It's a real testament to a TV show's writing, directing, and acting when a fictional character's demise feels so intensely personal and heartbreaking to watch, and there have been a lot of TV deaths that managed to rattle us to our core. Whether they were a fan favorite whose fate had been in the works for a while or a shocking death that came out of nowhere, a lot of television characters have taken a piece of our hearts with them when they died on screen.
From the loss of Grey's Anatomy favorites Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) to the gutting end of Orange Is the New Black's sweetest soul Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) to the many devastating losses in Game of Thrones' final bow, here's a look at some of the most heartbreaking TV character deaths ever.
Grey's Anatomy fans were braced for neurosurgeon extraordinaire Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) to depart before it happened, but that still didn't alleviate the exquisite pain of seeing McDreamy die on-screen in the show's Season 11 finale. The episode was drizzled with dread as we watched the good doctor rescue the victims of a fiery car accident only to suffer his own costly collision afterward. And as he was rushed to a nearby hospital with only trainees available to treat him, we had to hear him detail his downfall in a devastating voice-over as it happened before watching Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) make the impossible decision to take him off life support after all hope was lost. Ouch. - Amanda Bell
CBS's The Good Wife was never short on twists and turns, but it was quite a blow for fans of the show when male lead Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was shot by his own client in court in Season 5. Even more soul-crushing than seeing a lifeless Will in the hospital with dried blood on his head was that Will had called his friend-turned-lover-turned-rival Alicia (Julianna Margulies) hours before he died, but she was never able to find out why. In the chilling final moments of the following episode, Alicia closed her tear-soaked eyes and imagined Will telling her, "I'm sorry. I want what we had. I want to be with you and only you forever. Call me back please." Sob.
Long before Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was shot in open court onThe Good Wife or Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) was hit by a bus on Grey's Anatomy, Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) united the nation together in grief when he passed away on ER. You don't know tears until you've watched Mark tell his estranged daughter that he loves her and then drifts off to his final sleep as Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's rendition of "Over The Rainbow" plays. It was one of the first times a show was able to kill off a main character and continue its momentum, but the weight of that loss was felt by viewers and the characters and it remained until the end of the series. - Megan Vick
As sympathetic as the lens has been for all the ladies of Litchfield in Orange Is the New Black, there has rarely been a soul shown to be quite as wholesome as Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley). Her good nature and spirit of self-possession came through in every scene, and it was a delight to explore her background and relationships in the series. So to watch her slowly being suffocated by an overzealous guard after a peaceful prisoner protest was totally traumatic and sparked a full-on revolt by her friends. - Amanda Bell
"Not Penny's boat." Those are the three words that are likely to be echoed in every Lost fan's memory after seeing Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) in his brave final hour. That was the message he managed to get to Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick), whom he knowingly sacrificed himself to help, to let him know that his long lost love Penny (Sonya Walger) hadn't sent her rescuers. Not only did Charlie face his fate willingly, but he also used his final breaths to be a good pal, thus cementing his hard-won transformation from a troubled musician to a quality man. - Amanda Bell
The halls of
Seattle Grace Grey-Sloan Memorial have been thrashed by tragedy after tragedy over the years on Grey's Anatomy, but the loss of Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) came at a time when the death count was still relatively low, in Season 2, and it was gloriously gutting. After then-intern Izzie (Katherine Heigl) grew close to the handsome and smooth-talking patient, she became increasingly desperate to save his life and jeopardized her career to cut his LVAD wire so he'd move up on the heart transplant list. Despite her best efforts, Denny still quietly died from a blood clot shortly after the transplant, leaving her and audiences at home ruined by the sight of him having slipped away. His death also left such a mark on other characters of the show that both Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Izzie saw visions of him at critical life-and-death moments during subsequent seasons.- Amanda Bell
It took Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) a long time to figure out that the drug kingpin he'd been chasing all that time was his own brother-in-law, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), and his discovery couldn't have happened at a worse moment. In Breaking Bad's final season, Walt had gotten in way over his head when he began doing business with a ruthless group of white supremacists, so when Hank finally closed in on Heisenberg, he found himself suddenly surrounded by sand and a pack of criminals who would never, ever let him leave the desert alive. For all his tough talk, Hank was a very decent man, so to see him get gunned down by such soulless scum was completely depressing. Poor our a pint of Schraderbräu for this one. - Amanda Bell
While other wives and girlfriends of The Sopranos' crew members were presented as interchangeable pasta servers, Adriana la Cerva (Drea de Matteo) became one of the true hearts of the show by the time her journey abruptly came to a close. After she unknowingly befriended an undercover FBI agent and got herself in deep trouble with the Feds, everyone knew there was only way her story could end since her husband Christopher (Michael Imperioli) would never betray his crime family. Even so, the show ramped up the cruelty of her demise by giving audiences a glimpse of what her escape might look like before returning to reality as Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) drove her to an undisclosed location in the woods and gunned her down in merciless fashion.
