Brenda Walsh (character)

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Brenda Walsh
Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise character
Portrayed byShannen Doherty
  • 1990–1994
  • 2008–09
  • 2019–
First appearanceBeverly Hills, 90210:
October 4, 1990
(episode 1.01: "Class of Beverly Hills")
Last appearance90210:
May 19, 2009
(episode 1.24: "One Party Can Ruin Your Whole Summer")
Created byDarren Star

Brenda Walsh, portrayed by Shannen Doherty, is a fictional character who was the female lead of Beverly Hills, 90210 for the first four seasons.[2][3]


Brenda and her twin brother, Brandon Walsh, were living in Minnesota until their father, Jim Walsh, was promoted and moved to a job in Beverly Hills in 1990. The series initially focuses on their stories and the cultural shock of living on the West coast, and their relationship with their new friends Kelly Taylor, Dylan McKay, Donna Martin, Andrea Zuckerman, David Silver and Steve Sanders.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Season 1[edit]

The early development of Brenda Walsh was focused on her feelings about moving to a new town, making new friends, and trying to fit in to the new Beverly Hills lifestyle. In the pilot episode, Brenda fantasizes about making big changes in her life, alluding to the idea that she wasn't very popular at her old school. She meets Kelly Taylor and struggles internally with impressing her and the other kids at school. Her desperation to fit in and be counted among the popular is highlighted by her sudden rule breaking and sneaking around. She gets a fake ID and gets entry to a club, where she meets the character Jason, a lawyer in his early 20's. Brenda lies to him and pretends to be a college student, embarking on a relationship that proves to be moving too fast for her.

An example of Brenda's naivete was when she disclosed her real age to Jason believing that he would continue dating her despite her being a 16-year-old high school student. We see Brenda's youthful heartbreak and the realization that love doesn't conquer all. It's in that moment that the audience is most drawn to Brenda, as the direction for the character led us to believe that an honor roll student with the loving family and good looks had it all together and lived a perfect and grown up life even while still in high school. Her vulnerability at this point brought a touch of reality to the character that fans appreciated and helped move the season into the second episode with a larger fan base. Brenda Walsh further displays her desire for popularity with her hot and cold relationship with Andrea Zuckerman, the nerdy editor of the West Beverly High newspaper. When in front of her friends, Brenda pretends to dislike Andrea, subtly mocking her. However, in episodes where Brenda and Andrea are alone together, Brenda treats her with a grudging respect, but they would become good friends later on. This behavior is repeated with other, less popular students as well, shining a light on the magnitude of a teenager's desire to fit in and be popular. Brenda Walsh is no exception to this common theme.

The main season one arch for the Brenda Walsh character came during a series of episodes involving a surprise romance with Brandon's solitary friend, Dylan McKay, who had long been misunderstood as an outsider and bad boy. Brenda and Dylan's relationship quickly became serious in season one after a frantic dispute with his father on one of their first dates. Dylan was consoled by Brenda and shared a passionate kiss with her. This scene jumpstarted one of the most talked about pairings at West Beverly High. Brenda's father was initially against the relationship due to the bad reputation of Dylan's father, however, Brenda continued to date Dylan in secret.

After two months of their relationship, Dylan wanted to have sex, but Brenda was not ready. During a trip to Palm Springs, Brenda went to meet Dylan in a hotel room, but saw him with another girl and jumped to the conclusion that they had made love. Showing her temper, Brenda stormed off, but shortly returned only to throw the girl out of the hotel room and confront Dylan. Brenda and Dylan quickly reconciled, but not before an uncomfortable argument that ended with Brenda essentially demanding that Dylan sleep with her since that was all he was apparently concerned about. As a result, Dylan agreed to wait until Brenda was ready, and the couple left the hotel and went to spend the rest of the holiday with their friends at David Silver's grandparents' house in Palm Springs.

Despite the show's focus on the relationship between Brenda and Dylan, her character was developed in other areas as well, forming an identity separate from simply being "Dylan's girlfriend". In multiple episodes, Brenda proves herself to be a funny, smart and driven young woman who cares about her friends and family and puts them first, along with her own personal goals. The character definitely has a streak of pride that shows that she isn't perfect and makes plenty of mistakes, but the directors and writers made sure to include Brenda's vulnerable side to keep the character relatable. Episodes such as "Its Just A Test" show an uncertain girl who is learning about life and the struggles that take place, however episodes like "The Perfect Mom" also show how good friends and a supportive family plays such a strong role in her life. Brenda's relationships aside from the one she has with Dylan are prioritized in every episode, and she verbalizes this in the episode "Sleepover" when she tells her friend Kelly that she won't let a stupid boy come between her and her friends.

