I say “My Top 10” because “Your Top 10” will no doubt vary.  Having read the Ice & Fire series before sitting down to watch Game of Thrones, I was prepared for moments like Ned Stark’s execution, The Red Wedding, and the duel between The Mountain and The Red Viper.  Similarly, behind-the-scenes developments on other shows prepared me for the “writing off” of certain characters.  And then there are those shows whose entanglements keeps you in a constant state of wariness, waiting for the other shoe to drop so that when it does and a character like The Sopranos’ Adriana gets bumped off, you’re left surprised…but not all that shocked.

No, the following 10 television deaths are moments that took me by surprise; moments I didn’t see coming.  In some cases, I really should have.  But at the time I watched them – spoiler free – these deaths left me completely and utterly shocked.


August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#10. Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

Look, I know it’s a soap opera and that characters die all the time in soap operas but…Lady Sybil?  Young, earnest, idealistic Lady Sybil dying during childbirth?  And her death partly attributable to her own father’s ignorance?  Shocking!

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#9. Dale (The Walking Dead)

I’ve been reading the comic book series for years, so the deaths of Shane and Lori weren’t all that shocking as the characters had far outlived their comic book counterparts.  But Dale?  Dale?!  Now THAT was a shocker!

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#8. Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

The death of Jimmy Darmody at the hands of Nucky Thompson was shocking in most part because it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nucky executes Jimmy for turning against him, yet lets Eli walk free.  Yes, I know, Eli is Nucky’s brother, but Jimmy was like a son to him.  Strange.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#7. Lem (The Shield)

For seasons, the members of Mackey’s strike team were inseparable: Vic, Shane, Lem, and the guy who got his face seared on the stove top.  And then, the team was blown apart by suspicion, betrayal, and the grenades Shane drops into Lem’s lap at the end of the show’s fifth season.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#6. Lizzie and Mika (The Walking Dead)

A two for one here.  First, psychotic little Lizzie offs her own sister and then Carol caps Lizzie to end her threat.  Critics were livid, but I thought it brave and shockingly perfect.  The best episode of the series to date.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#5. Zoe Barnes (House of Cards)

Zoe was a pivotal character throughout the show’s first season, so to kill her off so early in the second – well I, for one, did NOT see that coming.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#4. Edith Bunker (Archie Bunker’s Place)

It’s hard to lose a loveable character, especially when said character is a television icon – even more so when she’s a television comedy icon.  And for Edith to pass away in her sleep off-screen.  Agh, the anguish!

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#3. Omar Little (The Wire)

Yeah, I know.  He was living on borrowed time and, sooner or later, his renegade disregard for all sides of the law would catch up with him – but for Omar to go out the way he did, gunned down at a convenience store by a young boy.  That was a shocker.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#2. Terry Crowley (The Shield)

The pilot of The Shield still ranks as my very favorite for the sudden and unexpected twist at episode’s end, the death of undercover detective Terry Crowley at the hands of the show protagonist (???) Vic Mackey.

August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.v. Deaths!

#1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake (M*A*S*H*)

This oen gets the #1 spot because it left such an indelible mark on my young and naive t.v. viewing self.   M*A*S*H* started off as a goofy comedy that, in time, morphed into a smart, provocative dramedy – and a television classic.  And the death of the clownish Henry Blake at the end of the show’s third season marked a pivotal shift for the show – and the television landscape as a whole.

25 thoughts on “August 26, 2014: My Top 10 Most Shocking T.V. Deaths!

  1. Sybil.. that was awful! Same with Dale and the two little girls.

    I watch Mad Men so there’s one on there I’d add. And *cough* Carson Beckett.

  2. Joe said, “behind-the-scenes developments on other shows prepared me for the “writing off” of certain characters”.

    That’s a sucky way to experience a story.

  3. Discounting the 1 Stargate Atlantis doctor that literally came out of NO WHERE, I would like to add to your list (in no particular order):

    1. Dai on Falling Skies.
    2. Lucy on ER
    3. McSteamy on Greys Anatomy….
    4. Elizabeth Weir on Atlantis

    I am sure there are more but mind is drawing a blank right now

  4. Lady Sybil…that was a tear jerker, for sure! Although, childbirth deaths happened more frequently back then, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still sad though. I had read that Matthew wanted out of his contract but I was still sorry to have him killed off. I wish they had recast the roll.

