Famous characters who could still be alive

Back in the day, it was a big deal if a movie or TV show killed off a character. These days, no fictional character is safe onscreen, as the exploding array of entertainment options vie for viewers with the most wildly compelling stories—even if that means murdering everyone you hold dear. But fictional death can often be…well, fictional. Are all these characters as dead as they seem? Spoilers ahead…

Stannis Baratheon - Game of Thrones

Stannis's death, while technically offscreen, seems pretty cut-and-dry. Sentenced to die by Brienne of Tarth, a woman who knows what she's doing with a sword, Stannis puts up no fight as Brienne swings for the fences and seemingly lobs the disgraced daughter-burner's head clean off. But as the Hound proved, if you don't see a Game of Thrones character stone dead, there's no guarantee they've been reunited with the Lord of Light. There's still the chance Brienne felt bad and spared him, perhaps right before ordering him to run off into exile and never return.

Mashable reports some deleted dialogue from Stannis's maybe-death scene, and they claim it makes it clear Brienne executed him. But it really doesn't—all Stannis adds is a request that, should there be an afterlife, Brienne tell Renly and Shereen how sorry he is. The scene then ends with the same Brienne sword swing we saw in the final version. So while the odds are slim Brienne let the murderous lech go, Stannis could still be out there. Probably plotting, like he does.

Tony Soprano - The Sopranos

The Sopranos gave us one of the most controversial, and most open-ended, series finales ever. Tony Soprano's eating at a diner with his family, he looks up from the table, and we fade to black. Did Tony die, with the show's consciousness disappearing as quickly as his own? Did he survive the whacking? Was there even a whacking? We don't know, which begs the possibility that Tony's still around, ready to film brand-new episodes of The Sopranos if anyone wants them (spoiler: we do).

Unfortunately, there don't appear to be any new episodes on anyone's schedule, especially following the death of actor James Gandolfini, who played Tony. In addition, no one on The Sopranos seems interested in solving the mystery of Tony's fate. Series creator David Chase, despite seemingly straight-up telling a journalist "Tony Soprano is not dead," insists he hasn't actually told us either way. In fact, through a rep, Chase insisted, "Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point. To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer."

So the guy who created him says he's alive, then backtracks and says he might be alive, might be dead, but it doesn't really matter. Perhaps he's both alive and dead, like Schrödinger's Mobster.

Wayne Palmer - 24

Being a Palmer on 24 is like being Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones. You'll gain power, but almost certainly suffer horribly in the end. President David Palmer was assassinated in the opening minutes of Season 5, and by the end of Season 6, his brother Wayne—who had also become President—was in a coma following injuries received during a terrorist bomb blast. The show never came out and said whether Palmer survived his coma, instead focusing on his Vice-President assuming duties and then losing the election to someone else.

Actor D.B. Woodside, who portrayed David Palmer, doesn't think his character's dead. As he said to IGN, "Anybody who watches 24 knows that the characters…constantly kind of go away, maybe for a year, come back, go away, come back—unless they're dead. So…Wayne Palmer does not die. That's what I can say, is he's not dead, so we'll see. We'll see what happens."

Unfortunately, what happened was the show ended, got rebooted, then ended again, and we didn't hear anything about Wayne Palmer. He may have recovered from his coma, he may still be comatose, or he may be as dead as his brother. Considering the stuff other characters on that show have survived, Wayne's chances of making the next reboot (should that happen) are probably better than slim.

Mace Windu - Star Wars

Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi Knight was one of the coolest parts of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but the problem with being a character introduced in the prequels is that you probably won't last long. And sure enough, Windu met his end during Revenge of the Sith, with Anakin slicing off his hand and Palpatine's Force Lightning sending him plummeting countless stories to his doom. Or so we assume—we never see Windu actually die, and Jedi have survived far worse than a fall and one measly amputation. Mace Windu, despite not appearing in Star Wars since Sith, might well still be out there.

