Only a small fraction of the characters depicted on television are LGBT, and only a small percentage of those enjoy happy endings. This seemed a particularly bloody year for LGBT characters, particularly lesbians, even before the newest season of Orange Is the New Black sent viewers into a fresh grief spiral. As the "Bury Your Gays" trope continues unabated into the 21st-century, it seems a decent time to look back at the most untimely and unforgivable casualties of drama on the small screen.
1. Lexa — ‘The 100’
It was the death that launched 100 social critiques. Though she was a creation for the TV version of The 100 and didn’t come from the source material books, Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) became a central commander of the allied Grounder clans. She got shot in the show’s third season and died in front of devastated lover Clarke, not long after finally connecting with her romantically and giving viewers a supercouple for whom to root. For many fans, the Clexa relationship was a chief reason to watch the show, and the abrupt, violent end to the tale felt like a betrayal even in the dangerous post-apocalyptic universe in which the relationship bloomed. Intense fan backlash prompted an apology from showrunner Jason Rothenberg, who didn’t realize what a trope dead lesbians had become. The best thing to come out of this may be that outraged fans raised more than $130,000 for the Trevor Project as a result, but it doesn’t make The 100’s storyline less grim.
2. Tara Maclay — ‘Buffy the Vampie Slayer’
When Tara (Amber Benson) joined the Scooby Gang in the late 1990s and became lesbian girlfriend to Willow (Alyson Hannigan), one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s original main characters in the television version, it marked one of the first ongoing gay relationship in a prime-time show. And atypical for any teen drama, the relationship was an almost universally positive and supportive one. Then Tara gets Whedoned. When a stray bullet intended for Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) went through a bedroom window and through Tara’s heart, clearly in the immediate aftermath of a sexual encounter with Willow, the death earned scorn for countless reasons. Was it punishment for homosexuality? For getting back with Willow after a breakup? Was it just emotional torture porn? Or was creator Joss Whedon just disposing of a supporting character with no concern for the emotional fallout, as he is wont to do? Debate continues even today. But one thing you will rarely see about this death is praise.
3. Luke Fuller — ‘Dynasty’
The fact that Steven Carrington (Al Corley) lived so much of his existence as a closeted gay man drove much of the agony on Dynasty, but with the introduction of Luke (Bill Campbell), it appeared Steven could finally live an out and happy existence. He even brought Luke with him to his sister’s wedding in Moldavia, but then terrorists attacked the nuptials and killed several guests, including Luke. Sadly, some conservatives greeted the moment with cheers, but gay America lost one of the few happy depictions of same-sex romance on network TV.
4. Claire Bennett — ‘Heroes Reborn’
Oh, Heroes. This show started with so much promise, including the presence of LGBT characters surrounding protagonist Claire Bennett (Hayden Panettiere) from the pilot on. It was Panettiere herself who asked for Claire to be in a lesbian relationship with her college roommate Gretchen. It felt like a sweeps move at the time, and maybe that’s why writers of Heroes Reborn, the ill-advised 2015 sequel series, ignored Claire’s lesbianism altogether as they wrote about her future. But then, nothing about how they handled Claire, who never appeared on this show as Panettiere was busy filming Nashville, ever felt clear or sensible. Claire, the cheerleader from the famous “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” campaign, ended up being killed off-panel to give father Noah reason to participate in the new show’s plot. Or something. This was convoluted and stupid more than insensitive, but in any case further tattered what little legacy remained from Heroes after its second, third, and fourth seasons.
5. Maya St. Germain — ‘Pretty Little Liars’
Everyone who engages in romance with any of the leading ladies on Pretty Little Liars invites some serious risk into their lives, but Maya (Bianca Lawson), a paramour for Emily (Shay Mitchell), was the first to lose her life. The 17-year-old, who along the way was saddled with drug addiction as well, ended up going missing for an extended stint of the show. Eventually, viewers learned she was stalked and killed by ex-boyfriend Lyndon, who later posed as Maya’s cousin and tried to become involved with Emily himself. It’s all a sad end for the first confidently and unapologetically LGBT character depicted on the ABC Family show.
