In the last few weeks most of you will have been disturbed at some point by people lighting fireworks in their back gardens mainly to celebrate some dude almost blowing up the houses of parliament over 400 years ago. However the explosive nature of fireworks links into this week’s list as I look at some of the deaths of TV characters that have been truly shocking and explosive.
10. Maude Flanders (The Simpsons)
Played by: Maggie Roswell (Voice)
Episode: Alone Again, Natura-Diddly (Feb 13, 2000)
The story-so-far: The Simpsons had been known for its large cast of characters some of whom who were prominent throughout the show and others who were less so. Maude Flanders fell into that latter category always being around she was usually seen only when accompanied by her husband Ned, the bane of Homer Simpson’s existence. When Maude and the family attended a Nascar event because Ned loved the safety that the drivers employed, she wasn’t aware what would happen next.
How it happened: Homer was trying to get the attention of cheerleaders firing T-Shirts from cannons his obnoxious manner made Maude go off to buy some hotdogs. When Homer finally gets the cheerleaders attention they all fire their cannons at him at once sending a multitude of T-Shirts flying in his direction. At the moment of impact he bends down to collect a pin on the floor and the T-shirts bypass him hitting Maude and sending her falling from the stadium and plummeting to her death.
Why it was so shocking: While The Simpsons had dealt with death in the past, with recurring character Bleedin’ Gums Murphy, Maude’s death was the first of a character who had appeared constantly if only in the background. It may not have been that shocking to some as due to the episode title they knew it was coming but if you’d come to watch this episode without reading anything about it then seeing the Flanders matriarch falling to her death would’ve been quite a shocking occurrence. Obviously Ned has never really moved on from her death but it hasn’t stopped him finding love elsewhere from time to time.
9.Veronica Donovan (Prison Break)
Played by: Robin Tunney
Episode: Manhunt (August 21, 2006)
The story-so-far: Prison Break revolved around architect Michael Schofield attempting to break his brother out of prison by himself being put in the prison in order to achieve this. Veronica was the former girlfriend of Michael’s brother Lincoln who also had an attraction to Michael and was desperate to prove Lincoln’s innocence in the murder of Terrence Steadman, the brother of the current president. After discovering that the whole murder was a cover-up and Steadman was still alive she headed up to his abandoned house to confront him.
How it happened: After hearing the story from Steadman about how his murder was covered up, secret service agents arrived at the house and gunned down Veronica.
Why it was so shocking: Throughout series one we were lead to believe that Veronica was the girl that Lincoln would be with once he and Michael broke free from prison. Her work in series one seemed to suggest that she’d continue to aid and abet the boys while they were on the run and eventually reunite with them at some point. The fact that her death came right at the beginning of the programme’s second series and there was no real build-up to it made it all the more shocking as it was the first time that Prison Break killed off one of its major characters.
8. Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup (The League of Gentlemen)
Played by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
Episode: Series 3 Episode 1 (2002)
The story-so-far: In its first two series The League of Gentlemen was by far more of a sketch-show with sitcom elements than the other way around. All of the characters had storylines but were only linked by the town in which they lived. Central to the action were local store proprietors Tubbs and Edward who were afraid of people outside of the area of Royston Vasey and often killed or kidnapped people to get their own way. At the end of series two they were presumably killed after their shop was set fire to by all the other locals however at the start of series three they emerge from the wreckage still alive.
How it happened: The couple walk away from the shop and are on the way away from Royston Vasey when they suddenly realise they are walking on a train track and at that very moment are ploughed down by a train.
Why it was so shocking: Obviously The League of Gentlemen was always concerned with the macabre so killing off characters wasn’t anything new however Tubbs and Edward were seen as being fairly crucial to the plot and killing them off at the beginning of a new series was a big shock indeed. However this death did signify a change in the series which became more storyline-focused and lost its laughter track.
7. Doctor Robert Romano (ER)
Played by: Paul McCrane
Episode: Freefall (November 20th 2003)
The story-so-far: In terms of the characters in ER, Robert Romano was always the one that everybody loved to hate. He was rude to other doctors, occasionally sexist but always good at his job. In series nine an accident with a helicopter blade saw his hand being chopped off and his surgery career all but over. Dispatched to overseeing the ER department he was once again tasked with taking a patient that was being delivered to the hospital via helicopter.
