Much to the horror of the fans of the Bridget Jones franchise, the Sunday Times Magazine exposed the shocking revelation of Helen Fielding’s latest instalment to the much loved books – before it came out last week. Although all starts well for the world-famous singleton in Mad About The Boy with Bridget having produced two children with the suave Mark Darcy, the bliss does not last – as Mark Darcy dies. Or rather, is killed off.
Many fans took to Twitter to express their feelings towards this announcement: ‘Saw the news about the Bridget Jones sequel, it comes out on my birthday and Mark Darcy is DEAD!!!! Awful news #birthdayruined’. Of course, this also means that Colin Firth will not be returning to the film for a third time to play the killed-off lawyer, suggesting a decline in the box office ratings compared to the first film which raked in a massive $281,527,158 worldwide. So why do authors and scriptwriters kill off such popular characters?
Take for example the smash-hit series Game Of Thrones, being aired on Sky Atlantic. This series has reached international stardom since the premier of its first episode back in April 2011 and can claim a broad fan base. The end of series one left each and every fan traumatised as they witnessed the beheading of lead character, Ned Stark. In result of this bizzare decision, the series lost by far its most prestigious actor – Sean Bean. Fans questioned why such a vital character was torn from the show, and whether it would be able to uphold its ratings.
Fortunately, the show kept on breathing, and continued to grow to even greater fame. But then they did it again. Just as we were all preparing for the noble Robb Stark to kill Joffrey Baratheon -who certainly deserves what’s coming to him – he, his mother, his wife and unborn baby are slaughtered in the penultimate episode of series three. It’s safe to say that the general consensus was ‘what the hell just happened?’. Series four is due to air next year, giving the fans enough time to dwell on what this mass killing off means for the plot line. Surely the Baratheons cannot prevail?
Similarly, the nation was left reeling after the death of Matthew Crawley in the immensely popular ITV series, Downton Abbey. It all seemed so bizarre… the awkwardly placed car crash that killed Crawley off felt cobbled together. Creator Julian Fellowes did not plan nor want actor Dan Stevens, who played Crawley, to leave. Stevens made it publicly clear as to why he wanted to leave the hit series, claiming that ‘from a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things’. That may be all very well for him, but what about the viewers who are now forced to watch Lady Mary bawl her eyes out every episode this year?
However, a fictional world where no characters whatsoever are killed is out of the question. Sometimes, it is simply essential that our much loved – or hated – characters die in order for the story to progress. If Ned Stark was still alive, there wouldn’t be much to fight over, really. And for some to argue that writers do not pay any attention to the feelings of the fans is ludicrous. What about the creative license of the writer? After all, it is them who dedicate hours of hard work into creating these characters and eventually come to love too. Unless you’re the creator of series The Walking Dead, who seems to go off on a killing spree regularly (think about it: Carol is the only remaining living female character from series one). By then again, it is a zombie series.
It is sad to say, but deaths of lead characters in books, TV series and films are always going to be inevitable. Nine times out of ten such departures render the book/series/film never the same again… but for the one tenth that are successfully received, the plot line does thicken as new possibilities are explored. All is well, as long as Joffrey gets his arse kicked in series four.