The 15 Most Shocking Character Deaths We're Still Not Over

As much as we constantly remind ourselves that the television characters we invest so much time into are purely fictional, the emotions that we feel are entirely sincere. With the likes of Netflix and popular network channels, such as ABC and The CW, our society has a knack for binge-watching and creating emotional ties with television shows. Every week, audiences tune in to their favorite series as they are continuously captivated by the plot and characters. All the dedication to the show suddenly takes a turn for the worst when a beloved character is killed off.

Whether it was unexpected or clear from a mile away, the death of a fictional character just plain sucks. Despite throwing objects at the television and crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, the sting of the death will continue to burn as the series continues. And while characters within the show illustrate moving on from the passing, viewers still hold a grudge against the show’s writers for allowing the characters to suffer that tragic state.

Episodes may come and go, but faithful fans will never be able to move past the storylines that ultimately saw the demise of adored characters. So grab some tissues and read below to find out which 15 characters’ deaths we’re still not over.

15 Paul Hennessy - 8 Simple Rules 


While most character deaths are written into the show due to creative development or actors wanting to part ways, this particular death was established due to the tragic passing of actor John Ritter. Portraying Paul Hennessy on the comedy sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Ritter suddenly passed away from an aortic dissection following the filming of the first episode of the second season.

His death was both devastating to family, friends, and fans alike as major adjustments occurred. The show developed a storyline that consisted of Paul passing away after collapsing while out buying milk. Fictional deaths on television alone are heartbreaking, but when the death is the result of a real tragedy, it made the death a much harder pill to swallow. Despite the show bringing on comedian David Spade to try and fill the void Ritter left behind, the show just wasn’t the same.

14 The Red Wedding - Game Of Thrones


As Game of Thrones fans know, 'The Red Wedding' episode involved a massacre of epic proportions. Which is why this specific episode is being grouped together in order to highlight the multiple deaths that occurred during the War of the Five Kings. The war was established by Lord Walder Frey as he sought revenge against King Robb Stark for dishonoring the marriage pact that was to bind House Stark and House Frey. Set to strike following the wedding ceremony and with Edmure and Roslin safe on the other side of the castle, the assassins masked as musicians waited for the signal to attack the Stark clan. Among those murdered in the episode were: King Robb Stark, Queen Talisa Stark and her unborn child, Lady Catelyn Stark, Lord Gregor Forrester, Ser Wendel Manderly, and Grey Wind. Needless to say that the amount of characters lost in the episode was a shocking discovery for viewers as they watched in disbelief. The episode and its high death toll sparked multiple conversations on social media following its airing.

13 James Novak - Scandal


While Scandal tested viewers’ emotions with the back-and-forth relationship of Olivia Pope and President Fitz and her eventual love triangle with the introduction of Jake Ballard, the fans wept when the beloved James Novak was killed off. As a supporting character throughout the series, James was a reporter who followed the Grant campaign where he ends up meeting Cyrus Beene, the White House Chief of Staff. Fans were taken with the headstrong journalist who wasn’t afraid to stand up to Cyrus when he failed to contribute to their relationship. Just when it seemed like James was developing as a character and getting more screen time, fans were bewildered when it was revealed that James was on the receiving end of Jake’s bullet. After trying to escape after witnessing Jake killing two innocent women, the B613 member shot him as he tried to run from his devastating end. Audiences were surprised that James’ life ended in such a way and at the hands of Jake, but it was Cyrus’ reaction to the death of his husband that hit viewers with a wrecking ball of emotions.

12 Marissa Cooper - The O.C.


Long before MTV’s The Hills dominated the drama in Orange County, California, FOX developed a hit 2003 teen drama television series that portrayed the young lives of characters navigating their way through life. The scripted series of The O.C. followed a troubled teen, Ryan Atwood, as he is adopted into a wealthy family. Being an outsider in Newport Beach, Ryan befriends his foster brother, Seth, and the girl-next-door, Marissa Cooper.

For three seasons, Ryan and Marissa embarked in an on-again, off-again relationship that was definitely unhealthy for the both of them. While the two make their way to the airport so Marissa can visit her father in Greece, their car is hit causing the vehicle to flip several times. Despite Ryan being able to pull her out from the car before it explodes due to leaking gasoline, she ultimately dies in his arms. While fans were rightfully blindsided by her death, the producers of the show felt that killing Marissa was a strong creative decision as she was a tragic heroine that couldn’t be saved despite Ryan’s best efforts.

