Teasing Major Character Death: Is It Worth It?


At New York Comic Con late last year Jeff Davis teased that not everyone would make it through the upcoming season of Teen Wolf. It was just a teasing remark and it probably would have been quickly forgotten if he hadn’t brought it up again, and again. By the time Season 3B started airing the fandom was in a frenzy at the possibility of losing one of the core characters. Jeff Davis certainly managed to get people talking, but was it worth it?

This article contains possible spoilers for Teen Wolf Season 3B; please proceed with caution.

Teasing major character death is a well-worn marketing gimmick. Networks love it and it’s often employed during sweeps week or as a last ditch effort to pump some life into a dying show. It must work on some level because they keep using it, but with today’s increasingly genre savvy audiences it doesn’t really pack the same punch it might have done in the past.

Simply teasing  the possibility of death is not really enough to elicit fear within fandom for a few reasons, the most obvious is that actors have contracts. Generally, we know well in advance if an actor is leaving a series so if a character we know is contracted for at least another season is placed in mortal peril it’s a safe bet to assume that they won’t die or if they do they won’t stay dead for long.

For this reason, when a show teases major character death it usually means one of three things:

  1. We already know who dies.
  2. Not really a “major” character.
  3. Disney Death.

None of these things are particularly shocking and depending on how much the so-called death has been plugged by the network it can result in more annoyance than anticipation.

1545662_231048703745605_1206740757_nSo the Teen Wolf audience, or any audience really, is not particularly inclined to trust this kind of teaser. But then Jeff Davis told Happy Cool that fans should “prepare to lose someone” and that they “will possibly be changing out the main title sequence so not everyone’s going to make it out of this season alive”, which is relatively specific. If (and that’s a big if) they are going to kill someone that appears in the opening credits, Scott (Tyler Posey), Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), Allison (Crystal Reed), Derek (Tyler Hoechlin), and Lydia (Holland Roden) are all on the chopping block.

Killing one of the core five characters would be a huge deal because I doubt anyone that is a fan of the show will be happy to see any one of them go. As a general rule, characters that appear in the opening credits are blessed with contractual immortality. The possibility that anyone could die certainly increases the tension but this knowledge also makes the audience hyper vigilant – the fans are on the look out for ANY information that could tell them which character is marked for death.

Season 4 starts shooting before the end of this month, so it’s going to be increasingly difficult to keep the dead characters identity a secret. Once that information is out, most (if not all) of the tension gained by teasing major character death is lost. That is of course, if they actually end up actually killing one of the five core characters. Because this is not the first time Teen Wolf has teased a major character death and they have yet to actually follow through.

1623327_10151924943407742_168951305_nThey teased the possibility of death a couple of times during Season 2 – Jackson died, twice, only to come back to life moments later (Disney Death). It gets extra annoying since Colton Haynes, who played Jackson, left the series soon after. Then during the first half of Season 3, Teen Wolf teased that a major character would die – turns out “major” is a relative word because they ended up killing of the character that had had the least amount of screen time, which was a massive cop-out.

That’s the thing with teasing major character death. If they manage to keep the character’s identity a secret AND they actually kill a significant character, then it’s not a bad move. The whole audience, especially fans that think they are one step ahead of the powers that be, will be on the edge of their seat for the whole season. As hard as it is to let go of a character we love, it’s also incredibly exciting. BUT if the secret gets out OR the death is not as major as we were led to believe then all you get is a pissed off and/or bored audience that feels let down and betrayed.

Sure the audience will be relieved if all five of the core characters are still alive when the season ends but they will also be annoyed because it means TPTB exploited their fear without any pay-off. Basically they lied to trick us into watching and that’s not cool. If they do follow through and spoiler gets out because everyone is looking for it then they have lost any impact they could have had if they kept the possibility of death a secret. As Tyler Posey said, “I kind of wish Jeff [Davis] didn’t tease that because it would have been so much more impactful when you watch it and this character dies.”

Don’t get me wrong, the tension of knowing something is going to happen but not knowing who it’s going to happen to is fantastically fun in a kind of masochistic way. But at the moment it’s kind of a fight between the fandom and TPTB. The winner of this war will dictate whether or not teasing major character death was worth it. I do not envy Teen Wolf’s task because the odds are against them.

Already we know that Tyler Posey, Dylan O’Brien and Holland Roden have been confirmed for Season 4 (they could be misleading us of course), which means that if the character death is one of the core five it’s down to either Tyler Hoechlin (Derek) or Crystal Reed (Allison). In fact Dylan’s confirmation for Season 4 takes much of tension away, because Stiles is the character that is supposedly on the brink of death this season.