    Yes, Lucy on ER was a shocker! msstargate I had read that McSteamy wanted out of his contract, so I was ready for that one.

    Wash on Serenity/Firefly was terrible! I’m still furious with Josh Whedon! Poor Zoe. “I am a leaf in the wind”. I hate it when writers kill off main characters!!! Keep that in mind… 🙁

  5. Agree with Henry on MASH and Lem on Shield, haven’t watched most of the others though. My Stargate votes would be for both Dr. Becketts and Frazier, very sad moments for me. @Tam Dixon I also hated that they killed Wash and also Sheppard Book! And I despise it when main characters are killed for dramatics, real life issues I do understand but feel it’s usually a cheap way to get emotions by killing off someone. I’m more into characters than plot so guess that’s why I feel that way.

  6. I’m with you on Sybil, and I remember the shock about Henry when the ep first aired. The rest I missed seeing.

  7. …and then there are the recent losses on TNT’s “Falling Skies”.

    Trying not to spoil, but I would have liked to see one characters retained and developed in an unusual way for mainstream TV.

    Too bad I don’t have the drive to write fan fic. 😉

  8. How’s about we have a nice uplifting blog entry entitled “Ten most shocking let-lives!”?

    I would nominate Todd for that one. 🙂


  9. Henry Blake’s death was so devastating. He was one of my top 2 favorite characters on M*A*S*H*. I liked Col. Potter and they developed the character nicely, but nobody could replace Henry Blake.

  10. Zoe Barnes and Henry Blake, definitely.

    It was in the follow up movies, but the characters were from a tv show: Ka D’Argo (Farscape) and Wash (Firefly).

    But back to Henry Blake. Gary Burgoff’s acting in that scene may have been the finest piece of acting in the history of acting!!!

  11. I have a new favorite fruit! Ground cherries!


    Sweet and yummy, just like me! 😀

    Also, made ratatouille (officially for the first time) last night: sauteed onion, added diced eggplant (with skin) and fresh thyme and dried Herbes de Provence, cooked for few minutes, added diced zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers, cooked a few minutes, added diced tomato (peeled and seeded) and garlic and salt and pepper – cooked a few more minutes and voila! Ratatouille!

    The recipe called for basil and parsley, but it was dark by the time I got to cooking this and I know there’s a BIGarse spider between the back door and my pots of parsley, so I opted for the Herbes. Next time I’ll get all fresh herbs from my garden – when it’s daylight. 🙂 I also served it with a little parmesan cheese and smoked salt, with just made it unbelievably delish!

    What I liked about this recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ratatouille-recipe0.html) is that it wasn’t a ‘sauce’, but drier, with the veggies distinct and retaining their color, flavors, and textures. It was quick, easy and refreshing!


  12. jadzia dax on star trek: DS9 & dr. janet fraiser on sg-1.

    and to every one saying wash on firefly, that was in the movie serenity & this list is about TV deaths. (pardon the nit-pick)

  13. I try not to find too much out about future plans for tv shows as it sometimes happens you find an actor is leaving.

    The ones that surprised me were (in no particular order); Kate Todd from NCIS, Janet Fraiser, Carson Beckett, Vincent Nigel Murray from Bones

    I think what makes some better (more shocking) than others is that the show is usually quite “fluffy” and friendly/funny and has no history of killing characters.

  14. I have not watched most of the shows you list.

    I don’t remember being particularly shocked at the death of Dale in The Walking Dead. I guess the amount of shock is directly proportional to how much you like the character and I found Dale, like most of The Walking Dead characters, annoying. My only shock at the deaths of Lizzie and Mika was the fact that the show was allowed to actually do it! I’m pretty sure over here in the UK there’s laws prohibiting productions from using kids in adult situations that would be considered abusive.

    I agree with your #1. That episode, plus the one where Radar leaves and the final episode of M*A*S*H are the only episodes of any TV show that make me openly cry.

    The moment Wash dies in Serenity was also a shock. Yes, technically it’s a movie not a TV show but the character was created for a TV show so I reckon it counts. By killing off Wash, Joss Whedon ratchets up the tension for the final battle. From that moment we don’t know if he’s going to kill off any of the other characters. Everything is to play for. It was an inspired decision.

