TV Character Deaths We're Still Not Over
The line between fantasy and reality can blur a great deal for fans of popular TV shows. Once you fall in love with your fictional favorites, you can’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to them, but the writers don’t always listen to fan preferences.
Some deaths are so shocking — Ned Stark, anyone? — they continue to send painful stabs to the heart years after the show has ended. Here are 30 TV character deaths we’re still not over. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Zeek Braverman, ‘Parenthood’
Maybe Zeek Braverman (Craig T. Nelson) had his flaws, but the patriarch of the Braverman family on the popular family drama Parenthood proved he was still a loving and caring father. He wanted the best for his family, and it came as a shock to many fans when Zeek died during the drama’s series finale in 2015.
Mr. Hooper, ‘Sesame Street’
Sometimes, a show doesn’t choose to kill a popular character. Instead, the actor who portrays the character dies, and producers have to make a hard choice: replace the role with another actor or kill off the character. When actor Will Lee died in 1982, producers of Sesame Street decided to deal with the death of his character, Mr. Hooper, on the show.
Michael Cordero, ‘Jane the Virgin’
Just when you think Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) can finally be happy, life changes. On Jane the Virgin, it looked like Jane and Michael Cordero (Brian Dier) would live happily ever after during their season two wedding. Unfortunately, Michael was shot, and although he didn’t die right away, he later died from complications resulting from the gunshot. His collapse left fans aching from the sadness. Could it actually be true?
Teri Bauer, ‘24’
Some television shows work hard to wake up viewers and make them realize they’re not messing around — they’re serious dramas. That’s what happened during the season one finale of 24, in which Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) wife, Teri (Leslie Hope), died tragically. No one saw it coming.
Ned Stark, ‘Game of Thrones’
Fans could provide a never ending list of upsetting deaths on the epic HBO series Game of Thrones. The show is famous for its brutal deaths, but none was quite as shocking as the first major death in the first season: the show’s main character — up to that point — Ned Stark (Sean Bean).
Jack Pearson, ‘This Is Us’
From the early days of the hit NBC series This Is Us, viewers knew the Pearson family patriarch, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), had passed away sometime before the show started. However, how he died was a big unanswered question. They finally got their answer in a successful post-Super Bowl episode in the show’s second season.
Keith Scott, ‘One Tree Hill’
The popular 2000s teen drama One Tree Hill may have focused on the teenagers of Tree Hill, North Carolina, but there was one shining adult star that tugged on everyone’s heartstrings: Keith Scott (Craig Sheffer). He was a father figure to Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and a hopeless romantic to Lucas’s mother, Karen (Moira Kelly).
Rita Morgan, ‘Dexter’
For fans of Dexter, Rita Morgan’s (Julie Benz) death was a smack in the face. During season four, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) begged his wife to leave early for their honeymoon in order for her to escape the season’s Big Bad, the Trinity Killer. She agreed, but after Dexter killed Trinity, he returned home to find a voice message from Rita.
Dr. Romano, ‘ER’
Dr. Robert Romano (Paul McCrane) probably wasn’t the most popular personality on ER, but his ultimate death left fans gasping. First, he suffered immense pain in the show’s ninth season when a helicopter outlandishly severed his arm. Fans were shocked and thought things couldn't get any worse for the character.
Omar Little, ‘The Wire’
The Wire involved many bloody deaths, but none of them were as shocking and frightening as the random death of Omar Little (Michael K. Williams). For five seasons, Omar ruled the mean streets of Baltimore. He was invincible; no one could defeat him. Of course, there was always risk related to his job, so it was probably only a matter of time before his time ran out.
Matthew Crawley, ‘Downton Abbey’
No one expected Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) to die on the popular British drama Downton Abbey. He was a beloved character, so maybe fans should have known better. After all, favorite characters often die tragically. In the final moments of the show’s third season, Matthew’s wife, Mary (Michelle Dockery), had just given birth to their son, and he headed home to tell his family the happy news.
Jin and Sun Kwon, ‘Lost’
It’s hard to pick a tragic death from Lost when the show had so many shocking deaths. However, one of the most devastating moments was the joint death of Jin and Sun Kwon. The couple had just reunited and promised never to leave each other — ever. When characters make promises like that, it’s a sign to be concerned about their fates. You can probably expect at least one of them to die.
Chet Hunter, ‘Boy Meets World’
Sometimes a character doesn’t have to be in a main role for his or her death to affect everyone. That’s what happened on Boy Meets World with Chet Hunter (Blake Clark), who visited his sons, Shawn (Rider Strong) and Jack (Matthew Lawrence), during the show’s sixth season to confront his issues. He decided to stay with them so they could finally be a family.
Will Gardner, ‘The Good Wife’
Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was considered by most fans to be the male lead of The Good Wife. He was named partner at the law firm and managed to woo Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) into giving their love story — from college — another chance. In one of the most shocking episodes on the show — and in TV history — Will was shot when his mentally distraught client grabbed a courtroom cop’s weapon and initiated a panicked shootout.
George O'Malley, ‘Grey's Anatomy’
You could put together another giant list of pivotal deaths from the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, but possibly the most devastating death occurred in the show’s fifth season when fans were distracted by the possibility of losing Izzie (Katherine Heigl) to cancer and losing George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) to the Army. Fans didn’t see it coming when the unidentifiable patient hit by a bus turned out to be George.
William Hill, ‘This Is Us’
Even though you saw it coming, William Hill’s (Ron Cephas Jones) death on This is Us was still devastating. William, AKA Shakespeare, became a crucial character in the show’s first season, but viewers knew he had cancer from the beginning. He reconnected with his son, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), just in time to make peace before his death.
