Finding that character-life balance

If you watch V, there are spoilers in this post. And for the Wheel of Time book Towers of Midnight. And Mockingjay. And now to the post.

I just finished the season finale of V, which was amazing, full of mind-blowing twists and turns, and quite a few deaths (though apparently ABC won’t confirm any of the three deaths that I saw on screen tonight, nor the one that looks to be coming at the very beginning of next season). If you don’t watch V (why don’t you watch V?), it’s interesting to note a different format to the episodes, especially after I recently finished my love affair with six seasons of LOST. With the exception of the two season finales, the episodes don’t really leave viewers with cliff hangers. They answer questions, and usually pose new ones at the beginning of new episodes, which are then addressed. The episodes feel, in many ways, like mini movies (which sometimes doesn’t work for the format, but I can appreciate it all the same for this type of show).

But what I really want to talk about is the fact that the writers for this show have no problem killing off characters. Main characters. When the main cast isn’t an ensemble like LOST. Of course, I suppose the writers could bring the characters back next season (those Vs do have some crazy healing powers, though why they would heal their enemies I have no idea), in which case I would have to eat my words, but let’s assume that these deaths really did happen. Dang. No fear of losing the audience in these writers. (As an aside here, is 5 million viewers considered enough to get a show renewed? If it gets canceled after tonight I might cry.)

One of my favorite book series, the Wheel of Time, has the opposite problem. The good guys NEVER die (and the bad guys keep getting reincarnated). Well, Hopper dies, and Birgitte has been forcibly ripped from the pattern, possibly never to be reborn, and some very minor characters have died, but that’s it. It makes the bad guys look pretty ineffective, actually.

Neither approach quite works for me. I have to suspend disbelief in the Wheel of Time (which is saying something, considering I’m already reading fantasy) because when I stop and think about it. the fact that all the Super Boys and Super Girls are still alive, not to mention the twenty or so other main characters, I really don’t buy it. But then when a series just seems to start drawing names out of a hat to see who will go (the last season of LOST felt like this at times), I get sad and depressed because, hey, I was cheering for these people. And now the story needs to find some way to fill their holes.

So now I’m trying to think of stories (television or book or whatever) that have found a balance that I find agreeable. Despite the huge death toll, I think the Hunger Games trilogy does pretty well in this respect. It would be perfect if either Prim or Finnick made it out alive; I really struggled losing them both in that last third of the book, especially with how unceremonious they both are. And…I can’t really think of another one. I mean, obviously there are hundreds of books with no deaths where that totally fits the story, but that’s not really what I’m getting at. Suggestions?

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