At the West Beverly High spring dance, Brenda and Dylan make the decision to have sex for the first time. As their relationship is taken to a new level, Brenda has to deal with the news that her family will be moving back to Minneapolis for her father's promotion in the season finale "coming Home". It seems as though all the friends that she made will be left behind, and lots of tears are shed as Brenda says her good-byes to her friends and ends her relationship with Dylan, fearing that long distance dating will cause Dylan to cheat while she's away. The culmination of the season comes when Brenda's father decides to stay in Beverly Hills for the sake of his family's happiness, and Brenda informs Dylan that she is "late".

Season 2[edit]

Season two begins with the pregnancy scare between Brenda and Dylan. Brenda has to tell her parents after her mom finds the pregnancy test, and after struggling with the responsibilities that come with a sexual relationship, Brenda decides to end the relationship with Dylan. Brenda withdraws back to her close inner circle of friends to reclaim her identity as an individual, and begins pursuing an acting class during the summer. She keeps her distance from Dylan, not trusting her ability to end their romance for good, but after he suffers a surfing injury and has to stay at the Walsh's to recover, Brenda rekindles the affair. The situation causes a struggle between Brenda and her father, as he continues to see Brenda as a little girl even as she becomes a young woman. The change between season one Brenda and season two Brenda is that rather than trying to find her place in her new social circle, Brenda is becoming her own person and claiming her space as an adult in the Walsh family circle. Dylan decides to move to Hawaii to live with his mother, and Brenda continues finding herself at home in Beverly Hills. They talk infrequently, and Brenda still struggles with whether she wants to end the relationship for good, and when Dylan returns from Hawaii they continue to see each other without the sexual aspect of the relationship. The second season of the series introduces new characters and begins to focus on Brenda's twin brother Brandon more, developing his character in the storyline. Brenda's character seems to develop on the sidelines while she and Dylan navigate their relationship, but she isn't disregarded in the plot. Brenda continues to learn her way out of the naivety that defined her season one character in side stories throughout season two, and towards the end of the season, makes decisions that go against her parents' wishes. During a fateful weekend, Brenda and Dylan abscond to Baja, Mexico and Mr. Walsh decides to keep them from seeing each other at all. The season finale ends with Kelly and David's parents' marriage at the Walsh's house, and to Brenda's dismay, a blow out fight between Dylan and Mr. Walsh.

Season 3[edit]

Season three begins during the summer before Brenda's senior year of high school. After the fight between Dylan and Mr. Walsh, Brenda was forbidden from seeing Dylan, but she continues to do so in secret. When her parents find out that she's been lying to them, Brenda stands up to them and demands to have her feelings for Dylan taken seriously. She goes so far as to pack up her clothes after the fight and leave home to be with Dylan at his house. She is distraught, but is frustrated that she's been forced to hide the most important relationship in her life from her family. The cohabitation is more stressful than Brenda realized before moving in, and before long her and Dylan are fighting about everything. In an effort to cool things off, Brenda decides to go to Paris, France for a French immersion program in lieu of Kelly, who has taken her responsibility as a big sister very seriously and decided to stay home. Mr. Walsh and Dylan both support Brenda's summer trip to France; Mr. Walsh, as a way to get Brenda away from Dylan, and Dylan as a way to get Brenda's father off his back. In Paris, Brenda focuses on exploring the sites and soaking up the French culture, deciding to hold off from calling Dylan so she doesn't get distracted. She wants to evolve as a person, and not be directed by the men in her life; her father or Dylan. In Beverly Hills, Dylan and Kelly's friendship gets closer while Brenda is studying overseas. Brenda pretends to be a French native when she meets a young man named Rick, and their relationship becomes romantic. When Brenda returns home and leaves Rick behind in Paris, her relationship with Dylan gets back to normal, but even though she tells Dylan about Rick, he doesn't tell her about Kelly. When Rick suddenly shows up in Beverly Hills and runs into Brenda, Dylan discloses to Brenda that there was a girl over the summer, but doesn't tell her that it was her best friend. After a dramatic break up, Brenda starts to see Rick, and Dylan immediately goes to Kelly's. As the season three directors develop the other characters' storylines, the plot surrounding Brenda, Kelly and Dylan seems to be a natural progression for the series. The love triangle that followed Brenda's return from France quickly became a milestone in the series that helped increase her popularity and gave rise to the rumors of rivalry announced between Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth off set. The final confrontation between Brenda, Dylan and Kelly - in which he informs Brenda that he has chosen her best friend - was listed by Entertainment Weekly as one of the greatest moments of television. As the tension between the three continues, Brenda considers leaving Beverly Hills behind and applies to a Minnesota college. She feels abandoned by her friends as they are all more consumed with their respective romantic relationships and she is single and pining for her lost love with Dylan. After several months, Brenda moves past her disappointment that Dylan had moved on with Kelly, and as the group starts making plans for after graduation, Brenda makes her decision to attend college in Minnesota, leaving her friends in Beverly Hills behind.