But don't take our word for it. Just ask Jackson, who's convinced Mace Windu has yet to rejoin the Force. During 2017's Star Wars Celebration, Jackson appeared via pre-recorded video to say, "We know Jedi can fall from incredible heights and survive. So, apparently, I am not dead!…We know the long and rich history of Star Wars characters reappearing with new appendages and being stronger and better than they ever were. Mace Windu is awaiting his return. Let's make it happen."

Unfortunately for Jackson and us all, no legitimate rumors have placed Windu in Episode VIII or IX, nor has there been any word of a Mace Windu spinoff. But that could change—after all, Windu's survival is theoretically possible, and nobody in their right mind wants to deny Samuel L. Jackson what he wants.

Wolverine - comics

The only two guarantees in life are death and taxes. For comic book characters, it's just taxes—death is normally as temporary a condition as the common cold. That's why it's so strange for a character as iconic as Wolverine to die in the main continuity of his own comic series and stay dead. Since late 2014, everyone's favorite canucklehead has been stone-dead, the victim of losing his regenerative powers and suffocating in a coat of liquid adamantium. Years later, he's still dead, defying all expectations he'd be back by February at the latest.

And yet this is Wolverine we're talking about—if there's even a sliver of a shot he's still alive, or can become alive again, Marvel will likely take it eventually. They left the door open shortly after his death, as Deadpool found himself holding a knife covered with Wolvie's blood in front of an incubator that could regrow an entire person from just a bit of DNA. Deadpool, dropping the comedy for once, scraped the blood onto a petri dish, but waffled on whether to use it to resurrect his frenemy. He probably hasn't yet, because we haven't seen Wolverine in action, but DNA lasts millions of years, so he's got time.

Joker - Nolanverse Batman

Heath Ledger's untimely death meant we'll never see his take on the Joker again, but that doesn't mean the character's dead. Remember, unlike Jack Nicholson in the Burtonverse, Ledger's Joker didn't plunge to his death. He was apprehended alive by Batman and taken to prison. But did the character follow his actor into the Great Beyond? The answer is as mysterious as the Joker himself.

By watching the movies, you'd have no idea what happened to the man. He obviously doesn't show up in Dark Knight Rises—he isn't even mentioned. So probably he died in prison? Not so fast. The official DKR novelization adds some wrinkles to Joker's tale. Apparently, Commissioner Gordon realized Joker was so dangerous, he couldn't be imprisoned like every other criminal. And so, "rumor had it, [he] was locked away as Arkham's sole remaining inmate." Yes, they cleaned out Arkham Asylum except for Joker, and just left him there. That way, an entire team of wardens and guards could focus on one task: making sure he didn't escape. Or, as the novel further ponders, "perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really even sure." Yes, he might've just escaped Arkham, despite being the only prisoner there. Either way, the novel surmises that Joker's death, unlike Ledger's, isn't a proven fact—he may still be out there, waiting for the perfect time to strike. After all, he's destined to do this forever.

Boba Fett - Star Wars

Technically, Boba Fett is a ridiculously minor character who made brief appearances in two movies (and a TV special whose creators insist never happened) and then supposedly bit it in a random, undignified fashion. But the fans latched onto the guy so much, his return is always a legitimate possibility.

If you're thinking Boba is definitely alive because of the countless post-Sarlacc adventures he's partaken, remember that all that technically never happened. Those were all stories told in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which is now considered non-canon. As far as the legitimate canon storyline goes, Boba Fett is still inside the Sarlacc, mere decades into his thousand-year digestion sentence. By that logic, he may not be dead, just incredibly miserable. But might he one day escape this fate in canon as well?

Based on how popular he is, quite probably. In fact, according to LucasFilm historian Jonathan Rinzler's 2014 Reddit AMA, George Lucas himself feels that Fett escaped the Sarlacc. As Rinzler reminded us, "If it comes from George then it's true." Of course, it's Disney's call now, not George's, but if Lucas wants it, and the fans want it, it's not likely the Mouse will say no forever.