Jack Thornton, ‘When Calls the Heart’
It was supposed to be happily ever after for Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) and Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) on the popular Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart. They had just gotten married in the show’s fifth season, but tragedy struck in the season finale when Jack, the handsome Canadian Mountie, was killed while trying to save the lives of several recruits.
Joyce Summers, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a stranger to death, but the majority of the deaths were from ghouls or beasts. Buffy’s mother, Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), suffered a different death — a brain aneurysm. It was devastating to watch every character react to the death —Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) vomiting on the floor, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) collapsing and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) panicking over not knowing what to wear to the hospital.
Jen Lindley, ‘Dawson's Creek’
Everyone was happy when they found out during the series finale of Dawson’s Creek — thanks to the show’s five-year flash forward — that Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) became a mother. That was great news, but the show couldn’t possibly end there. It’s a drama, after all.
Dan Conner, ‘Roseanne’
In the original series finale of Roseanne, Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) revealed that the whole series was a book she had written based on her life, although she had made some changes throughout the show. What did she change? Roseanne shocked viewers by revealing Dan Conner (John Goodman) actually died from his heart attack at the end of the show’s eighth season.
Rayna James, ‘Nashville’
Fans of CMT’s Nashville were shocked when the show’s main character, Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), tragically died from complications following a car accident. She had just survived an attack by her stalker when the police car she was in was hit by another vehicle. She made it to the hospital, and it looked like she would survive — but then things took a drastic turn.
Lori Grimes, ‘The Walking Dead’
When you’re watching a television show focused on post-apocalyptic, zombie-infected America, you should expect some tragic deaths. Sadly, Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) had one of the most tragic deaths in television history. Pregnant, she started having contractions inside an abandoned prison. Her daughter had to be delivered via C-section, and Lori didn’t survive the blood loss without medical attention.
Lane Pryce, ‘Mad Men’
Mad Men is a series that didn’t seem to have many consequences, but that changed with the death of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris). The British partner at the agency racked up a huge amount of debt and finally lost control, mistakenly forging Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) signature on a business check.
Adriana La Cerva, ‘The Sopranos’
It’s hard to leave the mob and escape death, and The Sopranos’ Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) learned this lesson the hard way. Viewers and characters on the show were surprised to find out Adriana had been working as an informant for the FBI. Not surprisingly, Tony (James Gandolfini) ordered her execution.
Dolores Landingham, ‘The West Wing’
No one wanted to see Dolores Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) die on The West Wing, but her death was very ironic. She had just bought her very first new car when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The president’s personal secretary was driving to the White House to show President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (Martin Sheen) her new car.
Bob Newby, ‘Stranger Things’
Netflix’s popular science-fiction drama Stranger Things has had many deaths, including season one’s Barb. Fans called for justice for her death, but it’s really Bob Newby’s death from season two that deserves justice. Bob (Sean Astin) was the romantic partner of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), and fans fell in love with his nerdy, good-humored behavior.
Edith Bunker, ‘Archie Bunker's Place’
Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) became a beloved television show character in the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. When it was announced she tragically suffered a stroke in her sleep prior to the spinoff, Archie Bunker’s Place, fans were devastated. Archie (Carroll O'Connor) finally broke down, expressing his emotions in a poignant speech.
Derek Shepherd, ‘Grey's Anatomy’
Fans couldn’t imagine Grey’s Anatomy without Derek Shepherd, AKA Dr. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey). After 11 seasons of watching Derek and Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) relationship blossom and grow, Derek tragically died following complications from a car accident. He survived at the scene, but the hospital he was taken to wasn’t fully equipped to treat the trauma.
James Evans, ‘Good Times’
James Evans’ (John Amos) death on the 1970’s sitcom Good Times was one of the most devastating, shocking deaths in television history. It occurred out of the blue, without any warning at all. Who could forget the scene when Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) read the telegram telling her James had been killed in a tragic car crash?
Lt. Col. Henry Blake, ‘M*A*S*H’
The death of Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) on M*A*S*H is perhaps the most shocking, unannounced death in television history. His death has remained an iconic moment in television writing. He was finally on his way home, but the plane taking him back to the United States was shot down.
Susan Ross, ‘Seinfeld’
In an unexpected move from the show about nothing, Seinfeld famously killed off Susan Ross (Heidi Swedberg), George Costanza’s (Jason Alexander) fiancée. Susan first appeared in season four’s “The Pitch” as an NBC exec.
Nate Fisher, ‘Six Feet Under’
For a show that opens every episode with an unusual death, this HBO drama about a family-run funeral home sure knew how to pack a punch when toying with the fates of its main characters. After returning home for his father’s funeral, Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) helps maintain the family business for a time.
Poussey Washington, ‘Orange is the New Black’
In season four of Orange is the New Black, several characters, including Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) and her best friend Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks), engage in a peaceful protest in the prison cafeteria. While trying to de-escalate a situation that erupts, Poussey is restrained and subsequently suffocated by a correctional officer.
Tara Maclay, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
If you’ve ever heard of the “Bury Your Gays” trope, you probably know that the shocking death of fan favorite Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) is a prime example of the cliche. Before the death in question, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was lauded for featuring a queer relationship between witches-turned-lovers Tara and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan).
Siobhan Sadler, ‘Orphan Black’
Portrayed by Maria Doyle Kennedy, Siobhan Sadler — or simply, Mrs. S — was the foster mother of protagonist and clone Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) and Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris). Mrs. S’s allegiances are clouded by her mysterious past at first, but it becomes clear that she cares for her foster kids and granddaughter more than anything.