11 Denny Duquette - Grey's Anatomy


It’s no secret that Grey’s Anatomy features its fair share of both life and death. But one of the most heartbreaking deaths to occur throughout the series was the passing of Denny Duquette. As a patient of Izzie Stevens, the two bonded during his extensive stay at the hospital when a heart became available for him to undergo a transplant following his diagnoses with viral cardiomyopathy. Throughout his stay at the hospital, he and Izzie developed a friendship that blossomed from flirting to true love. Just before his surgery to receive his new heart, Denny proposed to Izzie and the two planned a life together. However, the two weren’t able to live out those plans as Denny died of a stroke following the transplant. The devastating scene of Izzie crying on Denny’s bedside will forever be ingrained in the minds of fans. His character was so impactful to the show for it was the first major death that the group experienced together during this residency. His death continued to affect the characters throughout the series, as both Meredith and Izzie saw visions of Denny during pivotal life-and-death scenarios.

10 Lady Sybil - Downton Abbey


In what was supposed to be a joyful moment for the Downton Abbey series and viewers, it eventually took a turn for the worst when Lady Sybil died from eclampsia following the birth of her daughter. Fans were horrified to witness such a death of one of the show’s main characters. Following her death, many fans felt that it could have been prevented. It was apparent that Sir Philip made several miscalculated evaluations and decisions throughout Lady Sybil’s birthing process. There were multiple clues to her eventual condition and if treated correctly, her death could have been prevented if it wasn’t as progressive as it appeared to be. While failing to send Lady Sybil to the hospital rather than continuing a home birth could have prevented her death, it still stands that her passing was a monumental blow amongst her family and friends. And of course fans of the show were taken off guard by her sudden death.

9 Zoe Barnes - House Of Cards


Netflix’s hit political thriller House of Cards presented its audience with a shocking event during the first episode of the second season. While the show is filled with an array of conspiracies and jaw-dropping manipulations, fans can attest that the death of Zoe Barnes was a storyline that they failed to see coming.

As a young aspiring reporting for the Washington Herald, Zoe uses Democratic House Majority Whip Frank Underwood’s attraction towards her as a ploy to use him as a source to jumpstart her status as a journalist. In return, he uses her to spin stories for the press and the two embark on a pleasurable business affair that benefits them both. But when Zoe grows suspicious of Frank’s involvement with a Congressman’s death, she begins an investigation to discover the truth about the newly crowned Vice President. In order to avoid skeletons from his past being exposed, Frank kills Zoe by pushing her in front of an oncoming train. Cue the jaw-drops. Audiences didn’t think that such a pivotal death would occur in the first episode and quickly became one of television’s most shocking moments.

8 Tracy Mosby - How I Met Your Mother


After waiting (impatiently) for nine seasons, the audience of CBS’ hit romantic comedy, How I Met Your Mother was finally introduced to the mother in question. The series chronicles Ted Mosby’s quest to find his eventual wife as he narrates the story to his children. Despite being seen in episodes from almost every season, Ted officially meets his future wife in the last few episodes of the eighth season. Fans of HIMYM were delighted to witness their inevitable relationship but were thrown a curve ball when in the series finale, it's revealed that Tracy had died from an unspecified terminal illness. A mixed reaction resulted from the mother’s death as fans felt they were robbed from an ending they invested so much time into. The show illustrated the journey of figuring out who she was and fans were angry that the quest ended the way that it did. Needless to say, it was an unexpected twisted to the popular sitcom that sparked multiple debates following the airing of the finale.

7 Will Gardner - The Good Wife 


Talk about a plot twist. While this particular death is in the company of other extremely shocking deaths that drastically changed the plots of their respective shows, Will Gardner’s death definitely surprised viewers. After being betrayed by Alicia Florrick, fans looked forward to the attorney making headway in his career and personal life. However, that plan was overruled when Will was shot and killed in the courtroom. Many couldn’t understand why the show would decide to give the boot to such an important character of the show.

Ultimately, it was Josh Charles’, the actor portraying Will, decision to leave the show following the end of the season. Using his departure to their advantage, The Good Wife writers decided to kill off his character rather than an alternative exit. They insisted that Will's death would be a moment that would shape the characters and force them to reevaluate and make decisions that they wouldn’t have made prior to such a life-changing event. So, while it brought tears to the eyes of the viewers, it was the perfect solution to introduce new storylines and develop the show at another pace.

6 Bobby Singer - Supernatural 


Fans of Supernatural know by now that no matter how many times Dean and Sam Winchester die, they always come back. But that isn’t always the case for other characters on the show. Making a deal with a crossroads demon doesn’t work for every situation and sometimes the dead stay dead.

Fellow hunter and father figure to the brothers, Bobby Singer, offered his home and assistance to the trio as they fought the things that go bump in the night. Fans received the character of Bobby with open arms ever since his first appearance on the show as it was apparent that he had a soft spot for his ‘Idigits’.

The seventh season depicted a storyline that fans knew was inevitable; Bobby’s death. Dedicated fans are aware that no character is safe from death and knew that, eventually, they would have to say goodbye to Bobby. Despite knowing it was on the horizon, fans were still greatly affected by his death seeing as the three comprised a family. Since his death, Bobby has been featured in multiple episodes as a spirit that could only cross over to the 'other side' after helping his unofficial sons fight evil one last time.

