Omar Little - The Wire
Michael K. Williams’ portrayal of Omar Little is not just The Wire’s greatest character but one of TV’s best overall. Despite his reputation as a slightly less rotten egg among some true stinkers, there were dozens of characters who wanted Omar dead in this crime drama set in Baltimore, Maryland. And when they finally got him, it was truly gutwrenching.
Sarah Lynn - Bojack Horseman
In season three’s That’s Too Much, Man! BoJack pays a visit to Sarah Lynn, who is nine months sober and looking to celebrate by falling off the wagon. BoJack takes advantage of this and takes her on a month-long bender. At the end of the episode, he and Sarah visit a planetarium. Sarah says, “I wanna be an architect,” before dying of a fatal overdose.
Matthew Crawley - Downton Abbey
At the end of Downton Abbey’s season three, heir Michael Crawley welcomes a newborn son into the world with Lady Mary. Thrilled, he drives off to tell his family the news, only to suffer a fatal car accident on the way, killing him and the hopes of thousands watching at home. What’s more, his death came on the Christmas Day special!
Charlie Pace - Lost
Charlie Pace’s life was saved several times by Desmond prior to his season three finale death. After infiltrating the Looking Glass station, Charlie stops to listen to a transmission from Penny, Desmond’s lost love, Mikhail floods the station with a grenade through the porthole. Charlie locks himself in the communication room to stop the whole station from flooding and save his friend Desmond’s life. The scene traumatised a whole generation of Lost fanatics.
Brian Griffin - Family Guy
Brian Griffin’s death in the twelfth season’s Life of Brian genuinely shocked viewers. Not only is it rare to seemingly permanently kill off anybody in animated TV, but seeing a fan favourite such as Brian bite the dust came out of nowhere, which is probably why the writers did it. Brian was replaced in the short-term by a ball-busting dog named Vinnie before returning two episodes later thanks to Stewie saving him in his time machine.
Susan - Seinfeld
Susan, played by Heidi Swedberg, wasn’t a popular member of the Seinfeld cast despite having a pivotal role as George Costanza’s fiance. Jason Alexander, who played Costanza, even admitted years later that he vented his frustrations at not being able to work off Swedberg’s acting style. Eventually, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld killed Susan off outright by being poisoned from a glue adhesive on an envelope. Fans have since slated the show for killing off a character they actually liked.
Ned Stark - Game of Thrones
Opie - Sons of Anarchy
Fresh out of Chino State Penitentiary, Harry “Opie” Winston (played by Ryan Hurst) ends up right back in prison after punching Sheriff Roosevelt. While in prison, he gets involved in a fight, in which he’s hit with a lead pipe around the head. A few more strikes prove too much for Opie, who dies on the spot. Sons of Anarchy are still reeling from this death to this day.
Zoe Barnes - House of Cards
Zoe Barnes was one of the first great characters in House of Cards. This journalist’s relationship with Frank Underwood becomes strained after she realises he’s not so clean-cut. In season two, this fractured relationship reaches a boiling point when Underwood tails Zoe on to a subway platform where he pushes her in front of a speeding train.
Gus Fring - Breaking Bad
A lot of TV character deaths lean more into the tragic factor, whereas poor Gus Fring’s death in Breaking Bad is outright horrific. After being bombed by Walter and Hector Salamanca, Gus is seen walking out of Hector’s room. At first, the audience presumes everything is fine. Gus, sure, he’s a little shaken but nothing serious. Except half his face is gone.
Sayid Jarrah - Lost
Sayid was one of Lost’s truly lost souls. In a final move of bravado and balls at the end of season six, he sacrifices himself aboard Widmore’s submarine, spiriting away the Man in Black’s bomb, and subsequently exploding with it. Later on in the episode, Sun and Jin died from drowning. Happy fun for all the family, Lost was not.
