As good as the Mad Men season finale was, it couldn’t possibly wrap up every storyline.
This week, Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican tweeted out a photo of one of Matthew Weiner’s production notes for Mad Men titled “Wish List: Things We Want to Deal With Before the Series Ends.” The list includes the question, “Sal – what happened to him?”—referring, of course, to Salvatore Romano, the closeted gay Art Director at Sterling Cooper who was fired in season three when he rejected the advances of Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner Jr.
Plenty of fans wondered the same thing as Weiner about Sal’s ending, and even bombarded AMC with letters calling for his return. Sal was popular not only because he gave us a peek into the way homosexuality was viewed in the 1960s (and he did it in a way that, in classic Mad Men style, wasn’t didactic or preachy), but also because he was a damn fun character to watch. Who could forget that Bye Bye Birdie dance?
His lack of a resolution was even more noticeable because a lot of people binge-watched Mad Men. While writers on shows in the past could make characters disappear season-to-season, relying on audiences forgetting minor characters over the summer months—when a whopping 62.3 million people worldwide subscribe to Netflix—means audiences have no problem remembering their favorite characters and holding writers to task for getting rid of them.
In honor of Sal, here are some other characters that vanished forever off of shows without any satisfying resolution. Writers thought we wouldn’t notice? They didn’t anticipate Netflix and the nitpicky/obsessive zeal of rabid fans who won’t—ever—let it go.
1. Mandy Hampton on The West Wing (Moira Kelly)
Based on the real-life political advisor Mandy Grunwald, this loud-mouthed broad fearlessly talked back to everyone (except POTUS) in Season 1, and was supposed to serve as Josh’s love interest. Mandy got into some hot water after a memo leaked that she had written criticizing the Bartlet administration (before she started working for them), and after that her character began to fade away. She appeared in fewer and fewer episodes as Season 1 went on, and was completely written out of season 2 with no explanation.
2. Valery on The Sopranos (Vitali Baganov)
Probably the most famous unresolved character in television history, the Russian gangster Valery in season three’s “Pine Barrens” managed to flee from Christopher and Paulie after they shot him in the head. While creator David Chase could not understand why anyone gave “a shit about this Russian,” he did admit after a lot of prodding that the fate he envisioned for him was that he passed out, was discovered by some Boy Scouts, and eventually shipped back to Russia with massive head trauma. Chase’s explanation doesn’t really clear up how Valery managed to escape without a trace (or who stole Paulie’s car), but it’s better than nothing.
3. Dr. Erica Hahn on Grey’s Anatomy (Brooke Smith)
Dr. Hahn and Dr. Callie’s lesbian relationship was praised for its realism and emotional honesty, but that wasn’t enough to save Dr. Hahn’s character from extinction. Though she was a major presence on the show, she never received any ending at all. She simply heads to her car in an episode of Season 5 and is never seen again. Creator Shonda Rhimes, responding to the confusion and anger audiences felt about this casting change, stated that Smith was “obviously not fired for playing a lesbian.”
4. Betsy Putch on The Mindy Project (Zoe Jarman)
Kaling’s recently canceled show endured a lot of casting bloodshed during its three-season tenure, and there were plenty of characters who came and went without any clear cause, but Betsy’s was perhaps the hardest to take. She was naïve, sure, but she added a nice flavor of sweetness to this otherwise quasi-cynical show.
5. Stuart Minkus on Boy Meets World (Lee Norris)
The annoying nerd literally vanished into thin air in the episode “I Dream of Feeny,” when Cory and Shawn wished him away. He was never heard from again until the last episode of the series when, in a kind of a wink to the audience, he returns and tells Cory he was just in a different part of the school this whole time. His character now appears on the Disney channel spinoff series Girl Meets World as the father of one of the schoolmates and the CEO of the corporation Minkus International.
6. Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch (Robbie Rist)
Unlike other characters on this list, Cousin Oliver was liked by almost no one. He was weird, not funny, and committed the worst kinds of sins you could on The Brady Bunch, like ruining Marsha’s painting and unweaving Carol’s afghan. His most significant contribution to the television arena was becoming the namesake to the tendency TV writers have for introducing child characters late into the series of a show in a desperate attempt to save it from cancelation.
7. Charlie on Girls (Christopher Abbott)
While we (kind of) were told what happened to Charlie—he and Marnie bought ingredients to buy grilled pizzas, came back to the apartment, and he told Marnie that he never loved her—his ending was far from rewarding. And this was not entirely the writers’ fault. Christopher Abbott, the actor who played him, decided that he no longer wanted to be part of the show. But his leaving forced the writers to dredge up the depressed-Marnie storyline for yet another season.