Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall spoilers follow.
All good things come to an end, so sayeth the optimists of the world. It’s a sentiment that needn’t be as dire as it might first seem: sometimes the end of a good thing can lead to even better things. Other times, it simply stops the good from rotting.
Since the beginning of Daniel Craig’s tenure, the Bond franchise has been almost entirely the very best of things: it’s seen its best writing to date, best lead actor and Bond to date, two of its best films to date (no, not Quantum of Solace), and now with Skyfall, the best cast-list to date. What’s more, it’s even had a true continuity of plot between Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and an emotional continuity across all three: Bond is not the same man at the beginning of Skyfall that he was at the beginning of Casino Royale, nor QoS.
Each outing have been marked by the recurring motifs of death, more death, and human weakness leading to death; and with Skyfall’s focus on the old giving way to the new, these past three adventures have formed themselves into a pseudo-trilogy of sorts. Virtually anyone in the least bit close to Bond has met their end: Vesper in Casino, Mathis in QoS, and now M in Skyfall. (Not to mention that pretty much anyone he manages to get his penis inside kicks the bucket as well.) But as we see at M’s death, the man himself is no longer shouldering all of this wanton destruction quite as well as he used to. He is getting older, and he is getting weaker.
And so, James Bond must die.
Because how much more is there left to explore? We’ve seen him become an agent and lose the woman he loved, witnessed the loss of his friends, learnt about his tragic childhood and now seen the death of what-may-as-well-be his Mother too. A character can only see so much death before they’re less lucky and more just lower down on their writer’s waiting list.
No longer are we watching The Adventures of James Bond. We did that for 40 years, and it only led us to Die Another Day and a franchise in desperate need of a fresh start. With that fresh start came a new Bond and a new focus: now we’re bearing witness to The Life and Times of James Bond. And every life – like all good things – must come to an end.