Terry Crowley - The Shield
Remember how in the original Scream, Drew Barrymore was put on all the posters like she was a main cast member that would survive the whole film and then she died in the first ten minutes? That’s what The Shield did with Terry Crowley, who is shot dead by his new, younger partner Vic Mackey, in the pilot!
Joyce Summers - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy’s mother dying of a brain aneurysm hit fans hard because they’d become so used to the fantasy world she was living in, dealing with ghouls and other odd entities. To see a character die in such a stark, non-action way - with none of the usual music - was pretty novel for a show like at the time.
Adriana - The Sopranos
When Adriana first told Christopher, her fiance, that she’d become an FBI rat, he was down to live a life elsewhere under police protection. Or so he said. Later on, we saw Silvio driving Adriana to the woods and all became tragically clear. Not only that Adriana would meet her maker but that fan-favourite Christopher had done up his woman like a kipper.
Teri Bauer - 24
Talk about a bad day at the office. First Jack’s wife Teri is kidnapped while looking for their abducted daughter, then she offers herself up to be raped instead of her child. Then after escaping, she flees to a safe house to be reunited with Jack onyl for mole Nina Myers to shoot her just as she’s exiting. Jack finds and cradles her, knowing there’s nothing he can do.
Rosalind Shays - LA Law
Across five seasons, Rosalind ‘Roz’ Shays had become somewhat of an anti-hero on LA Law thanks to her ice cold, mendacious ways. This was someone who grafted her way into becoming a partner at the law firm she represented, only to sue them for sexual discrimination. Her death came when she walked into, and fell down, an empty elevator shaft.
Tara Knowles - Sons of Anarchy
Sod’s law for Jax. Just as he turns himself in to save Tara and his sons, Gemma - Jax’s mother - discovers Tara’s old plan to betray him. Not knowing that the wounds have healed, Gemma promptly picks Tara off with a meat fork! Fans were inconsolable later on when Jax discovered Tara’s lifeless body.
Lance Sweets - Bones
Bones, stripped of the trauma, was really about how people came back to life after tragedy. Take Lance Sweets, for example. Here you had a formerly abused orphan child announcing that he was going to become a father. And then, guess what, we find him bleeding on the floor of a car park having been attached for a piece of evidence. “The world is a lot better than you think it is,” he tells his friends before taking his final breath.
Shireen Baratheon - Game of Thrones
At first, when Melisandre suggested to Stannis Baratheon that he should sacrifice his daughter Shireen for the king’s blood to improve their chances at war, he was shocked. And then he was like, “Hm, okay!” Audiences couldn’t believe their eyes as poor Shireen was killed in the blink of an eye.
Rita - Dexter
Rita’s death in Dexter was one of TV’s biggest twists. Not just because she died but because of who killed her. Fans presumed, fairly, that Trinity (or Arthur Mitchell) was dead, so when he came back hellbent on killing Dexter and his loved ones, it was hard not to gasp. Dexter ended up killing Trinity but upon returning home he discovered Rita dead in the bathtub, having been murdered by Trinity.
Will Gardner - The Good Wife
Rayna Jaymes - Nashville
Fans who thought season five of CMT’s Nashville was going to be plain sailing had the rug pulled right out from under their feet when Rayna Jaymes suffered a car crash. While things seemed stable in the hospital, the character, played by Connie Britton, soon took a turn for the worse.
Derek Shepherd - Grey’s Anatomy
Another show, another car crash. This time is was Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy. Surviving a car crash, fans never questioned that Patrick Dempsey’s character would pull through with the right treatment. Unfortunately, thanks to a tardy neurosurgeon, Derek slipped away into unconsciousness and was declared brain dead.
Lori Grimes - The Walking Dead
With a show called The Walking Dead, audiences should expect the very worst. Still, seeing Lori Grimes crash and burn left a sour taste in the mouths of thousands of fans. After sacrificing herself in order to save her son, he was then tasked with putting her out of her misery via gunshot.
