Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by Joss Whedon. He may not be the only writer to have killed off beloved characters—J.K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin, I’m looking at you—but I can’t think of another person who has done so over this many different television shows and movies. Of course, there are other ways to break a fan’s heart than killing off their favorite character and if there is one thing Joss Whedon is good at, it’s breaking his fans’ hearts. For some reason, we keep coming back though. Maybe we’re all masochists. Or maybe it’s indicative of Whedon’s talent that his shows and movies have such huge followings even though he plays with his viewer’s emotions (it’s probably the latter.)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is what converted me into a Whedonite at the young age of 11. Although I love pretty much everything Joss Whedon has done and I think he’s a genius, there are some things for which I will never be able to forgive him. I don’t want to spoil the whole list—although this one is pretty much a given—but one of the big ones comes from the short-lived series, Firefly. In honor of the 10th Anniversary special “Firefly: Browncoats Unite” that aired on Science Channel last night, and since every time something in a Whedon production makes me sad I reference this previously unwritten list, I figured it was about time I sat down and actually compiled the catalogue of things that left me feeling personally victimized by Joss Whedon.
(Be warned: there are spoilers ahead.)
Oz Left Sunnydale. Twice.
Seth Green playing Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of those small treasures that I forget when I haven’t watched any of his episodes in a while. But then I’ll watch an Oz episode and fall in love with him all over again. He gets some of the most ridiculous lines in the whole series (“I mock you with my monkey pants”), but manages to be the most grounded character, and is often the voice of reason in this crazy world. Then he became a werewolf which wouldn’t be that bad, except it led to Oz cheating on Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and eventually leaving town. I had hoped that Oz would have stayed around longer, saying ludicrous things in that dry tone of his to lighten the mood, but that was not the case. When he came back, it gave me hope he could come back for good, but there was nothing left for the character of Oz in Sunnydale, so he left again. It hurt worse the second time.
Marty’s Life Ended the World
This is probably not the Fran Kranz character you were expecting I bet, but he’ll reappear later, don’t worry. When I watched The Cabin in the Woods for the first time, I was especially devastated to see Marty die early on in the movie. I felt like I had been cheated out of something to see as great a character as Marty go so early in the movie. But then he comes back to life—sort of—and later the audience learns that Marty has to die in order for the world within the movie to survive. Joss Whedon does something interesting with this character because he establishes that Marty needs to die for everyone else to live, but he also makes the audience fall in love with Marty. This left me with an uncomfortable feeling of guilt for being happy that Marty chooses not to die to save the world. But I can’t forgive Whedon for creating a world in which Marty dies anyway, and everyone else, too.
Fred Died and Became Illyria
It’s been a while since I’ve watched Angel but I remember Fred (Amy Acker) as an adorable, smart, and really likable character who may have been a little awkward. But what I will never forget is how Fred finally, finally got together with Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and she was happy. They were both happy. I was happy. And then Illyria happened. Fred inhaled Illyria, a purebred demon’s, essence and the demon killed Fred slowly from the inside out. In the end, Wesley held Fred in his arms as she grew weak and gradually went mad until all she could do was ask him over and over again “Why can’t I stay?” Cue my hysterics. One of my favorite characters was killed off, and on top of that another of my favorite characters lost the woman he loved and was forced to look after the demon that took over her body. This kind of tragedy isn’t something anyone gets over easily; I’m sure not over it.
Xander Jilted AnyaIf I ever needed verification that true love doesn’t exist and we all die alone, I needn’t look any further than the episode, and all episodes following, when Xander (Nicholas Brendon) left Anya (Emma Caulfield) at the alter on their wedding day. People break up all the time, people break up on television even more often, but Xander and Anya had the type of break up that sits with you for a long, long time. Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended, I thought they could get back together at some point when they had both gotten over their stupid insecurities. But then Anya was killed—brutally and unnecessarily—in the series finale of Buffy and any hope I had of those crazy kids working it out was shot to hell. It was so quick that I like to think it didn’t happen at all, so I deal with this Whedon tragedy by remaining in a state of denial.
Topher Brink Went Crazy
Topher had the brightest mind in the Dollhouse world and Fran Kranz made this boy-genius completely lovable. Topher just liked to use his brain to figure stuff out; how was he supposed to know it would bring about his own destruction and the destruction of the world? But at least he could use that genius brain of his to fix what he’d done, right? Well yeah, but not after he’d lost most of his mind. When Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau), the only woman to really catch Topher’s eye, was murdered right in front of him, Topher started to lose it. Which is a completely understandable reaction to that situation, especially for a guy who has been shielded from that kind of violence. In the series finale of Dollhouse, we saw Topher after many years of torture and he was a shell of his former self. It was hard for his friends on the show to see him like that, and it was hard for fans as well. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Dollhouse again and see Topher as the same joking and carefree genius that he was at the beginning.
When I finally watched Firefly and Serenity this year (after two failed attempts in the past), I started by watching Serenity first because it happened to be playing on SyFy. I wasn’t paying full attention, though, so I didn’t notice that Wash had died until someone asked Zoe (Gina Torres) what happened to him. In a way, I think I was lucky because I knew what I was getting myself into when I went back and watched Firefly. However, it didn’t really matter when I watched Serenity again once I finished Firefly. Hoban Washburne, played by Alan Tudyk, is one of my favorite characters in all of television and his death is made worse by the fact that it seems completely unnecessary. For this reason, it feels like a personal attack on the fans and no matter what anyone says, no matter if Joss Whedon tells me himself, I will never believe any differently. Seeing Tudyk talk about the future of the show in the “Firefly: Browncoats Unite” special last night, he seems to be a little bitter at the death of his character, as well.
If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon, what are some things you think I missed in my list? Is there any character or event from a Whedon show/movie that you’ll never get over?