6 Ways Plots Telegraphed Huge TV Character Deaths
Unlike in previous decades, when the worst thing that could happen to a TV character was being sent to another city or getting upstaged by Urkel, today's hit shows aren't afraid to brutally murder important cast members. Every acclaimed series out there has at least one shocking death per season, and it always happens in ways the audience could have never, ever seen coming ... unless, you know, they were actually paying attention.
Yes, it turns out that TV writers' well-documented love of telegraphing their biggest plot twists also applies to deaths, almost as if they felt bad for killing off our favorite characters and wanted to prepare us psychologically. That, or they were banking on us being too distracted by our phones to notice the (in retrospect) pretty obvious clues, like ...
WARNING: This article is one big, ongoing spoiler.
The Walking Dead's Major Deaths Are Foreshadowed In Advance (Yes, Even Those Ones)
Apparently, coming up with new, Kenny-esque ways to have zombies kill your characters can get pretty tedious, so the writers of The Walking Dead amuse themselves by playing a little game: seeing how much fatal foreshadowing they can cram into the episodes. For instance, in Season 4, the gang runs into a decapitated corpse lashed to a tree with the word "Liar" written on a sign across its chest. You know, just a little bit of scenery to set the mood.
But then, in the very next episode, Hershel the magic-shotgun-wielding farmer is beheaded by the dastardly Governor. The killer's last words before he chops off that magnificent beard? Just one word, actually: "Liar."
Later, Bob (D'Angelo from The Wire) continued his multi-series bad luck streak when he had his leg barbecued by a bunch of cannibals and died -- at which point he presumably traveled back in time and became the walker with the amputated leg he himself faced a season earlier.
And remember when Beth took a bullet to the head and the internet completely lost it? The emotional moment when a broken Daryl carries her lifeless body down the hospital stairs was telegraphed a bunch of times before it actually happened: for instance, when Beth got her foot caught in an animal trap (The Walking Dead hates feet).
And then, of course, there was the cliffhanger heard around the world. Fans were majorly ticked at the end of Season 6, when someone ate the business end of a baseball bat and the screen cut to black before we could find out who ... except that the show had been hinting at their identities for a while. First there was Abraham, played by Michael Cudlitz, whose name showed up next to a small cross bearing baby shoes in the opening titles for two seasons:
And what do you know: The moment Abe decides he wants to have a baby of his own, he ends up in a grave. Next up was Glenn, who kept ...
... running into ...
... baseball bats. At one point, he even stumbled upon a bunch of horrifying photos of people whose heads were pulverized by the exact same bat that would eventually do the same to him.
They couldn't have made it more obvious if the creator of the show had come out and said, "Eventually a character named Negan is introduced. He's going to bash in Glenn's brains with a baseball bat called Lucille."
Oh, wait, he did. Huh.
Game Of Thrones Told Us Exactly How Arya Stark Would Murder Walder Frey Three Seasons Ago
In Season 3 of Game Of Thrones, Willie Nelson's evil twin Walder Frey orders the deaths of the guests in attendance of what would infamously come to be known as the Red Wedding (an even more appropriate title: "Massive Meal Massacre"). Food was poisoned, fancy dresses were ruined ... and sweet little Arya Stark got pissed.
After losing her mother and brother to the brutal ambush, young Arya had it out for Frey something fierce. In Season 6, she finally gets to enact her revenge in a manner that would make Eric Cartman proud. Using the art of disguise, Arya sneaks into the home of her archnemesis and murders his sons dead. After the chilling triple kill, she bakes Frey a meat pie containing his own progeny and savors the moment as he chows down on his babies. She then slits the man's throat, like teen girls are known to do.
The moment was dark and shocking, but also kind of not, because it was blatantly foreshadowed in the episode immediately following the Red Wedding. While Arya's brother Bran sits around a campfire with a couple of traveling companions, he regales them with the tale of the Rat Cook. The story tells of a disgruntled cook who takes his wrath out on the king he has grown to hate for unspecified reasons (maybe he just had one of those faces). The cook murders the king's son and, you guessed it, feeds him to the king in a meat pie.
Bran even ends the story by saying that the cook was cursed by the gods -- not for what he did to the king and his son, but for killing a guest under his roof, which is "something the gods can't forgive." Which was exactly what Old Walder did during the Red Wedding. Further evidence of what we've always suspected: Arya Stark is secretly God, and Game of Thrones is the world's longest Chick tract.
Mad Men Was Telling Us About Betty's Fate From Episode 1
In the final season of Mad Men, viewers found out that Don Draper's ex-wife, Betty, had cancer and instantly felt bad for wishing her dead all those years. Which is weird, because the writers of the show made damn sure you knew that was coming. For starters, the entire first episode is all about how cigarettes give you cancer. Of course, everyone smokes on that show, but there were plenty of hints as to who was going to get the short end of the cancer stick:
Betty's nickname was "Birdie," so naturally the song "Bye Bye Birdie" is played several times throughout the series. If that still wasn't enough to tell you that Birdie would one day shuffle off this mortal coil, how about the time Betty shot a bunch of birds clean out of the sky with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth?
