show that would be a bombshell to say the least. (This post was written before the final aired.)
Television shows use a character’s death as either a ratings stunt or a quick way to remove an actor from the cast, but it can have a major effect on the viewer and how they see the show. We develop connections with characters that we love and when those people find romance it makes their stories all the more compelling. To then see that relationship end in such a cruel way can be devastating.
One of the major television deaths that really affected me was Dr. Mark Green on the show ER. He had recently married his fellow doctor Elizabeth Corday and his life was moving in a positive direction. Knowing plot tropes and TV shows like I do, I should never have let myself believe they’d let the character be happy. Too soon Mark was killed off with an inoperable brain tumor, leaving Elizabeth to pick up the pieces of her life after losing her new husband.
The show and the characters were never quite the same. They tried pairing Dr. Corday with another colleague at the hospital but it was played for drama. Other characters became the focus and had their own romantic problems; however I was still mourning over a love story that was unfulfilled. There was no going back to County General for me and the show slowly fell out of my weekly schedule until I stopped watching completely.
I asked my fellow AAR reviewers about similar situations where a major relationship within a television show ended with a character’s death and how it might have changed the show for them.
I was pretty traumatized by the death of Matthew in Downton Abbey. It had taken two seasons of ups and downs for him and Mary to get together and then the actor wanted to leave and the producer saw no other good way to deal with that than to kill him off. I felt that it did affect the trajectory of the show – once more the remaining seasons dealt with Mary’s love life rather than say with any character growth she might have gained as a wife and mother.
This made me think of the BBC series Robin Hood. Both Robin and Guy of Gisborne were in love with Lady Marion. They spent two seasons fighting over her until she was killed off at the end of season two. They tried to bring in a new female lead and love interest, but it ruined my feelings toward the show. I ended up not finishing the third season because favorite characters had gone and the new ones seemed so forced. Also, after Marion’s death, Guy became this pitiful, sad, even sweatier mess and I just couldn’t get on board with his angst.
Being Human the UK version. Aidan Turner played John Mitchell, a vampire killed off at the end of Series Three. I almost threw a book at the TV when it happened and I never watched the show again.
Can a show ever truly recover with the death of romance? Can a viewer learn to love again? I know I’ll be watching the season (*now Series) finale of Castle to see how they close the Castle/Beckett relationship. Hopefully with the sense that they LIVED happily ever after.