Season 4[edit]

Brenda began the fourth season in Minnesota, where she had decided to enter university. She chose to go to university in Minnesota to prove that she could make it on her own, away from her family and out from underneath Brandon's shadow and more so, to distract herself from the painful feelings she experienced after Dylan chose to be with her best friend Kelly instead of her. However, after realizing that she and her old friends from Minnesota have little in common anymore and deciding to take control of her own destiny regardless of her geographical location, she decides to return to her family in Beverly Hills. This is another big step for Brenda's character, as it's the turning point where she stops running from her mistakes and the heartbreak of her past, faces reality, and takes responsibility for creating the life she wants for herself. The Walsh parents struggle to understand the reasons behind Brenda's dropping out of Minnesota's university program and moving home, but are more concerned that Brenda is choosing not to go to university in California either, and saying that her failure to succeed in Minnesota was proof that she isn't cut out for higher education at all. Despite the character's desire to be the master of her own destiny, Brenda Walsh continues to teeter between making rational and irrational decisions, and struggles with the "all or nothing" mentality that plagues most young adolescents, ironically narrowing their opportunities at the very time they are trying to spread their wings and join the world as adults. While settling back into being home in Beverly Hills, Brenda spends the first few days of her return hanging out at the Peach Pit and cruising around town with Dylan, as he has decided not to enter university either. But after some heart to heart discussion, both Brenda and Dylan decide to give California University a chance, and they both enroll. Brenda participates in rush week with her friends Kelly, Donna and Andrea upon arriving at the university. The friends hope that by pledging the same sorority, they'll be able to maintain their close friendships during their college years. Despite wanting to maintain close friendships, Brenda isn't impressed with the non-stop party scene that pervades the sorority life. After putting her energy towards finding a job instead of pledging, and not having any luck, Brenda decides to work for her dad for some real job experience. The job experience was going well, but Brenda was frustrated that between school, work and homework, she would never find time to date. Brenda's parents set her up on a blind date with the son of one of Mr. Walsh's clients, and while she was hesitant at first to go, she and her date, Stuart, became serious very quickly, announcing their marriage engagement at the Walsh's 20th wedding anniversary only 2 weeks after they first met. The Walsh's didnt forbid the marriage at first, but had their concerns that Brenda was being rash, as she tends to do. Brandon had serious concerns though, after Dylan told him that he had known Stewart years ago as a dealer of drugs. Once Dylan spoke to Mr. Walsh about his concerns, Mr. Walsh encouraged Dylan to convince Brenda not to marry Stewart, implying that Brenda still loved him. Because Kelly and Dylan had broken up at this point, he actually considered the possibility of getting back together with Brenda, now with Mr. Walsh's blessing. Even though Brenda and Stewart have a whirlwind romance, when she finds out that Stewart has a prenuptial agreement for her to sign prior to marrying him, Brenda gets upset and storms out. She and Dylan have coffee after running into each other at a poetry reading, and Dylan begs Brenda to end the engagement, telling her that her marriage would end any chance that they might get back together. Brenda quickly surmises that he's spoken to her father, and is furious that her family and friends would go behind her back and try to manipulate her. After confronting her father about his part in it, she packs her things and leaves to move in with Stewart at his condo. Hoping to team up with Stewart's parents and discourage their children from marrying so soon, the Walsh's invite them over for lunch, but are surprised to learn that Stewart's parents not only support the marriage plans, but have already started planning the wedding with event coordinators. Brenda and Stewart become overwhelmed and decide to elope to Las Vegas in secret, but Brenda spills the beans to Brandon and he tells their friends. Everyone books plane tickets and flies to Vegas in an effort to stop her, but knowing how hard headed she is, they decide to persuade her using reverse psychology and pretend that they are in favor of the marriage. Brenda starts to doubt her reasons for marrying Stewart and calls off the wedding. Brenda's life also took a few shots during the season. When Donna and Brenda find a puppy on the street, they learn that he escaped from an animal testing laboratory and are helpless when the puppy dies. Brenda then falls into a group of animal rights activists and participates with them in the ransacking of a number of laboratories until she is arrested (Donna decides at the last minute not to join the group). After her arrest, the only person in the group who supported her was Dylan; David Silver questioned her judgment, Andrea was angry that she had damaged laboratories that did not test animals and Kelly told her that Dylan was no longer her boyfriend and that Brenda could not go and look for help whenever she had a problem. It turned out that one of the activists was an FBI agent who offered Brenda a deal not to jail because she had not supported vandalism.

