It’s impossible to imagine beloved TV jewels without their esteemed lead actresses. The small-screen may be a completely different playing field than the silver screen, but television is the entertainment life-blood that sustains us on a weekly basis when the rest of the world has gone mad over a tortoise who’s had so much sex, they need to outfit him with wheels to counteract his arthritis (now that would make a weird TV special). Television is really a saving grace, and our favourite pastime wouldn’t be possible without the actors and actresses who strive to bring their characters to life. It’s impossible to imagine The Flash without Candice Patton’s Iris West, or Buffy Summers being portrayed by anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar. But sometimes, life happens and a lead actress is written out of her role. Whether that’s for better or worse is always a question of how the show is handled afterwards, but these five TV mainstays managed to survive losing their main female character:
5) Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance) on Arrow
The Green Arrow and The Black Canary are like peanut butter and jelly, you can’t have one without the other. When modernized Arrow debuted in 2012 (kicking off both the extended DCTVU, and a level of unbridled fangirl excitement previously unseen), actor Stephen Amell took up the mantle of Oliver Queen. But it was CW sweetheart, Katie Cassidy, who took the reigns as the beloved Dinah (known on the show by her middle name, Laurel) Lance, a character who would later go on to become The Black Canary. She was also supposed to be Oliver’s “endgame” romance, but the introduction of Emily Bett Rickards’ quirky I.T. girl Felicity Smoak quickly threw a wrench in “Lauriver’s” potential. Shipping wars aside, Laurel proved she was at her best not as Oliver’s girlfriend, but as a whip-smart lawyer who could use her wits and resourcefulness to make a difference to the hopeless people in Star City. By mid-season three, Laurel was suited up as fan favourite Black Canary, but that dream was short-lived. Laurel was officially killed off in season four, episode 18 “Eleven Fifty-Nine.” Fans had anticipated a death all season, but the reality left many shocked— even Cassidy herself. Luckily, death is basically a game on the modern crop of comic book shows, and Cassidy will be reprising her role (as a special guest star) in future episodes. Whether or not she’s the “real” Laurel Lance is another story, and as of yet, her return is temporary.
4) Shannen Doherty (Brenda Walsh) on Beverly Hills, 90210
It’s been a long time since the glory days of Beverly Hills, 90210 during its original incarnation in the 1990s. It also introduced the world to a batch of fresh young actors, one of whom, Shannen Doherty, would go on to make headlines for reported difficult behaviour and feuds with other actresses (now, thankfully, done with). Brenda Walsh was a main character on the teen soap opera for four seasons until Doherty was terminated. Her character moved to London to pursue (ironically) dreams of being an actress, though she never appeared on the original series again. In the 2008 remake, 90210, Doherty’s Brenda returned for a guest appearance to reveal her character’s fate (spoiler alert: she’s happy). During a 2015 TV special Celebrity Lie Detector, Tori Spelling (she portrayed Donna Martin. Her super-famous father, Aaron Spelling, also created Beverly Hills, 90210) claimed that after a particularly nasty confrontation between Doherty and Jennie Garth, she ultimately called her father and Doherty was fired from the show. Thankfully, there’s no bad blood between them now. As Garth told E! News in 2014, “It was more of just young girls finding their way and finding their individual voices. Shannen and I are both Aries women, we’re both very strong, independent women, so we butt heads a lot. Now, as grown women, we happen to get along as well.” Doherty, who’s been open about her fight with breast cancer (a storyline she remembers tackling as Brenda back in the day) said that former co-stars have reached out to her in support. Beverly Hills, 90210 went on to have six more seasons without Doherty.
