Warning: This article contains spoilers for multiple shows, including details about character deaths and series finales!The Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown the power of sacrifice throughout its decade-plus of emotional storytelling. Many powerful characters have emerged to defend the people from harm, and they sacrifice their own well-being in the process. Across franchises, audiences look for heroes that are willing to give their time and abilities to the cause of world peace.
In the end, the last thing many heroes have to give is their own life. They prove themselves brave and giving even to the end, and their death is honored as tragic, but necessary. However, there are some heroic sacrifices that just don’t make any sense. Whether it’s their life, their secrets, or their well-being, heroes give everything they have to the people around them, all for it to end up meaning nothing. This can be extremely effective in stories about the hopelessness of life, but otherwise, it’s a pretty disappointing resolution to the story.
Merlin: Merlin Reveals His Magic To Arthur
For all four seasons of Merlin, Merlin’s magic was kept secret on pain of death. However, Merlin ended up telling his secret to Arthur in the finale because he couldn’t attempt to save the king without revealing the truth.
It was painful for audiences to watch Arthur reject Merlin as the young warlock fought to keep him alive, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Merlin didn’t summon Kilgharrah quickly enough, and Arthur died before he could bring the Golden Age that was promised from the beginning. Merlin giving up his secret didn’t make any difference, which was a major let-down for a show that had been building to that moment for years.
Teen Wolf: Scott Tears His Eyes Out
In the series finale of Teen Wolf, the group faced off against the Anuk-Ite, which could turn anyone who looked at it to stone. After several main characters fell to its power, Scott clawed out his own eyes, which allowed him to fight the creature until Stiles was able to trap it.
It seemed like it was going to be a significant sacrifice when Scott struggled to heal, but then a kiss from Malia fixed everything. While he did accomplish what he wanted, the sacrifice only lasted a few minutes, and the impending war meant that many characters could still die anyway. All in all, it felt like a moment that should have meant everything didn’t actually mean much at all.
When trying to prevent the apocalypse, there are bound to be casualties. However, there were more than there had to be in season 5 of Supernatural. As the brothers attempted to face Lucifer, Jo Harvelle was brutally mauled by a Hellhound and decided that they should use her imminent death to their advantage by having her set off a bomb.
While that plan made sense, Jo’s mother, Ellen, decided to stay and die with her daughter, which was completely unnecessary. Had they not wasted so much time arguing, Jo could have set off the bomb herself, leaving Ellen to help in the battles to come.
Doctor Who: Missy
The Doctor and the Master are some of the best nemeses in popular culture, and there has been a lot of time spent on how their relationship works. While the Master was virtually always considered to be a villain, his female form Missy went on missions with the Doctor, slowly coming around to his way of thinking.
This culminated in the multi-Master finale episodes where Missy stabbed her former self, finally standing with the Doctor. In response, the Master shot her with a blast concentrated enough to prevent regeneration. It was a powerful moment that really defined the character… until the Master popped back up just over a season later, once again villainous, undermining Missy’s entire arc and sacrifice.
Once Upon A Time: Captain Hook
Killian Jones (AKA Captain Hook) went through a seasons-long arc to become a hero, leading up to multiple sacrifices that didn’t end up mattering. Hook died, begging Emma to complete the task that would get rid of the Dark One’s power, but she tethered him to Excalibur instead, bringing him back to life as a Dark One.
As though that wasn’t enough, he then absorbed all the magic from both Dark Ones into himself and made Emma kill him to get rid of the magic forever—only to find out that Rumplestiltskin stole the magic and rendered Hook’s sacrifice meaningless. Emma went to the Underworld to try to save Hook, only to lose him yet again. And then Zeus appeared and sent him back to life, making an entire season’s worth of sacrifices utterly irrelevant.
Lost: Jin-Soo Kwon
Lost had increasingly bizarre plot twists over the years, but one of the most senseless moments came in season six. Jin had spent most of the season trying to find Sun, and they were finally reunited after spending three years apart. When the group tried to escape using a submarine, though, it began flooding, and Sun got trapped.
Jin was unwilling to leave her, convincing everyone else to escape while he tried to get her free. Unsuccessful, he chose to drown alongside her. While it was noble to keep her from dying alone, Jin absolutely didn’t need to die, and his death didn’t have any big impact moving forward except for orphaning his daughter, who had never even had the opportunity to meet her father.
Torchwood: Toshiko Concealing That She Was Dying
Toshiko Sato was a critical member of Torchwood Three, but in her death, she made a serious sacrifice. She had been shot but didn’t tell the team. Instead, she continued to help Owen complete his task, and even comforted him as he raged about his own impending death.
Tosh sacrificed her last moments to help Owen, and she sacrificed her ability to be upset about it. Even as she died, she only spoke about how she had failed Owen. It was a quiet sacrifice, and the other characters never even acknowledged it.
The Originals: Elijah And Klaus
Ever since the finale of The Originals aired in 2018, the fans have been furious about how it ended. Klaus took the magic of the Hollow into himself and then killed himself to get rid of the spirit forever. It was a powerful move, demonstrating just how much Hope changed Klaus’s approach to life, but it was ruined by Elijah’s decision to die too.
After the whole family held a last meal in Klaus’s honor, Elijah told his brother that he was going to kill himself at the same time, because so much of his life had been devoted to redeeming Klaus. But if Elijah was so willing to die, he should have taken the Hollow himself and let Klaus survive to raise his daughter. There was no logical reason for both characters to die, and even the actors admit it was a ridiculous choice.
Game of Thrones: Stannis Sacrifices Shireen
One of the most heartbreaking deaths in Game of Thrones came when Melisandre insisted that the only way for Stannis Baratheon to become king was to sacrifice his daughter, Shireen. While it is a horrifying prospect for most audiences, the concept exists in multiple religions and mythologies as an expression of true faith and sacrifice.
However, it did not go well for Stannis. In addition to his own emotional anguish, he woke up the next day to find that half of his troops deserted him. He went forward into battle, which he lost, and laid in agony until Brienne arrived and executed him for his crimes.
Squid Game: Ji-yeong
Out of everyone who entered the Squid Game, only one could survive and win the prize money. In the Marbles round, Ji-yeong faced off against Sae-byeok. Rather than fighting to win, the two talked about their pasts and their dreams for the future, which culminated in Ji-yeong deliberately losing the game so that Sae-byeok could survive.
Sadly, Sae-byeok was then injured by an explosion of glass shortly thereafter, before getting stabbed in the neck by Cho Sang-woo. There was a lot of meaningless death in Squid Game, but Ji-yeong’s hit especially hard because she sacrificed herself for someone who ended up dying anyway. The show may have ended exactly the same way if Ji-yeong hadn’t planned to lose, but the irrelevance of her sacrifice really stuck with the viewers.