As a result, all Brenda's friends apologized for their behavior towards her. During the fourth season, Brenda is interested in the drama department but it also led to problems: she spoiled her first audition and then went to the director of the play to try again and convince him. She then got the role, but a student made a rumor saying that she had slept to have the role. Unfortunately, this student was the girlfriend of Steve Sanders and the latter believed the rumors, others refusing more or less to believe the denials of Brenda. Steve understood his mistake when the student asked him to attack Brenda to make her miss rehearsals. A little later, Steve's friend tried to commit suicide, but Brenda and Steve joined forces to save her and Steve was finally compensated by following Brenda's debut on stage. The director's praise led her to accept the latter at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London for a year. After Kelly and Dylan last broke up, Brenda finally learned that a relationship was possible between Kelly and Brandon and expressed her blessing. She later spent her last night with Dylan, telling her she would not be gone forever. The couple will reconcile briefly in the final scene of the fourth season, though (because of Shannen Doherty's departure) Brenda's character was removed from the script and she never returned to Beverly Hills.[10]

Conflicts with Beverly Hills 90210 staff[edit]

Shannen Doherty was notorious for being late and being in conflict with staff.[11][12][13][14][15][2][16] Tiffani-Amber Thiessen replaced Brenda Walsh as a character called Valerie Malone.[17]

After the departure[edit]

Despite the fact that Brenda never appeared on the screen, she was nonetheless present during occasional discussions during the following six seasons of the series. The most significant among them is her reconciliation with Dylan, who was going to move in with her. It is assumed that they were together for most episodes of the seventh and eighth seasons of the series, as during an episode of season 8 where it is learned that Dylan's half-sister was saved from a life of prostitution and then left to live with Dylan and Brenda in London and Kelly and Brandon mentioned going to visit them for part of their honeymoon. Later, when Dylan returned in season 9, he told his friends that he and Brenda had separated two years earlier. However, it frees Dylan to resume his relationship with Kelly.

In Season 5, Dylan rages against Valerie, the Walsh family friend, blaming her for wanting to imitate Brenda and not having the guts to confront the Walsh parents, as Brenda was able to do before. She will also send an announcement to Dylan at the latter's wedding. Or, in the last episode of the series illustrating the marriage of Donna and David, it is alluded to a slumber party that Brenda had organized when they were still in high school.


14 years after her departure, Brenda is back in Beverly Hills.[18][19] On the advice of Kelly to the new counselor, Brenda, becomes an actress and is led to direct the musical of the high school. She will have to deal with the drug problems of the high school girl who plays the lead role in the show and will help her get out of it, which will follow a mutual attachment of the latter. She will also spend a lot of time with Kelly although at times, they will recover some tensions due among others to Dylan. Kelly also learns later that Brenda has slept with Ryan, the high school English teacher, while Kelly has a lot of affection for him. But they will always be reconciled. We also learn that Brenda can not have children, who can count on the support of her friend Kelly. She will go to China and adopt a little girl.


Shannen Doherty returned to the "90210" family with her joining the cast of the new reboot "BH90210". She, like the rest of the cast, is playing a heightened version of herself.


The character had a mixed reception from fans and critics.[20][21][22][23][24]


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  4. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer; Bellmont, Brian (4 June 2013). "The Totally Sweet 90s: From Clear Cola to Furby, and Grunge to "Whatever", the Toys, Tastes, and Trends That Defined a Decade". Penguin. Retrieved 12 August 2017 – via Google Books.
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  11. ^ Brown, Lauren. "Shannen Doherty Finally Reveals Her Take On the Brenda/Kelly/Dylan Love Triangle (My Inner Teenager Can't Believe It!)". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  12. ^ "SHANNEN DOHERTY, Brenda Walsh, 'Beverly Hills 90210,' '90210'". The New York Times. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Shannen Doherty talks Beverly Hills, 90210". 8 September 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  14. ^ "'I got Shannen fired from 90210'". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  15. ^ Kovanis, Georgea (March 7, 1993). "On- and Off-Screen, "90210' Actress Shannen Doherty Is Taking Her Lumps". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  16. ^ "`90210' STAR FINDS HERSELF ON THE OUTEST OF OUT LISTS". 1 March 1993. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  17. ^ "UP AND COMING: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen; Moving Into Shannen's Room". The New York Times. 7 August 1994. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  18. ^ "'90210' reunion: Shannen and Jennie dish!". Retrieved 27 July 2018.
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  22. ^ "The Brenda Backlash". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
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  24. ^ "Brenda Walsh - Meanest TV Girls - TV Girls -". 30 June 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-06-30. Retrieved 27 July 2018.