13 shocking and brutal TV character deaths that still haunt us

television character deaths ned stark

The deaths of major characters are nothing new in television, but they can still pack a punch for devoted fans.

Whether it’s death by sword, gunshot, zombie, or even — in one of this year’s most memorable exits — by faulty Crock-Pot, TV history is filled with shocking deaths that shook audiences to their core and remained conversation topics long after the characters’ exits. In many cases, the characters don’t even need to meet their end on-screen for the moment to resonate days and even seasons later.

Here are 13 TV character deaths over the last decade that likely still send shivers down your spine.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead, including newer episodes from The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, HomelandSons of Anarchy, This Is Us, and The 100, as well as older moments from Mad Men24, Lost, Dexter, House of Cards, Lost and The Sopranos. Read on at your own risk.

Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, ‘This Is Us’

television character deaths this is us  season 1

Everyone knew it was coming due to the premise of the series and a heap of foreshadowing ahead of the fateful episode, but the circumstances surrounding Jack Pearson’s death weren’t revealed until audiences watched every painful second unfold. That such a beloved character could be killed by something as simple as a faulty Crock-Pot — or more specifically, the smoke caused by a fire the Crock-Pot ignited — made it that much more tragic. Fans’ grief in the episode’s aftermath even prompted Ventimiglia to issue a public apology to Crock-Pot.

Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee, ‘The Walking Dead’

television character deaths steven yeun as glenn rhee the walking dead

Let’s get one of the freshest (and possibly most brutal) deaths out of the way first, shall we? Sure, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) was killed in the same brutal way, with a barbed-wire bat bashing in his skull. But Glenn’s death was by far the more devastating, not only for the manner in which it happened (his skull was visibly caved), but also for the fact that he left a sick and pregnant wife behind to grieve. That’s not to mention the fact that he was one of the last remaining original characters and the moral center of the group. RIP, sweet pizza delivery boy.

Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell, ‘Game of Thrones’

television character deaths natalie dormer as margaery tyrell game of thrones

Wife of both King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and King Tommen Baratheon (not at the same time), and short-lived queen of Westeros, Margaery (Natalie Dormer) was a major political player for several seasons of the immensely popular HBO series. But viewers were left stunned when she was burned alive by the wildfire that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) set upon the Great Sept of Baelor. Her death was so devastating for her third husband, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), that he kills himself after seeing the sept burn.

Jared Harris as Lane Pryce, ‘Mad Men’

television character deaths jared harris as lane pryce mad men

The death scene was quick – the men walk into the office to find their financial officer and partner hanging in his office, unable to live with himself after some shady embezzlement. On his desk is his letter of resignation, digging the knife in even deeper. Knowing how his now-widowed wife would suffer, and seeing the grief (and guilt) in everyone’s eyes was enough to make the suicide scene a powerful one.

Julie Benz as Rita Bennett, ‘Dexter’

television character deaths julie benz as rita bennett dexter

So sweet, so innocent, so naive. We had chills for weeks following the dramatic scene when Dexter arrived home to see his wife, Rita (played by Julie Benz), soaking in a pool of her own blood in the bathtub, Rita’s open eyes 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 played into a deeper facet of the storyline, as it was set up to bring back awful memories of Dexter’s own mother’s death. To say this moment was shocking would be an understatement.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Lexa, ‘The 100’

television character deaths alycia debnam carey as lexa the 100

There was much debate over the shocking death of Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in The CW’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama. Her death stirred controversy, not only because many fans felt she was one of the more complex and interesting characters on the show (it was her, after all, who brought the 12 clans together to fight Mount Weather), but also because she was a lesbian. Many felt the death reinforced the idea that shows always “bury the gays,” and hers was one of many recent LGBT character deaths from both that show and others. Truthfully, Lexa was likely killed off simply because Debnam-Carey could no longer play the role due to her obligations with AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. Many fans were so outraged that they pledged to stop watching The 100 altogether and flip to Fear the Walking Dead instead. Needless to say, the death was a truly sad one for fans. Making it worse, her death was accidental, caused by a stray bullet.

Leslie Hope as Teri Bauer, ’24’

television character deaths leslie hope as teri bauer 24

Teri’s death was the catalyst that turned Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) into even more of a badass Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent than he already was. She only appeared in the first season of the Fox show as Jack’s wife, but her death set the stage for what was to come. Jack finds her slumped over a chair, dead from a gunshot wound to the stomach, and carries her away in his arms. The death led to Jack leaving the CTU, getting addicted to heroin, and becoming estranged from his teenage daughter. The aftereffects were felt long after Teri was gone.

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