In many ways, following a favorite television character is like having a friend in real life. After all, after meeting them for the first time in the show’s pilot episode, you get to grow up with them and watch as they mature and age in real time. And because of this, saying goodbye can be a difficult process – even a devastating one. Indeed, these 20 characters’ deaths still leave us weepy to this day.
20. Ned Stark – Game of Thrones
When we first started watching Game of Thrones, we assumed that main characters were safe from death. Alas, how wrong we were, as – just a few episodes from season one’s finale – protagonist Ned Stark is unforgivably executed by King Joffrey. Shocking and unexpected, Stark’s passing showed us that no one was safe in the land of Westeros.
19. Hank Schrader – Breaking Bad
Though Walter White spills blood remorselessly throughout Breaking Bad, the meth head honcho had to have a breaking point. And that moment comes when he inadvertently causes his brother-in-law Hank Schrader’s death in season five’s aptly named “Ozymandias.” Still, while his death is indeed devastating, Schrader’s defiance against his killers reminds us why we fell in love with the grizzled DEA agent in the first place.
18. Wallace – The Wire
Unlike most of his drug dealer cohorts, The Wire’s Wallace was never cut out for the game. Indeed, his guilt over a stick-up artist’s death makes him reconsider his life and contemplate heading back to school. However, as Wallace proves too sensitive for the street and duly co-operates with the police, he is callously executed by friends Bodie and Poot.
17. Teri Bauer – 24
Jack Bauer suffers many things during 24’s first day, but none are as heartbreaking as losing his wife Teri in the season’s final moments. And given that she is shot by CTU mole Nina Meyers, Teri’s death was utterly preventable. Worst of all, she was also pregnant with his child. As a result, then, Jack was cruelly denied the happy ending he’d been seeking.
16. Bleeding Gums Murphy – The Simpsons
Few things are as difficult for children to accept as death, and The Simpsons explores this fact beautifully in the episode “Round Springfield.” It sees Lisa Simpson devastated to discover that her jazz musician hero Bleeding Gums Murphy had passed away, then go on a mission to honor his memory. Ultimately, though, her wish is fulfilled – and the two share a sad yet stirring saxophone duet from beyond the grave.
15. Charlie – Lost
After crashing on Lost’s mysterious island, troubled Charlie spends his time looking for a shot of redemption. Eventually, the former rock star gets his chance when he takes part in a mission to save his fellow castaways. And though he drowned in the process, Charlie ultimately died a hero’s death that reminded fans of the good inside his tortured character.
14. Lane Pryce – Mad Men
During Mad Men’s run, Lane Pryce became a firm fan favorite – thanks mainly to beating up sniveling Pete Campbell in a fist fight. Nonetheless, debt, embezzlement and a dismissal from SCDP leads the financial officer to take his own life. And, undoubtedly, his colleagues’ discovery of his body remains the show’s most haunting scene.
13. Zoe Barnes – House of Cards
When you swim with sharks, don’t be surprised when you get bitten. But, even then, Zoe Barnes’ death at the hands of scheming politician Frank Underwood still comes as a shock, especially as it occurs during House of Cards’ season two opener. The inquisitive journalist is pushed in front of a subway train, proving as a result that some questions are best kept quiet.
12. Marissa Cooper – The O.C.
Despite actress Mischa Barton revealing her character’s death before the episode’s broadcast, Marissa Cooper’s passing still left many O.C. followers in mourning. And her elegiac final moments – spent in the arms of Ryan following a car crash – did little to quell fan furore. During a 2016 panel discussion, in fact, showrunner Josh Schwartz revealed that he received seemingly limitless “anger and fan art” as a result.
11. Ben Sullivan – Scrubs
You know a character’s death is sad when even stone-hearted Dr. Cox sheds a tear. And so it proved with Ben Sullivan: indeed, although he only appears in a few episodes of Scrubs, Sullivan leaves a lasting impression on Sacred Heart’s doctors as well as the show’s audience. In the end, though, the character succumbs to leukemia, leaving both his friends and fans grief-stricken.
