When Modern Family executive producer Christopher Lloyd teased a “significant character death” in season 10, fans — and cast members — worried about who might be leaving the show. During the Halloween episode, which aired on Wednesday, that character’s identity was revealed, and reactions have been mixed.
Spoilers ahead for Modern Family season 10, episode five “Good Grief.”
Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen) had to say a particularly difficult goodbye on Wednesday’s episode — to their mom, DeDe Pritchett (recurring guest star Shelley Long). DeDe has made a handful of appearances throughout Modern Family‘s run, and each member of the family had their own way of coping with the news.
As for how she died, we learned at the very end of the episode that DeDe apparently befriended a pack of wolves, one of whom saved her when she fell through some ice, before she offended a tribe of Inuits and then was briefly swallowed by a whale. To add to the absurdity, we learned that DeDe died peacefully in her sleep, smiling and holding a list of suggestions for hotel staff.
“That is so mom,” Claire said as the episode ended.
Given how Lloyd talked about this death, calling it the death of a “significant character” and promising “a moving event — and an event that has repercussions across several episodes,” many viewers were underwhelmed by the reveal, if only because, as some viewers argued, DeDe has only appeared on a handful of episodes over the last several seasons.
Insider correspondent Kirsten Acuna tweeted, “
#ModernFamily: We’re gonna kill off a MAJOR character this season. Me: Goes to look up who died after all the hype. Modern Family: We killed off a character that’s been on 7 episodes of a 10 season show. Me: Let me define major character for you.” She included a GIF of Carl Grimes from The Walking Dead to illustrate her point.
#ModernFamily: We're gonna kill off a MAJOR character this season.
Me: Goes to look up who died after all the hype.
Modern Family: We killed off a character that's been on 7 episodes of a 10 season show.
Me: Let me define major character for you. pic.twitter.com/Q8yHQeaS2p
— Kirsten (@KirstenAcuna) October 25, 2018
Another user tweeted, “Bruh, I was stressing about who was gonna get killed off on Modern Family and it was someone who isnt [sic] even a regular.”
bruh i was stressing about who was gonna get killed off on Modern Family and it was someone who isnt even a regular 🙃
— karen (@Karen_Maslow22) October 25, 2018
“#ModernFamily has never disappointed…until tonight,” said another. “The death reveal was underwhelming. It also took away from the usual shenanigans that would make the Halloween episode entertaining.”
#ModernFamily has never disappointed…until tonight. The death reveal was underwhelming. It also took away from the usual shenanigans that would make the Halloween episode entertaining.
— Anne (@0107_anne) October 25, 2018
Some fans opted to look on the bright side of things. One person said, “So sad to about Claire’s mom. But I’m also a little happy that it’s not a main person.”
Another added, “Not Shelley Long!!!
#ModernFamily Now there’s room on her schedule for a #TroopBeverlyHills reboot tv show. Running her granddaughter’s troop.” Over 900 people seemed to agree via their likes on the tweet.
Not Shelley Long!!! 😩 #ModernFamily
— kat ☃️🎄 (@kat_hjl) October 25, 2018
A few people also expressed relief that Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), DeDe’s ex-husband and series regular, wasn’t on the chopping block. Fan theories that Jay’s beloved dog, Stella, would be the one to die were shot down by Ferguson just days before the episode aired.
Now that this major death has been revealed, fans can presumably rest easy for a bit. As to how DeDe’s death will resonate across future episodes, we’ll have to wait and see.