It took a long time for the rocky marriage of Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) to reach a point of real repair on Lost, but the two barely even got to enjoy their rekindled bond before their shattering death by drowning. In the show's sixth season, some of the castaways were on a submarine when a bomb exploded underwater and trapped Sun in the wreckage. Refusing to leave his wife's side, Jin stayed and drowned alongside her, making good on his long promise that, "Where Sun go, I go." - Amanda Bell
There's a reason this moment is referred to as one of the three "holy sh--" sequences drawn up by George R.R. Martin himself after Game of Thrones surpassed the timeline of his books. Princess Shireen Baratheeon (Kerry Ingram) had always been emotionally neglected by her parents, but her father, Stannis (Stephen Dillane), began to show a bit of heart for the smart and sweet little girl. Unfortunately, he loved the idea of occupying the Iron Throne so much more. He allowed the Red Witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) to burn his only child at the stake as she pleaded in vain for one of her parents to intervene. Her agonized scream in the scene is one no fan of the show will soon forget. - Amanda Bell
The death of Tara (Maggie Siff) in Sons of Anarchy's Season 6 finale was tragic for many reasons, not the least of which was that it came at the hands of her husband (Charlie Hunnam) own mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), who suspected Tara would betray the Club. It was also incredibly gruesome. After attempting to drown Tara, Gemma proceeded to stab her in the head multiple times with a barbecue fork, and Jax came home to find her lifeless body in a gutting moment that would set up the entire final season of the series. - Kaitlin Thomas
Chicago Fire tore fans apart by killing off original cast member Leslie Shay (Lauren German). She died in the line of duty when the roof of a burning building collapsed during a rescue mission in Season 2, and considering how much she meant to Severide (Taylor Kinney), Dawson (Monica Raymund), and the rest of Firehouse 51, the aftermath of her downfall was also very difficult to endure.
Throughout his time on The Wire, Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) acted as a big brother to some of the younger drug dealers, but ultimately, it was his desire to leave the drug life behind that prompted him to become a police informant, resulting in his death being ordered by Stringer Bell (Idris Elba). In the end, Wallace died begging for his life as his two lifelong friends gunned him down, and it was clear that the show would not spare any sensitivities in its portrayal of gang life in Baltimore.
By the end of Game of Thrones, almost everyone was killed off in some form -- and some final moments were far less satisfying than others. But for those who hadn't yet read George R.R. Martin's book series before watching Season 1, the execution of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) came as a crushing surprise. Even for those who did see it coming, the sight of the honorable hero being cut down at the order of the sniveling and illegitimate King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), in front of Ned's young daughters and all of King's Landing no less, quickly cemented just how savage the show would be. The show added even more salt in the wound when Sansa (Sophie Turner) was later forced to stare at her father's head on a spike. - Amanda Bell
The Sopranos' divisive finale might not have explicitly shown us what happened after that controversial fade-to-black ending, but there have since been been enough scene studies and slips of the tongue by creator David Chase to all but confirm that our conflicted mafioso Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was indeed murdered in the series finale. His death was not undeserved, of course, considering how much violence we'd seen the New Jersey mob boss unleash on his enemies -- and, in some cases, even his "family" -- but there was still a vulnerability to him that kept him compelling all the while. The fact that he was whacked in front of his family, as they'd finally reached a point of peace with one another, was a particularly upsetting element of his end. - Amanda Bell
While we don't know all of the off-screen circumstances that led up to The Affair saying goodbye to its leading lady, it was still quite a shock to see Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) depart in such a mysterious manner. Ahead of the end of the show's fourth season, she was discovered to have died by drowning, which was a bleak fate indeed for the woman who'd been so tormented by the secondary drowning death of her young son, Gabriel. Then, audiences were treated to two different versions of how it happened, both of which indicated that her new beau Ben (Ramon Rodriguez) was responsible. This time, being the other woman in an ailing marriage would be much more costly to her, even if she didn't mean to become a mistress. - Amanda Bell
