10 Shocking Television Deaths That Showed Us Nobody Is Safe

CS 58 (13/10/10)

When you watch television, especially modern television that thrives on shocks and surprises, you need to be prepared for the fact that just because someone’s a main character, it doesn’t mean that they will have a long and healthy life. Doesn’t matter who they are, or how big a role they have. These days, a major character can be killed off in the fifth episode of the first season with barely a second thought.

We often come into a television viewing experience with preconceived notions about what types of characters will be allowed to live and which will be killed off. Of course, showrunners wouldn’t be showrunners if they didn’t have a demonstrated ability to challenge and consistently wrong-foot viewers. But even shows that are used to keeping audiences on their toes sometimes have that moment when all of a sudden it becomes clear that there is no one they won’t kill in their bloody quest for viewership.

On that note, here are 10 shocking television deaths that showed us nobody is safe.

Comments (94)

We've migrated from our usual commenting platform and unfortunately were not able to migrate the comments over. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

  1. Joe Juskosays:

    What about Rita on DEXTER?

  2. bibleverse1says:

    Joyce Summers really was shocking.

    1. Sandrasays:

      I sobbed the whole episode – and I don’t feel embarrassed about it at all. It was fucking -sad-. When Anya started her confused, grief riddled speech, I utterly lost it.

  3. Dane La Bornsays:

    metaphorically speaking my ass, im perma-scarred from The Body

  4. Anonymoussays:

    Not a single death from The Sopranos?

    1. sky_erosionsays:

      Unexpected situations but not unexpected deaths. The shocking stuff began late in the sixth season but it was the end game, so I wouldn’t consider that in a special like this.

  5. Flyerfan162says:

    I loved Doyle, but I think Fred was way more shocking and painful in comparison. I’ve never cried from a tv death before, but that had me sobbing for hours.

  6. Sarah Johnsonsays:

    Interesting, the writer of this article has never seen 24, Prison Break or Farscape apparently.

  7. Knicsays:

    Rita from Dexter. Almost anyone and everyone from The Wire.

    1. sky_erosionsays:

      Definitely both. In The Wire it’s specifically the death of Wallace in the end of the first season that shows that everyone at the criminal part of the ‘game’ is about to die. The police on the other hand was fairly safe except the one undercover-thing of Kima and even then she didin’t die.

  8. Eva Destructionsays:

    Joss didn’t have much of a choice. The guy who played Doyle had a raging heroin addiction. He died from it a few years later.

  9. Subtlety Roguesays:

    Not a word about The Red Wedding? Go back and do your homework. And it was a two-fer, to boot! Seriously.

    1. No, because as stated in the article, that is the kind of death that is expected in Game of Thrones – all the shock was in the manner not in the decision to kill off the characters – all explained in the Ned Stark portion of the article.

    2. Stephie59says:

      The Red Wedding pretty well shocked me! I had to re-watch that episode.

  10. Spooks (MI-5 in the US) may not have had the impact in the US to make the lists but they were among the pioneers of the shock deaths and nobody being safe – the second episode saw a lead character (played by a reasonably high profile British actress) have her face shoved in a deep fat fryer. But the real shocker was the finale of season 1 when the lead agent took home a laptop to examine only to realise there was a bomb inside. Rushing home with the MI-5 cavalry in tow, you were to assume they’d save the day before his partner and her daughter could be harmed. But, due to the young girl having tripped the security measures he’d just introduced to protect them, he was unable to gain access and their final conversation was held through a letterbox.

  11. Trey Vsays:

    Tara on Buffy was the ultimate…and saddest

    1. Timothy Youngsays:

      And it really was unexpected…I remember seeing it for the first time…I swear my heart stopped for a minute. When it comes to other Whedon deaths in the Buffyverse, Doyle made a sacrifice, and Joyce had that brain tumor. Both were incredibly emotional moments, but nothing like that moment when Warren comes charging into the yard with the gun…

  12. luxfaresays:

    James Dormoddy in boardwalk empire?

