Every look back at the year behind us is filled with sad moments as much as it is joyful ones, and 2021 was no exception. The real world was up-and-down enough, and yet we also had to say some fictional farewells too — whether it was favourite shows coming to their end (naturally or before their time), or losing some of our favourite characters. Here’s the losses that stung most this year.
And, suffice to say, as we will be dealing with the deaths of a few characters here alongside show endings, going forward… there will be spoilers.
While many first fell in love with Supergirl (whichever version) in the pages of DC Comics or Helen Slater’s live-action Kara Zor-El, a whole new generation got to see what hope, help, and compassion for all really means in Melissa Benoist’s incarnation. This modern Supergirl series had a wild journey that began on CBS and ended on the CW with a whole lot of action and questionable journalism between them. Like pretty much every comic book adaptation, it wasn’t perfect and had its share of weirdness over six seasons, but it also produced a ton of compelling stories with a lot of heart behind them. Not to mention it gave DC characters like J’onn J’onzz, Lena Luthor, Mon-El, and Brainiac 5 a chance to shine. From a plethora of villain cameos and bombastic Arrowverse crossovers to musical episodes and way too much takeout, Supergirl won’t soon be forgotten.
Unlike many of the CW’s superhero shows set in its shared Arrowverse which have spent a fair amount of time following their titular heroes in the awkward, exploratory phases of their lives as vigilantes, Black Lighting and its take on Jefferson Pierce hit the ground running with a self-assured, distinct voice that was all its own. Black Lightning used the curious distance the CW kept between it and its other DC cape shows to its advantage — committing ample time to giving nuance and complexity to the inner lives of its characters, and building out a wider world outside of Freeland, the city where its heroes were based. Rather than treating race, police brutality, and the criminal justice system as things only meant to be touched upon in Very Special Episodes, Black Lightning treated those topics as important elements of reality necessary to tell a compelling story about people who dress up to fight crime.
For All Mankind characters
If you’ve not yet given Ronald D. Moore’s For All Mankind a try, we highly, highly recommend it. And if you have but haven’t yet found the time to watch season two, now’s the time to turn away because big spoilers are coming. The latest chunk of episodes brought with it an expected time-jump and a whole lot of heartbreak. The time spent at the Jamestown base on the moon took a toll on everyone — but perhaps no one more than Gordo, who was almost mentally destroyed by the experience. His failed marriage to Tracy and her moving on quite easily to become more famous than him didn’t help much either. But over the course of the season, he got his spacelegs back thanks to some encouragement from friends and returned to the very-much-expanded Jamestown facility to win her back. What first seemed like a pipe dream started to seem much more like a reality as Gordo realised he wasn’t alone in his struggles. It almost seemed like he and Tracy were going to have a happy homecoming… until the tensions with the Soviets on the moon hit a fever pitch. With the U.S’s nuclear reactor’s cooling system damaged and the fate of everyone at the base — and the Moon itself — at risk, Tracy and Gordo took on the impossible mission of spacewalking without suits to save the day. It was horrifying to watch as their makeshift duct tape outfits literally began bursting at the seams, but as the very last minute it almost looked like they were going to make it. They didn’t, but they died in each other’s arms, as heroes.
He-Man in Masters of the Universe: Revelation
Oh, cruel irony. Nearly 40 years after the first episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe premiered, the classic ‘80s cartoon got a sequel, only for its titular hero to die in the very first episode by sacrificing himself to save all of reality. His death was, uh, short-lived after his friend Teela journeyed into the Masters of the Universe equivalent of heaven and hell to resurrect Prince Adam… only for Skeletor to stab him again about a minute and a half later. At least he got better, unlike his pals Fisto, Clamp Champ, and Moss Man, whose souls were erased from existence.
Readers of Frank Herbert’s book knew it was coming of course, but to newcomers watching Denis Villeneuve’s movie, the fall of House Atreides may have come as a bit of a shock. Sure, you knew a war was coming and that not everyone would make it out alive — but the entire house was decimated from Duke Leto Atreides on down, except for Paul. That’s in no small part thanks to the sacrifices of Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck, two of the best warriors around. But they weren’t the only ones to impact Paul’s journey in some way; Dr. Wellington Yueh, Dr. Liet-Kyne, and Jamis all lost their lives so he could eventually attain the destiny he saw in his visions.
