Damn, 2018 sure was a cruel year for pop culture fans, with tons of beloved characters being killed off in television, movies, and video games. Not to mention long-running TV shows being axed off this mortal coil forever (some of which, frankly, really needed to be put out of their misery).
Grab a tissue and mourn with us, and don’t miss the video counting down 2018’s most tragic on-screen death scenes.
Half the universe, Avengers: Infinity War
All it took was a snap. With one flick of his fully gemmed Infinity Gauntlet, they’ll all be back in a few months. Miss them while you can.
Adam, Voltron: Legendary Defender
It’s difficult to mourn someone you never really got a chance to know, which is what made Adam’s death in the seventh season of Voltron: Legendary Defender feel so hollow and insignificant. In theory, learning about Adam’s death was meant to be a moment that exposed a painful emotional vulnerability in Shiro. But because the show it bumped her off with such outstanding disregard for her legacy. Left to die in a helicopter crash in one of Uprising’s earliest action sequences, Mako’s death does very little to advance Uprising’s story—and what it does is in service of her replacement as Pacific Rim’s protagonist, John Boyega’s Jake Pentecost, instead of in service to herself as a character.
Grace O’Brien, Doctor Who
We’d only just met Grace when she bravely and heroically met her end in the season 11 premiere of Doctor Who, but it was enough time to get a sense of her kindness and selflessness, as well as her deep love for her grandson, Ryan, and her husband, Graham. Reeling from the loss of the woman who’d been their guiding light, the men climbed aboard the TARDIS, becoming valuable members of the Doctor’s companion crew while working through their grief, eventually learning to become the true family Grace always knew they could be.
Aunt May, Marvel’s Spider-Man
The climax of the incredible Spider-Man Playstation game includes not just its greatest moment of triumph—Peter Parker battling his former mentor and friend Otto Octavius—but its greatest moment of tragedy, too. As the dust settles on his scrap with Octavius, Peter retrieves the cure for the deadly plague spread across the city…one his dear Aunt May is succumbing to. Peter is forced to agonize over a horrible decision—use what little serum there is to save the last part of his family, or use it to synthesise a cure for the city that will come too late for May. It’s a gut-wrenching sequence, featuring incredible voice performances from Yuri Lowenthal and Nancy Linari.
Erik Killmonger, Black Panther
Erik Killmonger was right. The abandoned son of Wakanda believed the country was being selfish by keeping all of its limitless technology to themselves. To be fair, he wanted to use those advances to take over the world, which wasn’t what Wakanda had in mind. And yet, after gracefully dying at the hands of his cousin, T’Challa, this short-lived king of Wakanda’s master plan did go into practice…just in a way that was less genocidal. So though Killmonger is dead, his memory lives on.
Kanan, Star Wars Rebels
Everyone had a feeling that Kanan, a Jedi who survived the Emperor’s Order 66 and joined the Rebellion, wasn’t going to make it out of Rebels alive. But for him to die not just saving his friends, but for the liberation of the planet, and moments after finally revealing his true feelings for the love of his life, was almost too much to comprehend. Kanan’s legacy lives on in Ezra Bridger, as well as his young son Jacen—who, we are guessing, could have quite an important role to play in Star Wars stories to come.
Alisa Jones, Jessica Jones
Whether or not she wants to admit it to herself or the people she gets close to, Jessica Jones’ longing to be part of a stable family is a deep part of who she is, and it’s what made her biological mother’s sudden reappearance so momentous in Jessica Jones’ second season. Jessica would have been elated to be reunited with her mother no matter what, but Alisa’s ability to explain more about the complexities of her superpowers made the prospect of them being able to rebuild their family something that immediately changed Jessica’s life. Similarly, finding Jessica brought Alisa a level of inner peace and clarity that she hadn’t been able to tap into for years, and it’s something one imagines she hoped and dreamed for with all her being. Alisa’s death at Trish Walker’s hands was a shocking twist of fate that left each of the women worse off—but it was especially tragic for Alisa, given how it really seemed like she was finally getting her life back on track.
Vanessa, Deadpool 2
Just moments after presenting Wade with her IUD as an anniversary gift and declaring “the baby factory’s open for business,” the achingly perfect Vanessa is gunned down by a bullet meant for her superhero boyfriend. Deadpool 2‘s cheeky opening credits mock our shock (“A Film by… Wait a Minute!” “Produced by… Did You Just Kill Her?”), and offer a solid hint early on that Vanessa—who appears a few times throughout the movie as a spiritual guide of sorts for Wade—will return. Of course, by movie’s end, the miracle of time travel allows Deadpool to go back and save Vanessa…but there’s no fixing the fact that Deadpool 2 decided to “fridge” her first.
