Super Hero Death: Does it Support the Story or Betray the Character?

As the summer creeps up we're captivated by this year's TV show finales, keeping us wanting more in the fall. As an avid watcher of superhero shows, I've noticed there is a lot of death this year, maybe more than in previous seasons. Or maybe this year I'm beginning to notice how many super shows there are at any given time. Including the Netflix shows, I'm watching about eight at this point; by the end of the year I swear it'll be in double digits. This provides an opportunity to draw comparisons within the burgeoning genre. The question I'm wondering about, specifically, is: do these deaths further the story? Do these deaths build up the protagonist or others around them? Two shows that aired recently stick most in my mind: The Flash and Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. Be aware below there be spoilers here!!!

The Flash has been a bit of a lackluster season compared to last year. The writers have clearly run into some walls this season. The big bad this year is Jay Garrick as Zoom, another speedster, who turns out to be, once again, an ally in sheep's clothing. The beats are very similar to last season and Barry even lost his speed again this time around--slightly different circumstances, but the question has to be asked, is this going to happen every season? I'm hoping going forward that they evolve the villains and some of these plots a little bit better. Which brings me to the big shocker: this past week on The Flash when Zoom kills Barry's dad in the same house where Reverse Flash murdered Barry's mother. This didn't surprise me because ever since they freed Barry's dad from prison the writers on the show seemed to struggle mightily in figuring out what to do with Dr. Allen. When he first got out, rather than stick around after missing his kid's entire childhood, he effectively says "I gotta get out of town" and proceeds to disappear for the remainder of the season until the last few episodes. It's so obvious when Zoom kills Barry's dad, I could honestly feel the collected relief from the writers because they clearly had no idea what to do with him. They aren't completely wrong, I mean, how many dad-like figures can Barry have alive on this show? Between Earth 2 Wells and adoptive father Joe West, it's getting a bit crowded and as great as it was to have original Flash John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen on the show, he really didn't make sense there so they decided to make him the sacrificial lamb to amp Barry up even more against Zoom. This is where I think they made their mistake. Zoom has already sufficiently teed Barry up to defeat him. They didn't need to fall into Gwen Stacy territory to further Barry's story. Also because they telegraphed the whole thing it felt even more forced and overly plotty. The show will certainly recover from this but I hope this doesn't become a trend on the show. Arrow does this kind of thing all of the time and it gets old. It took them four years to finally do away with Laurel Lance (Black Canary) who was constantly being used for shitty plot devices, plus the actress really didn't bring much to what I believe was a solid character. Death is always a part of superhero stories--some are more memorable than others--but when they are used to maximum effect it's usually an out-of-nowhere surprise in a way to raise the stakes for the story and to provide a stronger arc for the main protagonist. I fear that Henry Allen's does neither.

Moving over to Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their season finale, they too provide plenty of death and destruction. For the past two weeks they pushed the advertisement that one of these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is going to buy the farm and it will apparently shock us all. They don't say that per se, but it is implied. So who is it going to be, original team members like Coulson, Daisy, Fitz, Simmons, May? Will alien-host Ward be the one to finally get dead? My wife called Lincoln, Daisy's electrified Inhuman boyfriend, to take the fall. How did she guess this? Well, Lincoln was an okay character but he was the weak link on the show and I'm sure the writers knew that. Like Henry Allen, a lot of his plot lines felt forced and he was constantly being torn away from the group to do his own thing cause he doesn't quite work with the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. I will say though that even though this death was extremely predictable they gave him a pretty great death, as well as a quiet moment with Ward as they basically waited to die. It was a good scene, well written and thoughtful and allowed Lincoln to make his sacrifice matter and it clearly has influenced where we go into the next season. 

I think both of these were a wash. I still enjoy both shows and will continue to watch them in the future but I hope the writers of both shows build some awareness of this problem and work to make these shows as continually awesome as I know they should be.