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Character Deaths They Couldn't Trick Us Into Believing

The cold, unfeeling touch of death is permanent... unless you happen to be a really popular TV character. Heroes and villains cheat death often enough for audiences to maintain a fair amount of skepticism when their favorite characters get whacked, because, generally, they don't stay deceased for long. Hollywood has warped the finality of death, and no matter how convincingly your favorite movie or show murders their characters, there's always hope, or at least an angry online petition. Here are a few fictional deaths that we never thought were permanent—and we were right. It should go without saying, but spoilers ahead...

Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead

No death was more unexpected than that of Glenn, a beloved character from AMC's popular zombie apocalypse epic, The Walking Dead. Most fans started to form theories about how Glenn could have survived the hungry zombie horde that apparently consumed him as soon as the first commercial break hit. We heard a gunshot, we saw lots of anatomically inappropriate guts, and then we had to wait a few episodes before we finally saw Glenn again. He was as healthy as ever and definitely not a zombie. Even though it was the first time that The Walking Dead really faked us out on a death, it definitely won't be the last.

Buffy Summers - Buffy The Vampire Slayer

It's usually hard to take any death too seriously when it takes place in a fictional world where the sassy undead are a regular feature and magic seems to be everywhere and capable of anything. Add Joss Whedon to the equation, and you're bound to have a random, impermanent death thrown in just to mess with your tear ducts. At the end of season five of Buffy, the titular character throws herself into a portal to save the world, at the cost of her own life. She is even given a proper funeral attended by her friends and family. By the premiere of season six, she's summoned back to the land of the living via magic and something Willow bought on eBay, because coherent plots are hard.

Fox Mulder - The X-Files

David Duchovny's relationship with The X-Files became rocky around the show's seventh season, when he sued 20th Century Fox for not giving him enough cash. As a result, Mulder's role in subsequent seasons was diminished, Scully got a new partner, and Mulder was killed off in the 175th episode, right before a one-month, mid-season break. Knowing that female viewership would completely evaporate without the schnozzy star, Fox just couldn't quit Duchovny. By the end of episode 176, Mulder is back in action, all thanks to a convenient alien virus. Duchovny may as well should have stayed dead for the limited role he maintained in the show until the series finale, a season later.

Agent Phil Coulson - The Avengers

Agent Coulson's character wasn't much more than a cameo as a rep from S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his sudden murder by Loki in The Avengers made everyone realize just how much they'd miss the soft-spoken superhero fanboy. Fortunately for Coulson, the Avengers was written by Joss Whedon, the master of impermanent death. Not too long after Coulson's death on the silver screen, Marvel announced the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, starring none other than Agent Coulson, mysteriously brought back to life by experimental government operations so painful and complex that remembering them would have driven him crazy. Better than nothing, right?

Brian Griffin - Family Guy

Not even cartoon characters are immune from being killed off in crass publicity stunts. Even if Family Guy's resident talking dog stayed dead, Seth MacFarlane would still have had a job as a dozen other Family Guy characters and whatever's happening with American Dad, but no one honestly believed that Brian would be leaving the show for good. Nevertheless, the show embraced the sappy, pointless melodrama of his passing. Brian was killed by a reckless driver, and even replaced by another dog for a few episodes before finally being brought back by time travel shenanigans, more insufferable than ever.

Spock - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

At one time, The Wrath of Khan was supposed to be the final Star Trek film, and Leonard Nimoy was only lured back into the franchise by being promised a memorable, glorious death. By the time filming had ended on Khan, the indecisive Nimoy was back into Star Trek again. Nimoy asked for Spock to be brought back to life. This necessitated the filming of additional scenes for his last mind-meld sequence with DeForest Kelley to leave the door ajar for a return in the next film. Fans agreed in their own horrible way, sending death threats to Nimoy about the death of his character, so they were assured before the film was even released that Spock would be back. So much for spoiler alerts.

Mr. Burns - The Simpsons

Before The Simpsons became a ceaselessly unfunny parade of parodies and trendy guest stars, they actually did something kind of shocking by shooting the malevolent Mr. Burns during the season six finale. Fans had to wait four months between seasons to see if the old man had survived a mysterious gunshot by an enraged Springfieldianite. Six seasons in, Burns was still a character that you loved to hate, so the likelihood of eliminating him completely was very unlikely. That honor came earlier in the season, when the show actually killed off Bleeding Gums Murphy.

Ellen Ripley - Alien 3

You don't really have a lot of choices when you find a Queen Alien living in your guts: you either throw yourself into a furnace, or you doom the human race. That's the choice Ripley had to make during the finale of Alien 3, bringing a moderately successful (and underwhelming) close to a wildly popular trilogy of films. Of course, film studios don't just let successful franchises go. Just five years later, Ripley was brought back to life through the biological magic of cloning. To no surprise, Ripley is the third character on this list brought back to life by Joss Whedon, who just refuses to let go of anything.

Hank and Dean Venture - The Venture Bros.

Adult Swim's weird Jonny Quest parody has evolved into a complex world populated by interesting characters over the dozen or so years it's been on the air. The show's creators originally weren't so sure they'd be greenlit for a second season, so they killed off the titular brothers in the last moments of the show's first season. The quirky show's cult popularity brought it back for a second season, and the brothers were revealed to be just one set of many, many clones that Doctor Venture kept around as insurance against the brothers' deadly clumsiness. Of course, we knew they were coming back the moment season two was announced.