This year saw some of the biggest endings in movie and television history. In Avengers: Endgame, a few brave souls sacrificed themselves to save the universe and Game of Thrones finally put someone on the Iron Throne…and a lot of people in their graves. There are a lot of characters to grieve over, and we’re here to sing their swan songs.
Put on your best, folks, and we’ll wear our pearls. We’re here to mourn some of the biggest character deaths of 2019.
We’re going to give you a general spoiler warning now as we’ll be covering a lot of items that happened in media this year…proceed at your own risk.
A lot of folks, Game of Thrones
Shocking deaths became a Game of Thrones trademark way back in season one, so by the time the HBO show’s final episodes rolled around, fans were primed for beloved characters to start toppling like dominoes. And indeed, season eight brought many farewells.
The battle between humankind and the White Walkers at Winterfell actually left the main cast surprisingly intact (aside from Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, Lyanna Mormont, Melisandre, and the Night King), but the show’s grim finale took its expected toll (Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei and Jaime Lannister, the Hound and the Mountain, and even ol’ Qyburn), and there was still room for sudden, unexpected moments of heartbreak.
RIP to Rhaegal the dragon, who took one for the team while swooping over Dragonstone; Varys, who spent so much of the series being one step ahead of everyone else but was executed on Dany’s orders for betraying her; and Missandei, who at least got to yell “Dracarys!” before losing her head at the gates of King’s Landing. And that isn’t even everyone, not by any means—even the damn Iron Throne met a fiery end before all was said and done.
Quentin, The Magicians
Syfy’s The Magicians threw fans a huge curveball at the end of season four—the creators killed off the main character. While the show is certainly an ensemble, Quentin Coldwater was the audience’s first insert character, the one who made his way over from Lev Grossman’s novels, stumbling all the way.
We won’t sugarcoat it: Quentin could be a huge pain in the arse. But damn if they didn’t rip us to shreds in the end. How will the crew fair without Quentin? It’ll likely be a hard road but something tells us they have a lot more adventures ahead. Shake it off….shake it off…
Iron Man, Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame marked the grand finale of the MCU as we’ve come to know it, putting a punctuation mark on an epic series of films that began in 2008 with Iron Man.
So it made a certain amount of sense that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark would perish (after defeating Thanos, saving the very-recently-repaired universe, and uttering the movie’s best snappy comeback) as part of the film’s climactic battle. Downey Jr., who played the character in 10 movies and could conceivably pop up in more (like Black Widow, starring another Infinity War casualty, but set before the events of that film), left a unique superhero legacy in his wake, as well as a geeky term of endearment that will no doubt live on just as long as his character does in our hearts: “I love you 3,000.”
Black Widow, Avengers: Endgame
She might be getting a movie next year, but one of Marvel’s most prominent female heroes met her end in 2019, sacrificing herself so that her fellow members of Earth’s Mightiest might have a chance to undo Thanos’ existential damage by offering her life up to the Soul Stone.
How you feel about Avengers: Endgame, in general, may reflect how you interpret Natasha’s death—a worthy sacrifice and redemption for all the red in her ledger, or a frustrating discarding of a prominent female character that disappointingly valued the found family she had in the Avengers less than…Hawkeye getting to retire to a barn? But regardless of whether it left you crying tears of grief or frustration, Endgame provided an end to one of the MCU’s most enduring heroes of the last decade.
Thanos, Avengers: Endgame
OK sure. He killed half of all life in the entire galaxy, but in the year between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, our world came to love Thanos in creepy kind of way. Not his ideals or his methods, but his drive, power, and just plain awesomeness as a villain. The fact was, he was an enemy so incredibly unbeatable we couldn’t fathom how the Avengers were possibly going to defeat him. And then they did.
Very quickly, mind you, with one quick ax chop to the throat. Thanos’ death was shocking, but also not exactly permanent. A version from the past travelled to the future and took on not just the Avengers, but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Eventually, the only thing that could beat him was Tony Stark sacrificing his own life to take Thanos’ and save the world. It was an ending fit for such a titan of villainy.
Hank Heywood, Legends of Tomorrow
Nate Heywood’s father, Hank Heywood, was originally going to be the major villain of season four. However, those plans were scrapped after the show cast Back to the Future star Tom Wilson, who was so sweet and kind the Legends of Tomorrow writers couldn’t picture him as an irredeemable baddie. So instead, they changed him into an accomplice to the actual villain, Neron, and altered his story to say he’d started collecting magical creatures so he could open up a theme park dedicated to his son. Eventually, Hank saw the error of his ways and tried to break his deal with Neron, getting killed in the process.
