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See the on-screen send-offs that had our jaws on the floor

1 of 14 FX


After Tuesday's shocking Rescue Me cliff-hanger, Tommy Gavin's life hangs in the balance. While we won't know for sure if he makes until next season, take a look back at the 13 TV deaths that, like the Rescue Me twist, caught us completely off-guard.
2 of 14 courtesy Retna

Dan Conner, Roseanne

Critics attacked the "Roseanne wins the lottery" story arc for betraying the show's everyman, blue-collar ethos. But Roseanne 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 had a heart attack and died at Darlene's wedding.
3 of 14 courtesy Fox

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 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.
4 of 14 courtesy Fox

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.
5 of 14 CBS/Landov

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.
6 of 14 Barry Wetcher/HBO

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.
7 of 14 courtesy Retna

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!
8 of 14 Doug Hyun/HBO

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.
9 of 14 Mario Perez/ABC

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.
10 of 14 courtesy NBC

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.
11 of 14 courtesy Everett Collection

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.
12 of 14 Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

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.
13 of 14 courtesy Fox

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 sneaked 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?
14 of 14 courtesy 20th Century Fox

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.