We can't say we didn't see Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) death coming. This Is Us made it clear from the start that the Pearson family patriarch would experience a devastating enough demise that his children would still be wrecked by the loss decades later. All the same, it was still quite a gut wallop when the moment came that Jack, after saving his family from a fire and running back to retrieve the dog, succumbed to cardiac arrest as a result of smoke inhalation. For a show that almost always aims for the feels, it was an especially upsetting moment to see him go. - Amanda Bell
Fans of Robert Kirkman's comics probably expected that Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) would not be long for The Walking Dead, but the way she went out in Season 3 was still intensely shocking. After experiencing complications during child labor, Lori asked Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to perform an emergency caesarian section to save the baby, knowing that it would be excruciatingly painful and would kill her. Her death proved that no one was safe from the bitter brutality of The Walking Dead world, and it also revealed the stakes for children, as her son Carl (Chandler Riggs) had to shoot his own mother in the head so she wouldn't turn into a zombie. - Amanda Bell
The Haunting of Hill House might have revealed the death of Nell Crain (Victoria Pedretti) in its very first episode, but as the season progressed, audiences were able to see all of the crushing circumstances that led to her downfall. Her many brushes with grief and isolation were increasingly heart-rending to behold, especially once audiences learned that the spirit which had been traumatizing her since she was a child was actually a preview of her own fatal future. - Amanda Bell
After his wife was murdered by a member of the club in a case of mistaken identity during Sons of Anarchy's first season, Opie (Ryan Hurst) tried to move on but was never the same. He remained broken, and in Season 5, as various members of SAMCRO found themselves in trouble, Opie decided to sacrifice himself to save the club. His parting words, "I got this," made his self sacrifice even more heartbreaking, especially as his best friend Jax (Charlie Hunnam) watched him being beaten to death and could do nothing to help him. - Kaitlin Thomas
Game of Thrones fans might not have expected to become so wrecked over the loss of the one-worded teddy bear Hodor (Kristian Nairn), but that's exactly what happened. During Hodor's final stand, he helped Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and company escape the wight-infiltrated cave while the future King of the Six Kingdoms was busy warging to a moment of Hodor's past. In that vision, we learned that Hodor was once known as Wyllis and could speak in sentences just fine -- until he heard the sound of "hold the door" ring out from the future and was thus doomed to repeat it, in abbreviated format, for the rest of his days. Hodor. - Amanda Bell
When you're in a high-profile national security job like Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was on 24, the wife and kids are usually among the first to be targeted for leverage. Even so, Teri (Leslie Hope) snuck and killed and survived her way through Day 1 almost better than Jack, until CTU mole Nina kidnapped her and shot her in the stomach. Teri's death proved that good guy can't always win.
The one word that comes to mind when thinking of Matthew Crawley's (Dan Stevens) death on Downton Abbey is "unfair." How could a guy that lovely, that just and kind, die in a senseless car accident literally hours after his first and only child was born? And after we'd just lost Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay)? For shame! - Lindsay MacDonald
"Uncle" Bobby (Jim Beaver) was the only family Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) had after losing both of their parents on Supernatural, so it was miserable enough to see him get shot in the head, but then it got even worse. Since Bobby knew how much the Brothers Winchester depended on him and refused to pass to the other side, he remained on Earth as a spirit. That sense of spiritual commitment only made his second death all the more painful as he slowly became a Vengeful Spirit before finally leaving the living world. When Sam and Dean finally said their goodbyes to him, he did pass on one last piece of valuable advice to his beloved nephews: When their time comes, move on.
