It used to be that Joss Whedon was the go-to-guy when you wanted to complain about authors mercilessly killing off characters, but once (spoiler alert!) Ned Stark’s death became a part of popular culture canon, George R. R. Martin took over that throne.
It’s fascinating to read fans joke about Martin’s penchant for tearing out the hearts of his readers. Though they speak about the deaths mournfully, it’s clear that they would not have it any other way: they love an author who is willing to off anyone and everyone. This is likely because it often serves the story better and, well, people like pain.
So for today’s column, I will speculate about what would happen if we threw Martin at another story and let him have at it? In particular, I’d like to see Martin take over the type of property where the creator was loathe to kill anyone but those who were ‘acceptable’ to the audience to die.
Let’s start with Star Wars (original trilogy only).
Who dies in the real version? Obi-Wan and Yoda (they were old and came back as ghosts anyway), Anakin/Vader (dies following his redemption), and…Biggs (Luke’s friend who no one cares about)? Correct me if I’m wrong (or missed someone), but after a Galactic War, that seems low.
Here are my picks for how it would have turned out with Martin at the helm:
THREE DEFINITE DEATHS:
1) Chewbacca: Let’s face it. Chewie is great but does very little. He exists only because he is–in a ferocious, arm-tearing way–supremely endearing. What better way to up the stakes than to kill Han Solo’s puppy? Martin did it to Lady, why not do it to Chewie too? And while Chewbacca does (apparently) die heroically in the Star Wars novels, I like to imagine that he’d die suddenly and ingloriously in Martin’s Star Wars. Someone, after all, has to die at the hands of a Stormtrooper. They can’t hit so large a target?
2) One of the Twins: It would be too easy for me to say that Martin would kill off Luke. In fact, future editions of this column can easily become me just constantly listing the main character as the person Martin would kill because of the whole Ned Stark thing. And yet, I can’t help but feel that Luke might not have made it–and perhaps–should not have made it. What really is the point of Yoda revealing that ” there is another” unless we have to see that “other” step up to the plate? Instead, Leia’s potential as a Jedi in her own right exists only as a half-imagined possibility. We don’t even explore how Leia feels about the fact that her father brutally tortured her in the first film. We learn about her parentage and then it is what it is. It might have been far more dramatically satisfying to lose one of the twins to make their ‘twinhood’ matter.
Now, to be fair, I could have easily seen Leia dropping. We’ve seen too many potential Stark reunions foiled by tragedy to think that Martin wouldn’t be tempted to reveal Leia’s identity to Luke only to have her die before he could find her and tell her the truth.
Nonetheless, whether it be Luke or Leia, I’m sure: one would have to die.
3) Wedge Antilles: Come on. Martin would never allow the guy to make it to the Ewok celebration at the end of Jedi. And while part of me loves to see the fighter out of his cockpit greeting the others in victory, Martin would know that he was meant to die out there amongst the stars. One of the few to survive the first assault on the Death Star has enough luck to survive a second? No way.
So there it is. There could be more (3PO? Lando?), but these are the three that I’m sure wouldn’t survive. Yes, I’m leaving Han untouched. Harrison Ford may have thought Han should die in Jedi, and while I can’t fault him, Martin would want the only cynic in the galaxy to live.