George O’Malley - Grey’s Anatomy
At the end of Grey’s Anatomy fifth season, George O’Malley was about to commit to full army life. He appeared sporadically throughout the season, which made it all the more shocking when John Doe wrote “007”, George’s nickname, in the palm in Meredith’s hand. By the end of the episode, George was dead. He later returned in a dream sequence in season 17.
Moira Queen - Arrow
When Slade made Oliver choose between saving his mother and saving his sister, fans were shocked to see Moira stood up and asked Slade to pick her. Just when you thought her guts may have quashed the ordeal, Slade pulled out his sword and stabbed Moira right in the heart. Ouch.
Jimmy Darmody - Boardwalk Empire
Jimmy Darmody wanted power but power didn’t want Jimmy Darmody. Then he tried to assassinate his former mentor Enoch Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi. Enoch, in retaliation, shot Darmody in season two’s finale, tearing the hearts of out many fans.
Bill - Big Love
In the last episode of the fifth season of HBO’s Big Love, polygamous family matriarch Bill (played by Bill Paxton), suffers three bullet wounds to the chest at the hands of a crazy neighbour. It was a creative move chosen to cement Bill’s reputation as a hero.
Anastasia “Dee” Dualla - Battlestar Galactica
The tail end of Battlestar Galactica was pretty rough and tumble. Anastasia Dulla (Kandyse McClure), who had served as a comforting voice of reason throughout the series, returned home from a date with ex-husband Lee, looked herself in the mirror, smiled, and shot herself in the forehead.
Diana - V
V fans went through a roller coaster of emotions when Jane Badler joined the reboot of the show she’d originally starred in. First they were excited to hear the news. Then they were cheesed off that she spent a heap of episodes doing a whole lot of nothing. Then they were appalled when she was killed by her daughter.
Allison Argent - Teen Wolf
Teen Wolf’s biggest couple was arguably Allison and Scott. In lots of ways, without them, the show wasn’t really all that. So imagine the upset caused by Allison’s death in season 3’s penultimate episode when she suffered a sword through her chest. Though she did end up falling and dying in the arms of her one true love, Scott.
John Locke - Lost
After returning to the outside world, John Locke, now going as Jeremy Bentham, did everything he could to return to the island, and convince everyone who was there to do the same. Failing miserably, he attempted to hang himself only to be prevented by Ben, who then strangled him anyway. For Locke to be reborn, he needed to die at the hands of someone else. While fairly unlikable across the series, Lost fans were… lost without him.
Lawrence Kutner - House
Sure, the biggest player in House was Dr. House himself, hobbling around being all cynical and clever. But his protege, Lawrence Kutner, showed true potential across the series. So naturally, the writers decided it would be fun for Kutner to take his own life.
James Novak - Scandal
Yeah, I guess you could say this TV death was scandalous. No but seriously, when Jake decided to shoot and kill a reporter, an NSA employee and then James Novak all in one go like it was just another day (all because James knew a little more than he perhaps should), it was a sucker punch for fans.
Agent Caitlin Todd - NCIS
When Caitlin jumped in front of Gibbs to take a bullet, it seemed like that was gonna be all she wrote. And then, hello! Turns out she was wearing a bullet proof vest. So everything was fine. Or was it? Gibbs complimented her bravery. “Wow,” she said. ”I thought I’d die before I ever heard a compliment - ” only to be cut off by a another gunshot, this time fatal.
Gary Shepherd - Thirtysomething
Fans had followed Nancy’s tough journey battling ovarian cancer in Thirtysomething keenly. And when she went to hospital for surgery to see if any cancerous tumours remained, everybody feared the worst. The news turned out great. Nancy was going to be fine. Just one problem: her friend Gary, had just been announced dead from a car crash.
Lucy Knight - ER
Chicago General’s emergency room, understandably, saw a lot of crazy stuff. Sometimes it was randomly tragic, sometimes purposely violent. In the case of med student Lucy Knight, it was the latter. Being stabbed to death on the job is never a good thing and this instance was no exception.