6. Edward Meechum — ‘House of Cards’
Edward Meechum (Nathan Darrow) proved more than just a body man to President Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey). By season 2 of the Netflix drama House of Cards, the head of security became the third member of a secret White House throuple. But that entire storyline got cut short during an assassination attempt where Meechum took a bullet for Frank, and while he took down the assassin, he also took with him the hope for more on-screen dalliances.
7. Denise Cloyd — ‘The Walking Dead’
Nobody is safe on The Walking Dead, of course, but the fact Dr. Denise (Merritt Weaver) was killed just as she found it in herself to proclaim her love for Tara (Alanna Masterson) made this death feel like a particular bit of theft for LGBT fans. In a world with so few romantic options for any characters, this plot development followed a sad example set by the comics by taking away the only available partner in the universe for Tara. But it departed from source material in killing an educated lesbian instead of Abraham, the macho white man who took a similar arrow to the eye in print, a net negative as adaptations go.
8. Xena —‘Xena: Warrior Princess’
There are so many reasons people remain upset at how Xena: Warrior Princess ended its run, but killing main character Xena without ever openly acknowledging the clear sexual tension between Lucy Lawless’s Xena and Renee O’Connor’s Gabrielle may be the show’s most atrocious sin. Lawless has said the relationship was never fully acknowledged because showrunners wanted to keep romantic possibilities with antagonist Ares feeling genuine and plausible, but that ignored an opportunity to give voice to an underrepresented population that happened to provide the show with its killer base of viewers. At least in the reboot, that problem will be remedied, but it can’t erase the original travesty of killing a kick-ass protagonist while she remained in the closet.
9. Oberyn Martell — ‘Game of Thrones’
A Dornish libertine, the Viper arrived in Westeros during the fourth season of Game of Thrones ready to slay Lannisters and bury machismo stereotypes. Actor Pedro Pascal once told Vulture the character “did not discriminate in his pleasures,” and indeed one of his first stops in King’s Landing was at an all-service brothel to meet the mutual bisexual needs of himself and his paramour Ellaria Sands (Indira Varma). But his most fatal desire was for vengeance. After clearly besting Ser Gregor Clegane (Hafpor Bjornsson) in a trial by combat, Oberyn refused to finish his opponent off until obtaining a confession of past sins against the Martell House. His hubris created an opening for the Mountain to come back and go all Gallagher on the prince. Viewers enjoyed just nine episodes of Oberyn glory but are stuck now with his disappointing daughters in Dorne.
10. Sandy Lopez — ‘ER’
It proved quite the revelation when Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) turned out be a lesbian, and groundbreaking when a doctor on a hit prime-time show entered a healthy same-sex relationship, in Weaver's case with firefighter Sandy Lopez (Lisa Vidal).The multiseason relationship offered a glimpse into the personal and legal troubles faced by LGBT people in the 1990s, such as adoption questions and attending social gatherings as a couple, but ended as so many lesbian romances in TV land do — with the less prominent character’s violent death. Sandy died of injuries sustained fighting a fire, and Dr. Weaver then had to fight with Lopez’s conservative parents for custody of the couple’s adopted child. Did the death offer a chance to explore social issues of the day? Sure. But somehow a happy ending for the couple was out of the question.
11. Matt Fielding — ‘ Melrose Place’
Melrose Place seemed to bravely venture into the realm of equality when it included in its original cast Matt (Doug Savant), an out gay man living a totally normal life in Los Angeles. But viewers quickly tired of Matt not only remaining above the fray of soap opera drama but being removed from it completely. Savant even made the cover of The Advocate in 1994 alongside the cover line “Why Can’t This Man Get Laid?” But after years of off-screen kisses avoided by cutaways to character reactions, the worst affront came when Matt wasn’t even allowed to die on-screen. A year after Savant left the show, characters at Melrose learned he had died in a car accident in San Francisco.
12. Renly — ‘Game of Thrones’
While the sexuality of Renly Baratheon was hinted at in George R.R. Martin’s novels (Rainbow Guard, anyone?), it wasn’t until the HBO dramatization of Game of Thrones that the charismatic prince (portrayed on-screen by Gethin Anthony) was shown enjoying an intimate moment with Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). But while Renly remained the most affable of the Baratheon brothers, his claim to the throne would end when older brother Stannis (Stephen Dillane) released a shadow creature to assassinate his kin. Just as audiences were falling as in love with this sexually conflicted royal, Renly’s became the first empire to fall in the War of the Five Kings. And he has suffered taunts of “traitor” and images of huge-bottomed dwarf imposters ever since.
