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20 WTF TV Character Deaths

Shocking Deaths on Television

By Kurt Anthony Krug     May 26, 2010


20 WTF TV Character Deaths
© Mania/Bob Trate

 

 Many beloved characters have gone on to meet their maker on television – Tasha Yar, Henry Blake, Teri Bauer. Some have come back from the dead, most notably Buffy Summers, John Locke, and Bobby Ewing (who are NOT on this list). Who could ever forget Bobby Ewing coming back in the shower at the end of the 9th season of Dallas?
 
Listed below are the Top 20 Characters on Television Whose Deaths You Didn’t See Coming. The deaths of beloved characters like Dr. Mark Greene and Det. Bobby Simone are ones you saw coming, thus they’re not on this list, which was a very difficult list to compile.
 

20. Six Feet Under Cast

Six Feet Under (2005)
This show was about a family who ran a funeral home, so each episode of this series began with a death. In the series finale, things flash-forward nearly 80 years as the audience sees how each member of the ensemble cast dies in a very powerful, very touching denouement.
 

19. Maude Flanders

The Simpsons (2000)
Maude Flanders, wife of goody two-shoes Ned Flanders, was always there and then she wasn’t. At the Springfield raceway, Homer wanted the free T-shirts cheerleaders were launching into the crowds. A stray T-shirt shot out of a cannon nailed Maude, knocking her off the bleachers and plummeting towards certain death as she splattered all over the parking lot. When last seen, she was in Heaven, hanging out with Bob Hope and God.
 

18. Wesley Wyndham-Price

Angel (2004)
It wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon finale if one of the good guys didn’t die as Whedon needs to prove that there’s no such thing as victory without a cost. Wesley (Alexis Denisof) battled warlock Cyvus Vail (Dennis Christopher), who gutted Wesley, mortally wounding him. In his last few minutes, Illyria (Amy Acker) assumed the form of Fred (also Acker) (see #14), Wesley’s lost love, making his final moments peaceful. She then put her fist through Vail’s face – blood and bone spraying everywhere.
 

17. Rita Bennett Morgan

Dexter (2009)
The Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) claimed one last victim prior to being murdered by police blood spatter specialist Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), who moonlights as a serial killer: Dexter’s wife Rita (Julie Benz). He comes home to find her lifeless body in a bathtub overflowing with her blood and her little boy Harrison covered in his mother’s blood. A very gruesome way to go.
 

16. Det. Shane Vendrell

The Shield (2008)
Dirty cop Det. Shane Vendrell learns that fellow dirty cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) has been granted an immunity deal in exchange for him ratting out his cohorts about all their dirty deals throughout the course of the series. This includes Shane. While Vic may be avoiding prison, Shane won’t be. Rather than be taken alive, he murders his pregnant wife and 2-year-old son before committing suicide, demonstrating his desperation.
 

15. Jenny Calendar

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2008)
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Angel (David Boreanaz) make love, resulting in Angel losing his soul, becoming the remorseless Angelus, the Scourge of Europe. Only techno-pagan Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) can restore Angel’s soul, which Angelus doesn’t want. He breaks her neck and dumps her body in Giles’ (Anthony Stewart Head) bed, which is littered with rose petals. Creator Joss Whedon said killing Jenny off was to communicate to the audience that Angel wasn’t under deep cover – he was evil, pure and simple. This was his way of proving that. Message received loud and clear, Joss.
 

14. Winifred “Fred” Burkle

Angel (2004)
The brainy Fred (Amy Acker) with her adorable accent, mile-wide smile, and her girl-next-door likeability died a violent, brutal death as the demon goddess Illyria (also Acker) took up residence in her body. Viewers were on red alert, hoping Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters) would save her, but it would mean the deaths of millions. Wesley’s (Alexis Denisof) (see #18) is palpable as he watches her die before his eyes. Fans didn’t want Fred dead as creator Joss Whedon showed that nobody is safe in the worlds he creates. Not Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), not Lindsay (Christian Kane), not Tara (Amber Benson), not Anya (Emma Caulfield). The list goes on.
 