Nina Sergeevna Krilova (Annet Mahendru), The Americans' clever Russian officer with flexible loyalties, had become one of the show's most sympathetic characters by the time she was killed early in the fourth season. In a devastating sequence, Nina was told she was being transferred to another prison, marched to a sterile room, informed that she was sentenced to die, and shot in the back of the head. Her execution was abrupt and unceremonious -- which, in the world of The Americans, made it feel almost tender in its honesty. - Kelly Connolly
The Walking Dead spent an entire summer hyping the brutality of Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) spiked bat swing in its Season 7 premiere, but no amount of teasing could prepare fans for what they saw when it finally happened. As in the comics, Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) had his head ruined by Lucille, but only after Negan targeted his first and more unexpected choice for some skull-squashing: Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz). As if losing two central survivors in such grisly fashion wasn't bad enough, their deaths were also completely demoralizing for their loved ones left alive in Alexandria in the aftermath. - Amanda Bell
Veronica Mars fans might have been jazzed about the show's revival by Hulu, but that happiness was quickly dampened when they got to the Season 4 finale and saw the life of Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) come to an abrupt end -- and right after he'd just said "I do" to Veronica (Kristen Bell). The loss of the swoony reformed bad boy was very tough to take and made the return of the series that much less satisfying. - Amanda Bell
For much of his time on Mad Men, Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) was a voice of reason among the staff of Sterling Cooper, and he became a seminal ally of the agency's head honchos as they escaped becoming corporate mincemeat to hang their own shingle. Over time, though, the homesickness of his family, the abuse of his father, and his own personal financial stresses led Lane to embezzle from the company. When caught in the act, he decided to end his life rather than face the humiliation of having his actions exposed, and it was a rare moment of reckoning for a show where those hunky scoundrels always seemed to get away with their bad behaviors. - Amanda Bell
Marissa (Mischa Barton) was hardly the most likable character on The O.C., but her death remains one of the most devastating moments of the beloved teen soap. Throughout the first three seasons, we saw Marissa try to find herself while dealing with her tumultuous relationship with her mom, Julie (Melinda Clarke). In the end, she was actively trying to improve her life and cut out any unhealthy influences, including her stereotypical "bad boy" boyfriend Volchok (Cam Gigandet). Unfortunately, Volchok still drunkenly crashed his car into Ryan's (Ben McKenzie) while they were on the way to the airport, and it cost Marissa's life. At the time, it felt like she was being punished for wanting to have a fresh, healthy start, and it still stings that Marissa never got a chance to properly redeem herself. - Tatiana Tenreyro
Considering he wasn't part of Jimmy McGill's, aka Saul Goodman's (Bob Odenkirk), story in Breaking Bad, it wasn't altogether unexpected that Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) died in Better Call Saul. How it happened, though, was unexpectedly sad. Chuck, whose mental health had shown signs of improving, experienced another severe bout of paranoia and depression and ripped out all of the electrical wiring in his home. A gas lantern overturned in the night, and Chuck died in a house fire of his own making. Chuck was the rare anchor in Jimmy's life, and his death left his brother truly adrift. - Amanda Bell
Gary (Peter Horton) was one of thirtysomething's central group of friends and had just gotten married, become a father, and celebrated that his good friend Nancy (Patricia Wettig) had beaten cancer. He was a free-spirited guy who preferred riding his bike to driving in cars, which is why his death by way of a chain-reaction car accident was particularly unexpected and unnerving.
The death of ER's Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) captured the tight-knit bond of the show's staff, as the whole hospital banded together to try to save her and Carter (Noah Wyle) after they were stabbed by patient Paul Sobriki (David Krumholtz). The fact that Lucy, a studious, determined med student full of promise, saw her future unfulfilled only magnified the sorrow. Her death also marked one of the rare times that the boorish Romano (Paul McCrane) broke down, and it kick-started a lengthy narcotics addiction for Carter, who suffered intense survivor's guilt in the wake of her loss.
Dexter offed plenty of people over the years, but Rita's (Julie Benz) death at the hands of the Trinity Killer was the first that actually affected the title character (Michael C. Hall) personally, partially because the horrifying murder scene echoed his own mother's death. It was only after Rita's death that Dexter, who had never really shown any sort of emotion, realized he truly was capable of love. It also marked a turning point in the series for Dexter, who went on to open up about his secret to new love interests.