There are other "subtle" references to Betty dying throughout the series, like when her daughter, Sally, straight up says she wishes her mother would just hurry up and die already. Or when Betty proudly decides to head back to college and, upon learning the news, Don glibly tells her: "Knock 'em dead, Birdie." That was the last time we saw them together at the same time.
And finally, there's the fact that Don begins the series defending and helping spread tobacco, and karma pays him back by taking arguably the three most important women in his life: his first wife, Anna Draper (bone cancer), his lover Rachel Menken (leukemia), and Betty. Sure, it would have been fairer to take him, but it was the '60s. Even diseases were sexist.
Way Too Many Movies/TV Shows Rip Off The Godfather's "Oranges = Death" Symbolism
It was smart and different ... and much like the Godfather movies, Hollywood just didn't know when to end it. In Children Of Men, Julianne Moore's character is shaping up to be one of the protagonists when she's suddenly killed in a brutal car ambush. And say, what's that lady peeling in the back seat seconds earlier?
One of Lost's most infuriating mysteries was when they told us one character had died, but wouldn't reveal who he was for most of a season. Who could it possibly be?! First episode:
In Requiem For A Dream, the characters are picking up drugs from an orange truck, complete with a guy peeling oranges, right before everything goes to shit (more so than up to that point, that is).
On Breaking Bad, oranges land on Skyler's boss, Ted, after he slips and falls to his near death.
Even everybody's favorite show before Breaking Bad came along had a blatant orange death reference. When Omar bites the dust in The Wire, what can be seen sitting prominently in the foreground? Orange ... soda, actually. But points for subverting such an overused trope.
So, if you're still pondering over that infuriating fade to black in the series finale of The Sopranos, take a gander at this and know that Tony is irretrievably dead:
OK, maybe not. This show using oranges to mark death would be kind of redundant anyway, since ...
Eggs Are To The Sopranos What Oranges Are To The Godfather
Just like the oranges, The Sopranos' eggs have inspired much discussion over their inherent symbolism. Many times, when a major character was about to meet their maker, they could be seen somewhere in the vicinity of eggs. As in literal eggs, not someone's naked balls (those are a symbol of life). For example: See Ralph. See Ralph cook eggs. See Tony kill the crap out of Ralph.
When Carmine suffers a stroke, he is eating egg salad at the time. When Tony and Junior discuss putting out a hit on Johnny Sack, the answer to a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? question on the TV happens to be a big, fat egg. Incidentally, how do they foreshadow Junior's dementia? With extra eggs.
The phone call at the end of that egg-filled clip, by the way, is to inform them that Carmine has died. When Tony sends Chris to murder a cop, he is simultaneously eating eggs in a diner. And so on. Eggs. Are. Everywhere.
But The Sopranos wasn't just all eggs and dead people. There were also prophetic lines and ... well, dead people. Like the time Tony threatened to smother Christopher when he discovered his drug addiction, and then did exactly that a few seasons later. Or the scene in which Tony dreams about Big Pussy (the mobster) admitting to being an informant while in the form of a talking fish. That sounds insane, but Mr. Pussy does eventually end up being dumped in the ocean. Where the fish typically live.
A Whole Bunch Of Breaking Bad Deaths Were Telegraphed
There wasn't a single Breaking Bad death that wasn't incredibly important or meaningful in some way. None of it was gratuitous, and each one served to further the story and irretrievably change the characters for the worse. And so, so many of them were spoiled ahead of time by the show itself.
The death of Gale Boetticher at the hands of a conflicted Jesse Pinkman was a gripping moment. Jesse himself seemed unsure of his decision until the very last possible second, but the writers knew what would happen and they tried to tell us. Just before his shocking death, Boetticher is shown dancing around his apartment and making himself a pot of tea. As he shimmies and sings, he points a laser at the tea kettle ...
... on about the same place where the bullet that killed him ends up, as seen in the first episode of the following season.
Another major death was Walter White's negligent murder of Jesse's girlfriend Jane (before she moved to Netflix and became unkillable). Jane's death threw several characters into a deep depression, including her father -- who happened to be an air traffic controller and caused a massive air disaster in his grief. This turned out to be the source of the charred teddy bear that lands smack dab in the middle of Walter's swimming pool, as teased throughout the season.
But before all that, what's this falling from the sky in a mural on Jane's bedroom wall?
Jane herself had hinted at her impending doom when Jesse attempted to surprise her with a home-cooked breakfast. When she comes out to the kitchen earlier than intended, he remarks that she wasn't supposed to wake up, to which she replies, "Ever?"
But the most iconic death of the entire series had to be the gory end to Walter's nemesis Gustavo Fring, who literally has half his face blown off thanks to a carefully concealed wheelchair bomb. It was epic, and they totally gave it away. Another little detail in Gale's eccentric apartment is a mannequin head designed to represent half muscle, half bone. The result is incredibly similar to the mangled remains of Fring's face following the blast:
Before that, Gus pulls off a Terminator act that sends a not-so-subtle hint about his fate, by literally dividing his face in half:
And that ominous teddy bear? That little guy definitely pulls some double duty. The charring on the fluffy bear's face directly mirrors the kingpin's death scene:
Essentially, all your favorite television shows are just dark versions of Where's Waldo? where the goal is to spot the next unpredictable murder. Which sounds like a pretty damn good premise for an adult activity book. Can we make that a thing?
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