The world of geek fiction is often wrought with more perils than that of the real world—how often do we have to battle hordes of zombies, invading aliens, or tyrannical wizard overlords? Many times, though, deaths in fiction are temporary—which means that those permanent deaths given much more of an impact. Thus, I present to you my list of the five most heart-breaking character deaths. To be part of this list, 1) the character must be permanently dead—coming back to live makes me okay with the fact that you were once dead, and 2) I must still not be over the character’s death—whether it’s because of the impact of the death itself or the fact that I wish the character was still around.
Needless to say, but…
THIS POST HAS ALL OF THE SPOILERS.Spoilers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, spoilers for the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series, spoilers for Star Trek: Nemesis, and spoilers for TellTale’s The Walking Dead game.
1) Joyce Summers
Many people gallantly sacrifice themselves in the Buffy/Angelverse. And quite a few of those people actually stay dead after they die for the cause, or for the people they care about. Joyce, though, was never part of the fight. And she didn’t die in a way that made sense in the Buffyverse—you’re supposed to be taken out by a vampire or a demon, not a problem with your body itself. The episode The Body is one that I still have trouble watching, to this day. The scenes where Buffy fantasizes that she made it home in time to save her mom—positioned so that you think she did—still make me tear up. And want to hug my mom.
Runners Up: Wesley, Wash, Fred
2) Fred Weasley
I wasn’t expecting Fred to go out the way he did. And going out when he did—that’s what puts him on my list. The Weasleys had just reunited after three books—with Percy accepted back into the fold—and Fred, George, and Percy had been handing an area of Hogwarts themselves during the battle. Percy cracks a joke, Fred rejoices—and is interrupted by his death. Having the Weasleys—a cornerstone of the Wizarding World as you’re introduced to it through Harry—permanantly split after seeing it made whole again hurts. Having it split because Fred is gone is somehow, in my opinion, one of the worst ways to fracture the Weasley family. This is due to the role that the twins had played over the seven books—the good-hearted, hilarious partners-in-crime. The book leaves you wondering about the family dynamic with Fred gone—and how George will fare.
Runners Up: Sirius, Remus and Tonks, Hedwig
3) Catelyn Stark
I’m a Stark supporter through and through. Which is unfortunate, considering the way that George R.R. Martin treats the Starks. Still, I supported Robb as King in the North, and I was waiting, enthusically, for him to take back Winterfell (which is what he was going to do after his uncle’s wedding in the books, not go after Casterley Rock). I enjoyed viewing Robb’s journey through Catelyn’s POV, as I always thought it was unique to look at a son’s war experiences through the eyes of his mother. Catelyn cares about her children, and you see her suffer as she slowly loses them. Being in her POV at the Red Wedding is brutal. You see her lose everything as the events unfold. Worse, though, is that you slowly realize what is about to occur alongside her. And still, you hold out hope—as she does—until the last second, hoping that things might be fixed and she and Robb can leave the Twins. As she dies, she dies as someone who has lost all that is dear to her, and experience the pain and madness as it sweeps in. It’s certainly a character death that sticks with you.
Runners Up: Why are you all Starks? (And Maester Aemon).
Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data seeks to become more human. He wants to understand emotion, human motivation, and even the dorkiest of jokes made by his colleagues aboard the Enterprise. At the end of Star Trek: Nemesis—the final TNG movie—the ship is laid to waste, and Picard teleports over to the enemy ship in order to give his life for the good of his crew. Little does he know that Data, the bad ass that he is, freakin’ space leaps from the Enterprise to the Scimitar in order to rescue Captain Picard, and then destroy the Remen weapon the bad-guy, Tom Hardy Shinzon, planned to use to destroy Earth. Data’s become human enough to understand sacrifice, and to sacrifice himself. After years of watching him become more than an android—to become an individual—it’s difficult to see him die. It’s not like then the Terminator dies in T2—Data’s become his own person. Which is why I maintain that he dies and I’m still sad—B4 will never be Data. He may “learn” what Data knew, but he didn’t have the desire within him to take that journey himself, which makes him less-than-Data.
5) Lee Everett
In TellTale’s The Walking Dead, the player spend five “episodes” of the game as Lee Everett, protecting and caring for a young girl named Clementine. At the end of the game, Clementine sees her zombified parents and, in the following chaotic moments, Lee blacks out. Clementine was able to get him to a safe area, where she find that…Lee has been bitten, and is turning. After spending hours in this expertly written world, you find that you’ve fallen short in your duty to protect Clementine. She is now facing the zombie-infested world on her own. Not only have you failed in that respect, but you have to choose how to last “protect” her—in ways that can also hurt her. Do you have her shoot you before you turn, making her kill the last person she has in the world? Or do you have her leave, hoping she can get out on her own before you, or another zombie, attacks her? Granted, you’re handcuffed to a radiator, but you’ve learned not to take “safe” for granted in this game. You’ve spent the entire game being Lee Everett, making his every decision and caring for the little girl in front of you. When he dies, you can’t help but think you’ve fallen short.
There are many more characters that I wish I could have put on this list, but I kept it to one character from each title/world. Some authors or writes have killed off tons of characters, making me very sad—I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin, Joss Whedon, and J.K. Rowling—but I had to only feature one. Who would you have included in this? Which character deaths do you still deny?