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"Oh my God -- he'salive??"
Great twists are hard to come by. Take Game of Thrones. Two episodes after being stabbed by his brethren of the Night's Watch -- or 12 months, in speculative fan years -- Jon "The Crow" Snow came back to life, resuscitated by Melisandre's dark, sensual magic. We may never know what heavenly bureaucracy was overcome in the Lord of Light office to allow for such divine intervention, but Thrones fans breathed a collective sigh. The hero was back. The show was back.
There's a history of television-writing staffs reviving dead characters to jolt the story and shock the audience. Some tactics are more fulfilling than others. All of them warrant a degree of eye-rolling. Here are a few of the most surreal:
How did he die? Tony was going to stab CTU director-turned-terrorist Christopher Henderson, who earlier that day ordered a hit on his wife, in the heart with a lethal dose of hyoscine-pentothal. But he got soft, let Henderson go, and wound up with the syringe in his chest. How did he return? Misplaced injection. Surprise: not only did Tony not die on Day 5, the debacle convinced him to become a terrorist. He assumed his position as a bad guy (kind of) on Day 7.
Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, Battlestar Galactica
How did she die? In Season 3, after experiencing a series of past and prophetic visions, Starbuck's Viper explodes mid-pursuit. How did she return? Godly forces. Three episodes later, Starbuck reappears, flying her Viper alongside the Galactica. Apparently she's the harbinger of both death and life, she's been to Earth, and hell no she wasn't dead.
Bobby Ewing, Dallas
How did he die? In the Season 8 finale, just a year after the "Who Shot J.R.?" incident, an infatuated Katherine rams Bobby with her car after catching wind of his engagement to Pam. Bobby dies of internal injury. How did he return? The alternate-world logic of comic books. Bobby returned, unscathed, in Season 10. Turns out, the entire ninth season was just a dream. Or a nightmare, if you were watching Dallas.
Glenn, The Walking Dead
How did he die? While scouting for an escape route out of an infested area, Glenn finds himself surrounded by a pack of zombies. The camera pushes in on his face as the walkers feast on his innards. How did he return? Crafty camerawork. Turns out, those zombies weren't chowing down on Glenn, but rather his pal, Nicholas. The audience just couldn't see. One could argue that Glenn's "death" doesn't really count because no one was quite sure if it happened. I'd argue it's the same logic as everything else on this, accelerated by The Walking Dead writing staff to fuck with the audience.
How did he die? In so many ways. The demise of MacGyver's arch-nemesis became a recurring gag on the show. Murdoc fell to his death down an abandoned mine shaft, drove off a cliff and exploded in a vehicular fireball, electrocuted himself by falling into the pool, and fell off the sheer face of a mountain. How did he return? The power of love.
Brian Griffin, Family Guy
How did he die? After traveling through time to the Jamestown settlement, Brian is crushed in a hit-and-run. How did he return? Cartooneus ex machina. Two episodes later, Stewie steals a new time machine, manned by an alternate version of himself, to bring Brian back to his reality. After the episode aired, MacFarlane infamously tweeted, "You didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be fucking high." Everyone assumes they were.
How did she die? Gretchen Morgan, a high-ranking officer of the multinational cabal known as "The Company," kicked off Season 3 by kidnapping and decapitating the show's female lead off-screen. How did she return? White lie. Ignore stories of Callies' schedule-disrupting pregnancy -- the decision for Sara to have escaped Gretchen and pop back up in the fourth season was driven entirely by creativity.
Bertram Cooper, Mad Men
How did he die? Peacefully, while at home watching the July 20th, 1969 moon landing. How did he return? Song and dance. Did people really think creator Matthew Weiner would kill off a beloved character without fanfare? Cooper's last hurrah was exclusive to Don Draper, a rendition of "The Best Things in Life Are Free" performed just after his death was announced to the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce staff.
How did he die? Ben Linus interrupts Locke's suicide to... strangle him with an extension cord and stage the death as a suicide. How did he return? Impersonated by the Man in Black aka the buzzing smoke monster, in hopes of escaping the island once and for all.
Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
How did she die? To save her sister Dawn, Buffy hurls herself into a magical portal, which consumes her. Season 5 ends with a burial and everything! How did she return? Convenient magic. After picking up ancient artifacts on eBay, Buffy's squad is successfully able to resurrect the slayer.
Tuco Salamanca, Breaking Bad
How did he die? A bullet-heavy brawl with Jesse and Walt ends with a surprise entrance by Hank, who plants one in Tuco's head when the drug peddler runs out of ammo. How did he return? The power of spinoffs. Cruz resumed his role in the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul. He's just as crazy and high out of his mind.
Dan Conner, Roseanne
How did he die? A heart attack on the day of his daughter's wedding. How did he return? This one's a bit of a cheat, but Dan's "death" is so bizarre, it demands citation. Dan actually survived his heart attack on Roseanne. Or that's what we think -- in a series finale post-mortem, Roseanne is revealed to be a memoirist taking some creative liberties. Dan actually died that day. And that's how you kill a character without killing a character.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. He has clocked zero near-death experiences. Find him on Twitter: @misterpatches.