By Tristan Lejeune
Death crosses the boundary between reality and fiction so that stories have stakes — if no one’s in peril, what’s the risk? — but make-believe characters can die for any number of thematic reasons. They made a horrible error in judgement, and it kills them. A sacrifice had to be made, and it kills them. Nature/the sea/disease/zombie is cruel, even to the innocent, and it kills them.
The equation is different on HBO’s Westworld, where more than half the characters, like downloading Cylons, have a cheat code for unlimited lives. There are still stakes, but things are more … complicated. So in honor of Westworld’s first season finale coming up Sunday, we look at seven TV characters who, as The Sopranos used to say, gotta go. Some have overstayed their welcome, some have to pay a price.
These are the seven television characters who most need to die:
7. Teddy, Westworld
Poor James Marsden is essentially playing South Park’s Kenny with a six-shooter on his hip. Within the span of just nine episodes among this show’s flesh-and-bone video game, he’s been shot, shot again, shot once more, stabbed, stabbed again… When Westworld’s customers come to play rough, it’s Teddy’s guts they spill.
Which is exactly why he needs to stay dead. Expect twists and turns with this Sunday’s finale, but nothing could give WW a healthier shake by the shoulders than for one its thus-far immortal Hosts to die forever and for real. This is one of several possible outcomes of “the maze,” a thus-far mirage which has promised to change the way things are framed. We know a rebellion is coming — let’s give the revolution its martyr.
A bonus: With Teddy dead, Dolores’s journey to enlightenment sheds its dusty, unnecessary romantic angle. There are lots of characters on this series who are going to die, but I vote Teddy for the next short straw.
6. Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black
That thing I said about stakes? Yeaaaaah…
In as bloodthirsty a pop culture as ours (Game of Thrones will practically kill someone for using the wrong fork at dinner), it’s downright endearing that Orphan Black has a hard time saying goodbye to its protagonists. Hey, I get it: I love Cosima, too. She’s by far the most sympathetic character on this list. But this feminist sci-fi thriller needs to grow a pair of ovaries. Cosima, a brilliant geneticist who’s been “dying” of an autoimmune disorder almost since we met her, even had a graceful possible exit ramp, complete with coughing up blood, a sick bed surrounded by loved ones, and visions of celestial light. That was two full seasons ago.
“I can’t do this without you, Cosima,” Sarah has more than once said to her sick sister. She really should, though.
5. Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has the opposite problem: Death has been deployed as a storytelling strategy so often, it’s lost all shock value. Any character can die at any time for any reason. Zombies are a great death-equalizer. They don’t care if you’re a hero or villain, young or old, new to the game or been around since the pilot. No one is safe. Except, of course, for the father-son duo of Rick and Carl.
Solution? Bring a bunch of ’em back to life! Kidding. Nah, they should kill the guy who gets top billing.
Let’s be frank: As Rick Grimes, actor Andrew Lincoln is looking more miserable (and Grime-ier) with each passing year. But more to the point, showing him the door would A. Restore a sense of anything-can-happen danger, B. Break with/unshackle from the comic book source material, and C. Hand the narrative off to other, better-loved characters such as Michonne and Daryl. Time to turn in the badge, sheriff.
4. Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
Holy crap, is this show still on the air?! Die, die, die!
3. Stan Beeman, The Americans
This one’s gonna hurt.
FBI Agent Stan Beeman is a decent man: loving father, hardworking employee, loyal neighbor. That last thing is a major problem, however, as Agent Beeman unwittingly lives across the street from two Russian spies in FX’s Reagan-era drama. That makes him a long-term fool, and in espionage fiction, there’s only one proper penalty for being a long-term fool.
Such is the pull of this stunning slow-burn Cold War masquerade that I ponder the hinges upon which it turns months before and after any new episodes run. Do I think The Americans will off Noah Emmerich’s character in the seasons to come? No. Like others on this list, sadly, I think he will survive. There are still paths forward to redemption, to turning Stan into a late-blooming hero, but death would be the stronger choice.
I don’t “want” Stan to die any more than I “want” to pay my taxes, but hey, I like libraries and paved roads, if you know what I mean.
2. Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
“In the game of thrones,” she famously said waaaaay back in season one, “you win or you die.” Viewers know by now that that “or” is wrong: You can definitely win and then die. Personally, I still hope for an ending where Cersei does neither but instead steps down, deposed and shamed, to a heartbroken retirement at Casterly Rock. She’s such a chewy evil queen.
Lannister, Lannister, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
Not bloody likely. On a show where literally anyone can die, none are more likely now than she to bite the dust. It’s not that great houses of Westeros, from Stark to Targaryen to Tyrell, are all but completely united against her. It’s not that she’s essentially declared war on the world’s leading religion. Her citizens despise her and her allies grow few, but what really seals Cersei’s fate is that she is (and always has been) the very first name on Ayra’s kill list.
Such a shame. First because Lena Headey has done wonderful work with the part, and second because Cersei with her back against the wall is best Cersei, whether it’s poisoning her husband, the king, or blowing up the freakin’ Sept, to the most beautiful music TV has seen in years, no less.
We heard her roar.
1. Cyril Figgis, Archer
Voice actor and SNL alum Chris Parnell is terrific; I wish him nothing but the best, particularly with his other animated series, Rick and Morty. But Cyril Figgis is the definition of dead weight: the least-funny member of one of television’s best comedic ensembles.
Cersei deserves to die because her character has done too much; Cyril needs to because he does so little. Think about it: What role does he serve that someone else on Archer can’t do better? The calm voice of reason? Lana or Mallory. The barely competent lucky savior? Pam or Archer. Expert full of plot exposition info? Ray, or Mallory again!
Cyril was originally the anti-Sterling, a romantic foil who’s smart but hopelessly uncool. But the show has evolved beyond the need for that (Archer and Lana have a child now after all), and when it arrises, third-parties can always be brought in, as in the most recent season. Cyril is useless, which would be forgivable if he were funny, but that’s the last thing he is. He’s the straight man on a farce with no need for straight men. He’s just suppressing fire.
When the most interesting thing about a character is that he’s a chronic masturbator, and even that doesn’t come up anymore, it’s time for him to go.