Characters let down by their writers—and romance authors who would’ve done better
Television and movie writers can learn a lot from romance novels. It’s a topic we’ve covered before. But there are quite a few specific characters on television and in movies that were SEVERELY let down by their writers, and I’m a firm believer that it wouldn’t have happened if we’d left a really great romance writer in charge of their character arcs. So, with that in mind, here are my picks for the top characters who got shafted by their writers, and the romance authors who would’ve done right by them.
Preemptive note: I’m not saying all of these characters should have had storybook, happy endings. I get it: these shows weren’t necessarily about romance. But the characters’ endings should have MADE SENSE, and they totally didn’t. That’s all I’m saying. So please don’t write and tell me that if I was expecting HEA endings then I shouldn’t have been watching these shows. The romance authors I’m nominating for these rewrites could have created endings for these characters that made sense AND were satisfying to long-time viewers. The end. It’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. If you don’t agree, feel free to write your own post.
Jaime Lannister, Game of Thrones
This is a guy who, at the start of the first season, pushed a kid out a window to cover up the incestuous affair he was having with his sister. He did horrible, horrible things. I wanted him dead. But then...he became a prisoner of war, lost a hand, saved Brienne from a bear, worked to uphold a vow he made to Catelyn Stark, and ultimately left his evil sister to fight the frozen army of the undead. He grew as a character from someone I considered irredeemable into a character I actually cared about and rooted for. And then, in the last couple of episodes of the show, the writers completely failed him. They turned the good guy he’d become back into a selfish asshole who was willing to hurt people on behalf of his sister, who even he acknowledged was pretty much the worst human being on the planet. Why? I still don’t know. One of the most incredible character arcs in the history of character arcs died with a whimper under a pile of falling debris in King’s Landing. It was a total face-plant that I’m still irritated about. Shame on you, DB Weiss and David Benioff. Shame on you.
Who would’ve done it better: A team that can write the hell out of a former villain’s character arc? Ilona Andrews.
Exhibit A: Look what they did with Hugh in Iron and Magic.
I rest my case.
Cordelia Chase, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel
Cordelia Chase grew from a self-centered, entitled mean girl into a true hero who sacrificed everything she had in the fight for good against evil. And what does she get for her troubles? Possessed by a demon, forced into a quasi-incestuous relationship with the kid she helped raise (it’s complicated), and ultimately written into a coma (because apparently that’s easier than giving her a proper send-off). She deserved better. Way, WAY better, Joss Whedon.
Who would’ve done it better: Only an author fluent in snark and sarcasm can write for Cordelia Chase. My pick? Isabel Jordan.
Exhibit A: Harper Hall and Cordelia Chase would’ve been besties.
Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones
Over the course of 8 seasons, Dany grew from a scared girl whose virtue was bartered away by her evil brother, into a commander of armies, a freer of slaves, a defender of women, and a Queen who saved everyone’s asses more than once (with the help of her dragons, of course). And what happened to her in the last 2 episodes of the show? She burned King’s Landing to the ground, killing countless innocents—even children. Dany from seasons 1-7 never would’ve done that. But we’re to believe that in one episode, she completely loses her grip on sanity and turns on everything she’s always preached and held dear? Yeah...sure. She was the victim of a character assassination by her writers (looking at you again, DB Weiss and David Benioff) and you’ll never convince me of anything different.
Who would’ve done it better: An author who has proven time and time again that she knows how to write convincing character arcs for strong female characters is Jeaniene Frost.
Exhibit A: Cat Crawfield and the Night Huntressseries.
Again, I rest my case.
Rey Nobody, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker
No, I’m not going to call her Rey Skywalker because that whole thing is a load of happy horseshit that I will not ever acknowledge. So, I liked Rey in The Force Awakens, but I LOVED her in The Last Jedi. In TLJ, writer/director Rian Johnson told us that Rey was a nobody from nowhere who the Force had chosen to gift with power. She was powerful because the Force had deemed her worthy, NOT because of who she was related to. He told us that anyone could be a powerful hero—no matter their gender, no matter their lineage. Then JJ Abrams pops up in TRoS and says, “Oh, hell, no. She can’t be more powerful than Luke and Kylo Ren unless she’s, oh, I dunno, a Palpatine! Yeah, that’s it, she’s a Palpatine. And all the power she has is HIS power. That should make the angry dudebros who hated TLJ happy, right?” And in the process of servicing the angry, old white guy dudebros who hated TLJ (and who probably used to jack off to pictures of Luke Skywalker when they were teenagers), JJ Abrams completely ruined Rey’s character arc, took away her agency, and made her nothing more than a vessel for nostalgia and the Skywalker legacy. Thanks a lot, JJ—and bite me.