Luckily, that wasn’t the last time we saw Hank Heywood. He showed up in the season finale, “Hey, World!”, after Nate had been killed during the confrontation with Neron. Hank, knowing it wasn’t his son’s time, magically got the crowd to sing James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James,” bringing him back to life with the power of music and love. That’s Legends for ya!
Alexei, Stranger Things
He starts off an antagonist, but it doesn’t take too long before Stranger Things’ geeky Russian scientist begins to endear himself to Murray, Joyce, and the audience (not sure if Hopper ever really warms to him, to be honest). A cherry Slurpee (he likes strawberry too) is all it takes to coax Dr. Alexei (Alec Utgoff) into helping Hawkins’ adult contingent of saboteurs stop Indiana’s lurking population of commies from cracking into the Upside Down.
Sadly, Alexei’s fondness for Americans puts him on Terminator-like assassin Grigori’s kill list, but we’ll always have this 12-hour video of him sipping on sugary goodness (thanks, Netflix) to remember him by.
Mystique, Dark Phoenix
A disappointing end to a beloved character. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique was one of the highlights of the latest X-Men series, even as her interest in the films seemed to wane with every performance. Her time in the franchise ended with a thud in Dark Phoenix, as Jean Grey angrily impaled her.
Lawrence’s disinterested expression as Mystique lay dying on top of a giant spike tells you everything you need to know about how the X-Men ended its final saga before joining the Disney empire.
Mr. Glass, David Dunn, and the Horde, Glass
The stars of the Unbreakable universe deserved better than Glass. But Glass is what they got and, well, they’ll be missed nonetheless. The M. Night Shyamalan sequel to both Unbreakable and Split showed David Dunn reuniting with Mr. Glass, as well as a new villain in the Horde.
Their feud played out as part of a larger narrative where a secret society whose aim is to suppress humanity from knowing about superheroes led them to all fight to the death, with Dunn, in particular, suffering the embarrassing end of drowning in a puddle. Luckily, in Mr. Glass’ final act of defiance, footage of the melee was released to the public, clueing everyone in that superheroes do, in fact, exist.
Mothra, Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Poor Mothra. She never wanted to wreak existential havoc on humankind like several of her other fellow awakened kaiju in King of the Monsters, but she still bravely charged into battle nonetheless, aiding Godzilla in his scrap with Ghidora.
Not only did she get to take out Rodan like a boss, she battled grievous wounds to use her final moments to not just distract Ghidorah from landing a decisive blow on Godzilla, but to give up her energy to restore Big G and help him get the power-up he needed to claim his title as King of the Monsters. Godzilla may rule, but we’ll never forget the Queen that put him there.
Mira, Tavra, Maudra Fara, and the All-Maudra, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Given its nature as a prequel to a story that opens with a very grim premise—that on Thra, the Gelfling race has been all but extinguished—we expected to lose a few of the noble heroes we meet along the way of Age of Resistance. And while we did, their deaths all carried powerful threads throughout the series’ gorgeous, sweeping story of hope and revolution.
Mira’s shocking death as the first of the Gelflings to have their essence drained set the spark for our hero’s quest, and the All-Maudra standing up for her people showed both the cost and the nobility of holding fast to your beliefs. Tavra and Maudra Fara’s last stands in the battle against the Skeksis were heartbreaking, not just for the family they left behind (especially in Tavra’s case) but for how close they were to being part of a grand moment for the Gelfling resistance. We stand to lose more like them should Age of Resistance’s story continue, but we’ll still feel these losses hardest.
Given his appearance in Captain Marvel and his evil-self wreaking havoc on the latest season of Agents of SHIELD, it’s sort of easy to forget Coulson has died twice now. His first death was in The Avengers where he was stabbed by Loki. Unbeknownst to film audiences, he was brought back to life by Nick Fury’s TAHITI initiative and toted off to ABC to headline his own show. Five seasons later, Coulson ended up on death’s doorstep again. A short stint as Ghost Rider left him feeling, well, not so good.
In our final moments with one of the longest recurring characters in the MCU, and the man whose initial death could technically be credited with rallying the Avengers to unite, we see trusty ole Phil walk off onto an island called Tahiti (hehe, you get it) with his beloved Melinda May to finish off his final days.
We technically don’t see him die, so it wasn’t until the premiere of Agents of SHIELD’s next season that his fate was truly set in stone. He’ll be remembered as a boringly decent man who flew a red Corvette, loved Captain America, and once admitted to watching Supernanny.
