TV's Top Ten: Most Memorable Deaths

It is not uncommon to kill off a character for plot advancement (though there are some that are killed for reasons that occur behind-the-scenes), and television writers are usually pretty great at making them convincing. Some character deaths are celebrated, some are mourned, and there are some we couldn’t care less about. Regardless of the reasons (or our feelings on the matter), television wouldn’t be television without the death of a character or two. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten character deaths.

Dr. Charles Percy and Dr. Reed Adamson – Grey’s Anatomy


During what was possibly one of the best season finales on television, Dr. Percy and Dr. Adamson both died from being shot by a crazed gunman looking for revenge after his wife died in their hospital. Though Reed was not a fan favorite, and most were glad to see her go, it was well-known that Dr. Percy was in love with Reed. In a strange twist of fate, Reed died before Charles – although he did not know it – and when he knew he was going to die, he asked Bailey to tell her. The viewer’s knowledge of Dr. Percy’s unrequited love contributes to making this scene so hard to watch.

 Dean Winchester – Supernatural

Like a lot of “supernatural”-themed shows, Supernatural is not opposed to killing off people – though not all get to come back. There are some characters that probably wish they didn’t even have the option, though Dean’s death in the Season 3 finale would be an exception. Not only did he die by a horrible mauling, but then he also got dragged down into Hell – all to save the life of his brother Sam. The clincher for this scene is watching Sam’s pain while his brother dies right in front of him. Add to that the ending showing us that Dean is in Hell, and we’re left with a season finale cliffhanger where you can’t even imagine – and really don’t want to try – the pain that Dean suffers while being tormented in Hell.

 Edie Williams – Desperate Housewives

Though not one of the four core housewives on the show, Edie was a popular character. However, this was a character death that had more to do with behind-the-scenes action than anything major to do with the character. Marc Cherry (Producer) planned her death in order to cut some of the show’s costs. It would have been too predictable to allow her to be murdered by her husband Dave, so the show writers let us think she has escaped to safety, only to have her crash her car into a light post – where she is subsequently electrocuted. Of course, as far as methods to kill off a character go, this one gets points for creativity.

Violet Harmon – American Horror Story

Just when you start to think you can’t be surprised by what happens on television any more, a show like American Horror Story is made. Violet Harmon and her family are living in a house haunted by ghosts where Violet decides she wants to commit suicide. We are led to believe that she’s saved by her ghostly friend Tate. However, in a shocking revelation we learn that she actually died – Tate had just hidden her body somewhere else in the house. I guess, in a show primarily about a haunted house inhabited by a family with a sketchy past, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that she was a ghost, too.

 Jack Shephard – LOST

How do you pick just one death from a show that has possibly seen more death (and confusion) than almost any other show on television? Interspersed as it was with the predictable series finale montage of past characters, which was hard to watch in itself, that element was not really a surprise. As difficult as it would be to know you’re dying, “watching” the rest of the group fly away to safety, that is just one in a combination of reasons this scene makes this list. The clincher in this scene was Vincent (the dog) crawling out of the woods to curl up next to Jack so that he wouldn’t be alone as he died. They say dog is man’s best friend – and there was no better friend to Jack in those final moments than Vincent.

Shane Walsh – The Walking Dead


This show is based on death and destruction. In fact, as if being killed once isn’t enough, because so many who are killed are infected with the zombie virus, the characters generally have to suffer through a death scene twice before being finished altogether. Few would argue the fact that Shane definitely had this coming – especially as he was fully intending to kill his best friend Rick. However, what was a bit of a shock was the twist that had Shane turning to a zombie so quickly – leaving Rick’s son Carl to be the one to take him down for good.

Elena Gilbert and Alaric Saltzman – The Vampire Diaries

One way to top Aunt Jenna’s death from Season 2 – which was shocking in that it showed us how far the writers were willing to go – is by killing your main character. I can’t really say whether Alaric’s or Elena’s death was more shocking in this scene – mainly because I think the majority of us were subconsciously convinced Alaric was safe since to kill him you’d have to kill Elena and you can’t kill off the main character (or was that just me?). Though we were all more than a little frustrated with Elena (why couldn’t she just unbuckle that seat belt?), the scene was made all the more poignant by Alaric’s death – as Damon held him, first trying to comfort his best friend, and then realizing what his death meant. As if that whole ordeal wasn’t traumatic enough, the writers threw in a game-changer thanks to Dr. Fell having given vampire blood to Elena earlier in the day, guaranteeing her return – as a vampire.

Eddard Stark – Game of Thrones


This was one death that had television viewers up in arms. Stark confesses to a treason he didn’t commit in an effort to save his daughter. Unfortunately, the obnoxious child/king Joffrey ignores the women’s pleas for lenience and demands Stark’s head anyway – though he had originally promised to just exile him. This scene is made all the more memorable – not only for the fact that he died for confessing to something he did not do – but also because he was beheaded in front of his wife and children (and the majority of the community). It was heartbreaking watching his family try to come to his rescue, though comforting, at least, that someone stopped Arya from seeing her father’s beheading.

Charlie Harper – Two and a Half Men


What makes this death so memorable isn’t really the death itself (which we don’t even get to see). The reason that no one will ever forget the death of Charlie Harper has more to do with the actor that portrayed him than anything the writers could have written as a way to kill him off. Watching Charlie Sheen’s tiger-blood-fueled spiral down to “winning” status (and subsequent being fired by the network) had everyone prepared for Charlie Harper’s death on Two and a Half Men. The only unknowns in this equation was the exact method the writers would use to kill his character off – especially as he wouldn’t be able to be there to act out the scene himself – and, of course, which actor they would get to fill the void left by Sheen’s character.

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer


No, we’re not talking about that time in Season 1 where the Master dropped her in a puddle and she drowned. In what was one of the most emotional scenes on television, Buffy sacrificed her life to save the world (again) at the end of Season 5. What made this scene so memorable wasn’t just her death itself, but the reaction for everyone else once they realized she was gone. These friends – family, really – who had been there with her through everything found their world upside down when they saw her lifeless body lying on the ground. Buffy’s voice-over speech – and the infamous quote “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it” – contributed to making this scene that much more emotional. However, the truly harrowing part was watching the impact of her death sink in to each person there.


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