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December 7, 2018

The Memorable On-Screen Deaths of 2018

Done properly, death scenes can pack a narrative wallop that smarts well into the new year and beyond. And boy oh boy did this year see a lot bucket-kicking. From the small screen to the cineplex, there were death scenes aplenty in this, the year of our dark lord 2018. But some were more memorable than others. Cue the Enya.

This year’s “bring out your fictional dead” roundup is particularly eclectic. We’ve got tear-jerkers, jaw-droppers, and the ever-welcome “I feel bad for laughing, but here we are” entrants. It goes without saying that this list contains spoilers. Memento mori and all that jazz!

Rewind Flag


18. Carl, The Walking Dead

Memorable Deaths Carl

Cause of death

Bit by zombie

Why it’s memorable

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggsfinally bit it. That was a poor choice of words. Look, Carl got noshed on while helping Siddiq take out a few of the undead. But he takes this unfortunate development in stride: he hangs out with his kid sister, enjoys the sun, and writes goodbye notes to Rick, Michonne, and Enid. It is a very slow goodbye that features some truly devastating father-son real talk. Not gonna lie Rick telling Carl “everything I did, it was for you…it still is. It’s gonna be,” was a lot. Naturally, Carl is a saint and insists on ending things himself rather than burden Rick further. What a champ. Rest in peace you shaggy hair’d cowboy teen.


17. Pangborn, Castle Rock

Memorable Deaths Pangborn

Cause of death

Shot by mistake

Why it’s memorable

Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) is one of the oldest hats in the Stephen King canon and a key figure in the town of Castle Rock. He is, unfortunately, also the show’s first main casualty: shot by a confused Ruth who mistakes him for The Kid. From evil doppelgängers to demonic shop owners, Pangborn has his long career battling evil. But accidents happen.


16. Furguson, New Girl

Memorable Deaths Ferguson

Cause of death

Natural Causes

Why it’s memorable

While delightful rom-sit-coms and death don’t usually mix, exceptions make rules and there’s been a death in the loft. Winston’s beloved cat, acquired in the ruins of a breakup way back in season 3, has passed. We learn of Furguson’s passing by way of a one-year memorial service, including a motorcade and service performed in the Jewish tradition (“he was a cat but he was a Jewish cat”). It’s a bizarre and touching episode about mourning and moving on. So ends one of the great friendships in small screen history.


15. Rapping underlings, Widows

Memorable Deaths Widows

Please accept this pic of a sassy Kaluuya in place of an image of the victims.

Cause of death

Gunshot

Why it’s memorable

Two underlings are forced to explain themselves to their boss, mob enforcer Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), when they were too busy working on their rap beats to notice $2 million in cash being stolen. Their rapping must have been pretty fucking fantastic if it caused them to lose sight of all that money. Right? One starts to rap while the other beatboxes and Jatemme nods along. Maybe he’s into it and nothing bad will happen. Jatemme approaches, the camera spins around, and unblinkingly he shoots the rapper in the face. Jatemme tells the beatboxer to run and shoots him mid-stride. It’s a shocking moment; a cat playing with its food.


14. Costas, Pose

Memorable Deaths Pose

Cause of death

AIDS

Why it’s memorable

Directed by Janet Mock, making it the first episode of American television directed by a trans woman of color, the sixth episode of Pose features some of the show’s hardest hitting emotional beats. Chief among these being Pray Tell (Billy Porter) watching his partner Costas (Johnny Sibilly) fade and finally succumb to AIDS. Pray Tell, himself HIV positive, is then left to reckon with his own status, and what legacy he wants to leave behind. Love is denied to so many of Pose’s cast. Banished to the fringe, at the mercy of a plague hellbent on snuffing out communities, survival and the escape of glamor and fiction go hand-in-hand.


13. C.C., The Deuce

Memorable Deaths Deuce

Cause of death

Stabbed and bludgeoned

Why it’s memorable

C.C. (Gary Carr) has a reputation for pushing people but here, he flexed a little too hard too cocky and boisterous about his ability to sling insults at Bobby, and more to the point, Bobby’s wife. When it becomes obvious that things are about to turn violent, Frankie recoils (as do we). At his breaking point, Bobby stabs C.C. in the chest and Frankie finishes things off with a hammer. Obsolete in more ways than one, C.C.’s time was up. What happened? Quoth Bobby: “he talked too much.”


12. Stalin, The Death of Stalin

Memorable Deaths Stalin

Cause of death

Cerebral hemorrhage

Why it’s memorable

A note finds its way into the hands of Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin). It says he has ruined the country, and Stalin finds this dissent so hilarious he suffers a cerebral hemorrhage that leaves him paralyzed. The committee convenes and bumbles in spectacular fashion like a conglomerate of quorum-obsessed Marx brothers. On the verge of death, Stalin reaches towards a gaudy painting, and his advisors can’t help but guess at his intended meaning. And as they try and bicker over whose interpretation is correct, Stalin slips away. It’s a marvelous (and very funny) encapsulation of what’s to come. 


11. Nell, The Haunting of Hill House

Memorable Deaths Nell

Cause of death

Ghost house-induced suicide

Why it’s memorable

As morbid twists are wont to do, Nell’s (Victoria Pedrettideath throws her life into sharp focus: she has been The Bent-Neck Lady all along. Her own ghost. Lured to that damnable spiral staircase, the house convinces Nell to hang herself as her mother did. Recognizing her own snapped neck, armed with the knowledge of what’s been haunting her for all these years, Nell’s ghost is able to become more than just a specter.


10. Gary*, Game Night

Memorable Deaths Gary

Cause of death

“Gunshot”

Why it’s memorable

Okay, so Gary didn’t “die.” But damn it if I’m going to forget Jesse Plemons’ pathetic blood gargling any time soon. Swooping in to save the day, Gary calmly dispatches the goons holding our heroes hostage only to take a bullet. Blood seeping through his uniform, gritting his teeth, and breathing erratically, it doesn’t look like Gary is going to make it. Annie and Max promise Gary that he’s going to pull through and that they’re going to stop excluding him from their game nights…at which point Gary spits out the blood capsule and reveals the ruse. He staged the kidnapping to “prove his worth as a game night participant.” Well played Gary, well played.


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