12 TV Deaths That Still Affect Us Emotionally

Michael McElhatton and Richard Madden in Game of Thrones’ famous “Red Wedding”

There are still numerous deaths on television that affect us to this day. Some deaths either still make us very sad or piss us off completely. There are many different emotions; anger, sadness, shock, etc. This list isn’t specific to any one of them. All of these emotions affect us on a day to day basis. It is only right that I showcase the deaths on television that, at least for me, bring out certain emotions. With the most recent deaths on Game of Thrones and The Good Wife, I feel this is the perfect time to write this. Oh, and if you don’t want to know the deaths of characters on shows you haven’t seen, don’t do this to yourself by willingly reading spoilers. There is the only warning you will get. Let’s move on.

Talisa Stark, Game of Thrones

How: Murdered gruesomely
Emotion activated: Shock (me); Anger (lots of others)
Why we were affected emotionally: For those who have read the books, this event was very much anticipated and we knew what was coming. We knew death and destruction of the Stark family was going to happen at the Red Wedding. When I first read that chapter in the book Storm of Swords, I had to go back re-read it. I was completely shocked at the time. I made sure to try and get some of my friends to read the books just because of that one chapter. But I wondered how it would be done on television. Would it live up to the expectations created by the book? Would they be able to visually show everything that happened? The answer to that is no. But they got so freaking close to perfection, its okay. But what wasn’t expected was the death of Talisa Stark (Oona Chaplin). In the books, Robb’s (Richard Madden) wife isn’t even invited to the wedding. But in the show, she is pregnant and in attendance on this tragic day. I wasn’t surprised she died. I was surprised HOW she died. They went right for the bold move in this one, going right for stabbing her in the belly. We already have to deal with the deaths of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) in the same episode, but seeing that was horrifying. If you need any further indication as to why viewers were angry instead of shocked, like me; check out Jeff Garlin’s rant on a podcast with Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan, in reaction to the Red Wedding.

Debra Morgan, Dexter

How: Gunshot wound/pulling the plug
Emotion activated: Pissed
Why we were affected emotionally: Okay, so this one is rather obvious. Not only was the way she died a bunch of bullshit. But the circumstances of her death and how her character was handled at the end was complete crap. A disservice to a character we spent eight seasons caring about and loving just about as much as Dexter himself. After Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) was shot by the Brain Surgeon (a horrible bad guy, by the way), Dexter (Michael C. Hall) was told by her doctors that she would be done for because of a blood clot. So she was attached to life support and Dexter had to pull the plug. But even after that, it gets worse. Dexter wraps his sister up in her hospital sheets and tosses her into the ocean, letting her sink to the bottom. So he pretty much tosses his own sister aside in the same way he did with all of his “kills” prior to this. A big lack of respect to her character, who was a really good character due to the amazing acting that Jennifer Carpenter gave us (including in the horrible final season). So why were we pissed? You crapped on a character we loved, by getting rid of her in a stupid way in what happened to be one of the worst seasons of the show, oh and to top it all off you had Dexter throw her away in the same way he did with serial killers. Good job, guys.

Tracy McConnell aka The Mother, How I Met Your Mother
Unknown illness
Emotion activated: Disappointment, sadness, anger
Why we were affected emotionally: We all saw this one coming. Even back in the episode “The Time Travelers,” everyone started theorizing that the Mother was going to be dead at the end. We saw too many emotional reactions from Ted (Josh Radnor) in particular moments of the series that led us to believe it. It turned out to be true. In a little montage in the series finale, Ted tells us that she got sick and has been gone for 6 years at this point. Ugh. I won’t even go into the last five minutes of that episode and why they sucked. But this one still managed to make me angry. And sad. And disappointed. All wrapped up into one feeling. They spent the entire final season getting us to love this character known as the Mother but revealed to us to be named Tracy (Cristin Milioti). Then they kill her. The fault of this show was building this character up as the “one true love” of Ted’s for so many seasons, only for her to feel just like a stepping stone to Robin. I know that wasn’t the intention but it was how it was presented to us that made us feel that way. We see glimpses of their relationship but we don’t see enough to show us that these two were destined to be together and that they loved each other more than a person could possibly love another human being. And her character breathed new life into a show that had grown pretty stale. So I fell in love with her character, only to be saddened when they kill her off. I was disappointed with how it was handled. And pissed that they did it in the first place.