  13. Ronald Olsonsays:

    Most of the stars on Sons of Anarchy. Likeable charcters didn’t have a chance. Half-Sack and Filthy Phil we got to like. Piney then his son Opie, one of the biggest losses of the show but later on you knew why. Clay, you knew he was going to get it but not quite when. Tara, that was a rough one as Jax is losing the world around him. I’m waiting for Juice to get offed next as I never liked the character.
    The final season is going to be can’t-miss TV. New guest stars coming in.

    1. Tigernan Quinnsays:

      Time for us to get to yours. Remember to cut straight up and down, not across.

    2. Don’t forget David Hale! And, so brutally, too. Did they really have to run over his head with a car?! Rewatching the way season 2 ended, he was starting to warm up to the club a little, and also it looked like something might develop while he was comforting Tara. I was intrigued to see where that might lead, and then BOOM! Sutter kills him off, leaving us with his annoying brother who reminded me every time he was onscreen that he was our sorry consolation prize.

  14. kperk014says:

    Most shocking of all time: Colonel Henry Blake on MASH. Even shocked the other actors.

    1. Trouble2022says:

      I remember reading that their shock, horror and tears were utterly genuine because they truly didn’t know that would happen.

  15. chewie402says:

    Caitlin Todd on NCIS

    1. Selenesays:

      I actually cheered when Cait got shot….sorry but couldn’t stand her at all <3ed Ziva though

  16. MollyScandalicioussays:

    Sorry but Sophia (WD) was not a main character.

  17. MollyScandalicioussays:

    How about Shane, Andrea, Lori, T-Dog, Hershel from TWD?
    How about George (Grey’s Anatomy)?

  18. Blksknpwrsays:

    Moira Queen on Arrow

  19. Reece Adin Hartsays:

    Pretty old now but Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate

  20. Verity Webbsays:

    doyle was killed off because the actor himself had passed away

    1. Sam Axesays:

      Glenn Quinn’s character was killed off the show in 1999. He passed away in 2002.

  21. Jacqui Prestonsays:

    What about Mike on Desperate Housewives? 🙁

  22. RandomRednecksays:

    NOBODY missed Sophia but the characters in the show.

  23. timsays:

    clay on SOA?.. Tara on SOA?.. Opie on SOA.. well.. i guess they’ve established that main characters die, so i guess these wouldn’t fit lol.

    1. sweett21081says:

      No way – I’m with you. i was thinking the same thing … they may have established that main characters can die – but I’ll be if they didn’t do it at the most shocking times and in horribly and shockingly amazing ways (since its tv). one of these should have made it!! of course they could probably have a whole list of shocking SOA deaths … haha

  24. Cadence Wallacesays:

    Bobby Singer

    1. Matthew Stonesays:

      Yeah, but its Supernatural, so he’ll be back.

      1. Cadence Wallacesays:

        Well he was back briefly so yeah…..and he’s gone again. But on the upside Crowley is still alive so happy Crowley Fangirl is happy 🙂

  25. Mikayla Raesays:

    George on Grey’s Anatomy

  26. Glenda Vicksays:

    Now Sophia was not the only child to die on The Walking Dead.

  27. Glenda Vicksays:

    Captain Montgomery on Castle.

    1. Stephie59says:

      Yes Captain Montgomery was a shocker. I really liked him and couldn’t believe how they portrayed him then killed him off.

  28. Stephen Scanlonsays:

    Criosetti and Felton on Homicide.

  29. Davesays:

    What about Zoey in “House of Cards?” I bet nobody saw that death coming.

  30. Plain Jainsays:

    No Boardwalk Empire? Hands down Jimmy, and then later Harrow. Was their deaths inevitable? Sure but the timing was shocking.

  31. Plain Jainsays:

    Oh, I forgot. Practically everyone from Hannibal. Season finale was bananas!

  32. whatevssays:

    Jack’s wife Terri on 24 definitely belongs on any Most Shocking deaths list.

  33. whateversays:

    Prue Halliwell – Charmed…that was literally the most shocking death ever and a pretty fatal one too, because the existence of another sister and everything that followed (she never appeared as a ghost, eventhough pretty much everyone else did) made absolutely no sense.