13. Dr. Lucy Knight

ER (2000)
Dr. Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) was a medical resident at County General. A schizophrenic patient (David Krumholtz) obtained a knife and stabbed Lucy multiple times. She died a gruesome death. It was very chilling to see a blood-covered Lucy’s lifeless eyes staring blankly at the camera. The reason behind Lucy’s death was Martin and the creators agreed the character was going nowhere. Plus, she wished to finish her degree at Yale University and stated in various interviews it was hard to be in a medical setting (even a fictional one) after the death of her sister Heather, who died of lupus.
 

12. Adriana La Cerva

The Sopranos (2006)
When Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) whacked Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) in the woods, fans couldn’t help but declare “WTF?” as they sat on the edge of their seats. Adriana was getting pressured by the FBI to rat out her loved ones. She confessed this to fiancé Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) in the hopes of running off together to start a new life. However, Christopher’s loyalty to the family was stronger than that of his loyalty to his lover as he ordered Silvio to kill Adriana, who was led to believe that he was taking her to be with Christopher.
 

11. Lt. Tasha Yar

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988)
Plenty of good stories on Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Redemption” – were the result of Tasha Yar’s (Denise Crosby) death. Yar died a stupid death at the hands of a sludge monster named Armus. Crosby was reportedly dissatisfied with her role as nothing was being done with Yar, who became a backgrounder. During “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” which involved an alternate reality, Yar reappeared and went back in time to correct a temporal anomaly. There, she gave birth to Sela (also Crosby), a half-human/half-Romulan that grew up to torment the crew of the Enterprise on which her mother served.
 

10. Dan Conner

Roseanne (1997)
Things were looking up for the blue-collar, down-on-their luck Conner family in the 9th season of Roseanne: Roseanne (Roseanne Arnold) won over $100 million in the lottery and Dan (John Goodman) made a complete recovery from the heart attack he suffered in the previous season. Turns out that the good things that happened throughout this entire season were a fantasy created by Roseanne for her to cope with Dan’s death (similar to the dream season of Dallas where Bobby “died,” but this was better). Nobody saw that one coming, not by a long shot.
 

9. Doyle

Angel (1999)
 Doyle (Glenn Quinn) died diffusing a WOMD in the 9th episode of the first season of Angel, proving that he was every bit the hero as Angel (David Boreanaz). To kill a regular cast member so soon in a new series was unheard of, which shocked and angered fans that demanded Doyle return. The official reason why Quinn left the show was Doyle was only meant to be a temporary character. Quinn died in 2002 and Doyle was mentioned prominently in the 100th episode. In the DVD commentary for that episode, Christian Kane stated that he, Boreanaz, and Charisma Carpenter would tear up during shooting as the three of them were the only cast members who worked with Quinn and missed him dearly.
 

8. Anastasia “Dee” Dualla

Battlestar Galactica (2008)
The marriage of Dee (Kandyse McClure) and Apollo (Jamie Bamber) wasn’t easy. After the couple split, they later made their peace with one another after discovering Earth was a nuclear, uninhabitable cesspool, hinting that perhaps they could resume their former love life. With joy in her heart and a broad smile on her lips, Dee went to her locker, grinned again at herself in the mirror, pulled out a gun, and blew her brains out. Her blood sprayed a photo of her and Apollo. Dee wanted her last memory to be a joyful one before she committed suicide in a sad and shocking and totally unexpected scene.
 

7. Delores Landingham

The West Wing (2001)
Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) was President Josiah Bartlett’s (Martin Sheen) executive secretary and confidante. She finally got her driver’s license very late in life and bought her first car. In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, she died in an automobile accident, which really knocked the wind out of Bartlett’s sails, as well as other characters. Death doesn’t get more ironic than this poor woman’s fate. Mrs. Landingham later appeared in a dream sequence, telling Bartlett not to let his multiple sclerosis stand in the way of his seeking reelection.
 