Jen Lindley, Dawson’s Creek

How: “A rare heart condition”
Emotion activated: Sad and kinda ticked off
Why we were affected emotionally: And of course. Do we all even remember back to this one? Where the only “real” character of the gang in Dawson’s Creek collapses at Gail Leery’s wedding and is diagnosed with “a rare heart condition.” So we get to see her die after she was worrying about good ole’ Grams (Mary Beth Peil) cancer stuff. Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams…CORRECTION: The great Michelle Williams) was the one character I was pulling for to have a happy ending in this show. It wasn’t egotistical and ignorant Dawson (James Van Der Beek). It wasn’t uptight and not-even-worth-the-hassle Joey Potter (Katie Holmes). And it wasn’t Pacey (Joshua Jackson)…I had nothing bad to say about Pacey because well, he’s Pacey so naturally he’s just delightful. So we get stuck with the “Who will she choose?” ending to the show. Which we all knew was going to happen from season two and on. But they took a dump on a character that already had been shit on enough throughout her life (her times in New York, her best and albeit shitty best friend dies drunkenly falling off a pier, oh and every dude she likes prefers the not worthy Josephine Potter). Like seriously guys, she had a horrible life. And it ended the way it was when we first met her…shitty. She deserved better and so did we.

Henry Saracen, Friday Night Lights

How: Killed in action
Emotion activated: Sad…just sadness
Why we were affected emotionally: This was a rough one. Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) in one of the best characters in Friday Night Lights. He is a good kid and always has been. He has to care of his grandma and it was just heartbreaking when the knocks came on his door and two soldiers were on the other side of it. We all knew what it meant. His father had been killed. Now, this is a weird one because I didn’t particularly like Henry all that much. But it was Zach Gilford and Louanne Stephens’ acting that made us feel all the feelings. And seeing Matt just crumble at the Taylor’s dinner table was so sad to see. But Zach Gilford showed some truly amazing acting in that episode. The bottling up of everything and for only the smallest thing to make him lose it. He should have been recognized for his acting because it really was that good. That remains to be one of the best and saddest episodes of Friday Night Lights and of television in general.

Charlie Pace, Lost

How: Drowning
Emotion activated: ALL OF THEM (but Sadness is the big one)
Why we were emotionally affected: This was super freaking sad. We all knew it was coming from episodes prior. They literally made his death a story in season three of Lost. Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) was one of the innocent guys who just wanted to help. And for some reason, the universe wanted him to die. And it was going to happen eventually. Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) couldn’t prevent it forever. But when the moment came, man was it sad. The music, brought to us by the amazing Michael Giacchino, just pulls on our heart strings. The music for this entire series was amazing, but this was the moment I remember being one of the most saddening and heartbreaking. Plus the whole “Not Penny’s Boat” thing was kind of awesome.

Gus Fring, Breaking Bad

How: Blown-up
Emotion activated: Shock
Why we were affected emotionally: Breaking Bad is one of, if not the best show I have ever watched. It definitely puts in the time to develop its’ characters, along with being intelligent and badass at the same time. But when Walt (Bryan Cranston) kept plotting to kill off his former boss in fear for his own life, I never actually thought it would go down like this. Kudos to Vince Gilligan, the mastermind behind the show, for having gigantic balls in how he executed the season four finale “Face Off.” Gustavo “Gus” Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was a fantastic character. He was given a backstory, but he was a simple man running a business. I actually didn’t want him to die because I like his screen presence so much. But when Walt schemed with Tio Salamanca (Mark Margolis), I had no idea what was in store. Gus was tricked into visiting Tio, when all of a sudden, Tio starts ringing a bell. That bell is rigged to an explosive and the entire room blows up. Gus goes out the way he came in, a badass. He walks out of the room, still breathing. He fixes his tie with enough time to show the audience how he lost half of his face before he collapses to his death. Wow. Just wow.