    1. Jasonsays:

      It was because they all hated Shannon Doherty. Any other character that died was played by an actor they still wanted to work with. They killed Prue because Doherty was such a bitch. True story

  34. Nick Ksays:

    I loved Doyle and Cordelia! I always thought they created a scene to kill him off because he died in real life! I’m glad Will died…Alicia belongs with Peter! Am I the only person who thought Will was kind of a douche? I didn’t think he was friendly, he was gruff and harsh, he did a lot of bad things, and the women he dated weren’t very classy.

    1. BMcGeesays:

      Agree, agree! When Will dumped a gun that happened to be a murder weapon, and then told some random black guys that came along where they could find it, it clearly never occurred to him that they’d go get it and TAKE IT TO THE POLICE. So rather than the gun disappearing into the underworld that Will apparently thought all young black males inhabit, they sank his case, and his client(s). I never liked him before that; despised him from then on.

      1. Stephie59says:

        Sorry but I loved Will, and by chance I had missed the episode and saw on the Internet the stories of the death. I read all about it, never watched the episode, and haven’t watched the series since. I think it was too harsh and I couldn’t stand it. I no longer watch that show. I would miss Will too much.

  35. Edith ..

  36. Chelzsays:

    I think when bobby died on supernatural :'(

  37. Mariasays:

    Rita’s death from Dexter was shocking and completely unexpected. It should’ve made the list.

  38. mrtvsays:

    Adebisi on OZ, Richie on Highlander are the two most shocking deaths ever. Rita on Dexter and Caitlyn Todd on ncsi should be on the list too

  39. Cameron Simmssays:

    We REALLY grieved for Tosh, Owen and Ianto on Torchwood! That left only Capt. Jack and Gwen to carry on the show. And they did a great job.

  40. Guestsays:

    In fairness, Joss didn’t have much of a choice. Glenn Quinn was in a downward spiral and died not long after he was forced off the show.

    1. PixilDotsays:

      That was really sad, poor guy. I watch that show, and it’s like the “demon” he was hiding from everyone that killed him in the end wasn’t so symbolic after all, was it? So sad…

  41. Sherrisays:

    I CAN NOT believe that Opie being killed off on Son’s of Anarchy did not make it to this tip 10 list. Heck, it’s one of top 3 in my book of total shocking death moments!

    1. Trouble2022says:

      It definitely should’ve because it was just a ‘WTF!’ moment. I cried so much and it was such an honest thing Ope did. Shame the show was never the same again……

  42. Guestsays:

    No mention of Bobby Singer? That one was a shock.

  43. Krunglesays:

    Can’t even lie, little Sophia walking out as a zombie made me cry.

  44. Stephie59says:

    Caitlyn on NCIS. That really shocked me. Will on The Good Wife. I missed the ep, read about it after and haven’t watched another episode since. When they killed off Sean Bean in Game of Thrones, I was shocked, but it didn’t make me feel to stop watching. I was intrigued. But The Good Wife. I never expected that. It was too much for me. Moira Queen on Arrow really floored me as well.

  45. Robigosays:

    Opie on Sons of Anarchy

    1. Jason Colesays:

      And Tara not so much that she died but the how.

    2. Trouble2022says:

      I cried for hours after he died; the show’s never been as good either. Which was a shame; it’s like he was the heart of it and without him, it just kind of withered away.

  46. macsensays:

    Vincent Nigel Murrary on Bones. I really loved his character…. Dargo in Farsape Peacekeeper wars, and Hersel in the Walking Dead.

    1. PixilDotsays:

      I still miss Vincent… and now Sweets is gone too…

  47. jacquej4444says:

    what about George O’Malley on Grey’s? Or Tara or Opie on SOA?

  48. Lunasays:

    Adric dying was not traumatizing. Adric dying was cause for much celebration and rejoicing

  49. edinvestor1says:

    Life sucks enough without TV REMINDING ME.

  50. PenguinMarcosays:

    Yes but it’s ok. In the very last episode of Season 8, Dexter wakes up, realizing it was all a dream.