Beau, A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place may have been a film about not making any noise, but it started off with a bang. A flashback opening showed alien-invasion survivors Lee, Evelyn, and the kids on a supply run in town, demonstrating how the family functions in a world where they must keep silent for their own safety. But the youngest son, Beau, finds a spaceship toy and plays with it, making enough noise to draw the attention of one of the monsters—and in an instant, the adorable tyke is gone forever. It was a brutal and shocking opening that not only traumatized the Abbott family (and the audience) but made sure we knew just how high the stakes were for everyone.
Lee, A Quiet Place
Lee spent most of A Quiet Place suffering through his guilt over not being able to save Beau, to the point where he would distance himself from his other two children in fear of watching them suffer the same fate. But in the end, he was able to save them by sacrificing himself to one of the monsters. His final moments, when he told his children how much he loved them, were not only heartbreaking, but also poignant. He lived in fear, until he chose to die in love.
Poor sweet, innocent Teddy. All he wanted was to love and protect Dolores. But after she forcibly rewired Teddy, changing his personality from the inside, he knew there was no going back. After tearfully telling her that he couldn’t protect her anymore, Teddy shot himself, choosing death over a life that wasn’t truly his own.
Val, Solo: A Star Wars Story
Val went out like a champ taking down Imperial droids and sacrificing herself in the heist on Vandor—but come on, Star Wars, did we really need to kill off one of the rare female characters of colour in the galaxy far, far away, just to make Woody Harrelson’s surly smuggler Tobias Beckett feel sad for a bit? We should’ve gotten way more Val than we actually did.
L3-37, Solo: A Star Wars Story
The fact that L3-37 didn’t make it through Solo is such a shame. The character, who put herself together from parts of other droids, opened our eyes to the limitless possibilities of droids in the Star Wars universe. L3 sees droids as slaves in need of liberation and as worthy sexual partners for humans, and was working to make all of that more acceptable in a galaxy far, far, away. Unfortunately, she was gunned down in the spice mines of Kessel and then had her consciousness (includeing her navigational prowess) uploaded into the Millennium Falcon…which is admittedly scary and changes the subtext of many, many lines uttered later about the Falcon in other films.
Quentin Lance, Arrow
The Lance patriarch has been through some wild events in Paul Blackthorne’s time on Arrow—mainly revolving around both of his daughters seemingly dying, coming back to life, and then dying again in some form or another. But at least Quentin went out sacrificing himself for Laurel-2, after a bittersweet arc in which the hard-edged Laurel of Earth-2 learned to accept Quentin’s care for her, despite the fact she wasn’t the daughter he’d lost.
Monica Reyes, The X-Files
The X-Files did Monica Reyes dirty. She had an uphill battle stepping into the sci-fi series back in its eighth season, but actor Annabeth Gish gave her an earnest, heartfelt center. That’s why, in season 11 (more on that below), it was so troubling to see her time working with the Cigarette Smoking Man go undeveloped. But what was really gross was seeing her unceremoniously killed off by Walter Skinner. So many dumb things were going on no one had time to even react to it. No mourning. Nothing. We mourn you, Monica.
Assorted Crains, The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House is absolutely filled to the brim with ghosts—that’s kind of the point of a ghost story—but while many were remnants of the titular mansion’s previous inhabitants, a few of them were actually the spirits of people we met while they were still alive and then died as part of the story. That included matriarch Olivia Crain and daughter Nell Crain (the latter of whom actually haunted herself, in the guise of the Bent-Neck Lady), as well as patriarch Hugh Crain, who didn’t actually get to be a ghost because he was absorbed into the house (and presumably died?) in the last episode. While we’re mourning Hill House characters, let’s say a prayer for Nell’s husband, a sleep-disorder specialist whose sudden death (due to an aneurysm…or was it really the Hill House curse?) meant we had to say farewell to maybe the only well-adjusted person on the entire show.
TV shows (and one comic book)
Marvel’s Netflix shows: Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage
You’d think 2018 would’ve been a fantastic year for the Marvel Netflix shows—every series except for Punisher actually dropped new episodes, and those runs were the respective series at their best, leaving us with tantalising status quo shake-ups we were dying to see unfold. And then…Netflix surprisingly working on series for its parent company’s upcoming streaming platform. Not even the Defenders can save their city from studio politics.
