This spring is certainly one of the weirdest TV eras I’ve ever lived through, and I’ve written about TV for a long time. Spoilers about recent TV dramas follow.
Megan Boone’s character was apparently killed off on “The Blacklist” on Friday. Stana Katic is being written out of the long-running ABC show “Castle” — the show in which she was the co-lead. Many TV viewers are still reeling from the way that Nicole Beharie’s character was killed off on “Sleepy Hollow” just over a week ago. Both “Castle” and “Sleepy Hollow” depended, in large part, on the chemistry between the show’s male and female leads. But apparently those programs might come back without the lady halves of those couples. Why?
What is going on here? These women are key characters on these shows. They are not day players on “Dexter,” for heaven’s sake.
I got into the reasons behind TV’s odd and unsettling spring in this recent post, which delved into why some characters — namely, characters of color and LGBT and female characters — are seen as more expendable than others (and with the departure of Katic’s fellow cast member, Tamala Jones, yet another African-American woman is exiting prime-time TV this season). Given the makeup of most writers’ rooms and executive suites, the reasons “certain characters have targets on their backs while others often appear to be bulletproof” aren’t necessarily that difficult to discern.
So on one level, I’m cognizant of the reasons why these things happen. And death can have certainly have a poignant and well-earned impact, as it recently did on “The Americans.” I’m in no way arguing that it should be banned as a narrative tool. Even if I am still wrestling with some aspects of Laurel’s exit on “Arrow,” for example, I think the character had been extraneous to the narrative for a while.
Even so, seeing so many prominent female characters exit at once is strange. Adding to that strangeness is the fact that now series leads are fair game… well, it’s very odd, to say the least. Not to mention disturbing. I’m finding it difficult to think of a heterosexual white male lead character in a drama who was written off his show or killed off in the last few months. I’m having trouble coming up with many instances of that scenario this spring — if any.
Perhaps the death of Boone’s character was a fake-out, and she’ll be back in Red’s orbit soon. Maybe Katic and Beharie will get new shows. Maybe TV will take a break from writing out and killing off women, gay and lesbian characters and non-white characters. Maybe TV’s Disposable Spring will finally come to an end.
This is how odd and, at times, dispiriting things are at the moment: I’m actively rooting for winter to come, in the form of “Game of Thrones.” Though the HBO show has its share of race and gender problems, in the first five seasons of the Westeros saga, death wielded an equal-opportunity scythe.