This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Contains spoilers for Russian Doll, Game Of Thrones, The X-Files, American Gods, Pushing Daisies, Doctor Who.
TV is full of dead bodies. Discovered in scrubland, fresh from strangulation, or lying blue and exposed on the pathologist’s table. They sit, expired, in thick puddles of stage blood or land thuddingly on pavements, pushed from a height.
Then there are the dead who come back. Some return only as dream-ghost hallucinations who manifest only in the minds of the living. Others are part of established mythologies—vampires and zombies who follow the sunlight-stakes-and-shuffling-brain-eating rules.
Finally, there are the outliers, like those below, the TV characters who started out as human, died, and then for their own strange reason, strode right back through the swing doors of life and kept on trucking (like the Doctor, except not the Doctor because if we included the Doctor, the Doctor would have to take up every slot).
Join us as we celebrate some of TV’s best dead-and-loving-it* characters…
*Disclaimer: Not all of them are loving it.
Charlotte “Chuck” Charles – PushingDaisies
“I can’t even hug you? What if you need a hug?”
The peculiar rules of Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies universe say that any dead person touched by Ned (Lee Pace) will come back to life. If, however, Ned fails to touch them a second time within one minute of their resurrection, the debt of their death will be paid by somebody else. As a child, Ned learned those rules the hard way by accidentally causing the death of his best friend Chuck’s dad when he brought his own mother back to life and failed to observe the time limit.
As grown-ups, Chuck (Anna Friel) and Ned aren’t only best friends; they’re soulmates. After she’s murdered, Ned brings Chuck back to life but the pair know that if they ever touch skin, she’ll die permanently. So goes their aching romance, in which plastic, gloves and surrogates are used as workarounds for affection. Through it all, Chuck is a delight. She’s bright, funny, warm-hearted and eccentric, and takes to her afterlife better than just about any of the below.
Fox Mulder – The X Files
“Anybody miss me?”
In The X-Files season seven finale, Mulder was abducted by aliens and infected with a virus that made him appear dead while his body mutated into a new form. Not knowing about the virus bit when they discovered his corpse in the woods, the gang gave him a funeral and buried him, which nobody can blame them for.
Three months later, when a fellow abductee spontaneously revived mid-autopsy and made a miraculous recovery, Skinner and Scully dug Mulder up and found weak signs of life. If the virus hadn’t been stopped, Mulder would have mutated for good, so luckily that crisis was averted, freeing Spooky up for four more seasons of conspiracy-theory weirdness, werewolves and gloop monsters.
Laura Moon – American Gods
“Only felt my heart beat once since I died. When I kissed Shadow.”
Laura Moon played a small but pivotal role in Neil Gaiman’s 2007 novel American Gods. For the 2017 TV adaptation, that role was beefed up and a backstory was provided to sustain the character’s own journey to belief, in parallel with her husband’s.
TV Laura, played by Emily Browning, was disaffected in life. Estranged from her family, she lived alone and was stuck in a job that did nothing for her save to pay the rent. She attempted suicide, then began a listless extra-marital affair while Shadow was in prison, before dying in a car crash mid-sex act. Resurrected via a leprechaun’s enchanted gold coin, Laura returned from the dead with super-strength and a new purpose in life: to love Shadow, and to protect him whatever the cost.
Beric Dondarrion – Game Of Thrones
“Every time I come back, I’m a bit less”
The fate of Richard Dormer’s Game Of Thrones character hangs in the balance after the season seven finale, but we do know that since the death of red priest Thoros of Myr, he’s out of resurrections. Whatever happens, you can’t say Beric didn’t have a good run.
The Lord of Light, acting through Thoros, brought Beric back half a dozen times for reasons yet to be revealed. Beric used his afterlives well, roaming Westeros with the Brotherhood Without Banners, protecting the smallfolk from Lannister soldiers and the ravages of war, even if he ended up on Arya Stark’s kill-list for the time he sold Gendry to that witch.
Georgia Lass – Dead Like Me
“I’ve been dead for seven days. Okay, that’s a little dramatic.”
With her dry delivery and slacker style Dead Like Me’s George could be seen as a comedic prototype of American Gods‘ Laura Moon (that’s three dead-Bryan-Fuller-girls on one list). Played by Ellen Muth (who later made a guest appearance on Fuller’s Hannibal as a character named Georgia Madchen, the German word for girl and a play on her Dead Like Me character name Georgia – ‘girl’ in Scottish dialect – Lass) George was an eighteen-year-old whose life was going nowhere fast when her death arrived in the form of a falling toilet seat.
Instead of passing through to the next realm, George was given the job of Grim Reaper, joining a team of oddballs led by Mandy Patinkin’s Rube in the task of collecting souls before death. Being dead however, didn’t solve George’s day-to-day problems with her family relationships and paltry bank balance.
Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason – The Good Place
“Welcome, everything is fine.”
Four in one here, because there’s no separating Team Cockroach, the Brainy Bunch, the Soul Squad or whatever you care to call this wonderful group on The Good Place. The four humans (played by Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamila, and Manny Jacinto) were thrown together after death when they awoke in the Good Place, greeted by neighborhood architect and supernatural being Michael (Sir Ted Danson).
