No character is safe. With today’s TV dramas, we imagine every actor gets their weekly script and reads anxiously in hopes that their demise isn’t penned on page five. The worry is real, because these days, sudden character death happens more often than not. And you’ve got to admit, it makes for compelling, edge-of-your-seat TV. Sometimes the death is expected, but often we’re taken completely off guard, either by the death itself, or the manner by which the character meets their end.
Here are 10 of the most shocking TV kill-offs that had viewers reeling in their couches. Oh, and just in case: major spoilers ahead.
Zoe Barnes, House of Cards
Blink and you might have missed it. One moment reporter Zoe Barnes (played by Kate Mara) is standing on a subway platform with then house majority whip, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), and the next thing we know, she’s she’s midair, staring down the business end of an oncoming train. Time to frantically hit the rewind button – did we really just see that? Surely, this must be a dream sequence. No one saw it coming.
Rita Bennett (Morgan), Dexter
So sweet, so innocent, so naive. We had chills for weeks following the dramatic scene when Dexter arrives home to see his wife, Rita, (played by Julie Benz) soaking in a pool of her own blood in the bathtub, eyes open displaying her final submission. The character’s surprising death was compounded by its method: vengefully at the hands of the Trinity Killer (played wonderfully by John Lithgow) in his signature fashion. The scene plays into a deeper facet of the storyline as the it is set up to bring back awful memories of Dexter’s own mother’s death. To say this moment was shocking would be a gross understatement.
Shane Walsh, The Walking Dead
The lead villain in a show usually lasts at least a few seasons, because he or she can really bring the tension, and people love back-and-forth, cat-and-mouse games. So viewers were bamboozled when The Walking Dead let Shane (Jon Bernthal) – the key antagonist – die in the second season of the show. His death, however, was an important one, as it was the first to let viewers (and cast members!) know that no one was off limits. Still, that didn’t make it any less troubling.
Opie Winston, Sons of Anarchy
Viewers were riddled with shock and disappointment when Opie (played by Ryan Hurst), a loyal member of the Sons of Anarchy and long-time best friend of club President Jax Teller, was not just killed, but brutally dispatched in the show’s fifth season. Even worse is that he sacrificed himself to save his brothers, who are also forced to watch him get bludgeoned to death with a lead pipe. And as if that weren’t enough, his death is preceded by that of his sweet and innocent wife, who was accidentally shot dead in a car after an attempted hit on Opie. It’s not surprising that show creator Kurt Sutter had to respond to a number of “Nooo! Why Opie!” inquiries following the fateful episode.
Lizzie Samuels, The Walking Dead
It’s the death that sparked plenty of controversy, and an unlimited number of Internet memes that gave a whole new meaning to the four words “look at the flowers.” After displaying clear signs of severe mental illness, including murdering her own little sister, Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) meets her fate in front of the flowers, as Carol reluctantly executes the girl for the greater good of the rest of the survivors. Up until the last minute, we weren’t sure if Carol could go through with it. And the fact she did (while uttering those four words) makes it all the more disturbing.