5 George O'Malley - Grey's Anatomy 


Introduced as a fellow surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, George O’Malley was a concrete member to his group of colleagues. For five seasons, fans watched as he worked his way up to resident level and as he navigated his romantic entanglements with other dominant characters of the series.

While George was faced with many obstacles on the show, the actor portraying him, T.R. Knight, was experiencing complications in his personal life off screen. In addition to being on the receiving end of a homophobic slur from his co-star Isaiah Washington, Knight was reportedly feuding with the show-runner Shonda Rhimes. Due to lack of screen time and his decision to come out with his sexuality, Knight decided not to return to the hit medical drama, resulting in George’s death.

His death was revealed on the show when his friends at the hospital discovered that he was the “John Doe” that they had been working on as he was severely disfigured after getting hit by a bus. After being informed of his identity, his co-workers fight to save his life, but in the end he eventually flatlines. Much like George’s friends, fans were devastated to say goodbye to such an important character on the show.

4 Ned Stark - Game Of Thrones 


Let’s face it, the death of any character on a show can be tough, but it’s even worse when the character is one of the fandom’s favorites. This is the case for the death of Ned Stark. As a central hero on Game of Thrones, fans were shocked to watch the final moments of Ned’s life— and his brutal death. His public beheading was the result of a betrayal to insure that he wouldn’t be able to uncover evidence of King Joffrey’s true parentage; damaging evidence that could dethrone him. Completely ignoring the pleas of Ned’s daughter and newly betrothed Queen, Lady Sansa, his execution is put on display for her and all others who gathered to witness. While Ned’s death came as a shock to many viewers, it was a catalyst for the Stark children to face responsibilities for themselves and quickly grow as characters.

3 Keith Scott - One Tree Hill


The small North Carolina town of Tree Hill, was filled with some big drama. Love triangles and basketball kept the citizens on their toes until life-threating circumstances occurred. In the third season of the show, One Tree Hill focused an episode on a heavy topic that dealt with school violence when one student (Jimmy Edwards) brought a gun to campus and sought revenge on his tormentors. As tensions rose, Keith Scott took it upon himself to go inside the school and talk down Edwards from harming himself and his fellow peers. His bravery that day was the bitter trigger of his death. While he was unable to stop Jimmy from ending his life, Keith finds himself face to face with the barrel of a gun held in his brother’s hand. A lifelong history of jealousy and lack of respect caused Dan to murder his brother in cold blood in the halls of Tree Hill High. Uncle Keith’s death was devastating to fans seeing as he was a beloved character that not only treated his nephew Lucas as his own, but also welcomed his friends with open arms. While his death occurred just before his wedding to his lifelong love, Karen, his passing was necessary to build to the plot and develop growth among the characters. Despite its purpose, Keith’s absence was a void that could never be filled.

2 Poussey - Orange Is The New Black


Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black achieved monumental success as audiences were intrigued in the interweaving storylines focusing on an all-women’s prison. Among the laughs, deceit, and loyalty, there is also a strong presence of death and heartbreak at the Litchfield Penitentiary. While many cliques and groups are formed to create alliances, the women, in the end, are like family. Which is why the death of one their own is not only devastating to them, but for the viewers of the show as well.

Poussey Washington was an inmate illustrated as an outspoken headstrong woman who enjoyed hanging out with her friends rather than dealing with violence; she was one of the good ones, so to speak. Despite trying to keep a low profile, Poussey was caught in the crossfire during a peaceful cafeteria protest gone wrong. The fourth season finale showcased Poussey lying on the floor as she was accidentally suffocated by a Correctional Officer who had her face down with his knee on her back. When the fellow inmates realize that Poussey is not moving, there isn’t a dry eye in the house as Tastee sobs curled up on the floor next to her best friend. For fans of the show, the death came out of nowhere and was a bitter farewell to the favored character as she was planning to get her life on track following her release from Litchfield. 

1 Derek Shepherd - Grey's Anatomy 


Why Shonda? Why? It’s safe to say that Shonda Rhimes was everyone’s least favorite person as the executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy made that terrible decision to kill off Patrick Dempsey’s swoon-worthy character, Derek Shepherd. From the very first episodes, fans of the medical drama instantly fell for the attending neurosurgeon at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital and devoted McDreamy fans withstood the trials and tribulations of his relationship with Meredith Grey.

The series has had its fair share of deaths and suspenseful moments, but losing Derek was probably the most heartbreaking of all. After lending a hand and saving four people from a car cash on his way home to Seattle, McDreamy’s car was hit by an approaching semi and he was rushed to the hospital. Despite doctors' efforts, the heartthrob was left braindead. As Meredith whispered “you can go,” to Derek as he was pulled off life support, the cries and wails of audiences were heard around the world.


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The 15 Most Shocking Character Deaths We're Still Not Over