6. FBI Agent Renee Walker

24 (2010)
Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) joined forces with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in Season 7 of 24, becoming a fan-favorite character. She appeared this season as very emotionally troubled and on the outs with the FBI. Nonetheless, she assisted CTU and even saved Jack’s life. In a tender moment, Renee and Jack made love, both of these tormented warriors leaving behind their emotional baggage. Moments after the two consummated their relationship, a sniper’s bullet ended Renee’s life, upping the angst level. Jack is now out for blood. He disemboweled Renee’s murderer (Joel Bissonnette) after torturing him. The final hours of 24 are ticking by, proving once again that nobody’s safe and there’s no such thing as a happy ending for poor Jack (this list doesn't get much better for him).
 

5. Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon

Lost (2010)
Star-crossed lovers Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) have been like Lost’s version of Romeo & Juliet in some respects. The two were separated and finally reunited in recent episodes. The main characters were aboard a submarine when a bomb exploded. Jin convinced Jack (Matthew Fox) to leave with an injured Sawyer (Josh Holloway), while Sun is trapped under debris. Despite her pleas, Jin refused to leave Sun as they die together, holding hands. They are only two of three main characters (see #4) to die within minutes of each other in a single episode, amping up the suspense and the grief for viewers.
 

4. Sayid Jarrah

Lost (2010)
Haunted soul Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews), a former soldier for the Iraqi Republican Guard who had a talent for torturing people, has straddled that fine line between good and evil for a couple of seasons. When the mysterious Man in Black planted a bomb in Jack’s backpack in an attempt to kill the main characters, Sayid took the bomb and ran off as it blew up, sacrificing his life so that his friends might live. Again, very unprecedented to kill off three main characters in a single episode within a matter of minutes (hard to believe that it didn’t spread virally over the Internet prior to the episode). Then again, Lost is a very unprecedented show. Other shocking deaths on Lost: Pretty much all the characters who have taken the dirt nap.
 

3. Joyce Summers

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001)
Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), mother of the titular character (Sarah Michelle Gellar), died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, proving that the horrors of the real world are just as terrifying as the supernatural horrors of the Buffy-verse, if not more so. In a very well-done episode that is surreal as each chapter sequence opened with a lifeless Joyce staring blankly at the camera, the main characters go through the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grieving: denial, grief, bargaining, anger, and acceptance. The deft dialogue and dark humor that was a trademark of this series was not present at all in this episode as each character tries to come to grips with the death of Joyce, who in many ways was just as much their mother as she was Buffy and Dawn’s (Michelle Trachtenberg).
 

2. Teri Bauer

24 (2002)
Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope) had a lousy day: Her daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) went missing, was later kidnapped, Teri herself was kidnapped, then she was raped, found out her husband Jack’s (Kiefer Sutherland) mistress was his fellow secret agent Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke), then suffered some form of temporary amnesia. Once she was rescued, viewers learned she was pregnant and wanted to give it another go with Jack… a new beginning. Just when Jack saved the day, Nina turned out to be more than Jack’s mistress; she also was a mole. Without remorse, she shot a pregnant Teri in the stomach, killing her. The waning seconds of the season finale showed an agonized Jack holding Teri in his arms as her life slipped away.
 

1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake

M*A*S*H (1975)
Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), the easygoing C.O. of the 4077th, was ecstatic that he was discharged from the military during the Korean War and heading home to his family. However, en route home, the airplane Blake was on got shot down. There were no survivors. What really sold Blake’s death was a shell-shocked, distraught Radar (Gary Burghoff) delivering the news to the rest of the 4077th who were in the middle of surgery, all of whom expressed sorrow at the death of their former C.O. It was originally scripted that Radar would report that Blake arrived home safely. However, the creators changed the script within moments of shooting and deliberately planned it this way so when Radar delivered the bad news, the emotions expressed by the rest of the cast were authentic. It worked very well and still holds up 35 years later.
 
