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See the characters whose stays of execution led them to become major characters on their shows

Shaun Harrison
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1 of 12 Kent Smith/Showtime

Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), Homeland

Brody's failed attempt to assassinate the vice president with a suicide vest in Season 1 finale wasn't always intended to fail. "Ultimately, we felt that there's just more to tell between Brody and Carrie," executive producer Alex Gansa told TVGuide.com at the time. "So, we decided to keep him alive. Also, Showtime really wanted Damian Lewis around for another year." The Brody-Carrie relationship turned some viewers off in Season 2, which featured Brody again escaping punishment for his terrorist ties by working as a double agent for the CIA and ended with him escaping the country with Carrie's help after his car was used to blow up Langley. Season 3 has been Brody-light, and even though he suffered some gnarly wounds and is living in a Caracas slum, for now, he's still breathing.
2 of 12 Ursula Coyote/AMC

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Breaking Bad

One good thing to come out of the writers' strike in 2008? Jesse Pinkman lived! Vince Gilligan never envisioned Walt and Jesse's complex, tortured journey together and had planned to kill Jesse off in the ninth episode of the first season in a bungled drug deal to consume Walt with guilt, but the strike shortened the season to seven episodes. In truth though, Gilligan was so taken by Paul's performance by the second episode that he knew it would be a "huge, colossal mistake" to off him. "I didn't know how damn good this guy was when I hired him," Gilligan said in 2010. Since his change of heart, Paul has won two Emmys, given us a billion epic cry faces — and Jesse lived in the end. Yeah, bitch!
3 of 12 Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty Images

Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies), ER

Remember when Carol was wheeled into the ER in the pilot after she tried to OD on pills because of her on-again, off-again relationship with Doug? She was supposed to die. Producers changed her fate after Carol scored highly with test audiences, and Margulies won an Emmy for her performance in the first season — the only acting Emmy the drama's main cast ever won. But forget the hardware — had Carol died, we would've been deprived of one of TV's most iconic couples and the best-kept secret cameo ever.
4 of 12 Mario Perez/ABC/Getty Images

Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), Lost

As originally scripted, Jack was supposed to die halfway through the pilot, as a signal that the audience should always expect the unexpected from the show. But fearing that the viewers would resent the show for killing off a seemingly major character so quickly, the script was rewritten. (Fun fact: Producers were interested in Michael Keaton for the role, but he who turned down once the role was meant to continue on in the series.) Instead, Matthew Fox's Jack became the Oceanic 815 survivors' de facto leader and the show's main protagonist.
5 of 12 Prashant Gupta/FX

Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Justified

In "Fire in the Hole," the Elmore Leonard short story upon which Justified is based, Boyd Crowder is killed by U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens after a heated showdown. The same was meant to be to happen in the FX drama's pilot episode until test audiences responded favorably to Goggins' performance and expressed interest in learning more about the character. As a result, at times in recent seasons, we almost forget who we should be rooting for. The man in the cowboy hat may be the star of the show, but his outlaw counterpart is what keeps us coming back.
6 of 12 Everett Collection

Spike (James Marsters), Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It's impossible to imagine Buffy — or Angel for that matter — without the peroxide-loving poet. That's why it's so shocking to learn that Spike was supposed to be staked shortly after being introduced in Season 2. Thankfully, Joss Whedon decided to keep the vamp around because it was Spike's sacrifice that eventually saved the world in the series finale.
7 of 12 Gene Page/AMC

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Hershel and Carol (Scott Wilson and Melissa McBride), The Walking Dead The Walking Dead has made a habit of killing off main characters, so Wilson and McBride can count themselves extra-lucky for surviving this long. Hershel wasn't supposed to survive Season 2, but producers decided to off Dale instead. Carol was originally supposed to die in Season 3 when the zombies raided the prison, but the producers decided to kill off fan-favorite T-Dog in her place. Though we'd guess Season 4 casualties Karen and David wish it was the other way around.
8 of 12 Carin Baer/AMC

Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), Mad Men

Mad Men's opening credits have always featured an executive falling from a skyscraper — an image that almost became literal in Season 1. According to Sommer, he learned after he had been cast that creator Matthew Weiner originally considered having Harry Crane jump out of his office window during the first season. Since Harry seems to be the most consistent in bring in business, we guess Sterling Cooper & Partners should be pretty grateful!
9 of 12 Mario Perez/ABC/Getty Images

Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), Lost

OK, so we don't know if Ben was ever supposed to die (it's an island — there aren't many ways to write people off!), but Emerson's original contract had him appearing in just three episodes of Lost's second season. However, the writers were so impressed with his turn as Henry Gale/Ben Linus, they kept expanding his role, making Ben the leader of island natives The Others and promoting Emerson to a full-fledged series regular in Season 3.
10 of 12 Bob Mahoney/The CW

Klaus (Joseph Morgan), The Vampire Diaries

Introduced as a villain, Klaus was supposed to get a taste of his own medicine and be killed off at the end of Season 3. But the hybrid struck such a chord with viewers, he stuck around. And wouldn't you know it, now he's even got his own spin-off The Originals.
11 of 12 Everett Collection

Chiana (Gigi Edgely), Farscape

Chiana's first episode, "Durka Returns," was also supposed to be her last. The grey-skinned Nebari was a rebel of the first order, something frowned upon in the conformist Nebari society, and originally was supposed to be shot and killed while trying to make her escape. However, producer David Kemper enjoyed actress Gigi Edgely's irreverent and street-smart performance so much, he rewrote the ending and eventually made her into a main character in the series. Frelling awesome!
12 of 12 Alan Zenuk/Syfy/NBC/Getty Images

Karl "Helo" Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett), Battlestar Galactica

In the pilot, the plan was for Lt. Agathon, better known by his call sign "Helo," to be an expendable character and to die when the Raptor leaves him behind on Caprica. Tahmoh Penikett's performance (and no doubt dashing good looks) convinced TPTB to keep him around though, and thus he was fated to fall for Athena and together have a child named Hera. So say we all.