15 Shocking Deaths from Television History
It wasn’t always like it is today. You never saw a key member of the Starship Enterprise losing their life in a season finale. We never saw Buck Rodgers not be able to get out of whatever predicament he had gotten himself into. And there was never any question that Mulder wasn’t really dead during the later years of The X-Files.
No, week in and week out our favorite television characters always found a way to keep on truckin’. But it seems like these days supporting and even main characters are dropping like flies on our favorite shows. Be it a drama, a comedy or even a cartoon, no one is safe from the writers anymore who are looking for any way to increase their viewers.
But my goal here is to look at a handful of the deaths on shows that I personally watched that completely caught me off guard and maybe even got my “allergies” worked up. (It goes without saying, but SPOILERS DEAD AHEAD!!!!)
I guess this one wasn’t as shocking since it was advertised that a character was going to die. But the shock was WHO it was. A dark moment for an otherwise carefree show.
I remember when I watched the pilot episode of South Park and they killed Kenny (you bastards!) for the first time. I thought the show would be hit so hard with controversy that there was no way it would last. Here we are, fifteen seasons later, and Kenny still dies every once in awhile. This would have ranked higher had it not become the long running gag of killing him every episode for the first four or five seasons.
After the disaster that was the fourth season of Alias and Ben Affleck apparently having his vagina hurt over the fact that his new wife, Jennifer Garner, used to date Michael Vartan in real life, killing off the male lead on the show was pretty much the death knell for a truly unappreciated J.J. Abrams masterpiece. Even though he did return eleven episodes later. This is what keeps it this low on the list.
While Farscape is still ridiculed by those who never watched it, it was the best and most original science fiction series of the last fifty years. It has a loyal following and that was the only way the space epic was actually completed after being canceled unexpectedly after four seasons. But one thing the show never had a problem with was making you care for a character and then mercilessly killing them off. Zhaan, Ka Dargo, Crais and even Talyn. But it wasn’t until the lead star of the show was killed off in the middle of third season that things really got crazy. But, this is sci-fi and anything can happen. He had been cloned basically and there was two of him that were the exact same in every way. To the day, no one knows if it was the copy or the original that died. Compelling, that Farscape.
Once the crew of the Galactica found the Promised Land “Earth” to be nothing but a nuclear wasteland, Dee lost it and after reconciling with her husband, Lee. She promptly pulled out a gun and shot herself in the head. Many a “HOLY SHIT!” rang out across the BSG fan community.
We had seen the main four of team SG-1 get out of so many jams over the first five seasons of the long-running series that I thought I knew how this one would play out. But as the time crept closer to the end of the episode, Dr. Jackson was getting no better. In fact, he was getting worse until he finally died of radiation exposure. He returned to the show after a season off or this would have ranked higher on the list. This seems to be a knack for all things science fiction.
It seemed like the end of a regular episode of the political drama when Mrs. Landingham left the White House to go pick up her new car from the dealer when she was hit by a drunk driver and killed in the crash. Completely unnecessary and the show suffered a bit without her, in my opinion. The banter between her and President Bartlet was one of the best parts about the series.
The Sopranos never was all that shocking when a character got whacked. Some made you ecstatic (Ritchie Aprile) while others made you tear up (Big Puss). But when Adriana confessed that she had been helping the FBI bring down Tony to her longtime boyfriend Christopher and he agreed they would go into witness protection, it was rather surprising when Silvio drove her out in the woods and whacked her. As for Christopher, in the final season you knew main characters were going to fall. But the how and when Chris went out was… anticlimactic. After a car accident left him in pretty bad shape, Tony suffocated him. Hated it.
I realize that I’m basing this off of a movie and not a TV show, therein kind of breaking my own rules. But it was a film that tied up the series, so I’m going to count it. At the end of Serenity, Wash landed the ship against impossible odds and then was killed by a Reaver harpoon when you thought everything would be okay. A complete shock that had even the most diehard Browncoats’ jaw on the floor.
People like to put down this series now, but it wasn’t as huge of a hit as it was because no one watched it. I’ll admit that I did and I loved it. I still watch reruns now and then because I loved John Goodman as Dan Conner. So when it was revealed in the series’ final episode that Dan had died of a heart attack and the last season was a made up chapter in the book Roseanne was writing, it got the Kleenex being passed around.
There are too many shocking deaths for me to cover them all for this list, but I think John Locke’s hit me the hardest. Mainly for the fact that Locke was my favorite character since the pilot. But when he died wasn’t that big of a deal, because it was all part of his plan to be brought back to life once they returned to the island. And for a whole season, we thought it had worked. But when it was revealed that the Locke that was up and causing havoc all over the island was an impostor and the real Locke was dead, the world of LOST was never the same — as evidenced with many diehards such as myself hating the show’s final season. I’d also like to give a shout out to Sayid, Sun & Jin for all dying in a span of about two minutes late in the series. That one hurt.
Buffy had always been a show that had death all around it and that was what separated it from the “teen drama” tag for so many years. But in the middle of the fifth season, in an episode titled “The Body,” Buffy returns home to find her mother, Joyce, lifeless on the sofa. A terrifying thought for anyone to imagine happening in their real lives. The episode had about a six minute scene with no cuts of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s grief as she tried to awaken her mother. This would be the only Buffy episode ever with absolutely no action scenes, music or a villain. It was more shocking than when Buffy died herself at the end of that season. An episode so powerful that I wouldn’t even watch it again on a rerun.
I really think 24 started this trend of killing off main characters. Because it wasn’t until Nina killed Jack’s wife in the closing minutes of the first season that it started becoming a trend. It was shocking because Jack had fought for 23 hours to get his wife and daughter back in his protection. And once he finally had her under security at CTU, she’s killed by someone that Jack trusted implicitly. It was shocking as hell and I remember staring at my TV as the final seconds of the season pounded away without that familiar beep. The “silent clock” would become something of a trademark for when a major character passed away.
It seems like everyone important dies on Dexter, except Dexter. So, any other character and it wouldn’t have shocked me. But in the closing moments of the stellar fourth season, Dex arrives home and calls his wife Rita only to hear the phone ringing in the house. With the Trinity Killer dead, there were no worries that anything was wrong until Dexter got upstairs to find her dead in the bathtub. I couldn’t even speak for about an hour after the show ended. The biggest twist I could have imagined. No, bigger.
I know it is still early since it just happened less than two weeks ago, but judging from the reactions on twitter and the rest of the internet, this one was not only shocking but outraged and upset a lot of viewers. When you get a big name like Sean Bean to play what is perceived to be the lead role and you market the hell out of your show with him as the face of the series, it’s going to enrage some people that he dies before the first season is even over. But, having read the book, I knew it was coming. That didn’t make the death any less stunning to me as I remember how much of a nut-punch it was when I read it. The show grabbed that same emotion and made it just as powerful on screen.
I know, I know…I’m sure I left some big character off that you were expecting, but I’m only basing this off of shows or series I have seen first hand. So I must apologize for the omission of Dallas’ J.R., your favorite doctor from House or lawyer from Law & Order. None of those shows do much for me.
With that said, I’m sure it won’t be the last time a death on a television favorite of mine upsets me. But I doubt I’ll be as shocked ever again after witnessing some of these listed above.