When we watch our favorite TV shows we know what we’re seeing isn’t real…but that doesn’t mean we get any less invested in the characters and storylines. When our beloved characters get killed off it can be downright distressing and emotionally draining, especially if you didn’t see it coming. The grief can feel almost real. Grab some hankies, as here are some of television’s most shocking death scenes we’ll never recover from.
1. Teri Bauer on ’24’
The TV show 24 was full of twists and turns and many death scenes, but none were quite as shocking at the scene where Jack Bauer’s wife met her fate. The scene came as a shock because it followed a pretty successful few hours of Jack saving the day otherwise…until Nina shot Teri in the stomach. Wha-at? The fact that she had just told Jack that she was pregnant added to the loss.
2. Charlie on ‘Lost’
Lots of people kicked the bucket throughout the six seasons, but one that hit particularly hard was when Charlie died heroically trying to save his friends. We knew it was a suicide mission and his death had been prophesied by Desmond, but that didn’t make it any more shocking and heart-wrenching when his drowning face appeared in the window of the flooding underwater substation as he relayed his final message.
3. LT. COL. Henry Blake on ‘M*A*S*H’
Henry Blake’s unexpected death came as a real shock on M*A*S*H because he was en route home after an emotional goodbye with his Army pals. Rather than a happy ending, word came that his plane was shot down over the ocean in Japan and fans were crestfallen. The producers were trying to make a point about the horrors of war, and they did. That, and they wanted to make a point to actors like McLean Stevenson wanting out of a hit show. They killed him off to send the message that there would be no returning to the show down the road. The term “McLeaned” is still used in Hollywood today.
4. Zoe on ‘House of Cards’
Frank Underwood wasn’t going to stop at anything to rid his life of obstacles by the second season of House of Cards, but (spoiler alert!) it was still dumbfounding when he pushed his former lover Zoe Barnes in front of a moving train to kill her. That’s not just cold and calculated, that’s crazy. It’s just one of the many reasons we love to hate Kevin Spacey in this diabolical role.
5. Denny on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Denny was a patient of Izzy’s who became her fiance while he was waiting on a heart transplant. He got it, but then he died from a blood clot from his stitches. Izzy found him, which of course made the scene that much harder to handle. Shonda Rymes has since tortured us with tragic death scenes with multiple characters, including George, Lexi, Mark and Derrick. Nobody is safe in Shondaland, so guard your heart.
6. Will on ‘The Good Wife’
There was a collective gasp around the TV viewing world when lawyer Will Gardner was shot by a deranged client in Season 5. Nobody saw that twist coming, and it was tough to process let alone watch the various characters deal with his sudden loss.
7. Finn on ‘Glee’
You’re made of stone if you didn’t lose it during the episode that the glee club bid farewell to Finn. The fact that the actor, Corey Monteith, had actually died of a drug overdose in real life made it all the more gut-wrenching. How the cast got through that touching episode with such class and dignity is anyone’s guess. They never explained how the character Finn died – it didn’t really matter – but it was important for everyone, including the audience, to say goodbye.
8. Lucy on ‘E.R.’
Lucy’s death was shocking because the earnest doctor was stabbed by a crazy patient. It was even more shocking because she made it through surgery okay but then died from a pulmonary embolism. Come on! This show had a lot of these kinds of emotional roller coasters (hospital dramas lend themselves to that), but we’re also still not over Dr. Mark Green’s death from a brain tumor. Anthony Edwards played that to gut-wrenching perfection.
9. Ned Stark on ‘Game of Thrones’
There have been several shocking deaths on Game of Thrones, but Ned’s might have been the hardest to handle because it was the first time the show blindsided us by killing off a main character. The Hand of the King was beheaded by Joffrey, and shock set in. Jon Snow’s death was a jaw-dropper, too, but Ned was just so unexpected (unless you read the books, of course).
10. Jen on ‘Dawson’s Creek’
Jen Lindley was a beloved main character on Dawson’s Creek, and we didn’t find out that she’s going to die until the finale. It was one of those cheesy manipulative plot points to grab ratings, but it was still incredibly heart-wrenching for those of us who grew up with the Capeside gang. Jen asked Dawson to help her make a video for her daughter to remember her by, and there’s wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. Even the news that Joey and Pacey ended up together couldn’t console us.
11. Susan on ‘Seinfeld’
Sitcoms do not usually kill off recurring characters, because death usually isn’t that funny. But somehow when George’s fiancee died from licking tainted envelopes of their wedding invitations, we laughed at his sense of relief for getting ‘an out’ as much as we were surprised by the sudden loss. This wasn’t a boo-hoo moment, but it sure was some messed up dark humor.
12. James on ‘Scandal’
We did not see it coming when James Novak got shot in the street by Jake, who had to make his death look accidental and not planned by an assassin. While James bled out we had plenty of time to watch his shock and dismay that he’ll never see Cyrus or his daughter again.
13. Marissa on ‘The O.C.’
We always knew Marissa Cooper was troubled, but we didn’t exactly expect her to die. But that she did following a fiery car accident, in Ryan’s arms no less. And to think they were just trying to make it to the airport to kick off the summer after graduating high school.
14. Adriana on ‘The Sopranos’
Adriana’s death came as a shock because it happened right when it seemed like the feds convinced her to flip sides. Silvio ultimately took her life by double gunshot after she crawled off into the woods trying to save herself.
15. Lexi Featherston on ‘Sex and the City’
We we just settling in to watch the latest episode of Sex and the City, when out of the blue Lexi Featherston fell out of a window after glibly proclaiming that she could die. Lexi was a character showing what could happen to the party girl who never grew up, and it was a chilling lesson everyone could internalize.
16. Rosalind Shays on ‘L.A. Law’
Rosalind Shays was a bit of a loathsome character, but as soon as she seemed to clean up her act and find love with Leland, she fell down an elevator shaft. It was so unexpected, random and out-of-the-blue, fans couldn’t believe it.
17. Mrs. Landingham on ‘The West Wing’
Mrs. Landingham was the secretary to President Bartlet, and an entertaining one she was. But then the first new car she had ever owned crashed and killed her. Isn’t it ironic (at least in the Alanis Morisette definition of irony).
18. Joyce Summers on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Buffy was another show where death was pretty common, but nothing hit as hard as the moment when Buffy cames home to find her mom, Joyce, dead from a brain aneurysm. It was totally unexpected. They shot Buffy’s phone call to 911 in an uninterrupted five minute take with no musical score to make it feel real. Cue the waterworks.
19. The Entire Cast of ‘Six Feet Under’
The show about a dysfunctional family of funeral directors began every week with a death, and probably has one of the highest body counts in television history. However, most of the corpses were people we didn’t know, so we could deal with them without much emotion. However, once in a while, someone we knew and cared about went six feet under, and those death’s hit hard. The final episode was a particularly poignant flash-forward where we got to see the ultimate breaths of all the cast. It was a fitting, albeit tear-inducing, ending to the show about the fleetingness of life and the certainty of death. After all, none of us are getting out of this alive.
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