Oliver Queen, Arrow
We wouldn’t have the Arrowverse without Arrow. Although we’ll need to pick back up with Crisis on Infinite Earths in January 2020, the CW team pulled a switcheroo on us by killing off Oliver in the first episode. Even though his daughter Mia and Barry Allen tried to bring him back with a Lazarus Pit, and he went on to take over the mantle of the Spectre, for all intents and purposes, the Green Arrow is dead. And he died a hero, as we all expected. But something tells us he’ll still get a proper sendoff. No way we don’t get a scene with Oliver and Felicity before the final season of Arrow is said and done.
Game of Thrones
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was one of the most-anticipated moments in television history, but it left fans feeling conflicted due to a series of strange reveals and even stranger choices. Bran is king? Jon Snow murdered Daenerys Targaryen? Lyanna Mormont died but Podrick got to survive?! Inconceivable! The final season was so mixed, it left a mark on the series as a whole—one that we fear won’t be lifted until George R.R. Martin finally finishes writing A Song of Ice and Fire. If that ever happens.
The Marvel/Netflix Universe
The MCU isn’t dead—of course it isn’t. But one of its earliest and most intriguing experiments came to a close this year with the end of Jessica Jones’ third season, bringing about the final end of the Netflix and Marvel partnership that brought the Defenders to Marvel’s interconnected live-action universe…sort of.
That was always the thing, wasn’t it? The push and pull between presenting a gritty and grounded take on Marvel storytelling at a time the movies were getting wilder and grander, the constant awkward ways to try and thread links—in a very one-sided manner—always felt like it put these shows on the backfoot, even as their storytelling took inventive and interesting steps forward. Done in more by Disney’s desire to have its own streaming network than any real failure of its own, the Marvel/Netflix shows, for all their embracing of the dark, never really had the chance to properly step out from the shadows cast by its theatrical step-sibling.
After years of being largely absent from network television, The Gifted brought Marvel’s mutants back to the small screen in a big way with a surprisingly timely, and occasionally thoughtful story about mutants living in a country full of humans desperate to annihilate anyone with the X-gene from the face of the Earth.
By keeping most of Marvel’s most iconic mutants firmly out of the picture, The Gifted was free to reimagine characters like Polaris and the Stepford Cuckoos into more grounded incarnations of themselves who could be put into a world startlingly similar to our own, giving the show a sense of horrific gravitas that’s often been missing from the X-Men comics.
Noah Hawley’s Legion resided in a very different corner of the X-television universe. The first two seasons were visual feasts with an unfolding mystery and a plot that never knew which way was up, which was kind of the best part. Season three saw David and Farouk’s grand clash end with a whimper but kept the series’ signature flair along the way. At least the show knew it was going to end and the creative team had a chance to wrap up the story in a satisfying, albeit warm and fuzzier way than one might have expected.
Cloak & Dagger
Cloak & Dagger was always the kind of show that smacked of Disney and ABC’s capacity for nearly unimaginable corporate synergy, but pretty much from the jump, the Freeform series established a strong tone and voice perfect for retooling the problematic elements of the comics source material into a thoughtful story about the realities of wealth inequality in the United States.
Unlike the bulk of Marvel’s other television shows of the past, which were set in New York City, Cloak & Dagger took us to the MCU’s version of New Orleans, and while the series’ connection to the larger world were tenuous at best, it did a solid job of establishing how everything about this cinematic universe truly is connected.
Syfy’s Deadly Class was touted as the anti-Stranger Things. Based on the comic series by Rick Remender, who also served as showrunner, Deadly Class took a more anti-establishment look at 1980s nostalgia, stuffed with characters inspired by kids Remender said he’d grown up with. The show centered around a homeless kid named Marcos who was recruited into a secret high school for assassins, learning the art of murder alongside the kids of gang leaders, Yakuza members, and the Ku Klux Klan. But, Deadly Class’s brand of “cool” didn’t strike with audiences, and it was cancelled after just one season.
At the time of publishing, USA Network’s Mr. Robot still had a few episodes to go before its series finale. But no matter how this tech-focused drama created by Sam Esmail ends, it’s been one hell of a ride. It debuted back in 2015, which feels like roughly 20 years ago at this point, when the world was in a much different place. But what Mr. Robot had to say about who controls what, the world’s economic state, cybersecurity, mental health, and family all remains relevant. Led by a tremendous performance by Rami Malek as Elliot, Mr. Robot’s E-Corp, F-Society, and that damn mask will be burned in our brains forever.
It’s near-impossible to describe Netflix’s The OA. It’s wild. And after two seasons of out-there storytelling by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, we hoped to see more. Sadly, that won’t be the case. While the official story is the show is cancelled, some fans are still holding out hope…strongly. No matter what happens, we’ll always have the movements.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
A Series of Unfortunate Events was a show with a voice so distinctive that when each season ended and Netflix would offer up something different to watch, there was a brief moment that left you a bit whiplashed because of the shift in tone.