Who would’ve done it better: Carian Cole. This woman can hit you in the feels and make you fall in love with heroines who are sensitive, devoted, and strong. She could’ve done right by Rey Nobody.
Exhibit A: Holly in Tied. Her childhood was horrific, and she has to learn how to be with people and function after she’s rescued. Her inner strength is nothing short of inspiring—just like Rey Nobody was in TLJ.
Need I say more?
Alex Karev, Grey’s Anatomy
Alex was a douchebag. There’s no way around it. But over the course of many, many seasons, he became Mer’s person, a guy who saves babies, a loving husband, and the type of friend everyone deserves to have. The Alex Karev I came to know and love would NEVER have left his beloved wife to go back to Izzy—IZZY—with a “Dear Jo” letter instead of a proper apology and explanation. So after one of the richest character arcs in the history of television, he goes back to Izzy who, a) Abandoned their marriage for no good reason, b) Had HIS KIDS without telling him, depriving him of years of their lives, and c) Stuck him with all her hospital bills. I’m not buying it, Grey’s. Frankly, it would’ve made more sense for you to kill him off to the tune of Chasing Cars, because that’s the only way MY Alex ever would’ve done that to Jo and Mer.
Who would’ve done it better: LJ Shen. Very few authors have the ability to make me care about total assholes. LJ Shen is the kind of unicorn author who can accomplish it.
Exhibit A: Vicious.
Logan Echolls, Veronica Mars
This one still hurts, frankly. Logan was another one of those characters who started off as a villain, but grew into a sweet, loving, protective, cinnamon roll (albeit a bit of a dark and twisty cinnamon roll) of a man who’d get himself thrown into jail to beat up his girlfriend’s attackers, and would later go on to fight for his country. And where does he end up? Blown to bits by a car bomb to help Veronica become a tough and hardened investigator that better fit the writer’s vision of a “noir” version of the show. Seasons of brilliant character growth were blown up in the last 2 minutes of the last episode of season 4. He died as a plot device, basically, because the writer (Rob Thomas) was too weak to come up with any other way to use his character. (You can’t see me, but I’m giving Rob Thomas the finger right now)
Who would’ve done it better: Celia Aaron. She can redeem bad boys like nobody’s business, and write some clever dialogue while she’s at it.
Exhibit A: Conn from Dark Protector gives me a Logan-esque vibe—all that sexy, protective energy with a hint of darkness underneath…*sigh*
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker
This guy is the most complex villain to ever exist in a Star Wars film. Targeted from birth by Palpatine, groomed to be evil (don’t @ me on this...yes he was. Palpatine was every voice in his head since birth. That’s grooming), abandoned by his parents (again, don’t @ me. They did abandon him. They saw darkness in him and sent him away. They never went after him until TFA), and betrayed by his uncle/mentor (if only momentarily)—and he STILL fights against the darkness and feels a pull to the light. And what kind of sendoff does the most complex character to ever exist in the Star Wars universe get? Well…
So, the tortured and abused guy gets one kiss and about two seconds worth of happiness with his soulmate, the other half of the Force dyad, before he dies. And then JJ Abrams had the nerve to call what happens to Kylo Ren/Ben “fun” in an interview and call his ending “hopeful.” On what planet, in what galaxy far, far away, is a movie called The Rise of Skywalker in which you literally kill off every Skywalker hopeful? Get some therapy, Abrams, because your idea of hopeful is twisted AF.
Who would’ve done it better: Darynda Jones. It takes a special kind of author to pull off action, suspense, AND the snark that Han Solo’s kid would surely have. Darynda Jones is JUST that kind of author.
Exhibit A: Reyes.
*drops mic and walks away*
Rose Tico, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker
All the angry, white old guy dudebros really hated Rose Tico in TLJ. They actually ran the actress (Kelly Marie Tran) off social media with their cruelty. They all claimed she was a “horrible character”. But one thing I noticed in their comments was a total lack of reasoning as to WHY they thought she was such a horrible character. Rose was an engineer who didn’t hesitate to put her life in danger for the rebellion and for her friends. She was smart, capable, and dedicated. So...what was so “horrible” about her? And before all you dudebros answer, you might want to check and make sure your racism and misogyny isn’t showing.