10. Dan Conner – Roseanne
Throughout Roseanne’s ninth season, fans knew things were too good to be true. After all, the Conner family’s sudden wealth didn’t fit with the show’s tone. Alas, their suspicions were proved correct when – in the show’s finale – the whole season is revealed to be a fantasy devised by Roseanne to cope with her husband’s passing. And the fact we didn’t even get to say goodbye to Dan Conner makes his death even more tragic.
9. Jen Lindley – Dawson’s Creek
Poor Jen Lindley always had the worst luck of all in Dawson Leary’s gang. After all, besides growing up to become a single mother, Jen also develops a heart condition which would take her life by Dawson’s Creek’s end. And while Lindley’s passing is heartbreaking enough, the show’s finale brings the sadness to almost unbearable levels by showing the character record a farewell message to her young daughter.
8. Joyce Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Losing a parent is one of the hardest things a person can experience; even the tough title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer still had trouble coping. Indeed, what makes Buffy’s mother Joyce Summers’ death so difficult is that it is the result of an aneurysm rather than any supernatural cause. And in a world rife with demons and bloodsuckers, Joyce’s passing and Buffy’s reaction to it reminds us just how painfully real grief can be.
7. Rita Morgan – Dexter
Though she wasn’t exactly a fan favorite, Rita Morgan showed there was a human side behind Dexter’s twisted protagonist. However, Rita pays the ultimate price when she becomes the final victim of her husband’s nemesis, the Trinity Killer. And her last appearance – seen soaking in a bath of her own blood – left even the show’s most desensitized fans sickened.
6. Michael Scofield – Prison Break
Despite being the star of Fox’s Prison Break, Michael Scofield unfortunately doesn’t survive to see his show’s final moments. In an act of sheer heroism, the prisoner is electrocuted to death while freeing his wife Sara from jail in the series finale. Still, even if his passing did indeed leave followers despondent, there’s something for them to cheer nonetheless: apparently he’ll return from the grave for the show’s upcoming fifth season.
5. Maude Flanders – The Simpsons
The town of Springfield has seen many characters kick the bucket throughout The Simpsons’ 27-year run – including the likes of Frank Grimes and Fat Tony. But few deaths were as impactful as that of Maude Flanders, who dies falling from a racetrack grandstand. The reason for Maude’s passing was a simple one: she was written out to accommodate voice artist Maggie Roswell’s departure from the show. Regardless, though, Flanders’ loss still left a hole in many town residents’ hearts – not least that of her husband Ned.
4. Henry Blake – M*A*S*H
Not all audiences can take the death of their favorite characters lightly: Henry Blake’s passing in M*A*S*H, for example, left thousands furious. Following actor McLean Stevenson’s departure from the show, his character was killed off in a highly unexpected air crash. Yet although this ended Stevenson’s tenure on a moving note, the episode prompted a backlash among fans, who besieged the producers’ offices with angry letters.
3. Omar Little – The Wire
After years spent sticking up both the Barksdale and Stanfield crews, Omar Little seemed invincible. Nevertheless, The Wire’s fan favorite meets his abrupt end from a bullet shot not by a hardened gang member but by a young boy. And while it may have been an unceremonious end to such a beloved character, as Little would say, “It’s all in the game.”
2. Adriana La Cerva – The Sopranos
Being the girlfriend of mobster Christopher Moltisanti, Adriana La Cerva seemed safe from harm. Indeed, even when she’s forced into an informant role by the FBI, it appeared as if the Sopranos character was too beloved to take a bullet. Unfortunately, the show’s writers thought otherwise, and after she reveals her secret identity to Christopher she is horrifically gunned down by Silvio Dante.
1. Robb, Catelyn and Talisa Stark – Game of Thrones
No series is as infamous for killing off its characters as Game of Thrones, and season three’s “Red Wedding” marks the pinnacle of its cruelty. And the grisly scene featuring the deaths of Robb, Catelyn and Talisa Stark as well as Talisa’s unborn baby prompted a flood of horrified fan reaction videos on YouTube. Certainly, it remains the series’ bloodiest and most devastating moment to date.