I enjoy fantasy and science fiction shows when they’re done well. Major “Buffy” fan back in the day, and number “iZombie” and “The Magicians” among my current shows. I’ve also kept up with my Marvel Universe movies, although I am cutting their network offerings down to “Jessica Jones” because the writing and plotting of the others, both on Netflix and ABC is subpar. [The only reason “Iron Fist” is called that is because “Dumb As A Sack Of Hammers” isn’t catchy enough.]
However, there is a long-term plotting trope common to these shows and movies that continues to bug me, because it is essentially unacknowledged. A character, usually taken over by a curse, will go on a killing binge as one does, but when said curse is lifted, will be taken back into the loving arms of his/her previous community, with relatively little censure. Even more, will team up with the heroes without any real consequence as to their previous actions.
There are several characters in the Buffy universe who follow this pattern, but the most egregious example is Faith, her fellow-slayer, who became a murderer for hire without any supernatural excuse. She did go to prison after a remorseful arc in “Angel,” but came back for the Buffy final season and went on essentially unchallenged. [I haven’t read the story-lines past the third comic book, so there may have been more. She seems to be in the wild.]
Blaine, the principal villain of iZombie, has a massive body count to his credit, yet has not met his come-uppance despite multiple opportunities, legal and otherwise. Clearly a Spike-derivative down to his bleached blonde punkish persona, he’s a walking plothole in an otherwise beautifully plotted series.
Julia of “The Magicians,” is a fascinating character. At one point, she goes sociopathic, having lost her “shade,” which seems to be a soul-equivalent. During this period, she at one point obliterates an entire population of sentient trees [long story]. But when she gets her shade back, she’s back on the team, no further consequences.
In the Marvel Universe, Gamora, the fighting blue sister in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” assists in a few mass murder events in the first movie, yet rallies to help her fighting green sister in the sequel and is allowed to run off scott-free. Loki kills a ton of people [oh, he’s so mischievous!], yet teams up with Thor many times — and he’s charming. We’ll see how they do in the upcoming Infinity Wars. My bet — she dies, he doesn’t.
And, speaking of Marvel, how about the Hulk in “Thor: Ragnarok.” He’s the champion fighter in the Grandmaster’s tournaments. Which means a history of opponents going splat permanently. But he’s lovable, so he gets a pass.
This is all fantasy, yet several of these shows aspire to bring in real emotion to drive the drama. You can’t have it both ways. It inures the characters to violent death, and by doing so, us. Only “Buffy” attempted to deal with the consequences, particularly with Willow, but redemption was generally only a few episodes away [and was rewarded with hot sex].
I realize that I am asking too much out of what is meant to be entertainment. But it’s one thing for a character to commit murder, or mass murder, as part of his/her story. It’s another for everyone else to ignore it — or worse, go “That’s cool. What can you do for me now?”
And don’t get me started on Darth Vader.