The fact that we are supposed to fear for Stiles even though we know Stiles is coming back would have made the surprise death of another character incredibly shocking. That’s why, like Posey, I am disappointed that Jeff decided to tease the fans in this way but only time will tell if it was ultimately worth it.

Author: Undie Girl

Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.


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17 thoughts on “Teasing Major Character Death: Is It Worth It?

  1. It’s just annoying as is a lot of Jeff Davis antics and quite honestly makes me think twice about following the show. Instead of killing one of the big five he would be better employed tidying up story lines, consolidating the characters he has instead of killing them off and replacing them with characters who last five minutes,

    1. I have a love/hate relationship with Jeff. He’s very witty, so that’s fun. On the other hand he probably shouldn’t be allowed out without a keeper because his filter is the worst. A lot of the time what he says is just THE WORST possible thing and it makes me want to punch him because he’s caused the poor PR people so much shit.

      As far as his story goes – 3A sucked. We all know and accept that but I like to think of it as a learning curve and with the way 3B is going he seems to have learnt from a lot of his mistakes. But yeah, offing one of the main characters does seem like a cheap gimmick at this point.

      1. We all know and…? I don’t even know what show you’re watching. 3A had fantastic character writing, catching 3×05 hooked me on the series for good. I’m not sure what you see wrong with the plot. We had a vengeful character convinced of the nobility of her cause who thought she had a connection with a stranger because consuming the lifeforce of his dead lover kept her alive, which is a pretty good brand of crazy. Deucalion was a little more poorly fleshed out, but overall I enjoyed his vendetta against a world with no place for him.

        Allison becoming attracted to Isaac and learning love doesn’t have to be head over heels, Lydia re-identifying herself as a survivor instead of a victim and becoming pro-active, Scott actually getting everyone to work together by the end of the season which he struggled and failed at in Season 2 and taking on responsibility as a leader, Stiles being taken out of situations where he’s just giving advice to Scott and having problems to solve without werewolf back up, Derek getting over his manpain, broadly, realizing…maybe that he’s never won a fight in the whole series…but also that the kind of power Peter had and wants isn’t the only source of strength and his own always has been endurance and preserving the people he cares about and learns to let himself trust.

        Yeah. No: I have no idea in what way 3A “sucked”.

        1. I’m sorry if you feel I insulted something you love. Because I am a HUGE Teen Wolf fan but I can still recognise when it isn’t at it’s best.

          3A had some great moments but for me, and most people I have spoken to, it suffered a lot of problems, most of which stemmed from a disconnect between the core characters the season’s villains. Deucalion was one of the most bland and unoriginal characters that have appears in this show AND his storyline was overwhelming narratively unsatisfying. As a result, Jennifer who was actually an interesting addition fell flat because her vendetta was tied to Deucalion and the Alpha pack.

          All the things you have mentioned were things I loved too but that had more to do with the fact that I was already in love with these characters and very little to do with the actual season arc. There were severe pacing problems and massive plot holes. So yes, as a fan it was great to see Lydia tell her mother that she was a survivor, watch Scott embrace a leadership role. 3A still had a lot of the things that I LOVE about Teen Wolf – the characters, the witty dialogue, the shirtless men – but from a technical perspective the story had a number of issues.

          The good thing is that they seem to be learning from their mistakes! 3B is blowing me away. Great all around.

  2. Tyler Hoechlin tweeted #teenwolfseason4 several times between Jan 2 and 4 even though the official MTVTeenWolf twitter and many fans told him it was season 3b. Then someone tweeted “I’m beginning to think you do this on purpose” and Tyler replied with clapping hands. So I guess it leaves Crystal Reed. (Sorry, I don’t know how to link here).

    1. Yeah there have been hints but no “Official” confirmation. I wouldn’t assume that Derek is safe just yet.

  3. I’m losing faith fast with Jeff’s decisions to be honest. He keeps hinting at stuff nobody wants to see and spoiling things we actually would probably consider pretty impactful. Boyd dying … everything knew that from the get-go. And it such a terrible move on Jeff’s part, because he had been alienating the character for almost the entire time he had been on the show. Now I’m guessing the major character who dies is either Allison, or the Coach. Because, you know, “major” apparently also involves people we see on screen every now and then.