13. Marissa — ‘The O.C.’
What purpose did The O.C. serve but for the launch of 2000s It Girl Mischa Barton? Marissa, Barton’s character, seemed central to the relationship dramas swirling around lead Ryan (Ben McKenzie), but one of the most surprising turns came when a bisexual (or at least bi-curious) Marissa entered into a long-term sexual relationship with Alex (Olivia Wilde). While her true sexuality remains hotlycontested, it would never be fully explored because of the decision to dispose of the show’s female lead in a shock twist to close season 3.
14. Tricia Miller — ‘Orange Is the New Black’
While Orange Is the New Black hardly has the death count of male-dominated prison dramas like Oz, a shocking percentage of casualties are LGBT characters, including the first major death on the Netflix series. We barely learned the backstory for Tricia (Madeline Brewer), a 19-year-old drug addict and pawn to season 1 guard and causer of pain "Pornstache" Mendez. While Tricia had been clean under the tutelage of fellow inmate Red (Kate Mulgrew), she ended up overdosing on a bag of Oxycontin that Mendez pushed her to deal. The story on its own could be viewed as an appropriately tragic end to the misguided and troubled character, but it started an unfortunate trend at Litchfield that continues today.
15. Victoria Hand — ‘Marvel Agents of SHIELD’
What, you didn’t realize Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) was an out lesbian? That’s because showrunners never managed to get to that part of the backstory for a character who has been out in the comics since her first appearance in 2008 before having her violently killed by Ward (Brett Dalton) at the climax of the first season. All the more irritating, her girlfriend Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) was only introduced after Hand’s death, and no mention of the relationship was made before Hartley’s own demise.
16. Angela Darmody — ‘Boardwalk Empire’
It wasn’t just audiences upset at Angela Darmody’s death on Boardwalk Empire. Actress Aleksa Palladino had carefully researched the life of reclusive female artists post-World War I and expected to portray the character for some time. “I imagined so much more for her,” she told Fast Company. Married to careless gangster Jimmy (Michael Pitt), she privately enjoyed dalliances with other women, first with Mary (Lisa Joyce) and later with Louise (Kristen Sieh). Angela always seemed stalked by betrayal, with Mary and her husband denying her an opportunity to live as a Parisian throuple and Jimmy seeing women behind her back. Her story closed near the end of season 2 when an enemy of Jimmy’s killed her and Louise in the Darmody home.
17. Poussey Washington — ‘Orange Is the New Black’
Over four seasons, the Netflix smash Orange Is the New Black has delved into some major social issues about law enforcement and the prison system, but LGBT characters often suffer the most when the show takes serious turns. Viewers were stunned when fan favorite Poussey (Samira Wiley) ended up on the short-of-breath end of an Eric Garner-inspired plotline — writers go so far as to have Poussey mouth, “I can’t breathe” before dying at the hands of a guard. Even Wiley was surprised by the level of fan outrage, but the death comes on the heels of numerous lesbian television casualties this year, and it managed to take out one of TV’s few queer people of color at the service of social commentary over story. That the move was conceived in a writers’ room with no black people just enraged fans more.
18. Loras — 'Game of Thrones'
The gay male population of Westeros fell to zero in the season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, but not before Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) endured public humiliation. After spending most of the last two seasons locked andtortured in a dungeon, his sister Margaery (Natalie Dormer) negotiated a deal to have him released if he confessed in a homophobic church that sinned by laying with men, including the traitor Renly Baratheon. Then he pledged his life to the hateful church and was shockingly mutilated by having the symbol of the faith carved in his forehead (something Margary made clear was not part of the deal). It was all for nothing, though, as his sister, and the entire congregation, were blown up by the wicked Cersei Lannister immediately after. House Tyrell was reduced to only the accepting grandmother, who once unabashedly referred to Loras as a “sword swallower through and through.” LGBT viewers, meanwhile, are left with only the lesbian character of Yara.