Lily is dead. She was strangled by the Swede, quickly, but without mercy. I realize that many shows kill off popular characters for the shock value, but this may be one of the poorest choices I can recall in the many years I’ve been watching television.
Let’s compare Lily’s death with two others, Bobby Singer, from “Supernatural,” and Jimmy Darmody, from “Boardwalk Empire.”
Bobby, the past his prime curmudgeon in “Supernatural”, provided pivotal support and a father-like figure to “the boys” over the past seven seasons of that show. His character was well liked, Jim Beaver was excellent in the role, and Bobby added great value to the cast. In the middle of season 7, Bobby was shot in the head by the leader of a group of powerful monsters known as Leviathan’s. Bobby awoke from a coma long enough to call his partners “idjits”, then passed.
Bobby’s death, while sad, added a completely new element to the show. Exactly who would Sam and Dean lean on for support, advice, or help when tangling with the many scary things inhabiting our world? Going forward, it allows the writers, and cast members Jared Padaleki and Jensen Ackles, (Sam and Dean), new avenues to explore.
Viewers were certainly saddened or perhaps disappointed by Bobby’s departure, it wasn’t expected, but it didn’t leave any of the fans with a bitter taste in their mouth.
In “Boardwalk Empire”, in their latest season finale, Nucky Thompson invites Jimmy Darmody to a remote location to supposedly do away with a mutual enemy, Manny Horvitz, played by William Forsythe. Jimmy is double crossed and killed by Nucky, with two shots to the head.
As surprising as Bobby Singer’s death was, Jimmy’s was even more of a shock. The series had taken steps over the prior few episodes to lead us to believe that Jimmy and Nucky might somehow be able to overcome Jimmy’s betrayal, and allow the two to work together again. Even in the very end, it was Manny’s hands that were tied, not Jimmy’s. I don’t think anybody expected Jimmy’s death in the season finale. Viewers were left saying “Wow.”
Jimmy Darmody played a huge part in the first two seasons. He nailed the role of a war scarred veteran coming home to unsure circumstances. He didn’t really love his wife, nor did she love him, in fact, she tended to have lesbian leanings. Nucky was his father figure, even though Jimmy had a natural father, and Jimmy and his mother may have had as warped a relationship as any mother-son combination I can recall.
Jimmy’s death, more shocking than sad, again allows the writers a wide array of new possibilities. Jimmy was a key character in the show, but he was a key character in a sea of key characters. For me, it opens the door to two huge questions. Exactly how will Jimmy’s mother handle the murder, and what becomes of Richard Harrow, Jimmy’s badly disfigured right-hand man.
I imagine many viewers hated to see Michael Pitt killed off, but it was a death that fit within the framework of the story. No remotes were tossed at the television when that second shot hit Jimmy Darmody square in the head.
Sadly,the same can’t be said of “Hell on Wheels”. Everything the writers worked so hard to create in “Hell on Wheels” came crashing to the ground with the death of Lily Bell in their season 2 finale. Unlike the other two series, her death made zero sense. She was killed off for shock value and nothing more. She was a pivotal character in the series, had unbelievable chemistry with all of the other main characters, and provided the viewers with a believable strong-willed female character.
There are three other women featured in the show, the very unlikable Virginia Madsen (Hannah), who plays Thomas Durant’s wife, Eva, the tortured sole torn between the man she loves and the man who promises her a normal future, and Ruth, the pastor’s daughter.
With all due respect to Virginia Madsen, while she plays an equally strong-willed foil to Lily, the story could have easily moved forward had she remained unseen in the background. As for Eva, her character is interesting enough, but her story is hardly unique. Finally, as hard as the writers try to give Ruth a backbone, she might be one of the weakest, most meaningless members of the cast.
“Boardwalk Empire” and “Supernatural” won’t lose a single viewer with the deaths of Jimmy Darmody and Bobby Singer. “Hell on Wheels” on the other hand just alienated many of their viewers with Lily’s death. I’m an open-minded sort, but I’d be amazed if the ratings didn’t plummet in season 3.
Let me float a couple of far-fetched possibilities for season 3, none of which I like, and both of which I hope never happen.
Lily isn’t dead.
The writers wake up and realize the death of Lily was unwise, eliminated far too many good future opportunities, and figure out some way to revive her. Most likely, she simply wasn’t actually killed by the Swede and revives, or Ruth begs for a miracle while Lily lies at her feet. If this happens, it will make up for a horrid mistake, but it will be a blatant admission by the writers that they aren’t really up to snuff.
Bohannan goes to the dark side only to be saved by Ruth.
I think it’s safe to say that with Lily’s death, Bohannan’s better half has been lobotomized. While his inner rage has always been boiling just below the surface, now there isn’t anything to keep it in check.
Somewhere in the middle of season 3, he goes to Ruth for help, and a bond forms between the two of them. Foreshadowing shows us she has little if any interest in Sean, so a relationship with Bohannan is a possibility. If Bohannan does somehow end up in some elicit relationship with Ruth, somebody get the shark gun.
I won’t be one of the viewer’s “Hell on Wheels” lost by killing Lily off; I love period pieces too much to give up on it quite yet. However, I think the better choice would have been for Eva to have died. Still get that shock value, but the stressed relationship between Bohannon and Elam Ferguson would have intensified greatly. More importantly, we wouldn’t be subjected to the struggles of the white woman fathering a child from a black man in a time frame where it was horribly frowned upon. It’s just not a new or unique storyline. And of course, we’d still have Lily.
If any of you reading this have any thoughts on which direction the show will take next season, I’d love to hear them.