    1. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think the fandom needs to cut Jeff some slack – I’m probably going to get hate for that but what can you do. Sure the dude has made some seriously questionable decisions (and sometimes he thinks with whats in his pants rather than what’s in his head: case in point – The Twins) but I think a lot of the anger comes from the fact that the Teen Wolf fandom built him up as some kind of god. You know, the whole “Jeff Davis is a Gift” idea. I’m not blaming fandom, I was guilty of it too – but there is no way anyone can live up to those kind of expectations.

      We got this idea that Jeff was not like any of those other showrunners – he was a COOL showrunner. He jokes with the fandom and acknowledges popular slash ships, which is all fun and games as long as everyone likes the show he writes, but that only lasts so long. So yeah, he made terrible creative decisions during 3A and fandom turned against him. Problem is he still acts like he’s the cool!showrunner – he still think’s he’s joking WITH the fandom but he’s on the outside so now it just seems like he’s laughing at us rather than with us.

      Truth of the matter is he was never laughing with us, both the fandom and Jeff himself need to accept that. He is, and has always been, like every other show runner. He doesn’t understand fandom and that’s okay. Teen Wolf has always had many of the same problems that other shows had, they just became more prominent during 3A because we weren’t distracted by a good story.

      Yes we need to call him out on problematic stuff, and someone should definitely brief him on what he should and shouldn’t tease but we got to stop acting like this is a new thing. Like he’s changed. Because he hasn’t.

    2. Boyd died because Sinqua Walls’ agent refused to commit to more episodes due to the possibility of his pilot being picked up. One of those times when the fandom has been baffling with Jeff since he explained it and that degree of transparency in a show is rare. Even without Erica after Golightly quit he still had a plotline left; we’ll never know who Alicia is but at least it was nodded to he had plot left. (Recently people blew up at Walls for reminding people to watch Teen Wolf; that was weird, too, since they’re still his friends and Jeff didn’t want to let him go. Personally I hope he fired his agent.)

      I got the sense Isaac was originally going to die. We already knew everything there is to know about him. Stiles isn’t the only one wondering what the heck is the point of him. He’s been hooked onto Allison’s plotline post that episode. Daniel Sharman is great but Isaac’s death would have messed with both Scott and Derek and the audience since we’d seen his story. Boyd is the one who at the end of Season 2 delivered the crushing blow to any remaining belief in the possibility of being an Alpha that Derek had, had joined the lacrosse team, in general was getting a setup for his and Erica’s story arc which got dismantled.

      1. Yes there are often extenuating circumstances with a collective creation like a television show. But while Sinqua choosing to pursue other projects is certainly a factor it’s also important to remember that Daniel Sharman was offered a series regular position, Sinqua and Gage were not. They would have needed to make themselves available for “possible” work without any assurances. They’ve got to eat. So it’s understandable. Let’s not forget that Colton Hayne’s chose to leave without any warning and his character was not killed, he was just shipped off to London and it was left open that he could return at any time. So it’s pretty easy to see why people think that Boyd’s death is problematic.

        Isaac should have died (but I don’t think he was supposed to die), it would have had a HUGE emotional impact on the characters but instead they took the easy out. As a result Boyd’s death comes across as a exploitative. It really didn’t have all that much narrative impact so what was the point of it?

        I would have guessed Isaac as a the character that dies as well, but he’s not in the opening credits. So if they are actually killing one of the main five then it can’t be him. We shall have to wait and see.

    3. On that note, I feel like Isaac’s possibly greatly postponed death has a pretty high likelihood.

      Stiles: What is the point of you?
      Isaac: To die for you. QQQQQQQ

  4. I think that Jeff Davis is just teasing us. Even if it is highly probable that Derek/Tyler Hoechlin will be the one to leave the show (Jeff Davis said Derek would be a hero this season, & I’m understanding that Derek will sacrifice himself to save people), I’m kind of holding on to the hope that none of the 5 characters on the title sequence will die. What I think, is that, there isn’t only Stiles, Derek, Lydia, Allison and Scott in the main title sequence, there is also the masked-demon (don’t remember what they’re called) just at the end, who are kind of important “characters” in 3b, and will obviously cut out of the title sequence next season. I’m reaaaaally hoping this is it. Because I’m a Sterek shipper but even I have to admit that the least “useful” character in 3b is Derek. He was important in the first seasons, even in 3a, but now, his only role is to teach Scott how to be an alpha, but then what ? I believe he will be the one to leave the show otherwise. Allison is too important to make her die, Teen Wolf has to keep a character who represents each “kind of people” : Hunter, Human, Werewolf, & their other halves.
    (Sorry for grammar mistakes, I’m french)

