Who Was She?
Oh shut up. You know who she was. Everyone knows about Fred. She was lovely and a mainstay of ‘Angel’ ever since the end of the second series. A scientist who had post-traumatic shock, she eventually overcame it to become a friendly person whom all the male cast seemed to have a crush on at some point in time, because she was really quite lovely. She was given a laboratory in the fifth season, and was lovely.
How Did She Die?
Fred was working in her shiny new laboratory when a coffin was brought in for her to investigate. When she touched it some dust flew up into the air, which slowly poisoned her. She burnt up from the inside and her soul was destroyed forever, so she didn’t get to go to Heaven either. And then her body became the host for an ancient demon who never left it. This happened approximately a week after she finally started dating a character who had been in love with her for the past three seasons. It turned out that the coffin had been sent to her by a co-worker who was in love with her. He turned out to also worship the ancient demon (called Illyria) and so when it came to picking a body for Illyria to take over he thought “I know! Fred should be this body!” So she was killed slowly and died in the arms of her new boyfriend because a co-worker had a crush on her and was mental and then her insides all melted as her skin became rock solid and her soul was eradicated and the shell of her body was used to house Illyria, a demon.
Did nobody hug you when you were a child, Joss?
Why Did She Die?
- “I got really pissed off with the show when they did that. It was cruel!”
- “I was heartbroken when she died!”
- “When Fred died I cried.”
- “Why didn’t they kill Gunn? He was so much more annoying!”
These are a small sample of the many people Joss Whedon made into enemies on that night he killed of Winifred Burkle. The many people who will, if provoked, rummage through their potting shed for a weapon which they can use as they charge to his house and demand he take back all the pain that’s been caused over the years. The emotional pain. The pain of loss and grief which humankind was only ever meant to feel when someone close to them dies or runs away with their roommate John to Bristol and I never get to hear form her again, you heartless bitch.
Why did Joss Whedon kill off Fred? And why did he do it in such a horrific way? We know that it wasn’t anything to do with actress Amy Acker, because when Illyria rose up out of Fred’s body Acker played this new role with brilliant relish. She stayed with the show until the last episode that they filmed, but was now bright blue and a lot angrier. Unlike in the past, when Joss has killed off an character because of something happening behind the scenes Fred’s death didn’t come about because of anything the actress did with the character. Heck, the character herself had only just started on a potential new storyline as she’d been paired up with another one of the cast, and the public had waited years to see this develop. Things were finally starting to happen.
Joss Whedon has a mantra, which rings true for a lot of his work: “it’s not what the audience want, it’s what the audience needs.” He won’t tell a story with a happy ending because he believes that this will lead to his plots growing stale. Instead, his cast must deal with disaster after disaster ruining their lives time and time again, until eventually they die. There’s no guarantee when they’ll die either: but no character in a Joss Whedon production can ever expect to be happy for more than a week (other than the character of ‘Spike’ for some reason, whom Joss promoted rapidly for no apparent reason because he was pretty awful). As a result of his mantra, it made perfect sense for him to kill off Fred as soon as she had finally reached a position where she could finally be happy. Because nobody should ever be happy! Once a character is happy they have completed their story and are no longer needed. Some writers would write happy characters out so they can sail into the sunset: Whedon kills them.
There was no setup for this, really. He didn’t foreshadow the incident particularly, so when Fred died it took viewers completely by surprised. She became ill at the start of the episode, and over the next forty minutes she died. The effect this had on the overall story is negligible, although it definitely affected the characterisation of the major cast. Fred’s death changed the characters a little (it destroyed the progress of Wesley, for example, who quickly went from brilliant to endlessly mopey as the final few episodes went on), and it finally gave Gunn something to do. But this could all have been done without killing off Fred. Death is a cheap motivator, but it’s one which almost always works on TV. And for as long as Whedon is able to create unpredictability on his shows through murdering members of the cast as random points, he’ll do it.
Acker’s character on Dollhouse looks to be similarly doomed, although time will tell on that. Perhaps he just likes writing death scenes for her?
Joss, You Monster! Rating:
10. You’re going to Hell, Whedon.