Let's be clear right off the bat- all types of film and television are subjective. Not everyone is going to like the popular franchises or the hottest new shows to binge-watch, nor is everyone going to even try and watch them. For the people who do invest their time and do like those mediums of entertainment, however, become undeniably invested in the characters that make up those movies and shows.
As an unofficial film critic and lover myself, I believe that in order for a series or movie franchise to survive or work well with an audience, it has to be driven by either one of two things: plot and characters. A smart and great movie or show will focus on both and make both factors balance each other out with the tools of dialogue, camera shots, good direction and good acting.
That last part there is very important, because audiences tend to care about well-written and correctly portrayed characters more than anything else. People spend countless hours of their lives with these characters and they often find themselves reacting in all sorts of over-the-top ways such as encouraging them to take action by screaming at the screen to crying when something heartbreaking or horrible happens to them.
And when the unimaginable happens, a.k.a. an unexpected death for these beloved characters, audiences have every right to become upset and mourn days after they watch the scene unfold before their eyes; especially if that death is not done well.
If you don't know what I mean by this (because death is universally known as a bad concept to be avoided at all costs throughout life), let me rephrase: death, like in real life, can happen unexpectedly and sometimes can even be a result of spur-of-the-moment sacrifice. Even when we don't want a good or favorite character to die, their deaths can be understandable and even necessary for the plot to move forward. As fans of these shows and movies, we can learn to understand that in time. What's inexcusable, however, is when they don't give said "important character" a proper or appropriate death scene.
There's many character death scenes (character's I absolutely loved) that I think film and television have done justice: Gwen Stacy from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"; Ray from "The Princess and the Frog"; and even Jack Pearson in "This Is Us." These death scenes have always brought out the ugly cry in me, but what I've always kept in mind is that they were necessary for the plot or they couldn't have been avoided if we are looking at their stories from a realistic perspective.
But then there are some that are, well, not as good as I hoped they would be.
Excuse my obnoxiously bold typing, but THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING: SPOILERS FOR "AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR," "ENDGAME" AND "STRANGER THINGS" SEASONS 2 AND 3 ARE INCLUDED BEYOND THIS POINT. And, of course, this is all from my opinion only, so if you disagree, that is totally okay.
We all saw either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers meeting their ends by the time "Endgame" came around, so when Tony is the one to make the ultimate sacrifice and wield the gauntlet to make 2014 Thanos and his army dust from further existence, it didn't really catch audiences by surprise. There are some logical questions to be asked (like how can an Iron Man glove hold the power of six infinity stones), but that aside, Tony's death was appropriate because he finally got to do what he's wanted to ever since the first installment of the MCU: to protect the earth from any kind of harm. He saved the world and got the proper funeral scene where his fellow Avengers and family honored him solemnly. It's safe to say I was a blubbering mess in the theater.
But let's not forget that another OG Avenger didn't get to see Thanos lose in the end. Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Black Widow) sacrificed herself instead of Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye) to attain the soul stone on Vormir so they could ultimately undo Thanos' snap. While I disagree with the popular opinion that Clint should've died instead because her sacrifice was a perfect end to her character development and paid homage to her love for the only family she's ever had (plus the "red in her ledger" was seen as finally being wiped out when the camera pans to her dead body), her death wasn't even honored at Tony's funeral. Granted, it was Tony's funeral, but she never had a ceremony of her own for the whole Avengers family to rightfully acknowledge her sacrifice. It's true that Natasha may not be as important of a character to the franchise like Tony, but she made the same kind of sacrifice, so why do we just get dialogue from some of the characters about her death rather than a proper send-off?
And while we are on the Avengers topic, don't even get me started on Loki's inappropriate death in "Avengers: Infinity War."
All superhero talk aside, let's get into the television aspect of death scenes for great characters. "Stranger Things" Season 3 just arrived on Netflix, and I am not scared to admit that I've already watched the whole thing. By the final episode, we get two deaths of pretty important characters. The first was Billy, who was possessed by the Mind Flayer for pretty much the entire season, but I believe his death scene was done very well for a character who's been seen as a villain for the majority of his time on screen. He's about to give Eleven to the Mind Flayer when she starts to recite a memory of his in order to get Billy to stop. It's a really emotional moment when Billy comes back to his senses and then protects Eleven, Mike and his sister, Max, from the Mind Flayer with his bare hands. In a very gory death (much like Bob's in Season 2), he ultimately sacrifices himself to save the kids and apologizes to Max in his final words. It's a very sad death, indeed, but it's a redeemable one for a character we've all been secretly waiting to have a good-hearted moment, similar even to Black Widow.
Then there's the death we didn't really see coming at all, and that I believe isn't really one in the first place.
Hopper is another death that is sacrificial but didn't really have to be. He's seen standing by the electric waves caused by the machine that is keeping The Gate from closing. In a race against time, Joyce is about to turn the keys to finally shut the machine down but is found having to make the tough decision to leave Hopper in the crossfire in order to save Hawkins. In an approving nod to Joyce, Hopper accepts his fate in the moment and Joyce makes the move. Hawkins is saved with the camera panning to where Hopper last stood, but there is no sign of a body or even a single drop of blood. For the rest of the final episode, life goes on for the rest of the characters without their beloved Chief of Police, and Eleven is taken in by Joyce and the Beyers as they finally move out of Hawkins. Eleven is found reading an emotional note from Hopper that depicts the speech he was going to give her about his opinion on her and Mike's relationship and how he can't really handle her growing up. It really drives the theme of the season home, but it didn't wrap up Hopper's death scene for me.
For such a big and likable character like Hopper, a death scene as abrupt and quick as this isn't appropriate in the slightest. They could've foreshadowed and built it up more, and even could've showed his dead body after the explosion (it would be graphic, but they did show us Bob and Billy, right?). And even in the post-credits scene, a Russian guard refers to "an American" being locked up, and it could easily be Hopper since he could've been kidnapped by the Russians after the explosion when they found him still alive in the underground lab. When you don't see a dead body in a show as graphic as this, nor a proper send-off for such a huge character, it makes you believe in the theories that they're still very much alive.
Whether Hopper is alive or not, and even Tony Stark in the John Campea-dubbed "fake-death MCU," it's safe to say that handling these death scenes is a big enough to-do as it is. The directors, producers and writers have to make sure they are handling a character well enough since they are so beloved by thousands of fans across the globe these days. There comes a huge pressure to crafting such emotional scenes that we as fans don't take into consideration, but they should make sure they are done right by asking others' their opinions and even host early screen tests with us huge fans.
No movie or show is ever going to be perfect, nor do I expect my favorite character's arcs to be, as well; but if the unconditional love is there, and the screen time proves that they're an important character to the story overall, then why not take the extra time to make sure their death is done correctly? After all, this is the business where you can literally control the narrative, so why not take the time to do what you never could in the real world?