How it happened: Romano starts to get panic attacks and rushes outside the hospital unable to deal with another helicopter after what happened to his hand. As we see the helicopter leave it goes into a tailspin causing an explosion in the main hospital before careering to the ground and falling just were Romano is standing having a cigarette and trying to calm down and as Romano looks up he and us both realise that he is about to meet his end at the hands of another helicopter.
Why it was so shocking: The arrival of the helicopter and Romano’s sudden panic was meant to signify a humanity to the character however this was all just a ruse to get Romano outside in the vicinity of the falling helicopter. Add to this the fact that it was so quick and Romano’s expression itself was one of shock. For me the best part of this death was the fact that the elevator on the way up to the hospital’s heli-pad was playing a lift music version of Freefalling a tuneful prediction of what was about to happen.
6.Ryan Chappelle (24)
Played by: Paul Schulze
Episode: Day Three 6am – 7am (March 30, 2004)
The story-so-far: Evil mastermind Stephen Saunders was revealed as the man who was in control of a deadly disease which he threatened to launch in various large areas within America unless certain demands were met. When he discovered that pen-pusher Ryan Chappelle was currently the man in charge of the Counter Terrorism Unit he ordered the president to charge someone with the task of executing him. The president asked Jack Baeur to do it and after trying to track down Saunders he found out that he had no other choice than to finish off Chappelle.
How it happened: Jack and Ryan went to an empty train yard where Jack asked him if he wanted to make a call but he admitted that he didn’t have any friends and had become estranged from his brother. He first attempted to take his own life but after he failed to do so Jack had to be the one to fire the gun uttering the words, ‘sorry we let you down Ryan, may god forgive me.’
Why it was so shocking: Most people would cite the death of Jack’s wife Terri at the hands of former lover Nina as 24’s most shocking death while it certainly helped cement the series’ reputation for me Chappelle’s death shocked me more as it came at the hands of Jack himself. I, as many others did, assumed that as Jack was about to fire the gun he would find that Saunders had been captured or at least that they’d found their own bargaining tool but alas Ryan was to be sacrificed, not a big loss as he was never a main character but the fact that the protagonist had to shoot down a colleague added a whole new dimension to the character of Bauer. Chappelle’s death was made all the more poignant by the fact that the clock that signified the end of the episode didn’t beep, this indeed is a rare occurrence in the land of 24.
5. Anna Lucia Cortez and Libby Smith (Lost)
Played by: Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros
Episode: Two for the Road (May 3, 2006)
The story-so-far: Obviously most people watched Lost, the story of the survivors of a plane crash who landed on a strange island and series two introduced a new group of characters who were from the tail end of the plane which included straight-talking cop Ana-Lucia and the lovely Libby. Also in Series Two a group of mysterious characters known as The Others started to emerge and among their atrocities was kidnapping Michael’s son Walt. While Michael was away the group captured another Other Ben Linus and trapped him down in a locked room in their underground hatch. When Michael returned without his son he came down to the bunker and found Ana Lucia there he told her he wanted to kill Ben due to the fact that The Others had kidnapped Walt.
How it happened: After getting the code to get into the cell and kill Ben, Michael apologised before shooting Ana Lucia in the stomach. After watching him do this the camera panned around and noticed that Libby had entered the hatch and saw everything this shocked Michael enough to fire his gun again killing Libby. This was all so Michael could free Ben in exchange for getting back Walt and leaving the island.
Why it was so shocking: For a number of reasons firstly because we were lead to believe that Michael’s intentions were to finish off one of the devious Others and we had no reason not to believe him as he’d seemed such a decent character up to this point. The other being that there were two deaths in a matter of seconds and this is something you rarely see on TV and especially at the hands of a character who was supposedly an ally of the group.
4. Shane Vendrell (The Shield)
Played by: Walter Goggins
Episode: Family Meeting (November 25, 2008)
The story-so-far: The Shield focused on a group of police officers who played by their own rules known as The Strike Team lead by Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackay. Vic’s best friend when the show began was Shane Vendrell and the two were complicit in carrying out several illegal activities and at the same time Shane found love and was married. When Shane believed fellow Strike Team member Lem was about to rat out the rest of them he killed him and framed someone else for the crime. Eventually Vic found out about it and after being granted immunity for The Strike Team’s crimes he came after Shane telling him that his kid would be put into foster care after he was arrested.