Pose made hearts stop beating in Season 2 when Candy (Angelica Ross) was discovered murdered in the closet in a room inside a cheap motel. Pose had spent so much of the preceding episodes building Candy into an indispensable character -- she and Lulu Ferocity (Hailie Sahar) were a comic duo, full of charisma, spunk and devastating shade. Even more gutting than the death was her homegoing ceremony, during which her spirit got to speak to loved ones from beyond the grave, including the parents who had disowned her. In the end, she twirled off to the great disco in the sky receiving all the applause and adoration she should have gotten in the ballroom and the world at large. - Malcolm Venable
The fact that Barry's (Grant Gustin) entire life was defined by the death of his mother made the death of Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) in The Flash all that much more painful. Watching your mother be murdered is traumatic enough, so it was very unfair that Barry then had to watch Zoom take his father's life 20 years later. - Lindsay MacDonald
Battlestar Galactica fans were constantly on edge, wondering which of their favorites would next fall prey to the risks of war. But that doesn't mean they ever saw Dualla's (Kandyse McClure) death coming. The kind, empathetic crew member always found a way to cope with the hardships the Galactica crew endured without losing her faith that things would get better. But when the human fleet reached Earth at long last only to discover it was not their utopia but in ruins, Dee decided to end her own life. Looking back, it was easy for fans to see that Dualla had been suffering in silence the entire time, and the realization that viewers missed what was right before their eyes only made the circumstances of her death harder to swallow. - Sadie Gennis
The reveal of Marvin's (Bill Fagerbakke) death on How I Met Your Mother was alarmingly abrupt. While racing to tell his dad some good news, Marshall (Jason Segel) bumped into Lily (Alyson Hannigan), who told him that his dad had died of a heart attack. The news was a major gut-punch, exacerbated by Segel's pitch-perfect crestfallen heartache and his ad-libbed line, "I'm not ready for this." While the death was surprising, the signs were there, in the form of a 50-to-1 countdown throughout the episode that made fans take stock in their own mortality.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon was able to nimbly capture the numbing grief of a child faced with having a parent suddenly ripped away after Joyce Summers's (Kristine Sutherland) death by brain aneurysm in Season 5. Although the series had dealt with all manner of supernatural demises before, the unexpected transition from Buffy's vibrant mom to a mere, lifeless body drove home the fact that "normal" life also had its troubles and that Buffy's superhuman powers could not always save the day.
Cory Monteith's death in 2013 devastated Gleeks and brought up the big question of how Glee would write off one of its biggest stars. Instead of hastily creating an excuse for his absence, the show turned the episode featuring Finn's death into a touching tribute to Monteith, allowing the actors to mourn on-camera and give fans proper closure. It was the rawest Glee episode ever, as fans watched the cast process their own emotions upon losing their beloved cast mate, and it was nearly impossible to get through watching Lea Michele's poignant performance of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" without getting misty-eyed. - Tatiana Tenreyro
There were plenty of devastating deaths on Skins, but Chris' (Joe Dempsie) was the one that hurt the most from Generation 1. The character was a sweet party guy who didn't take life too seriously, but just as he began to mature and learned of his girlfriend's pregnancy, he died of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. His death was particularly heartbreaking because of his lost potential and the shattering impact it had on his friends. - Tatiana Tenreyro
Allison's (Crystal Reed) death onTeen Wolf was borderline traumatizing, especially considering it really came out of nowhere. There was so much story left to tell with her, and no one could have predicted she'd make her final stand against the Oni demon's sword. Her loss really echoed throughout the rest of the series in a way that other losses just didn't, especially since she saved their lives in the process of her sacrifice.- Lindsay MacDonald
When Penny Dreadful's tortured heroine Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) met her death in the Season 3 finale, she took the show with her to an early grave. Haunted by the fallen angels who wanted to possess her, Vanessa talked Ethan (Josh Hartnett) into killing her to put an end to her suffering -- a moment that signaled the surprise end of the Showtime gothic horror, giving fans a little something extra to mourn. - Kelly Connolly