Hannibal Lecter and WIll Graham - Hannibal

It's real hard for a show to kill off its main character, even during the series finale. After all, what if the network wants more episodes down the line? Often they'll hedge their bets, like with Hannibal, where the titular cannibal and his adversary/true love, Will Graham, tumble over a cliff to their apparent deaths. It's a pretty high cliff, a fall from which nobody could be expected to survive. And yet, as the camera pans over the edge, we don't see either body, nor do we see any loose clothing or blood. It's almost as if nobody fell at all.

In an interview with Variety, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller admitted they filmed that scene specifically to raise questions about the pair's survival, and to allow an opening should anyone ever order a Season 4. Fuller isn't saying they lived, but they might have, and if NBC or anyone else wants them to live, Fuller and company can easily make it happen.

Syrio Forel - Game of Thrones

In Season 1 of Game of Thrones, Syrio Forel, the "Dancing Man" who first trained Arya Stark how to use a sword, ran afoul of Ser Meryn Trant. Forel ran off to fight him with nothing but a wooden sword, which was great—except Trant had a real sword. That means Forel almost certainly told the God of Death "not today," and the god was all "yeah sorry, no, totally today." Yet we never saw a body, or even confirmation of his death. That almost certainly means he's alive, right?

Well, maybe. During an interview with IGN, Maisie Williams, who plays Arya, mentioned how the Thrones showrunners squashed her theory that Forel might be the Faceless Man by straight-up telling her, "No, he is dead." Of course, that doesn't mean it's true—showrunners lie all the time to preserve future stories. Plus, as Williams pointed out, Forel might still be alive in the books, because the cool thing about Song of Ice and Fire being so different from Game of Thrones is how one character might be stone dead in HBO's parallel universe, but live on in the original one Martin crafted. That is, if the remaining books ever come out.

Walter White - Breaking Bad

There's legitimate debate surrounding whether Walter White of Breaking Bad is actually dead. The issue seems pretty straightforward—he was already dying of cancer, and we last saw him lying motionless on the ground, bleeding profusely. That equals total deadness to many. But not all.

There's a sizable group of fans who truly believe Walter White lives, and their evidence isn't all out there. For one, as explained by The Film Theorists, White's car wasn't high enough for him to sustain life-ending injuries while falling out of it, plus his cancer could very well have made his blood easier to clot. That, plus the police likely being heavily invested in keeping him alive for trial, tells them White didn't die.

Then there's Bryan Cranston himself, who opined on CNN that he didn't think White was dead. As the reporter told him, "Your eyes were open, and I thought, 'What if the police just take him into custody, he gets better, breaks out and just goes nuts?" Cranston replied, "You never saw a bag zip up or anything." Whether he believes that or was just being a big tease is unknown.

Series creator Vince Gilligan added to the mystery in 2017, by answering a Reddit AMA about whether White was alive or dead with "Sure looked that way to me." No doubt White looked dead, but such an answer makes us wonder.

Laboeuf - True Grit (2010 version)

Here's a case of a character whose death was 100 percent clear until a remake decided to make it ambiguous.

In 1969's John Wayne western True Grit, the character Laboeuf, played by musician Glen Campbell, gets hit with a rock and shatters his skull. He manages to save the other heroes from a snake pit before dying of his wounds. Not one '60s kid left the theater thinking, "maybe he's not dead?" Meanwhile, in the 2010 remake, Laboeuf, now played by Matt Damon, suffers a similar fate, up until the meeting-his-fate part. He too gets knocked unconscious by the villain, but he doesn't save the other heroes from a snakepit, and he's never shown to have died. He's also never shown to have regained consciousness, but the main heroine, Maddie, expresses hope of seeing him again someday, in a scene set 25 years after the events of the movie.

So is Laboeuf dead or not? Either way's possible. But since they made two True Grit sequels in the '70s centered around John Wayne's character, why not do the same with Damon's now? He could fit that into his schedule between filming Bourne movies and watching his buddy Ben Affleck be Batman.