  5. Okay, I hate to say it, but I think Derek should stay and Allison should die. Not even because Jeff keeps teasing Sterek shippers with a few ‘bi-sexual’ (because it technically isn’t confirmed, not that I don’t ship Sterek) Stiles. But Allison has played about zero to no importance this season. The only notable thing she is being used for is for her and Isaac’s relationship. Derek is still being used as the ‘werewolf-mentor’ and that was apparent in this last episode ‘Riddled.’ It sounds like Jeff is getting ready to off either one of them. Derek is going to teach Scott everything he needs to know, and Allison, who has gone from beautiful new girl to beautiful badass to a beautiful independent badass. If Derek dies, the only pain anyone will feel is for the Sterek shippers, if Allison dies, Scott, Lydia, and Chris Argent are going to be affected as well as the fandom.

  6. So thanks to this post I read the “Disney Death” list on TV Tropes and for Supernatural they have this:

    “Every other person dies once a season in Supernatural, but they always seem to make it back fine. Dean, Sam and Castiel alone have died a collective 20 times on-screen (with Dean dying an additional 100+, non-shown times in the time-loop episode). Why does anybody even try to kill them anymore?”

    Laughing. So. Hard.

    Anyway, I hadn’t heard of the quote about the opening credits being changed. Before hearing that rumor my bets were on Isaac dying. Kira is too knew to be considered “major.” They can’t kill off Scott because he’s the lead. Killing of Derek or Stiles would seriously destroy their fanbase. Killing off Lydia or Allison would mean there’s only one woman in the core cast and honestly I would be disappointed if they did that. This show doesn’t have a “token female.” It has two fabulous and fleshed out women. Don’t kill either of them. Please. I guess me being disappointed means squat, though. So my bet was on Isaac. But now with that information? Who the heck knows.

    Also I wouldn’t consider casting as a confirmation that someone will stick around. Misha Collins was confirmed for season 7 of Supernatural and then a few days after the finale the showrunner released a press release that basically said “lol just kidding!” Then #SaveCastiel started and he was brought back anyway, but still… it was extremely upsetting. Still not over it, honestly. We have our angel back, but I still felt like the show stabbed me in the gut. So I wouldn’t consider any of those character safe. And with all the new information I’ve gleaned from this post I’m going to have to put my bet on Allison. And that upsets me. Greatly.

  7. okay i have a couple things to add! i think jeff’s comments can be interpreted in different ways. first of all, jeff said that they would be CHANGING the main title sequence. this doesn’t necessarily mean they are removing anyone from the title sequence!! it could very well mean that the main five will be left in the title sequence but they are adding another character as well (kira or isaac??). second of all, when he said they might be changing the sequence he said “so not everyone’s going to make it out of this season alive” not “BECAUSE not everyone’s going to make it out of this season alive”. jeff may have been trying to trick us with his wording. by linking the two subjects into one comment he makes it seem as though they’re changing the sequence because one of the main characters will die when really all he could be saying is that they’re changing the sequence AND a character will die. not necessarily one of the main five. thirdly, just because some of the cast have already confirmed that they’re coming back to the show it doesn’t mean they’ll be playing the characters we know and love. as we know now, the nogitsune looks exactly like stiles when it is inhabiting him. i don’t know if this is possible but what if jeff plans to kill stiles and have dylan o’brien come back to play the nogitsune? and after tonight’s episode (03 x 22 de-void) we know that derek, isaac, and the twins now have nogitsunes inside them. presumably, the nogitsunes inside them have taken their appearances as well. so what i’m saying is that jeff could technically kill any one of these characters and have the actors come back to play the nogitsunes that inhabited them (and then probably have their original characters come back to life after a bit aka disney death). if he decides to carry the nogitsune storyline into season 4 that is. basically to sum it up we still have no idea what jeff has planned for us!! there are a number of possibilities that i’m sure are essentially impossible for us to even consider because they make this universe up! they can make up whatever rules they want that we would never see coming!! i don’t think jeff leaking a character’s death was a bad thing. look at us right now! we’re all here sweating it out and wondering who it could be or discussing if jeff made the right decision. whatever character dies, main or minor, it doesn’t matter! at this point anything will still be shocking and jeff accomplished exactly what he was after: people are talking about and watching his show

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