We really should've known better. We waited two weeks for Brothers & Sisters' "shocking death," when all along we should have realized that what the network had been teasing for weeks (months even, among insiders) in the end wasn't all that shocking — especially when it didn't even really happen.
Oh well, maybe we're all patsies. But to make ourselves feel better, here are the TV deaths that actually delivered a gutshot and had us talking about a character's demise the next day — for all the right reasons.
13. Dan Conner, Roseanne
Critics attacked the "Roseanne wins the lottery" story arc for betraying the show's everyman, blue-collar ethos. But Roseanne (the actress-producer, that is) had a plan all along: In the series finale, it's revealed that the whole shebang was the product of Roseanne Conner's fertile, writerly mind, a literary defense mechanism she created after Dan suffered a fatal heart attack at Darlene's wedding.
12. Terry Crowley, The Shield
Before you get all, "What about Lem and the hand grenade?" let us explain. Yes, Shane blowing his partner to bits was an amazing twist, but it came five seasons into one of the riskiest and most brutal TV series we've seen; we practically expected it. On the other hand, Vic Mackey popping a fellow cop to cover up his unit's misdeeds in the series' pilot caught us completely off guard, and provided a small taste of things to come.
11. Joyce Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This one got to us simply because, in the context of an otherwordly battle between vampires and slayers, Joyce's death by brain aneurysm is a little too real. Perhaps we just didn't think the writers would off Joyce so quickly after she had begun recovering from a brain tumor.
10. J.R. Ewing, Dallas
OK, fine. We know his death(s) were always survived or explained, but you have to give Dallas credit for basically inventing the season-finale cliff-hanger. Have you ever seen a "Who Shot Mary Alice" T-shirt? Thought so.
9. Adriana, The Sopranos
Just as it appeared that the Feds had convinced Ade to flip, her shocking demise came at the hands of so-called "nice" wise guy Silvio. She frantically crawled off-camera through autumn leaves, begging for her life, and then two gunshots echoed, silencing one of the show's vivid female portrayals.
8. Gary Shepherd, thirtysomething
While everyone was focused on Nancy's mortality as she awaited test results after cancer treatment, it was Gary who kicked the bucket after being involved in a chain-reaction car accident. Yes, the same Gary who usually rode a bicycle because he hated cars. Bitter irony alert!
7. Uh, Everyone, Six Feet Under
Even for a show that began each episode with a death, Nate's death a few episodes shy of the finale still packed a punch. In the show's chilling last six minutes, though, the narrative fast-tracks audiences through 79 years, showing how each of the protagonists departed the mortal coil. Talk about tying up loose ends.
6. John Locke/Jeremy Bentham, Lost
Just as John accepts his destiny to lead the island-dwellers known as The Others, it's revealed via flash-forward that Locke is the man in the coffin three years later in Los Angeles. Of course, death is a relative term on Lost (he has since appeared to have been resurrected), but seeing our favorite faith junkie lying in eternal slumber was perhaps more mind-blowing than watching the island completely disappear.
5. Mrs. Landingham, The West Wing
Similar to Gary Shepherd, the demise of President Bartlet's beloved, wisecracking secretary comes via a car accident at 18th and Potomac. In the first new car she'd ever owned. We think we'll stick to the subway.
4. Rosalind Shays, L.A. Law
Writers often leave loathsome characters on a show too long, but sometimes, they dump them down an elevator shaft when you're least expecting it. No, we're serious, Rosalind fell down an elevator shaft, just as she had silenced her own demons and found love with Leland. It was a jaw-dropper that would have had the Internet abuzz ... had Al Gore invented this here thing yet.
3. Dr. Lucy Knight, ER
Again, some might point you to the stunt-ier blockbuster death of Dr. Romano, who was pinned underneath a crashing helicopter, but Lucy's sudden and unexpected stabbing at the hands of a schizophrenic patient remains one of the show's truly haunting moments. Sadly, she made it through a surgery to treat her tissue damage, but still died due to pulmonary embolism and other complications.
2. Teri Bauer, 24
When you're in a high-profile national security job like Jack Bauer's, the wife and kids are usually among the first to be targeted for leverage. Even so, Teri snuck and killed and survived her way through Day 1 almost better than Jack. Until CTU mole Nina kidnapped her and shot her fatally in the stomach. Can we get a Jack Bauer "Damn it!" on that one?
1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake, M*A*S*H
More than 30 years later, this classic death is tough to top. After finally getting discharged from the Army and bidding farewell to the 4077th, Blake's transport plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. The show had a knack for balancing laughs with serious reflections on war, but it was never more emotional than when Radar delivered the sad news to the company.
What TV deaths shocked you the most? — Additional reporting by Mickey O'Connor