Degrassi's entire foundation is built upon directly addressing all the issues modern teens face, but in 2007, despite this notoriously honest and unflinching agenda, fans still weren't prepared for Degrassi to tackle its most shocking issue yet: death. Just as sweet, innocent J.T. (Ryan Cooley) set out to find Liberty (Sarah Barrable-Tishauer) to say that he loved her, not his girlfriend Mia (Nina Dobrev), a boy from a rival school stabbed J.T. and left him to die alone. This moment still ranks as the most heartbreaking in all of Degrassi's 40-year history, precisely because of how senseless it was. - Sadie Gennis
After serving as the lifeblood of Dawson's Creek, Jin Lindley (Michelle Williams) got a very raw deal in the series finale. By the end, she'd become the single mother of a 1-year-old named Amy, and, after fainting, revealed she suffered a fatal heart condition and could not be saved. For the final hour of the show, Jen laid in the hospital as her friends reminisced, giving the series an excuse to show an unaired version of the opening theme song and also play up the "Who will Joey choose?" question. But it was still very hard to grapple with the fact that the spirited Jen would die at the age of 25, leaving her legacy via video for her daughter who would never know her as she grew up in the care of her best friend Jack (Kerr Smith). - Amanda Bell
Joyce (Winona Ryder) had been through so much after nearly losing her youngest son in the first season of Stranger Things. So, when she fell in love with the good-natured techie Bob Newby (Sean Astin) in Season 2, it seemed like she might finally have a happy home for her family. Bob was exactly the kind of sweet, nerdy, and supportive somebody Joyce needed to forget about her cares on occasion. However, Bob was ripped away almost as quickly as he came when, after saving Joyce and others from the demo-dogs at Hawkins Lab, he was thrashed to pieces as a reward for his hero moment. #JusticeforBob - Tatiana Tenreyro
The West Wing's Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) was a loyal supporter of President Jed Bartlet from the time he was a child, and her dry humor and generally unimpressed attitude toward the trappings of politics kept him in check even when he held the highest office in the country. A loyal, hardworking woman until the very end, Mrs. Landingham's simple way of life and unassuming nature made her completely endearing right up until her shocking death in Season 2, when she was on her way to the White House to show the President her new car.
Yes, it's true that among the many misfires made on Wisteria Lane following its fantastic first season, there was a distinct lack of good material for Mike (James Denton) on Desperate Housewives. However, it didn't make his cold-blooded murder at the hands of a loan shark any less devastating for fans who had spent eight years rooting for Mike and Susan (Teri Hatcher) to have a happy ending. But at least Mike's murder, which occurred several episodes before the series finale, gave Susan something to do other than pratfalls.
Law & Order so rarely delved into the personal lives of its characters that when it offered even the smallest glimpse behind the curtain, viewers knew to pay close attention. So when acerbic detective and recovering alcoholic Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) fell off the wagon and called beloved ADA Claire (Jill Hennessy) for a lift, viewers thought it was simply to highlight his downfall. Unfortunately, it was to show Claire's, as she dutifully picked up Lennie... only to be hit and killed by a drunk driver while a drunken Lennie walked away from the scene unscathed.
After five seasons of experiencing love, loss, and heartbreak with the Fisher family of undertakers, the Six Feet Under series finale ended in the most appropriate (yet still emotionally shattering) way the series could: by flashing forward in time to show how each of the living central characters died. We're not sure which of the future deaths left us sobbing the most -- ex-cop Keith being gunned down by robbers, Brenda dying in a nursing home with her brother, or Claire outliving everyone and passing away quietly at age 102 as she reflected on her life. But all of it was a lot to absorb, even for a show built around the business of funerals.
Because of a combination of guilty conscience, drugs, and a concussion, House's central doc failed to diagnose Amber (Anne Dudek) in time to be treated, and she died of multiple organ failure caused by amantadine poisoning. The fallout of her death was particularly tragic, as House (Hugh Laurie) watched his best friend, Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), pull the plug on her lifeless body, knowing full well that he'd let both of them down.
