Last night, on a whim, I decided to alternate between watching Grey's Anatomy (a show that I watch more out of habit than anything else) and Bones (a show I stopped watching several seasons ago). While I had a vague sense of what was happening on Bones, I was surprised to find that it killed a series regular in the season 10 premiere. A quick Google search later, I found an article that said one of the reasons the show killed Sweets was because the actor who played him, John Francis Daley, was in demand for writing and directing other projects. Stephen Nathan, the show runner and creator, told Daley that "it would be more satisfying for the fans to conclude Sweets in a dramatic way rather then for it to be up in the air and have him come back midway through the season."
Thinking about this today, I'm torn about this reasoning. First, the more cynical part of me can't help but think that Nathan, who has a history of including shocking moments in Bones, couldn't withstand the temptation to off a character in a dramatic fashion. In the past, he had Zack Addy, Brennan's original intern, become a cannibal serial killer's apprentice, and he killed Vincent Nigel-Murray, another intern, as part of a sniper story arc. Killing Sweets in the premiere seems right up Nathan's alley.
Additionally, the idea that Sweets's death would be considered "satisfying" is puzzling to me. Since I tend to watch television as a means of entertainment and escape from the real world's myriad problems, having a regular character on (what is usually) a light-hearted procedural drama get beaten to death is jarring. I know, I know - People die all the time in real life. True, but I'm not watching Bones for its adherence to reality. Even as a one-time viewer (and a casual one at that), I found Sweets's death distinctly unsatisfying. Comments on articles and on Previously.tv's Bones forum indicate that I'm not the only who didn't think the send off was warranted (or satisfying).
This isn't to say that television characters should live in perpetuity. In some cases, a character's death is necessary, cathartic, and (yes) even satisfying. While I plan to explore this in next week's post, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. What is your take when it comes to the deaths of television characters? What works for you, and what doesn't?