How it happened: As the police entered Shane’s house to arrest him he was seen furiously scribbling out a suicide note and then a shot was heard and by the time they found him Shane was dead. As they made their way through the house they also found his wife and son dead from a painkiller fuelled liquid that Shane had made them drink as he realised that this was the only way his family could now be together.
Why it was so shocking: Because of the silent nature of the police’s arrival suddenly being broken by the gunshot Shane inflicted on himself plus the fact that he’d killed the rest of his family made this a truly shocking exit for one of the show’s lead characters.
3. Rita Bennett (Dexter)
Played by: Julie Benz
Episode: The Getaway (December 13, 2009)
The story-so-far: A case of so I married a Serial Killer, Rita was the girlfriend and later wife of blood spatter analyst come serial killer Dexter Morgan who was intent on killing men he knew were evil. After settling down in the suburbs and having a child with Rita, Dexter thought he could live a normal life but then he started pursuing The Trinity Killer and realised Rita was in trouble. He told Rita to get out of town taking her children and their baby with her.
How it happened: Dexter finally finishes off The Trinity Killer and then receives a call from Rita telling him that she returned home to pick up the flight information. Going back to the house he finds their baby crying, surrounded by a pool of blood and then finds Rita dead in the bath.
Why it was so shocking: Partly because you thought Rita was safe and partly because of the way we find out bit by bit that Rita was dead. The death was also significant in the way that baby Harrison was seen surrounded by a pool of his mother’s blood as Dexter had also been as a baby and this was seen as the character’s life coming full circle.
2. Omar Little (The Wire)
Played by: Michael Kay Williams
Episode: Clairifications (February 24, 2008)
The story-so-far: Fans of The Wire will know that Omar was an almost mythical character a stick-up boy who revelled in taking drugs from the main gangs. An outlaw of sorts he was always someone who the major gangs in the show wanted dead and in the final series it was crime boss Marlo Stanfield who got Omar to return to Baltimore after killing Omar’s lover. Omar then gets revenge by killing off more members of Stanfield’s gang and Marlo tasks his two best workers – Chris and Snoop to finish Omar off.
How it happened: Omar arrives at a store and goes to the counter to give his order suddenly we here a gunshot and Omar is shot square in the head. We turn around to see a small child holding a gun rather than one of the main gang members who was meant to take down Omar.
Why it was so shocking: Omar had always been presented as someone who couldn’t be bought down his entrance would be proceeded by shouts of ‘It’s Omar, yo!’ The fact that his demise came at the hands of a random child in a grocery store was a shock as it was such a sudden and unexpected end to a character who you would’ve expected to have a much larger and strung out death scene that Omar was afforded. But then The Wire was never about conventional storytelling and in a way it was better that Omar was killed randomly than for one of the crime lords to tell the tale of how they were able to vanquish the legendary Omar.
1. Helen Flynn (Spooks)
Played by: Lisa Faulkner
Episode: Looking After Our Own (20 May 2002)
The story-so-far: Spooks was a new BBC show about spies and among its cast members was Lisa Faulkner who was known to most from her work on Holby City and Brokside. Her name was one of the bigger ones attached to star in Spooks playing relatively knew officer Helen in Section D of MI5. In the second episode Helen and Tom Quinn go undercover to try and investigate Robert Osborne a man who has been inciting race riots while they are able to win over the trust of his ex-wife eventually they are rumbled and kidnapped by Osborne and his men.
How it happened: To try and get information out of Tom, Osborne and his men torture Helen firstly by dipping her hand in a deep fat fryer and then her face before finally shooting her.
Why it was so shocking: As I mentioned earlier Faulkner was cast in a lead role in Spooks and many believed her to be the show’s star to have her killed off after only two episodes was a shock in itself. Also the lead-up to the death, involving burning of the hands and face in hot oil, was a bit risqué for a primetime BBC drama so much so that the channel received many complaints about the scene. But after nine years this still sticks in the mind and it lead the way for Spooks to kill off a lot of its central characters in shocking ways however Helen’s death is the best remembered by most.
Originally published on boob.ie