Over three seasons of death, Eleanor Shellstrop, Chidi Anagonye, Tahani al-Jamil, and Jason Mendoza carried on living, loving growing and learning in a variety of metaphysical realms and some brilliantly improbable situations. Saying any more would spoil things for anyone who hasn’t caught up yet, to whom we say – what’s your excuse?
Buffy Summers – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“Hey, I’ve died twice”
That she did. Three times, if you count alternate timelines. Buffy Summers first died in season one’s “Prophecy Girl,” when ancient vampire The Master (Mark Metcalf) mesmerised the slayer, drank her blood and left her to drown in a pool. Xander and Angel revive her using CPR, she defeated the master and all was—temporarily—well. Buffy’s next death was somewhat more permanent, lasting 147 days according to a smitten Spike’s tally. The Slayer sacrificed herself to close the portal opened up by Glory in the season five finale, but was ripped out of the afterlife by Willow’s resurrection spell.
Her second resurrection was hard on Buffy, her numbness and isolation providing a neat metaphor for depression throughout season six. The Chosen One struggled and suffered, but ultimately learned that life was worth living.
Camille Séguret – Les Revenants
“Il m’est arrive un truc hyper bizarre”
You can say that again (if you paid attention in French lessons). A really bizarre thing did happen to 15-year-old schoolgirl Camille (Yara Pilartz). First, she died in a school bus accident along with her classmates, and then years later, she turned up on the side of the road with no memory of what happened and a ravenous appetite. Luckily for the people of her small mountain town, that appetite was for les sandwiches instead of brains. Camille wasn’t the only dead person to return in the town—a number of the deceased from across the decades came back to their loved ones, with varying success.
What made Camille’s return from the dead particularly uncanny was the existence of her still-alive identical twin sister Léna, who’d aged in the intervening years. Existential French drama Les Revenants (The Returned) was a beautifully filmed meditation on grief, death and identity, and Camille was the girl who started it all.
Jon Snow – Game Of Thrones
“They stabbed me. Olly put a knife in my heart. I shouldn’t be here.”
The Lord of Light gave red priestess Melisandre the power to resurrect Jon Snow after the Night’s Watch mutinied against him in the season five finale. And since the revelations of season seven, we now understand Jon’s importance to the fate of the Seven Kingdoms. His return from death enabled Jon to break his Night’s Watch oath without really breaking it and leave Castle Black in order to join up with Daenerys Targaryen and defend Westeros from attack beyond the Wall.
A lot rests on those fur-wearing shoulders now. Having survived one death, will Jon Snow make it all the way to the end intact?
Kenny McCormick – South Park
“Oh my God, they killed Kenny… You bastards.”
South Park eighth-grader Kenny McCormick died well over a hundred times across the franchise, until the joke grew stale and was kicked under a rug around the end of season five. No matter how outlandishly violent the death, Kenny always came back unscathed the next episode, ready to wear his hood up and say nothing another day.
Captain Jack Harkness – Doctor Who/Torchwood
“Wish I’d never met you Doctor, I was much better off as a coward.”
Rose in her Time Vortex-infused Bad Wolf persona brought time traveller Captain Jack (John Barrowman) back from the dead, and she did it so thoroughly that he just kept on going – dying, coming back, dying again, coming back – all the way through spinoff show Torchwood, Big Finish adventures, and more. Time-traveller Jack may even have survived all the way until the end of the world and ended up as a massive squid face in a jar, so nobody can say he didn’t make the most of his immortality.
Dean, Sam, Castiel, Mary (and almost literally everyone else) – Supernatural
“Look what the apocalypse shook loose.”
If we were to begin to enumerate the many and varied ways the Winchesters and co. have died and returned to life, we’d still be here next Christmas. Castiel is currently three for three thanks to God’s intervention, while Mary also received a guest pass back to the land of the living from the Almighty. Dean died and came back courtesy of Castiel, while Sam returned from the dead after Dean’s demonic pact… we could go on.
And those are just the headlines. Add to that the emotional 300th episode ‘resurrections’ and it’s clear that dying is more or less akin to popping to the shops in the Supernatural universe, to the point that it’s become a running joke:
Castiel: Jack. If you can’t sleep, that’s understandable, given recent events.
Jack: You mean dying and coming back to life.
Castiel: Yeah, we’ve all been through it. It’s something of a rite of passage around here.
Bonus entry: Nadia Vulvokov – Russian Doll
“Humanity… A little bit overrated, no?”
Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) certainly dies multiple time throughout the series of Russian Doll, in a frightening array of ways but does that mean she’s counts as actually dead? Some people have certainly theorized that she is and what we’re watching is a kind of purgatory where she has to deal with all her unresolved issues before she can move on to the next place. But that’s definitely not a given.
Russian Doll explores the concept of multiverses and in some of them – many of them in fact – Nadia is dead – or at least she certainly theorises that that’s the case. Shocked after one timeline where Ruth shoots and kills her, Nadia is horrified to consider the idea that this continuity will carry on, with Ruth forever scarred in the knowledge that she’s killed Nadia. So on-screen Nadia is alive. But off screen at the same time she’s also dead. She’s Schroedinger’s Nadia. By Rosie Fletcher.