Adventure Time may be over, but its influence lingers. The quirky, magical Land of Ooo and its inhabitants created the kind of fantastical narrative mythology that drew fans into the show and invited them to dream and adventure along with Finn, Jake, and their multitude of friends. There’s no doubt the series will live on in the comics and the fandom, meaning that Adventure Times’ stories haven’t quite come to an end just yet.
Once Upon a Time
This Disney-adjacent fantasy series should have ended long before it did. After an impressive debut season and relatively ok follow-up season, the show continued to slowly deteriorate until, by the sixth season, it was a sea of dumb plot points and confusing familial relations populated by contractually obligated actors. Most of the cast left after that season, but a few decided to stay on for a soft reboot, which aged Henry into its main protagonist and moved the show to Seattle. It worked for a little while, until it didn’t, and the series was soon canceled.
Ash vs. Evil Dead
After three seasons of gushing gore, chainsaw shenanigans, good-naturedly boorish humour, and expansions of the Evil Dead mythology beyond our wildest dreams, Ash vs. Evil Dead came to an end. Along with the Starz show, we also bid farewell to Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams, who announced that after three-plus decades, he was hanging up his boomstick for good—fondly (and accurately) dubbing the iconic character “the role of a lifetime.”
Remember that brief moment when every new genre show revolved around time travel? One of the last holdouts of that trend, Timeless, ended its run this year, though the show’s devoted fans had a bumpy road to what appears to be the finish line, seeing the show canceled and then un-canceled and then, finally, canceled once again. But there was one more nibble left, in the form of a Christmas-themed TV movie that just aired on December 20, giving closure to fans who’d been dangling on a cliffhanger since the May 13 season finale.
We’ve ragged on The X-Files’ mostly disappointing eleventh season a lot in our year-end coverage, so we’ll keep it brief here. There may not have been an “official” cancellation announcement regarding the long-running sci-fi show, but star Gillian Anderson’s firm announcement that she would not be playing Agent Dana Scully again is confirmation enough for us (and, apparently, show creator Chris Carter). RIP to the show that got us through the 1990s….we’ll always have the Flukeman.
HBO’s Animals is one of few shows that really managed to capture the filthy, hellish, and sometimes charming nightmare that New York City really is. Sure, the show’s background cast of humans went through the daily struggles of living in a metropolitan hub packed way beyond its intended capacity, but it was in the animals that you really saw how that kind of stress could wear someone down and push them into pure survival mode. For all of the show’s morbid seriousness, it was also funny as hell, which kept things in balance and made it easy to make peace with the brutal truths about urban living the show constantly dropped.
Netflix’s Sense8 was an unabashedly queer, sex-positive show that people either immediately loved or just didn’t understand, and Netflix is a little less bright now without it. The Wachowskis’ bold, big vision for a world in which people could become so mentally intertwined with someone else that they were effectively one being is the sort of idea you seldom see realised so fully in big-budget sci-fi. To be fair, the show’s plot could sometimes become clunky and weighed down, but Sense8 truly committed to capitalising on all the inclusive potential that sci-fi has to offer, which made it something worth watching.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Netflix’s behemoth of online fandom gained an unprecedented following past its intended audience of nostalgic older fans of the franchise and their kids who wanted to watch big robots. Initially, it did what many reboots fail to do, which is breathe life into a long-dead story, thanks in no small part to its beautiful animation and highly loveable characters. Unfortunately, the quality of the show was not consistent; it had ongoing issues with representation, which culminated ina reboot of the 1970s superhero series, starring New Girl’s Hannah Simone as an Indian-American woman from Cleveland. It would have been a departure from the original, updating the cult classic series for a new audience. Unfortunately, the show never ended up happening—and although the original deal promised that audiences would at least get to see the pilot episode, even if the show wasn’t picked up, it still hasn’t aired on ABC.
Shadow of Vader
Seeing as how it was unceremoniously canceled soon after its splashy reveal at New York Comic Con, we’ll never really know what would’ve been planned for Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars miniseries about how the people of the galaxy really saw Darth Vader. We might get an idea though—Marvel basically renamed the series with a new creative team taking on the concept for Vader: Dark Visions, set to release just a month after the canceled Shadow was supposed to.