All-time great shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and The Simpsons have introduced viewers to some of the greatest TV characters that have entertained us over the years. But there have been times where those beloved heroes (and some villains) were unexpectedly killed off, leaving those at home shocked and worried about how storylines would carry on.
Well, here are 30+ examples of TV shows that killed off a fan-favorite characters and how things shook out for the series following the big moment (or moments).
The Walking Dead (Multiple Characters)
One of the most popular shows of the past decade, The Walking Dead, has introduced its fair share of beloved characters, who eventually met their demises. Whether it’s Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) or any number of others, the drama series always found a way to move forward, even if some of us never got over those heartbreaking deaths.
The Wire (Omar Little)
Omar Little, played by the late Michael K. Williams, was one of the most unforgettable, and beloved, characters on The Wire. He also had a shocking yet very on-brand death. The Robin Hood of Baltimore was killed not by one of his rivals or a police officer near the end of the show’s final season, but by a young boy in a convenience store. His place in the “Charm City” ecosystem was picked up by Michael Lee (Tristan Wilds) in the series finale.
Game Of Thrones (Multiple Characters)
There were all kinds of gruesome Game of Thrones deaths over the years, but some hit fans a lot harder than others. But with the beheading of Ned Stark, the Red Wedding and even the ambush of John Snow, the popular fantasy series always kept the momentum going within its stories. Well, until the show lost its way in later seasons.
Dexter (Rita Morgan)
Is there a TV death more shocking than that of Rita Morgan (Julie Benz) in the Dexter Season 4 finale? Just when Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) thought he defeated the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), he came home to find that his wife was murdered in their bathtub. Some would argue that this moment was the peak of the series and that it was never really the same afterwards.
Downton Abbey (Matthew Crawley)
The untimely death of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) on Downton Abbey had a major impact throughout the rest of the series (and its two movie sequels). A character who was most effected by arguably Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). Years after that turn of events, Steven has still been apologizing to fans who never really got over his character’s passing.
Lost (Charlie Pace)
There are probably a ton of Lost fans who will agree that Charlie Pace's (Dominic Monaghan) drowning during the third season was the show’s most traumatizing death. The beloved character was a major staple of the mystery thriller’s early days and was sorely missed by Henry Ian Cusick and more after that fateful moment. The show moved on, but Charlie’s absence could still be felt through the very end.
Sons of Anarchy (Multiple Characters)
Sons of Anarchy featured a lot of major character deaths over the years. However, few, if any, come close to sacrifice of Opie Winston (Ryan Hurst), who was in prison during the show’s fourth season when it happened. Several more seasons followed, but his longtime best friend Jax Teller (Charlie Dunnam) never really got over it -- and neither did we.
This Is Us (Jack Pearson)
After teasing it for some time, This Is Us finally showed the death of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) in 2018 amid the second season. Though he survived the fire many thought would claim his life, the Pearson family patriarch passed away from heart failure shortly after. However, due to the show’s use of flashbacks, fans were still able to see the character until the series finale in 2022.
South Park (Chef)
After nearly a decade as Carman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny’s most trusted adult on South Park, Chef was killed off in over-the-top fashion in 2006. The decision to take out the fan-favorite character came after Isaac Hayes, or someone from his camp, quit the show for its attacks on Scientology. Though various versions of Chef have appeared in specials and video games since then, the OG's presence within the franchise moving forward was essentially non-existent.
Grey's Anatomy (Dr. Derek Shepherd)
Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama that pretty much deals with death on a weekly basis, but the passing of Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) in the show’s 11th season was tragic, to say the least. The impact of McDreamy’s fatal accident was felt for years, and Shepherd eventually returned when wife Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) having visions of him years later.
Two and a Half Men (Charlie Harper)
After nearly a decade on the incredibly popular sitcom Two and a Half Men, Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) was killed off after the actor who portrayed him was fired in 2011. Ashton Kutcher was brought in for the show’s ninth season, and that positive turnaround can be attributed to a CBS exec. Charlie (the character played by a double) would reappear briefly in the show’s final season before being killed off again.
ER (Mark Greene)
The early seasons of the hit ‘90s medical drama ER were headlined by Anthony Edwards and George Clooney as Mark Greene and Doug Ross, respectively. Though Ross resigned from Cook County General Hospital and started anew in Seattle, Greene wasn’t as fortunate, as he died of brain cancer. Edwards later reprised the role in flashbacks during the show’s final season.
Breaking Bad (Hank Schrader)
Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) spent the vast majority of Breaking Bad being a thorn in the side of his brother-in-law, Walter White (Brian Cranston). The DEA agent eventually died near the end of Season 5 as a result of the criminal mastermind's actions up to that point. But he would get the last laugh from the beyond the grave, as Hank’s murder helped expose Walt’s actions to the world.
8 Simple Rules (Paul Hennessy)
Paul Hennessy was the main character on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules, but the father of three had to be written off after John Ritter, the actor who played him, died suddenly in September 2003. The death of the family patriarch would be a major topic throughout the show’s final two seasons before it was canceled in 2005.
Six Feet Under (Nate Fisher)
The critically acclaimed HBO drama series Six Feet Under dealt with death more so than pretty much any show on the network, mostly due to it being set in a funeral home. However, imagine fans' shock when the show’s main character, Nate Fisher (Peter Krause), died in the fifth and final season. Following the wild death/fantasy sequence, the final episodes were spent following the Fisher family as they dealt with Nate’s passing.
House of Cards (Zoe Barnes)
The House of Cards cast had change-ups throughout the Netflix series’ run, but one of the most shocking was that of Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in the Season 2 opener at the hands of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). She would later return as a hallucination, along with Peter Russo (Corey Stall), another one of Underwood’s victims.