But while Rian Johnson put the Rose Tico character right up front and celebrated her awesomeness in TLJ, JJ Abrams, obviously swayed by all the angry old white guys, practically wrote her out of TRoS. You might want to consider growing a pair before your next film, man. *side-eying Abrams hard. Again.*
Who would’ve done it better: Penny Reid. No one writes smart, capable, hilarious female characters like Penny Reid. She would’ve done Rose proud. And she’s no stranger to diversity, either. (*clears throat* Take note, Disney)
Exhibit A: Pretty much...well...everything she writes.
What about y’all? Which destroyed character arcs would you like to see corrected? Let’s discuss!
3/23/2020 12:08:01 pm
I basically gave up on Grey's Anatomy after the plane crash in season 8 (I think?). But I always loved Karev because even up til that season he had an incredible arc. When I read how they send him off, I was really happy that I hadn't stuck around for that train wreck to happen. In this instance, it really would've been better if he'd gone into a coma or something.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
3/23/2020 12:11:39 pm
I don't blame you at all. That plane crash was brutal. Lexie and Mark deserved better and probably should have been on this list, now that you mention it. And I had completely forgotten about Cole on Charmed! That WAS crappy writing. He deserved a much better send-off.
3/23/2020 12:45:13 pm
I agree with your comments about Jamie Lannister but I don't think they did Brienne any favors either. She finally found the love she so desperately wanted only to have Jamie leave her sobbing in the snow. That was some epic bullshit.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
3/23/2020 12:47:03 pm
Very, very true. Frankly, all the Game of Thrones characters were let down by their writers in that last season. I probably should've included all of them. But Brienne ESPECIALLY deserved better.
3/25/2020 08:36:25 pm
Jennifer, adored this blog topic. Great choice. I love good stories, no matter the medium – book, TV, movie – which means I get SO irritated when the writers go in what I feel is the wrong direction. And I am a dedicated Logan fan – Season 4 left me with WTFFFFFFF.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
3/25/2020 08:49:47 pm
Thank you so much!! I'll die angry about Logan, frankly. And I couldn't agree more about Dany. I mean, I even would've been OK if she'd a moment of doubt where she WANTED to burn the city the ground, then decided she didn't want the Iron Throne because of what it was doing to her and went back to be the freer of slaves across the sea with Daario. But the way she went out was just...stupid. I liked Marc Blucas as Riley, too, but you're right--he wasn't a good fit for Buffy at all, especially after Angel was built up as her soul mate. Totally agree about Xander. I also hated what happened to Anya. This kind of talk gets my blood pressure up, too! I could talk about this stuff for days...
3/26/2020 09:26:39 am
Agree with all of that, though with the Anya comment you reminded me of one other thing (I too can talk about this forever, lol). I had issues with the Willow "straight character suddenly fully committed lesbian after several seasons of heterosexuality" idiocy. Have we ever seen a gay character suddenly wake up straight on one of these shows, just happily chuck their orientation to the side? Of course not. It's a PC contrivance, which offends me as a writer because it puts PC over the story arc and natural character development. Why not just introduce a very cool new gay character - like Anya herself? What only fueled my annoyance was the great chemistry between Willow and Oz.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
3/26/2020 10:16:56 am
By the way, if you ever want to guest post (or rant) about anything, I'll happily put it on the blog! I think the "suddenly gay" characters would be a GREAT topic, and we might be able to highlight authors that you think do a much better job with their gay characters, too. But anything you wanted to vent about would be fine! I mean, writing this post helped get my blood pressure down, I think. Maybe it'd do the same for you! :)
3/26/2020 10:02:21 pm
Jennifer, thank you so much for that! I may just take you up on it, because that is an interesting and involved topic with a lot of tendrils. For instance, "gay for you" is an appealing trope in much M/m fiction, that on its face might seem related to the Willow scenario but really isn't (at least not in my mind), because of what drives it. Anyhow, now you've given me further food for thought, lol...I'll see if I can't pen something up and send it your way in the next couple weeks, and then you can add your own thoughts to it and use it as/whenever you see fit. I just recently started following your blog (which is a sad commentary on my inability to follow all the good stuff that's out there in the romance field) and I've really been enjoying the topics you choose.
3/25/2020 10:38:39 pm
YES. YES. YES. I agree 1000% for Alex. This end was so frustrating and maddening.
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
3/26/2020 10:18:02 am
Right? Death would've been better. I can't believe I have to say that about Alex Karev, but...yeah...here we are...
3/26/2020 06:24:18 pm
A LETTER to break up with Jo?! Seriously?!!! i still can't get over it...
Leave a Reply.
Online Writer's Resources
ROMANCE AUTHOR SERVICES
Romance novel blurb help
Romance Remedy program
Romance author services