  15. Wow, what a list!
    .. I haven’t seen ANY of those!!

    M*A*S*H’s laughter track put me off enjoying it. I’m not usually a stickler for laughter tracks, but that one just felt so completely fake, and I never got over the oddness of it.
    Apparently the DVDs give you the option to turn off the laugh track. But I’m not sure I want to pay for a boxset that I might never watch!!

  16. @Bailey said: “And I despise it when main characters are killed for dramatics, real life issues I do understand but feel it’s usually a cheap way to get emotions by killing off someone. I’m more into characters than plot so guess that’s why I feel that way.”

    I agree. I thin that’s why I could never get into Dr. Who. I’d just start liking a Doctor when they would change him to someone else. To me, that was just the producers finding a sneaky way to keep the actor’s salary in check.

    Hmm…maybe that’s what Corporate boards should do to their executives.

  17. Have to agree with Henry Blake… I think because it was such a shock…..Oh and although I was expecting it it was so well acted especially by Jeffrey Donovan was he death of Victor on Burn Notice… 🙁 Matt Nix to this day regrets killing off Victor.

    We were very lucky in the UK we had no laughter track on it… In fact the one time they did broadcast it with one on loads of us complained… that included me! 😀 although now the ones shown do have laughter tracks so can’t watch it… 🙁

    Kriss 🙂

  18. It is unfortunate that the fans never really know what prompted/resulted in a character being written out. Thanks to the tabloids etc., there seems to be reasons – not necessarily true for these. There may be reasons for the write off – money, difficult to work with, boring…etc. Then the actor may want or need a change or pregnancy or in real life they suffer debilitating issues and cannot continue. Or, like on Rizzoli & Ilses – Lee Thompson Young died, or the Spartacus actor who was ill. The Ziva character on NCIS – but at least they did not kill her off.

    Funny though – Dallas killed off Bobby Ewing, and brought him back, and Dallas definitely is not SciFI.

    As much as I hate to admit I love the virtual reality of the TV shows and movies, I do and as a result, get annoyed when a character/actor I now have grown attached to and love….gets removed for whatever reason or worse, the show gets cancelled.


  19. Kate on NCIS was a totally shock for me.
    And Dr. Frasier on SG1, not only was it shocking but so dam heart breaking.

    Lizzie & Mika death – man that ep was brilliant. My TWD friend and I talk this one over quite a bit. I am more surprised by people’s horror at Carol shooting Lizzie. Yes it was extreme, but what else was she to do? It’s not like you can take her to a physiologist for meds and help.

    Wash from Firefly – My first exposure to Firefly was the move Serenity. I watched the movie on a whim, loved it and was saddened when Wash was killed. He was a fun and quirky character. Then I watched the show. The shock of his death grew with each and every episode. It took me a while before I could watch the movie again.

    Sunday without God – it’s an anime, so slight digression. When one of the main characters is bumped off in the first few eps, I was beyond shocked. Oddly enough it made me keep watching because I wanted to know what the heck they were going to do next. Dude you just bumped off the main character, hello.


  20. Awesome list. Zoe Barnes was the most shocking recent one, wow. Agree Lizzie and Mika’s deaths were shocking and well done. Lizzie had to go for sure. I remember Radar breaking the news of Henry Blake’s death very well. That episode aired 39 years ago, can you believe it!? The fact we remember it so well speaks for itself, I’d say.

    Most character deaths take me out of the story, because I figure there must be some behind-the-scenes reason for the actor leaving. That’s so true of Downton Abbey. I wonder how ol’ Dan Stevens feels about his decision to leave so he could make it big in movies?

  21. Every death on Game of Thrones is a shocker for me. Janet Frasier on SG-1, Carson Beckett on SGA, Sgt. Spencer on SGU, Dai on Falling Skies, Moira on Arrow, Dualla on BSG (which I’m in a current rewatch of) and I would add Gaeta in there because his character had changed so much over the seasons. John Locke on Lost. Kutner on House. Rita on Dexter. Etta in Fringe. I’m sure I can think of more if I think about all the shows through the years.

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