Ianto Jones - Torchwood
Torchwood had a bit of a kink for killing off big time characters. Still, Ianto Jones’ death was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Fans not only rooted for him, but his romance with Captain Jack. The response to Ianto’s death was so severe, fans threatened to boycott the show. Death threats were even made!
Maude Flanders - The Simpsons
Poor Homer. Painting a target on your chest and asking cheerleaders to catapult free T-shirts at it. What could go wrong? As sod’s law would have it, one of the catapults hits Maude Flanders, knocking her off the bleachers and SPLAT, into the car park. While Maude wasn’t the most beloved character the cartoon, her absence caused a bigger stir than expected.
Mrs Landingham - The West Wing
Things certainly went west on The West Wing when Mrs. Landingham, the outspoken confidante of the president, when she died in a car crash. Ironically, Landingham had just gotten her driver’s license and purchased her first ride.
Michael - Jane the Virgin
When season 2 of Jane the Virgin ended with Michael being shot, fans couldn’t wait to see whether he survived into season 3. Remarkably, he did. He even got married to Jane. Then on the tenth episode he suddenly collapsed and died, a long-term victim of a gunshot wound.
The Night King - Game of Thrones
The Night King was the Darth Vader of the Game of Thrones universe. As such, he was a very large, very bad guy who plenty of ordinary heroic folk wanted to kill. And eventually they did. ‘They’ being Arya Stark, which surprised a helluva lot of fans. What’s more, the Night King’s death came in the middle of the season. Look, let’s just not talk about that final season.
Bellamy Blake - The 100
In the final season of the 100, you’re basically waiting for Bellamy to come back from his absence and reunite with Octavia, his sister. You’re also hoping for him to make tracks romantic interest Clarke. Of course, Clarke decides to kill Bellamy instead, quashing the hopes of a fandom who had their fair share of surprise deaths across the series.
Hodor - Game of Thrones
This gentle giant loved by all fans was a man of few words. One word, actually: Hodor. And we only found out when he bit the dust. It turns out it comes from the words “hold the door” that were ordered to him during a seizure that mentally disabled him. As he allows Bran to escape while holding off the undead wights, his name takes on a sudden, devastating meaning.
Poussey Washington - Orange is the New Black
Unlike a lot of the characters in Orange is the New Black, Poussey Washington was loved for her witty, sweet and non-abrasive personality. Her tragic death comes during a peaceful protest within the prison when a heavy-handed racist guard suffocates Washington in scenes that bear a stark resemblance to real life.
Wallace - The Wire
Before he was pretend-beating people up in boxing rings, Michael B. Jordan played the naive 15 year old Wallace in The Wire. After tipping off Stringer Bel about the location of Brandon, only for Brandon to then be killed, Wallace cannot live with himself as an accomplice to a murder. He becomes an informant and historically things always work out well for informants. Spoiler: they don’t!
Peter Russo - House of Cards
Peter Russo was a pain in the backside, really. A liability in lots of ways, especially when he was popping pills, this Democratic Congressman got on the nerve of Frank Underwood probably more than anyone. In a moment of madness, Underwood decided enough was enough. He went and got Russo drunk in his car before leaving with the ignition still on. After a quick shutting of the garage door, it was cya later alligator for Russo.
Lane Pryce - Mad Men
There certainly were some mad men AND women when Lane Pryce got an earful from Don Draper for embezzling company funds to settle some personal debt. Fired from his dream job and too ashamed to tell his family, Pryce hanged himself in his office, dropping the jaws of Lane Pryce stans.
Henry Blake - M*A*S*H
The OG. The GOAT. The first ever shock death in television. In the mid 1970s, what with the news in America being bad enough, scripted TV (especially comedy) didn’t feature a whole lot of death. So when Radar was seen reading out the death of Henry Blake in the season finale of M*A*S*H*’s third year, audiences across the world were stunned.