Angelo (Gilles Marini) was probably not your favorite character on the groundbreaking ABC Family drama Switched at Birth, but the timing and impact of his sudden death sent shockwaves through the entire Kennish-Vasquez family. He was Bay's (Vanessa Marano) estranged birth father and the man who abandoned Daphne (Katie LeClerc) when she was just a baby. However, both girls had finally gotten on a path to developing a real relationship with him when he had an aneurysm and crashed his car. The abrupt nature of his death sent both girls into a tailspin in different ways and revealed just how much he meant to both of them, even if he had only been truly present in their lives for a short time. - Megan Vick
Parenthood is the ultimate tear-jerker family drama (no offense, This Is Us) and it proved why in the series finale, which saw the end of the Braverman family patriarch Zeek (Craig T. Nelson). After witnessing the milestone moments of his daughter Sarah's (Lauren Graham) wedding and welcoming his granddaughter Amber (Mae Whitman) and her son into his home to live, Zeek's wife Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) found he had passed away in his sleep, napping in his favorite chair. Although Craig T. Nelson wishes the finale had left Zeek alive, leave it to Parenthood to deliver one last gut punch in the final moments. - Sadie Gennis
NYPD Blue fans knew that Jimmy Smits was leaving the ABC drama in 1998, but the way his character, Bobby Simone, was written out of the show ensured that this telegraphed departure was still absolutely soul-crushing. When Simone underwent a heart transplant to treat an already diagnosed condition, he developed a brain infection that left few treatment options. The grounded reality of the situation, along with the ripping political statement on the U.S. healthcare system, led to an emotional hour that viewers are still remembering decades later. - Sadie Gennis
The death of Curtis Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) in The Shield was exceptionally sad because it was at the hands of his former friend on the Strike Team, Shane (Walton Goggins). Fearing that Lem would turn himself into the authorities and implicate them all for their crimes, Shane used a stolen grenade to kill Lem, and, as he watched him die, Shane's overwhelming sense of remorse set in very quickly. The scene of Shane breaking down as his friend faded was upsetting, to say the least. - Kaitlin Thomas
Sweet and reserved witch Tara (Amber Benson) found her voice as she fought for the honesty she deserved in her relationship with Willow (Alyson Hannigan) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which broke major ground for lesbian representation on TV. But shortly after she and Willow reconciled, Tara was killed by a stray bullet: a shocking, senseless death that outraged fans and pushed Willow down a path so dark she tried to end the world. - Kelly Connolly
Fred (Amy Acker) may be the most tragic figure of any Joss Whedon show, which is saying a lot. After being rescued from the hell dimension where she spent years enslaved by demons, Fred regained her independence over her time on the Buffy spin-off, becoming the beating heart of Angel Investigations. That's why it was so devastating when the demon Illyria not only killed Fred and possessed her body, but destroyed Fred's soul in the process, denying her a well-earned eternity of peace. Illyria continuing to reside in Fred's body after she died was then a constant reminder of this loss, and proof of just how brutal Whedon can be. - Sadie Gennis
After finally getting discharged from the Army in M*A*S*H's third season, Blake's (McLean Stevenson) transport plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. Although the actor's departure from the show had been announced, no one expected it to be so permanent. The show always had a knack for balancing laughs with serious reflections on war, but Col. Blake's death marked a serious turning point. Rarely on TV had a major character been killed off in such tragic fashion. In fact, producers kept Blake's death secret from the cast and crew until the final scene, during which Radar came into the O.R. to tell everyone the sad news, and so the actors's shocked and sad reactions were all completely genuine.
Game of Thrones' final season was a bloodbath. First, little Ned Umber (Harry Grasby) got strung up by the Night King in particularly gory fashion, but then the Battle of Winterfell -- what we could see of it, at least -- cost the lives of Edd (Ben Crompton), Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) before the Night King was finally defeated. Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) sacrificed herself to the wind, and fans then watched Rhaegal and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) get ambushed, while Lord Varys' (Conleth Hill) betrayal of his queen was soon met with fire.
Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound (Rory McCann), finally had his fatal faceoff with his brother Gregor, aka The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), after Qyburn (Anton Lesser) was unceremoniously disposed of. And while Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) managed to kill Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), he still found himself trapped with Cersei (Lena Headey) in the crumbling cellar of their castle. In the end, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) had so fully embraced being the Mad Queen that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) had no choice but to assassinate her before she could begin burning down the rest of Westeros. Of them all, the death of Daenerys Targaryen, both in body and in spirit, was the most gutting. - Amanda Bell
Riverdale fans said goodbye to the show's sturdiest parental figure, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), following the actor's real-life death from a stroke. After the show returned from its summer hiatus, it was revealed that Fred had died in a hit-and-run accident after attempting to save the life of a woman (played by Perry's former Beverly Hills, 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty). It was a tough development to take, both on and off screen. - Amanda Bell