The O.C. (Marissa Cooper)
The O.C., a hit from the early 2000s, had all kinds of drama going on throughout its run. Yet one of the most harrowing moments was the death of Marissa Cooper, Micha Barton’s popular character, in the third season. The teen drama would continue for one more year before coming to an end in early 2007.
Homeland (Nicholas Brody)
Homeland's Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was a character who kept fans guessing when it came to his morals, but he was still one of the most popular characters on the spy series. He died relatively early in the show’s eight-season run, as he was executed in the Season 3 finale. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) would carry the loss with her for the remainder of the series, in more ways than one.
The Conners/Roseanne (Roseanne Conner)
Not long after Roseanne was brought back in 2018, the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, made inflammatory comments, leading ABC to quickly cancel the show. When the sequel/spinoff series, The Conners, came out later that year, the family matriarch was dead and buried (with Barr herself spoiling the character's fate). The sitcom, which features John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, and other stars, is still on the air.
Charmed (Prue Halliwell)
After being a fixture of the Charmed cast during its first three seasons, Shannen Doherty stepped away from the hit series, resulting in the death of her character, Prue Halliwell. Prue was eventually replaced by her long-lost younger half-sister, Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan), who would remain on the show until its completion.
Stranger Things (Bob Newby)
There have been several major Stranger Things character deaths over the years, but one that still stings after all this time is Bob Newby (Sean Astin), who died in the show’s second season. Though our time with Bob was brief, his charm and sacrifice, sticks with characters on the show and the millions who eagerly await new episodes. (Eddie Munson’s Season 4 swan song is another great option.)
And Just Like That (Mr. Big)
And Just Like That…, the sequel series to HBO’s landmark dramedy Sex and the City, started off with quite a bang. Its premiere featured the death of Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a shocking twist few saw coming. The death of Carrie Bradshaw’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) husband was integral to shaping the show’s first season, and the impact could still be felt in the sophomore chapter.
M*A*S*H (Henry Blake)
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) was a major part of the first three seasons of M*A*S*H and one of the most popular characters in the large ensemble cast. But the character would only make it partway through the show’s 11-season run, as he died in a plane crash after being discharged. Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) would then come in and take up the spot as the commanding officer.
Veronica Mars (Logan Echolls)
One of the major aspects of Veronica Mars was the complicated relationship between Veronica and Logan Echols throughout the show’s run. However, that subplot came to an abrupt end when Logan, played by Jason Dohring, was killed off in an explosion. Kristen Bell’s character would mourn the loss but would eventually push on and take her crime-solving skills nationwide.
The Simpsons (Maude Flanders)
Maude Flanders, the wife of Ned Flanders and neighbor of Homer Simpson on The Simpsons, had one of the most random and strangest cartoon deaths. As crazy as it sounds, she was knocked off the grandstand by a t-shirt cannon at a racing event. The death would affect Ned in some morbidly funny ways and was later referenced in the 2022 “Treehouse of Horror” special.
Misfits (Alisha Daniels)
Alisha Daniels (Antonia Thomas) was important to the early phase of Misfits, but her story came to an abrupt, and tragic, end when her throat was slashed amid the show’s third season. Her sudden passing would have a tremendous impact on boyfriend Simon Bellamy (Iwawn Rheon), who would go on to become the masked vigilante Superhoodie.
House M.D. (Lawrence Kutner)
Lawrence Kutner was only part of House for a short while, but he quickly became a popular character, thanks in part to Kal Penn’s multi-faceted performance. However, the character ended up committing suicide in Season 5, and his death would leave Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) feeling out of sorts.
Parenthood (Zeek Braverman)
January 2015 saw the airing of Parenthood's bittersweet series finale, which ended its six-season run. The episode most notably featured the death of family patriarch Zeek Braverman (Craig T. Nelson). The passing of the beloved character was a major part of the final episode, as his family (and fans watching at home) said their goodbyes.
All in the Family/Archie Bunker's Place (Edith Bunker)
After sitting beside her cantankerous husband for nine seasons and 200+ episodes on All in the Family, Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) passed away between the first and second seasons of the continuation series, Archie Bunker’s Place. After a short mourning period, Archie (Carroll O’Connor) moved on and continued to run his bar and date again.
Ally McBeal (Billy Thomas)
Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows) was a major part of Ally McBeal, and his dating history and up-and-down relationship with Calista Flockhart’s titular character was one of the major storylines throughout the legal dramedy series. His death in the show’s third season would leave a mark on Ally, who carried his memories with her.
Luther (Justin Ripley)
DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) played a major part in the early goings of the BBC crime drama Luther, after being introduced as DCI John Luther’s (Idris Elba) young partner. His tragic death in the show’s third season would become another emotional wound that the lead character would carry with him for the rest of the series.
Barry (Janice Moss)
Janice Moss (Paula Newsome) was only around for the first chapter of Barry, but her death in Season 1 finale of the HBO crime dramedy greatly impacted Bill Hader’s eponymous character as well as Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). One of Barry’s many victims, this one always seemed to stick with the guilt-riddled assassin.
The Goldbergs (Albert 'Pops' Solomon)
Following George Segal’s death in March 2021, The Goldbergs's creative team decided to kill off his beloved character, Albert “Pops” Solomon. It was established that the family patriarch passed away in his sleep, and the character (and his portrayer) received a perfect goodbye in the Season 9 premiere.
These are just 30+ deaths of fan-favorite characters that have impacted viewers in some way over the years, as the list had to be cut off somewhere. Each of these beloved characters may be gone, but they’ll certainly never be forgotten.