  51. Lexi and Mark on Grey’s Anatomy.

  52. Michu1945says:

    Edie in Desperate Housewives?!

  53. Jettboysays:

    Not that good of a list. Should have included Deep Throat’s death in the X-Files first season finale. From then on the show proved that no one was safe, as other important characters died.

  54. B1ackDiamondsays:

    How about adding a previous and next option above the pictures?

    I only want to read the ones I know.

  55. Glenn Griffithsays:

    HELLO!!!! What about the wife on 24 in the first season. Killing her off after a WHOLE SEASON of her captivity, then freeing her only to kill her is the reason I never watched another 24 episode.

  56. GOPartysays:

    Not a single character death from NCIS? HOW COULD THEY? Caitlyn Todd, Jenny Summers, Eli David, and especially Mike Franks! Jackson Gibbs, unfortunately, had to be written out due to the real-life death of his portrayer, actor Ralph Waite.

  57. Ryan Murphysays:

    The only 2 that have ever caught me supremely off guard, though in retrospect they shouldn’t have, were Teri Bauer and Rita Morgan. The really weird thing is that they are set up almost the exact same way too…

  58. Jo :-)says:

    Claire Kincaid on Law & Order! I’m still not over that nearly 20 years later!! UGH!

  59. misfitsays:

    You mention Nikki from Misfits but not Alisha? I’m calling bullshit

  60. emily graceffasays:

    um…Hershel???? and lori?!

  61. emily graceffasays:

    like duhhhhh! lol

  62. Steven Stonesays:

    George O’Malley from Grey’s Anatomy.

  63. freethinkingpatriotsays:

    I realize it’s an older show, but where is the death of Henry Blake on MASH? That one made headlines back when it first aired, in a way that NONE of these listed did. How that TV death could be excluded is beyond me.

  64. danasays:

    george freaking omalley!! that is like number 1 on the shocking deaths ever!!

  65. Joseph Valasays:

    Hershel from WD is NOT on this list??? And I guess Bobby Simone from NYPD Blue wasn’t a big deal either???
    What idiots came up with this dumb list????

  66. Judithsays:

    Teri Bauer, “24”. Rex van de Camp, “Desperate Housewives”.

  67. Judithsays:

    Just a note to people upset about shocking deaths that have been left out of this list – these are shocking deaths that showed no character was safe from being killed off, like Teri, Rex, and Ned.

  68. Willsays:

    A lot of omissions on here … Jimmy Darmody which is the death I was most upset about, Opie on SOA, Adibisi on OZ and there are a few others in the Buffy/Angel universe.

  69. Buffylover123says:

    I think her death is kind of interesting actually, I mean throughout the whole season you could see it coming- you could tell there was a great chance that she was going to die, but then she got better, like back to her normal self for a few episodes and just right up and died, I think her getting better is actually the thing that shocked everyone about Joyce’s death to be completely honest.

  70. ItsCuteYouThinkICaresays:

    Well, I’m fairly certain that I might be shocked at these deaths if I actually watched any of these shows. As it stands, the only one I even knew about was the death of Sophia on TWD. Some, like GoT, I already gave a shot and decided that it wasn’t for me, others I might give a shot in the future…who knows. I did just start watching Sons of Anarchy and am going to try to stick it out to the end… a few deaths on that show surprised me, but I won’t go into detail because I know spoilers really upset some people. The only other show I watch almost on the regular is Criminal Minds. Again, no spoilers, but there was a pretty brutal, very personal, death that rocked the case of characters to the core that honestly surprised me. CM is a kind of 11th hour, wrap the show up in 45 minutes, formulaic crime drama that you expect to save the day every time… but they didn’t and it was really sad. Other than those two shows I can’t think of anything else to add, except like someone mentioned below, Rita from Dexter. I didn’t really see the compelling reason for killing her off like that… but by that time, Dexter had all but jumped the shark anyway. I still refuse to watch the last season, reading about how it ended was irksome enough.

  71. Phineas Crumpysays:

    Not surprising, considering the trend today is to shock and disturb with such deaths.

All Posts
Loading more posts...