If you enjoy WTF, check out  10 WTF Movie Character Deaths, 10 WTF Movie Endings6 WTF Moments In Movies. If you are looking for the comic flavor, check out 5 WTF Comic Book Character Origins. All of these articles were written by Dirk Sonniksen...WTF???


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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 60
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HavokVer1 5/26/2010 12:09:09 AM

Teri Bauer was probably the most surprising death I'd seen on a show.  After a long, torturous day Bauer finally was able to find rest but instead rest he found the body of Teri after being killed by Nina.  The shot of the Jack holding Teri in his arms made me realize that anything could and would happen in 24.

As for Rita...I really wasn't big on where her character was going for Season 4 so I wasn't all that bummed when Dexter found her in the tub......

 

FerretJohn 5/26/2010 12:40:31 AM

The guy definitely has a thing for the Buffy-verse, but that's okay.  So do I.

DangermouseZilla 5/26/2010 2:33:58 AM

What about "L" from Deathnote? Maybe that's worthy of a mention.

Chopsaki 5/26/2010 3:35:30 AM

I agree with Teri Bauer, Anastasia “Dee” Dualla & Rita Bennett Morgan being pretty shocking. Adrianna's death you could see coming a mile away though it was sad to see her crawling on her hands and knees in the forrest. Renee Walkers death didn't have the emotional impact it should have and I found myself feeling bad for Jack, I mean sheesh can't the guy even get a little without the bag guys messing with him. Not sure why non genre shows are making the list but hey it's your list and the Buffy/Angel ones seem a bit excessive, spread the love.

Oh and the most shocking death on Lost at least for me was Leslie Arzt. Some people may be asking who? He was the junior high school science teacher played by Daniel Roebuck. He dies ironically when a stick of dynamite spontaneously explodes in his hand while he lectures Jack, Locke, Kate and Hurley on how to safely handle it. Now that was shocking...

SelectiveRealism 5/26/2010 3:37:20 AM

 Dan Turpin getting Omega Beamed by a smirking Darkseid in Superman: The Animated Series was a big WTF moment.

Betenoire 5/26/2010 4:43:43 AM

The death of Blake is an incredible moment as you see all these characters who are surrounded daily by death suddenly have it come far closer to home than they are used to-particularly when it was someone who was supposed to be leaving the war zone. The silence before they go back to saving people is just incredible.

LooneyBinJIm 5/26/2010 6:00:50 AM

Shane's death was very disturbing. Especially since it came on the heels of a similar real life incident involving a certain wrestler  (which I heard inspired it).

Also agree with Artz. Total irony there.

If no one has seen the following shows yet *SPOILERS* I guess:

 

 

 

 

 

What about Tessa from The Highlander Series? She survives being killed by an immortal only to be killed in a random mugging?

Or Warrwick Brown being shot by the undersheriff in C.S.I.?  Or Speedle (Miami) who died because he didn't clean his gun when it misfired in the middle of a shootout?

TigerPrime 5/26/2010 6:06:11 AM

How about John and Aeryn's death at the end of Farscape? Sure, they were brought back to life in the TV movie, but considering that their "deaths" were the last shot of the regular series finale, that was a huge WTF moment.

Also, how about Cally Tyrol's death towards the end of BSG? The Cylon takes her baby then blows her out an airlock!

djcgmcse 5/26/2010 6:41:55 AM

Shane's death was really messed up.  You could also include Lem's death by Shane's hand as a WTF moment.  Pretty much all of The Sheild is a WTF moment..  Haha, love and miss that show though.

Also the grandfather's death on Full House. Grandfather Papouli dies in his sleep.. sad moment.  I was pretty young kid at the time when that aired though.

Walker 5/26/2010 6:45:59 AM

 If you really want WTF, how about Tessa's death in "Highlander: The Series".  The episode has Duncan saving her from a crazy Watcher, only to have her gunned down by a random mugger on the street at the end of the episode.

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