PoP! Top 6-Pack: Joss Whedon Characters’ Deaths

The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.

Joss Whedon’s characters have a habit of… dying. He was never shy of offing his main characters, not even his favorite ones (see the case of X-Men’s Kitty Pryde, seemingly doomed in space up until recently). With so much work for the Grim Reaper, it is almost hard to pick up only the top six deaths to ever occur in the Whedon-verse. ALMOST.

6. Tara Maclay (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6)

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Tara (Amber Benson) came into our lives in Season 4 of BtVS as Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) new friend and fellow “witch,” who eventually became her lover as Willow came out of the closet. Tara was a popular character and her romance with Willow was one of the loveliest things ever written by Whedon and his team of writers. During Season 6 Willow got deeper and deeper into witchcraft, finding interest in dark magics while Tara vocally showed her protest. This caused frictions in their relationship throughout the whole season, while Willow was drawn into magic more and more. After a sad breakup, Willow decided to please Tara and they got back together. This reunion was happy but short, since the leader of The Trio (three geeks united together against Buffy and the Scoobies), Warren Mears (Adam Busch), seeks revenge on Buffy after his plans go awry. A stray bullet from his gun while attempting to kill Buffy in her own yard, hits the bedroom window of Willow and Tara, killing the latter just as the two lovers had a talk. Obviously, it drove Willow over the edge and she succumbed fully to the dark process she was going through. In what seemed like Jean Grey going fully Dark Phoenix, Willow brutally murdered Warren and was about to destroy reality, but thanks to the love of her friends she got back to herself.

In a bizarre turn of events, Amber Benson and Adam Busch date in real life. Still not as creepy as Michael C. Hall marrying his sister on Dexter, Jennifer Carpenter.

5. Doyle (Angel, Season 1)

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During its first season Angel had a very small cast: Angel (David Boreanaz), Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and new character Doyle (Glenn Quinn). He was a half demon with problems caused to him due to his supernatural abilities, and a link to The Powers That Be, a mysterious group of know-it-all figures that were running the show (pun not intended) and guided Angel. Doyle was in love with Cordelia, who still suffered from the bitch image stuck to her in BtVS and tried to start a career as an actress; instead she was sucked into helping Angel with his detective/supernatural adventures. When a tribe of half demons was in danger of death, Doyle sacrificed his own life to stop a device that was about to do that (and also destroy Los Angeles). A moment before his death, Doyle kissed Cordelia and passed her his premonition ability.

His appearance in the show was short, but Doyle’s ultimate sacrifice played a big part in the coming seasons. While Whedon claimed he planned to get rid of Doyle that soon, one of the reasons the character was killed was Quinn’s drug addiction. In 2002 the actor died of an overdose and the episode “Long Day’s Journey” (Ep. 9, Season 4) was dedicated to him.

4. Joyce Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5)

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For the most part, Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) was indeed a background character. Being Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) mom, for the very early seasons she had no idea about her daughter’s greatest secret and dealings with the underworld. Occasional spotlights on the character (like in Season 3’s “Band Candy”) fleshed her out a bit and when she eventually found out (and accepted) Buffy’s fate, Joyce had become a bigger part of her daughter’s life. In Season 5 a new character appeared out of nowhere, Dawn — Buffy’s little sister. A being of mystical origin, Dawn was at first acknowledged by the other characters, but a short time later when her true origin was unveiled, she was welcomed by the Scoobies and especially Joyce. At the same time, Joyce was diagnosed with a brain tumor and went through several procedures that affected her behavior. Eventually, it seemed like the tumor was cured and Joyce started recovering, when an aneurysm suddenly caused her demise. Buffy found her lying on the couch, breathless, with a shock on her face. Not in a fight with vampires, nor sacrificing herself to save the world; Joyce Summers died just like that. The episode dealing with her death was one of the most memorable episodes of the TV show and it affected Buffy and Dawn’s life in so many aspects, leaving the young woman now in charge of a sister she never really had.

3. Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2)

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One of the worst things that could happen to a teenage girl (or any female, really) is when the man or boy she loves, the one she chooses to have sex for the first time with turns his shoulder to her the morning after. In the biggest twist BtVS had at the time, Buffy celebrates her 17th birthday. Her romantic relationship with the two centuries old cursed vampire with a soul, Angel, had reached a focal point and they decide to have sex, Buffy’s first time. Part of Angel’s curse was that if and when he feels the happiest moment in his life, he’ll lose his soul and turn back to a murderous bloodsucker. And lo and behold, his night with Buffy was that exact moment. Now back to his villainous roots, Angelus becomes Buffy’s greatest nemesis and reunites with his old bodies, Spike and Drusilla (Angelus old flame, a woman he drove crazy before siring). In the end of the season Buffy had one final confrontation with Angelus, attempting to stop his plans of opening a portal to Hell. At the same time, Willow tries to complete a spell that will give Angelus his soul back. As the portal opens and Buffy is standing victorious in battle, Willow’s spell succeeds. Buffy, realizing Angel is back, looking at his shocked look when she kisses him and stabs him with a sword that sucks him into the portal, then closes it. Angel returned later in Season 3 as a broken man and had rebuilt his humanity with the aid of Buffy (a process that eventually drove him into leaving Sunnydale and begin his own quest in L.A.), but this scene of death, Buffy’s alleged murder of her lover in order to save the world — that’s part of the essence that makes the Buffyverse what it is.

2. Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburn (Serenity)

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The TV show Firefly was short-lived, but thankfully Whedon managed to gather enough finances to write and direct a follow-up film called Serenity (Firefly is the type of spacecraft used by the heroes, Serenity was its appropriate title) that continued the adventures of Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his team of space pirates/adventurers. In a universe where humanity left Earth for new ventures, multiple star systems make their new home, and altogether it’s a bizarre mixed culture. In the TV show the Serenity crew got involved with Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his silent/crazy/gifted sister River (Summer Glau), and most of their days have been spent escaping from the dictatorial Alliance or trying not to run into Reavers (a species that can only be described as “space cannibals”). In the movie the story continues and the Serenity’s target becomes much bigger. An agent of the Alliance (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gets closer and closer to Simon and River and the threat of the Reavers is imminent than ever. All almost comes to a closure when a fleet of Reaver ships prey on the small transportation ship and in his most daring moment Serenity’s pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk) – husband to Zoe (Gina Torres), Mal’s second-in-command – maneuvers his beloved spacecraft into safety and lands it on the planet the team was heading to. Wash rejoices and his pals have a sigh of relief, when a sudden Reaver harpoon smashes through Serenity and impales Wash’s chest, killing him instantly.

Another favorite character, another painful death. What is wrong with you, Joss Whedon?!

1. Jenny Calendar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2)

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My favorite character in BtVS was Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy’s Watcher. At first he seemed like an aging bookworm, an English nerd. Over the course of the series it was revealed that in his youth Giles was a rebellious musician and tried to distance himself from his destiny as a Watcher, but practiced dark magics under the alias “Ripper.” In any event, Rupert eventually became the person he is and embraced his calling. Before all his secrets were out, it was very nice to see Giles finding a soul-mate in fellow teacher Jenny Calendar (Robia Lemorte). Jenny was Willow’s computer science teacher, but in Season 2 it was revealed that her real name was Jenna Kalderash from the same Gypsy tribe that cursed Angelus and gave him a soul many decades ago. Jenny “found” the truth about Sunnydale and Buffy in the end of Season 1, but apparently she knew about these all along, sent to watch over Angel. After Angelus returns (see entry #3) and Jenny’s secrets are out, she tries to make up for lying to Giles and the others by creating a spell that will restore Angel’s soul (the same spell later found and used by Willow). Angelus becomes aware of her plans and hunts her in the middle of the night at Sunnydale High, snapping her neck in one of the most horrifying moments seen in the duration of the show.

However, Angelus’ misdeed ain’t over yet: Later that night Giles returns to his home and finds roses, romantic music and candles decorating the living room. A note, seemingly from Jenny, directs him upstairs. Arriving to his bedroom – with the watchers sensing what’s about to wait him in there – and the happiness on his face fast becomes shock and sadness as he realizes Jenny lies dead on his bed. Afterwards, Giles overcomes the shock and replaces it with a sense of revenge. His pain is later used by Angelus for his evil plans, and when the vampire is gone to Hell Giles is almost satisfied. His emotions will resurface later when Angel returns (hidden by Buffy) later in Season 3.

Honorable Mentions: Buffy Summers (BtVS, Seasons 1, 5), Spike (BtVS, Season 7), Cordelia Chase (Angel, Season 5), Topher Brink (Dollhouse , Season 2), Bennett Halverson (Dollhouse, Season 2), Warren Mears (BtVS, Season 6), Lindsey McDonald (Angel, Season 5), Lilah Morgan (Angel, Season 4), Penny (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog).

Tomer Soiker’s death scene will be brutally detailed in ‘Beans: The Not-So-Silent Killer’.
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  1. Aeryl says:

    The episode about Joyce’s death, The Body, is also the only episode which features no music.

    On all other episodes feature music to cue different emotions, except for the silent portion of Hush. The Body has no music at all, which actually began the moment Buffy found Joyce’s body at the end of I Was Made To Love You, when the show transitioned into the credits, there was no Nerf Herder song, just silence.

    The Body and it’s follow up “Forever” were the few episodes where Buffy had to deal with the mundane aspects of death, like calling EMT’s and picking out a casket.

  2. Matt H says:

    This is why I like Joss Whedon. In a reality where these things are real and characters are put in life and death situations, bad things will happen. Whedon just knows when the right time to kill a character is. If a character lives forever we grow tired of them (Heroes, anyone, even though I like that show still) or kill a character too soon and no one cares. But waiting till everything is going well and the audience likes the character, bam death scene. The good? news is that Whedon’s deaths are permanent, till someone else comes along and undoes it.

  3. Joshua says:

    “The good? news is that Whedon’s deaths are permanent.”

    Like Angel? :P

  4. Tomer Soiker says:

    And Buffy. And Spike. And Wesley. And Warren (both in comics). And Lilah (if we count W&H’s devious contract).

  5. Matt H says:

    and never mind……. so i forgot about those, and maybe when i wrote that my brain was thinking of a few deaths not all of them…….. disregard

  6. MillionDollarGeek says:

    Last I saw Wesley in the comics he was dead also… or a spirit.

    You mean he’s alive now?? Geez! I hated the fact they pulled a Back to The Future 2 and go back in time when ‘Not Fade Away’ happened and then everyone still knows what’s going to happen. I stopped reading it after that.

    And now that Twilight is revealed I don’t know if I want to continue reading Buffy.

  7. Million Dollar Geek says:

    I’m the only one that has posted on the forums about this? I thought people would get on it since they’re voicing their opinions here.

  8. Ben Gilbert says:

    Has anyone mentioned Fred and Wesley yet? ;-)

  9. david page says:

    wesleys death may have been obvious but it still made me cry I loved the bumbling englishman and the badass he eventually became….

    oh and there was no angel comic….

    rinse and repeat….

  10. jack says:

    This list should be updated and reupped RIP agent Coulson

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