Light a candle for those fictional characters we lost in 2023. Characters we’ve come to know either over the years, or maybe even over just a few short hours of a movie or TV show. But these characters left an impression on us meaning, as 2023 comes to an end, it was time to give them their final moment in the sun.
Spoiler alert. Obviously.
Talk about a bad call; when Secret Invasion pulled this death (and then knocked off Talos) we pretty much checked out of this Marvel series. How are you gonna do our girl Maria like that? We were looking forward to seeing her more in action alongside Nick Fury.
First introduced as Blackbeard’s surly right-hand man, suspicious of any new relationships that might distract his captain from their ruthless way of life, Israel “Izzy” Hands (played by the excellent Con O’Neill) revealed himself to be a man of surprising depth. Our Flag Means Death’s second season showed him working through mountains of emotional and physical pain, peeling back those tough-guy layers to show the beating heart lurking inside the pirate. His death was a gut-punch, but at least we got to hear his rendition of “La Vie en rose” before he departed.
It took longer than it probably should, but finally the primary baddie of the first three seasons of The Mandalorian is gone—at least, we think he is. But Moff Gideon had a great run. He put into place a plan to acquire the Child, aka Grogu, so he could mine his DNA and give himself the powers of the Force. He wielded the Darksaber. He helped put together a Shadow Council that’s gonna be super stoked that Grand Admiral Thrawn is back. And, eventually, he was able to make himself into some kind of super solider who met his demise when his entire base exploded. In all that time, Moff Gideon made his mark on Star Wars, cementing himself as a key villain of the era.
Okay, so Scott didn’t actually die. But Scott Pilgrim Takes Off certainly had us, and its characters, thinking that way—we had a bit of an inkling that this radical re-imagining of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s seminal graphic novel series was really swinging for the fences. And even though Scott ultimately wasn’t slain in battle by Matthew Patel (it was simply an elaborate ruse by his bitter future self to convince his present self not to date the potential love of his life, of course), much of Takes Off is dedicated to the impact of a real possibility where he did, and how this particularly peculiar example of grief can affect people in different ways, reverberating out through Scott’s circle of friends.
Farewell to the entire Usher family—all cleverly named with Edgar Allan Poe references in Mike Flanagan’s Netflix drama—who died in ways expertly calibrated to give them the ultimate comeuppance as they took their final breaths. Though not everyone deserved what they got (sorrow for the lost Lenore), most certainly did, and much of the fun of the series came from waiting to see who would meet their gloriously graphic end next.
Geez—were these deaths brutal. So much so they make Gunn’s amazing final Marvel Studios film difficult to re-watch. And then later finding out Bradley Cooper related his guttural cries as Rocket when he loses his friends as sounding like how he reacted to the loss of his own father—we’re crying again already.
The Bad Batch has never so tragically grappled with the reality of its place in the Star Wars timeline as the shocking loss of Tech in season two’s finale. Trapped on a surrounded, ailing rail car after a covert mission went sideways, poor Tech cut himself loose to give his brothers a chance to escape, plummeting to his death. It wasn’t just losing a main member of the team that stung, but Tech’s journey across season two of the show was pushing him toward being one of its most interestingly human characters—exploring his potential for happiness outside of the Batch and navigating his feelings for Phee, or how his own connection and relationships with processing his feelings brought him closer to Omega. To see it cut short made his sacrifice all the more heroic, and all the more a bitter pill to swallow.
Introduced in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Mutt Williams is the oft-forgotten son of Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood. Mutt doesn’t appear in person in Dial of Destiny but we learn that in the years between stories, Mutt went to Vietnam to spite his father and died there. The death drove a stake into Indy and Marion’s relationship, wrecking them both. Indy later says if he could travel anywhere in time, he wishes he could go back and tell Mutt not to go to war. It’s a poignant moment that really gave an otherwise polarizing character a true and emotional purpose.
If you’re of a certain age, Michael Keaton’s Batman was one of the most formative characters in your nerd life. It’s a character we thought we’d never see again but, 30-plus years later, he finally returned in this year’s The Flash. And no matter what you think of the movie as a whole, if you loved Keaton’s Batman, it’s hard to deny how exciting it was to see that character again, hear his music, and feel that nostalgia. Unfortunately, Keaton’s return as Batman was short-lived, but he went out in style, flying, fighting, and inspiring Barry Allen to be his best self and put the universe back together. Plus, if The Flash taught us anything, it’s that there are infinity possibilities in the multiverse.
Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt might be the star of the series, but the past several movies elevated themselves above the rest because of Isla Faust. Rebecca Ferguson’s incredible spy character was as cunning and kick-ass as they come, always a step ahead of Ethan and his crew. Even when she teamed up with them, she still felt somehow superior. It was certainly sad to see her go in Dead Reckoning Part One, but someone had to go to make it clear why the villain in this film is so formidable. And, short of Ethan himself, no one could do it as well as Ilsa.
Alas, poor Talos, not even granted a death in a movie, but a streaming show hardly anyone watched. Ben Mendelsohn’s loveable grump of a Skrull met his end trying to save the life of U.S. President Ritson after his convoy was attacked by the renegade Skrull resistance. First left to bleed out and then ultimately executed by the villainous Gravik, Secret Invasion’s biggest sacrifice had little impact on the show’s dark worldview for human-alien relations, with the public exposure of the Skrull’s existence sparking a wave of anti-alien sentiment, including from the man Talos gave his life to save.
The way our hopes for Sasha Calle as Supergirl moving forward were dashed. It was tough to watch our Latina Supergirl die over and over again, alongside Keaton’s Batman, as a fixed point in the DCU timeline. That’s where the film lost us—and while we’re glad that era is over, we still hope Calle gets the chance to return as Supergirl in the James Gunn DC Universe.
What makes Blue Beetle work so well is how much the Reyes family is put at the forefront, even when the super heroics take center stage. Because they’re so prevalent in Jaime’s life and they all play off each other so well, it makes things hit that much harder when Jaime’s father Alberto suffers a heart attack as the family’s house is getting raided and no one is able to do so much as even be near him. For a film that takes comfort in playing the old superhero hits, Alberto’s death is a surprisingly solid twist it manages to keep hidden until the last possible moment.
No important character who has ever died in the Fast and Furious universe has ever stayed dead. So, of course, there’s reason to believe that Jakob Toretto, brother of Domenic and Mia, did not meet his fiery death in Fast X. Nevertheless, it’s much cooler to imagine that he gave his life to save his brother and nephew. Plus, there are plenty of strong, capable characters around in the Fast universe. It could use one or two less.
The Sergei Kravinoff of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is dying, and he wants to go out not in a hospital bed, but by the hands of a real equal. In New York, he hopes to find someone up to the challenge: if not one of the villains who terrorize New York on a recurring basis, then maybe one of the two Spider-Men that protect the city. Instead, he finds his worthy opponent in an equally dying Harry Osborn, who just got his Symbiote back and is still pissed that Kraven nearly killed his friend. Death by alien cannibal isn’t entirely how we thought Mr. Kravinoff would go out, but he was a good pair of boss fights, and it was fun to have him while he was around. And if nothing else, he taught us to really master those parry windows.
Not unlike It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on the same network, Archer is one of those shows you figured would just be on forever. Whatever else you can say about the show, that cast did a great job keeping those characters hilarious and worth watching for so long. They’re all idiots, and you wouldn’t want to hang around with most of them for longer than an hour or two. But H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash, Judy Greer, Adam Reed, Lucky Yates, and the late Jessica Walter were an incredible ensemble that spent 14 years making Thursday nights worth looking forward to—and hats off to them for doing so. We’ll be doing phrasing forever in their honor.
To be a Jedi in the Rise of the Empire era feels like having a death mark perpetually on your back in the first place—to be a Jedi openly and defiantly resisting the Empire more so. So perhaps it was always a little bit of grim inevitability Respawn’s Star Wars: Jedi Survivor series would one day have fate come calling for Cere Junda. And yet Survivor’s framing of that calling couldn’t have been a more perfect way to send off Cal’s would-be master in the ways of the Force, and in the ways of survival against such a dominant foe.
Getting to step into her shoes as she rallied to save her burgeoning archives of Force Knowledge on Jedha from betrayal, Cere’s final hours play out in Survivor as this incredible contrast of the game’s power fantasy—although Survivor had moved her in the direction of more of a sage than a warrior, getting to see that side of her unleashed through the player is a potent reminder of her capability—along with that grim inevitability of her fate, especially so when it puts you up against none other than Darth Vader himself. There was no way of her making it out, but Cere goes out on a high in spite of that.