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'Game of Thrones' and 'Avengers: Endgame - How death is portrayed

Poster of Avengers: Endgame  

By the time this column reaches you, some of your (and my) favourite screen characters of the last decade or so will have been killed. We’re just a couple of days away from a massive, 90-minute battle episode in Game of Throness (GoT) last season, where the Night King and his undead army have finally reached Winterfell, where Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s armies have cobbled together a last stand, alongside fan favorites like Tyrion and Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Tormund Giantsbane, Arya Stark and others.

In Avengers: Endgame, the final film in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it’s very likely that the franchise’s Big Bad, Thanos the mad Titan (Josh Brolin), will kill off at least a couple of the original Avengers like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) or Captain America (Chris Evans).


What does it mean to invest hundreds of hours in a long-winded story, in the characters that people them, only to see many of them snuffed out in one fell swoop? Conversely, on the creator’s side, how do showrunners and filmmakers (the MCU is comparable to TV shows in this context because of the sheer number of films) decide which characters are ripe for bumping off — and which of them are too big to touch?

Whatever it takes

For starters, foreshadowing has always been a big part of heroic story arcs, as Joseph Campbell (author of the seminal The Hero With a Thousand Faces) and Co. have taught us. And so we have Captain America jumping on what he thought was a live grenade, in one of the first ‘heroic’ things we see him do on-screen ( in the first Captain America film). This writer wouldn’t be surprised if he similarly absorbs an explosion in Endgame, perhaps to save his fellow Avengers, and to keep his promise to do “whatever it takes” to undo Thanos’s fatal ‘snap’. Similarly, it is quite likely that Brienne of Tarth dies defending Lady Sansa Stark, because of that poignant moment many seasons ago when she promised Catelyn Stark her daughter would be safe.

On the flip side, there are characters I see surviving the respective carnages fairly easily. With Marvel, there’s the knowledge that Phase Four of MCU will require a new set of heroes, led by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). Both the Spider-Man and Black Panther franchises are planning future movies, so there’s that. MCU, even one without Captain America or Iron Man, is moving towards galactic-scale events, and so it’s difficult to see Thor being killed off. After all, Thor: Ragnarok was the most thrilling space opera/ comedy in these last few years, and we know Thor will eventually recreate his lost homeland Asgard on a different planet.

Moral centre

With GoT, it gets a little trickier because of the show’s signature penchant for counter-intuitive shock deaths — the grislier the better. And yet, one gets the feeling that all of the Stark siblings will survive Winterfell’s last battle. Arya, Sansa, Jon Snow, and yes, even Bran (who by his own admission is not-Bran at this point; yes, it’s complicated) have spent much of the last seven seasons separated from each other. They have been, in many ways, the moral centre of the show and they’ve survived rape, imprisonment, the cruel tutelage of creepy faceless men, and even Death itself.

When the Stark flag unfurled after the Battle of the Bastards last season, even Lady Melisandre, who has no stake in territorial clashes whatsoever, seemed happy. It would be a bit of a waste to go to such lengths for a triumphant Stark reunion only to burn it to the ground a couple of episodes later.

But then, Death has a strange sense of humour, as Hela ( MCU’s Goddess of Death) and the Faceless Men show us.

Aditya Mani Jha is a writer and journalist who is working on his first book of non-fiction.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 11:59:01 PM |

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