Alduin - Skyrim

In a franchise where every sequel takes place hundreds of years apart from its predecessor, it makes seemingly little sense to leave a character's fate open-ended. And yet that's exactly what they did with Alduin, the Big Bad of Skyrim.

The "World-Eater," Alduin is the one foretold to bring forth the apocalypse, so it's a pretty good idea to stop him before he gets around to it. You, as the Dragonborn, seemingly do just that at the end of the game (provided you ever got to the end, and didn't just spend 500 hours building the prettiest house in all of Tamriel). But then, something weird happens: you don't absorb his soul. A dragonborn can absorb the soul of seemingly any dragon, and doing so is the only way to kill them for good. If the soul's still out there, the dragon can be resurrected. But you never do this with Alduin—instead, his body explodes and his soul seemingly flows away into the atmosphere. That means there's a chance his soul is still out there, waiting for resurrection, waiting for his next chance to eat the world and fulfill his destiny.

If this is true, good luck getting an Elder Scrolls VI, since Alduin might simply destroy the entire ES world long before then. Thanks for nothing, Dovahkiin, and you're welcome even less.

Red Skull - Captain America: The First Avenger

The Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger is integral to basically the entire villainous HYDRA network that's been all over Marvel's movies and TV shows since the film's 2011 theatrical debut. So how is it Red Skull was dispatched so easily? Even Bucky Barnes lived through more than one film. As it happens, Captain America doesn't technically defeat Red Skull at the end of the movie. The Skull foolishly makes a grab for the tesseract, which we now know is an Infinity Gem, and gets sucked into a portal that hurls him across the universe. Where does he end up? Hard to say, but it seems like if he survived, he might end up in the service of Thanos.

Catelyn Stark - Game of Thrones

One of the most brutal episodes of Game of Thrones features "the Red Wedding," the over-the-top murder spree that shocked viewers. During the wedding of Catelyn's brother, Edmure Tully, the Freys begin slaying Robb Stark, his wife, and just about everyone else in the room. After seeing her son's murder, the Starks' matriarch Catelyn herself has her throat slit. While the wedding was certainly grim, fans of the books have long been waiting for the appearance of Lady Stoneheart—the reanimated corpse of Catelyn Stark. Actress Michelle Fairley has said the character won't be appearing, but they kind of have to say things like that or risk spoiling the show entirely. If she does appear, resurrected by Beric Dondarrion, she could change the fate of a number of characters still on the show.

Sembene - Penny Dreadful

The mysterious Sembene serves as Sir Malcolm's manservant on Showtime's dark and extremely badass Penny Dreadful. The character's background is never fully divulged, and the audience is only given hints at how and why he and Sir Malcolm are so close. It's implied they saved one another's lives in the past, and also that Sembene is certainly more than he seems. We know he was once a slave trader, and that he's not only an expert at hand-to-hand combat, but apparently has no fear of the supernatural, accepting everything from vampires to werewolves as though they were commonplace. So when Sembene seems to die at the hands (or fangs) of Josh Harnett's werewolf, we should all be a little suspicious about his ability to stay dead. In a story featuring not one but three Frankenstein's monsters so far, the immortal Dorian Gray, a handful of werewolves, demons and witches, it's entirely possibly Sembene isn't gone for good.

Emperor Palpatine - Star Wars

Ever since word of a new Star Wars trilogy came out, rumors have circulated that the overall villain of the new Star Wars movies will be, once again, Emperor Palpatine. Consider that his death in Return of the Jedi was more of an assumed death, as Vader simply tosses him down a hole. Seems like a Sith Lord as powerful as Palpatine could easily handle such a little thing like gravity. Recall that Luke Skywalker himself was tossed out a hole once and managed to survive, and he did that with only one functioning hand and a fraction of the Force powers as Palpatine. And also it's worth noting that Palpatine's teacher was Darth Plagueis, a Sith so powerful he learned how to use the Force to cheat death itself.