3) Prue Halliwell (Shannen Doherty) on Charmed
Aaron Spelling gave Shannen Doherty another chance to shine as eldest sister Prue Halliwell on Charmed, a show about three sisters who happened to be witches. The magical series lasted for 8 seasons, and has continued on since as a comic book (not to be confused with the tie-in novels. The novels take place during the show’s run, but with utterly no consequence to how the episodes played out. The comics are set afterwards). Not to mention the CW has a Charmed reboot in the works, though we admit, it’s hard to believe anything will come close to the original. Prue Halliwell was easily one of the fiercest, most believable woman on TV; career-oriented with little time for magic but an unyielding need to be the big sister/mother figure (she sacrificed her own childhood to raise her sisters after their mother died). She was at first, the most reluctant to embrace her powers (telekinesis. Later, she also got the hang of astral projection). But The Power of Three prevailed, and the on-screen chemistry between Doherty and co-stars Holly Marie Combs (middle sister Piper) and Alyssa Milano (baby sister Phoebe) helped the show become a hit. Doherty and Combs even served as bridesmaids during Milano’s 1999 wedding to Cinjun Tate. But the honeymoon wasn’t meant to last. Doherty and Milano butted heads behind the scenes, and the tension got so bad, a mediator was reportedly called to the set to smooth things over, to no avail. On an episode of Watch What Happens Live, Milano said how Doherty left (voluntarily or via firing) is still unclear, but her character Prue was written off in a permanent way, dying in the third season finale “All Hell Breaks Loose.” Subsequently, in season four premiere “Charmed Again” actress Rose McGowan stepped in to re-unify the Power of Three as Piper and Phoebe’s illegitimate half-sister Paige Matthews. Recently, Milano revealed she reached out to Doherty after her breast cancer diagnosis.
2) Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) on The O.C.
The O.C. was the definitive standard for quality teenage television back in the day, partly because of the storylines and definitely because it spotlighted amazing musical talent including Death Cab for Cutie (character Seth Cohen’s favourite band), The Killers, and Modest Mouse. It was also home to main character Marissa Cooper, played by Mischa Barton. During her lifetime, Marissa had a knack for self-destructive behaviour, making horrible choices and landing herself in hostage situations, courtesy of a guy who should have set off every internal Creeper Alarm Bell she had. Despite this, and her seeming inability to make one good, smart decision, she was a beloved main character, and most viewers OTP’ed Marissa and Ryan (Ben McKenzie) before OTP’ing was a thing. According to creator Josh Schwartz, killing Marissa in season three finale, “The Graduates,” was a creative decision. In 2016, he said “there were a lot of factors involved.” The O.C. wrapped after its fourth season, Marissa’s ex Ryan Atwood moving on with the surprisingly lovable Taylor Townsend (played by Autumn Reeser).
1) Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) Teen Wolf
It seems like only yesterday our favourite social-outcast-turned-True-Alpha Scott McCall debuted on our TV screens. But it’s been six years already, and this season of Teen Wolf will be its last. But it’s impossible to relate Teen Wolf’s legacy without talking about Allison Argent, Scott’s first love. Played by Crystal Reed, Allison was the new girl in Beacon Hills, and Scott fell head-over-heels in love with her at first sight (arguably before that, when he used his enhanced hearing to eavesdrop on her phone conversation outside the classroom. Cue him offering her a writing utensil, making himself both indispensable and adorable). Their love was reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, what with Scott being a werewolf and Allison being descended from a long, proud line of hunters. Even after they broke up (Allison moving on with another werewolf, Daniel Sharman’s Isaac Lahey, and Scott finding new romance with Arden Cho’s Kira Yukimura), the chemistry was still there as they battled supernatural forces side-by-side. But any chance of a Scallison reunion was thoroughly and utterly destroyed when Reed decided to leave the show, feeling she was at a different stage in her life than the teenager she played. Allison was killed in season three episode “Insatiable.” It’s worth noting that Teen Wolf has a habit of playing musical chairs with cast members. People either ducked out or were written off regularly during the show’s run (Jackson, Derek, Boyd, Erica, Danny, and Isaac to name a few). Before season six, Kira was written off, with Cho initially believing she would be back for the final season. She made a YouTube video announcing her departure. Reed returned in the back half of season five, not as Allison, but as her ancestor Marie-Jeanne, the foundress of the Argent line. Rumours persist that a Teen Wolf spinoff will happen once the series comes to a close, though whether or not Reed appears in it (or if it happens at all) is to be determined.
Do you think these shows did well without their leading ladies? Let us know in the comments!