Unfortunate Events was as weird as it was stylish, and with Neil Patrick Harris leading a fantastic cast it perfectly captured the madcap whimsy that made the original novels so easy to become obsessed with. But in the end, the series came to a close because the show did what it set out to do: It adapted each of the novels in a wonderfully imaginative way, and once the Baudelaires’ story was finished, it was time to say goodbye.
Tuca and Bertie
The animated series from BoJack Horseman production designer Lisa Hanawalt centered around two best friends and roommates (played by Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish) who happened to be birds. They navigated life, relationships, systemic sexism (“That’s the alarm that sounds when no women have spoken out loud for three minutes”), and personal trauma in a way that was surreal and ludicrous, but also refreshingly honest. Netflix cancelled the series after just one season, a decision Hanawalt blamed on the streaming platform’s algorithm. Tuca and Bertie was robbed. Plain and simple.
The Man in the High Castle
Amazon Prime’s alt-history saga about a Third Reich takeover of the United States came to an end after four seasons, having gone full sci-fi with multiple worlds, interdimensional travel, and Rufus Sewell doing all sorts of weird creepy things. Philip K. Dick’s classic story may have been taken on a bit of a wild ride, but in the end, it was a story of where we could go one day if we’re not careful.
When Preacher premiered in 2016, a TV adaptation of the over-the-top, violent, religious, iconic comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon felt too good to be true. Now that it’s gone, we realise it kind of was. The show enjoyed moderate success throughout its four-season, 43-episode run, but never achieved the Walking Dead-level success many hoped it would.
Mostly that’s because the wild, wonderful potential the story and characters had felt held back somehow. One episode would knock your socks off. The next would bore you to tears. By the time the final season came around this year, many loyal viewers had left, which was a shame. The ticking clock of cancellation seems to have forced the show to race to the finish with a pace other seasons lacked. In the end, Preacher ended on the showrunners’ terms, which was a rare final miracle for the show about a man hunting for God.
What was most impressive about Runaways, aside from the fact that it gave damn near each and every member of a sizable cast something interesting to do, was the fact that it centered a team of young superheroes in a way that no other live-action Marvel production ever had.
Runaways understood the power of stepping away from the source material in order to service the distinct story the television series needed, but at the same time it always remained faithful to the spirit of the characters. What’s more, by bringing Cloak & Dagger into the mix in its final season, Runaways established a solid connection between the Netflix, Freeform, and Hulu elements of the MCU, which was an impressive feat in and of itself.
The Supernatural series finale actually doesn’t air until May of 2020, but the show’s farewell lap of a 15th season began in October, so we wanted to go ahead and honour it on this year’s list.
To tell the truth, we haven’t really been keeping up with the Winchester brothers’ adventures for, uh, the past decade or so (the show debuted in September of 2005), but Supernatural doesn’t need us to keep tabs on its witchy shenanigans and demon-filled lore—it has legions of devoted fans who’re more than happy to hoist that banner, and are the real reason the show made it to 15 seasons in the first place. Thanks to them, Supernatural is going to live forever.
Pour Another Out For…
Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe
It may not have gotten the best—not even the worst, just the sort of blah-iest—farewell in the milquetoast Dark Phoenix, but for all its missteps, it’s hard not to feel sad at the loss of a movie universe that helped kick off the early superhero movie trend of the ‘00s that was vital to putting us on the path to the comic book movie boom we live in now.
There were many (oh god, many) missteps along the way, but for every X3 there was a First Class, for every X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a Logan. We had good times, thoroughly average times, and some real bad ones, but it was a blast to see Marvel’s mighty mutants come over to the big screen in such an influential way over the years. Hey, at least Deadpool will still be around in some form!
Hulu’s Marvel TV universe has hit its share of snags. It was recently reported that the showrunner and entire writing staff of Tigra & Dazzler were let go from the series, with a planned overhaul. However, the biggest shock was the announcement that the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider series was cancelled before it even started.
The series was set to star Gabriel Luna (Terminator: Dark Fate), reprising the role he debuted in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. It was reported at the time that Hulu pulled the plug because of “a creative impasse which could not be resolved.”
Muppets Live Another Day
Back in September, Josh Gad revealed he had exited a previously unannounced Muppets Disney+ project he was working on with Once Upon a Time creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis (who had also left the project).
The limited series, called Muppets Live Another Day, would’ve been a follow-up to Muppets Take Manhattan, giving a more mature take on the Muppets as they explored “what happens after you’ve reached the end of the rainbow.” It sounded like an interesting premise, but it’s not surprising Disney wanted to go in a different direction. The last time the Muppets had tried something more adult, it didn’t turn out well.