Season three of What We Do in the Shadows saw Colin Robinson, noted energy vampire, longing to investigate the mysteries of his particular strain of supernatural monster. It also saw him bonding unexpectedly with his housemate Laszlo, with whom he’d never had a particularly close relationship with. As the season wound down, we learned those two things were connected: only Laszlo, who’d ripped some key pages from a certain vampire history book, knew that Colin would die on his rapidly approaching 100th birthday. Fans mourned for a week after Colin’s shocking passing — but in the season finale, a new, baby-sized Colin Robinson suddenly emerged, setting up a hell of a next character arc.
Y: The Last Man
This one comes with a caveat. We may not have totally lost Y: The Last Man. At some point there’s a chance another streamer could pick up the show. But, for now, that hasn’t happened and it’s a shame. After waiting years and years for Hollywood to crack the code on adapting Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s epic comic book series, FX on Hulu and showrunner Eliza Clarke did just that. Modernise it just enough, focus on characters, let the world build around that. And things were working very well during the first season, as the story was well on a trajectory to get bigger and wilder in the years to come. Alas, if the show ends now, we’ll only have scratched the surface of this incredible story.
Poor Misato, forever doomed to be killed off in an Evangelion finale just before everyone’s either turned into primordial ooze or the universe is rebooted. As was the case with End of Evangelion, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 saves its most noble sacrifice for Misato, who once again finds herself paying the ultimate price to give Shinji Ikari time to get in the damn robot. At least this time she got to do it on her own terms, crashing her ship into an unholy abomination at the end of the world to create the legendary spear Shinji uses to re-write said world into one where the Evas never existed in the first place. There’s a chance he re-wrote Misato’s fate too, but as we’re left with her unseen in the happy ending Shinji and his fellow pilots found themselves in, we’re left to wonder.
The alternate Lokis
Let us say their names: Classic Loki. Boastful Loki. President Loki. Warrior Loki. Assassin Loki. Ninja Loki. Goth Loki. Mustache Loki. Glamshades Loki. Bicycle Loki. Goth Loki. Pokey Loki. These are the wonderful Loki variants we lost this year during the first season of Loki, mostly because they couldn’t stop betraying each other in a bid for “power” at the Void. At least Classic Loki (the wonderful Richard E. Grant) sacrificed himself heroically to allow Regular Loki and Sylvie the chance to enchant the creature named Alioth and reach He Who Remains. Oh, and Kid Loki and our beloved Alligator Loki are still running around somewhere in the multiverse.
Strictly speaking, Wanda and Vision’s sons Billy and Tommy aren’t “dead-dead,” but rather… existentially displaced following the events of WandaVision, which ended with the promise of the newly dubbed Scarlet Witch setting out to risk it all for the children. Though WandaVision’s final note was both intriguing and hopeful, Billy and Tommy’s deaths earlier in the season left Wanda devastated and unsure of how she might carry on due to the role she played in her children’s disappearances. As magical constructs borne out of Wanda’s intense grief over Vision’s death and a desire to live a normal life, Billy and Tommy’s existences were tied up in the enchantments that kept Westview warped into a living sitcom. While there was some solace in the idea that Wanda’s Westview Vision might someday return to her by way of the Cataract Vision, because their children came entirely from Wanda’s unconscious spells, letting go of them meant embracing the possibility of never seeing them again.
Squid Game players
What the 456 players in Squid Game don’t immediately realise, and neither does the audience, is that 455 of them are going to die. And so while hundreds and hundreds of characters get killed across Netflix’s hit series, at a certain point, there’s a realisation that more than likely, your favourite character is probably not going to make it. Characters like Oh Il-nam (Number 1), the old man who just wants to have fun (of course, if you’ve seen the series, you know the real story about that guy). Or Kang Sae-byeo (Number 67), the pickpocket putting it all on the line for her family. Even less-endearing ones like the tough guy Jang Deok-su (Number 101) and his occasional gal pal Han Mi-nyeo (Number 212) — they’re not great people, but you love to hate them. There are more too, and certainly layers to those, but one downside of this great show was that by the end, pretty much its entire excellent cast was eliminated.