Televisions shows live and die by their ratings — and so, unfortunately, can their characters. While TV deaths often happen for understandable reasons (a storyline demands it, or an actor wants to leave a series), occasionally they seem like shock value only to boost tune-in. But if a beloved character is written out of a series, fans may respond by fleeing like rats off a sinking ship.
Some series are able to rebound after a major character death and continue on for several more seasons. For others, it's the beginning of the end. The following four shows shook their fanbases to the point where viewers turned the channel:
1. Tara Maclay ('Buffy The Vampire Slayer')
Willow (Allyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) had just rekindled their romance when a bullet intended for Buffy broke through the window of Willow's bedroom and hit Tara directly in the heart. Fans were infuriated, and many showed their displeasure by refusing to watch the cult hit any longer.
According to Amber Benson, Tara's death was meant to propel Willow down a path of dark magic:
"It was never intentional to be offensive to anybody. It was very much about Willow’s addiction story line and hitting bottom and being like she lost the most important person to her. That was the genesis of why Tara died. It wasn’t in any way shape or form meant to hurt anybody — the opposite.”
Whatever the intention of Tara's death, #Buffy suffered in the ratings, dropping from 4.3 million viewers in Season 6 to 3.9 million in Season 7, which was also its last.
2. Allison Argent ('Teen Wolf')
Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) was the first love of Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) on #TeenWolf. To fans, they were the perfect couple even though they weren't together in the latter part of Season 3. The pair still had an undeniable chemistry — so when Allison was killed by a sword, fans didn't hide their dismay.
Even though Reed wanted to be written out of the show, viewers would have preferred a different exit for the character, much like Kira was later given.
Season 3 of Teen Wolf averaged 1.97 million viewers, while Season 4 averaged only 1.61 million — and the descent continued through Season 6, which ended with an average of 0.47 million viewers.
3. Glenn Rhee ('The Walking Dead')
Glenn (Steven Yeun) had been part of #TheWalkingDead since its debut in 2010. He was a beloved character, although the producers might not have noticed how much of a fan favorite he was. In the Season 7 premiere, viewers were shocked and disgusted to see him fall victim to Negan's baseball bat in perhaps the most violent scene ever aired on basic cable.
Although Glenn's gruesome death was faithful to the comic book, even Rhee believed his character deserved more from the show over the years:
'I’ll be honest with you and put a full disclaimer here: I might not be objective, but I truly feel like people didn’t know what to do with Glenn. They liked him, they had no problems with him, and people enjoyed him. But they didn’t acknowledge the connection people had with the character until he was gone.'
The Walking Dead immediately suffered for the decision, as the ratings fell from 17 million viewers for the season premiere to 10.6 million by its twelfth episode. We'll soon know if fans will return for The Walking Dead Season 8, which comes to AMC on October 22, 2017.
4. Lexa ('The 100')
The accidental death of Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in Season 3 of #The100 shredded fans' hearts. The young commander had found love again with Clarke, after keeping her emotions under wrap after the death of Costia. In a painful, wrenching scene, Lexa used the last few minutes of her life to protect Clarke from future attacks, but even the beauty of that moment couldn't save the show from a substantial drop in the ratings.
Though showrunner Jason Rothenberg said "lots of factors" went into the decision, it didn't bring any comfort to the millions of fans who had grown to love Lexa and were looking forward to the progression of her relationship with Clarke. Rothernberg later apologized to The 100 fans, saying:
“Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently. Despite my reasons, I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have.”
But the apology did not help the ratings, as The 100 fell from an average of 1.94 million viewers in Season 3 to 1.47 in Season 4.
The loss of a favorite character can be heartbreaking. Even though fans know these characters are fictional, we spend hours upon hours watching them learn, grow and love. Losing them is painfully real, and though the producers have the ultimate say in who lives and who dies onscreen, fans have the final say in what they watch.
Have you ever stopped watching a TV series because of a character's death? Let us know in the comments below!