Hear me out, Hollywood needs to kill off more main characters

The Mandalorian season 3 episode 5
(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

I’m sorry but I’m bored. I’m so bored of Hollywood. And no, it’s not because of the countless remakes, monotonous blockbuster fare, or messy CGI action that has been rushed out of the editing room. It’s because they are cowards.

Let me take you back to last week, early on Wednesday morning. As I settled down to watch the finale of The Mandalorian season 3, with my Grogu soft toy next to me of course, it felt like the stakes had never been higher. The fearsome Moff Gideon had returned, our beloved Din Djarin had been captured, the Praetorian Guards had shown their might by slaying one of the toughest Mandalorian soldiers, and the villainous Thrawn’s name had been uttered. And as if I didn’t have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach already, the cast and creators were warning audiences to prepare themselves for what was set up to be a devastating finale. Take Brendan Wayne for example, the stuntman and actor who is often in Djarin’s armor – he took to Instagram to state that the final chapter "might just hurt too much".

Mando and Grogu in The Mandalorian

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Cue various theories circulating online and in group chats about which main character we should be digging a grave for. Would Bo-Katan be slain as she achieves her dream of reclaiming Mandalore? Might The Armorer sacrifice herself to give her fellow Mandalorians the final push they need in this battle? Could even Mando himself be on the chopping block? Pedro Pascal is certainly busy with numerous projects in the works and his character’s story has arguably come to a natural conclusion now that he has adopted Grogu as his son. In fact, Mando’s death could indeed shape the next chapter of Grogu’s story. There’s no reason why The Mandalorian show itself couldn’t continue without him - producer and director Rick Famuyiwa even said as much in a recent interview, emphasizing that the title no longer just refers to Djarin.

It was very disappointing then to see that every single one of our heroes survived the finale with barely a scratch. Hey, even The Mandalorian’s equivalent of an NPC Axe Woves managed to safely escape a burning ship that was crashing into Mandalore by yeeting himself out of a window. This dismay doesn’t come from me being taken in by all the rumors, theories, and those cheeky, teasing quotes. And yes, I like a happy ending as much as the next person – at the end of the day cinema is an escape from our often harsh reality. However, that fairytale ending needs to be earned. 

Grogu in The Mandalorian season 3 finale

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Now, there is an argument that The Mandalorian isn’t that kind of show - the world of Star Wars is hardly Game Of Thrones but this season just felt different as the Empire loomed over and the stage was being set for future Mandoverse projects like the upcoming Ahsoka series. Let’s be honest, it’s no longer simply space daddy and son traveling the galaxy together - in fact, it hasn’t been that for a while. If Bo-Katan or Mando had bitten the dust in the finale it wouldn’t have felt out of place at all – sure, it would have delivered that necessary shocking gut-punch moment but overall it would have been fitting. But by giving each of the characters an easy exit the stakes are completely erased, the emotion disappears, all that excitement withers, and events are brought to an end with a pitiful whimper rather than an impactful bang.  

Of course, Hollywood has a long history of being afraid to kill off main characters, something which seems to only be worsening with time. You only have to look at this year’s blockbusters to see this – and we are only four months into 2023! Scream 6 for instance is a great advertisement for being stabbed as both Courtney Cox’s Gale and Mason Gooding’s Chad survive brutal attacks. Although their guts should be spilling out as they bleed out on the floor, all it takes is for our characters to be wrapped up in a shock blanket and they are good to go. It’s enough to convince Scream alumni such as Drew Barrymore and Parker Posey to pitch the idea of their characters’ returns, despite the fact they are seemingly dead. 

Ghostface in Scream 6

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Similarly, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania saw its entire core cast survive despite battling against Kang The Conqueror, a villain we have been told is the MCU’s most dangerous yet. How can we believe that Kang will be the fearsome big bad of this next phase of the MCU if even Janet Van Dyne survives his wrath? Killing off at least one of Scott Lang’s Ant-Man family would have told us that Kang is somebody to be scared off – instead, he seems to pose no threat at all. 

Even with the rare occasions where a main character does die, for instance with John Wick: Chapter 4 earlier this year, we see the filmmakers backtracking. Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski have already said they are open to bringing John back from the dead – even if you see a body or a grave, it doesn’t mean they are gone according to Hollywood’s rules. That’s why I felt very little watching John ‘die’ as part of me knew even then that he is likely to return.

John Wick 4

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

But why is Hollywood so scared of death? Is it because they want to ensure audiences get those much-desired happy endings? Or is it a more cynical reason, that these beloved characters make them a lot of money? I’d argue that the reasoning doesn’t really matter, the real issue is the result: that death means nothing anymore in film and television. 

Why would I shed a tear over a character’s last breath when I know that a convenient plot point can easily bring them back? By killing the meaning of death, Hollywood has also killed the emotion and excitement that is at the heart of film and television. However, perhaps worst of all, it has killed off the most fundamental part of humanity – our finite nature, that we all have an end, is the thing that makes us human.

If you are keen to see what lies ahead in the world of Star Wars, check out our guide to the upcoming films and TV shows.

Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.