Lane Pryce, Mad Men

How: Hung himself
Emotion activated: Sadness, shock
Why we were affected emotionally: Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) was a welcome addition to Sterling Cooper in Mad Men. He was a good businessman with an awesome voice. It became more and more obvious as Season 5 went on that things weren’t going to end well for Lane. But I didn’t think THAT would happen. Even so, I never thought a character death could be so depressing. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) finds out that Lane had been embezzling money so he asks him to resign. Lane left SCDP alright. Just not in the way we were expecting. Lane left in a horribly depressing way. He hung himself in his office and the reactions of Don, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) sold it all. Mad Men has some of the best acting on television and that scene sold it all.

Stephen Bartowski, Chuck

How: Murdered
Emotion activated: Sadness
Why we were affected emotionally: Chuck has always been a good show. It has also been more of a comedic and fun show. But it took a dark turn when they decided to kill off Chuck’s father, Stephen Bartowski (Scott Bakula). It was a cool twist to the show to have Chuck’s dad be Orion. It was a neat little idea. But we all knew his death was coming. Shaw (Brandon Routh) was an evil douchebag so we all kind of knew this would happen. But it was still sad. Scott Bakula played the part to perfection. How much he cared for Chuck (Zachary Levi) was apparent just on his facial expressions. And the one thing Chuck has always done well, is its’ music. The song they played when Shaw shoots Stephen was haunting and a perfect choice. And Levi’s acting was perfect as well. Still pretty sad. Scott Bakula will be one of favorite guest stars on that show. “Aces, Charles. Aces.”

Harry “Opie” Winston, Sons of Anarchy

How: Beaten to death
Emotion activated: Shock, sadness, something else I can’t describe
Why we were affected emotionally: Opie (Ryan Hurst) was one of the best characters on Sons of Anarchy. He was conflicted. He was a father, husband, best friend, and yet he was still played to perfection by Ryan Hurst. It was a subtle performance but a great one. When he was sad, angry, or depressed; you could see it in his eyes. And he was at the heart of the show. He was the one pulling Jax (Charlie Hunnam) out of the club’s violent ways. But their relationship had been fractured when he learned that the club President, Clay (Ron Perlman), had his wife killed a few seasons back. Jax knew about it and didn’t share it. But Jax, Opie, and Tig all found themselves in prison and in a unique situation. New villain Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau) told Jax that one of his club members had to die for them to continue business. An impossible choice for Jax to make. So he wanted to go out himself. But Opie being the best friend that he is, took his place. Which is one of the most shockingly brutal and sad scenes I have scene on television. Ultimately seeing him get bashed in the head with a metal pipe was haunting. And watching Charlie Hunnam’s brilliant acting reacting to watching his best friend die, made it all worse for our feelings. “I got this, brother.” You are missed, Opie.

Tara Knowles , Sons of Anarchy

How: Stabbed to death
Emotion activated: Shock
Why we were affected emotionally: Tara (Maggie Siff) definitely wasn’t a popular character on Sons of Anarchy. Especially in the later seasons, as she schemed against her own husband to try and get herself and the kids away from the violent club life. She definitely made some errors; faking a pregnancy/miscarriage is definitely one of them. I definitely wanted her to die, but like this? Holy shit. I have never seen a death so brutal on television in my life. And I’ve seen the Red Wedding! Wow. Gemma (Katey Sagal) needs to die, like now. Gemma thought Tara ratted on the club. When actually, prior to her death, Tara and Jax (Charlie Hunnam) had actually come together in a moment of compassion, instead of rage. Jax had every reason to be pissed. But he told her he wasn’t going to hurt her or the kids. He told her not to run and to just be a good mother and save their boys. A really nice moment. And then…Gemma had to try and drown Tara in a sink. And that isn’t the end of it. It wasn’t working so she grabbed a meat carving fork and stabbed Tara in the back of the head multiple times. Oh my God, that was so brutal. I wanted her dead, yet I felt sad at the same time. Now, I really want Gemma and Juice to die. Because Juice is a piece of shit. That is all that can be said about him. That was a haunting death and I will never get that image out of my head. Oh, and Jax holding his dead wife in his arms as the finale ends? The most heartbreaking thing ever. Especially given the amazing performance by Charlie Hunnam in that scene.

Zoe Barnes, House of Cards

 Thrown in front of a train
Emotion activated: Shock
Why we were affected emotionally: Zoe (Kate Mara) is a very strong character in House of Cards. She has gotten to where she needed to be by doing some unprofessional things, but she is her own person. And she had grown a lot. She no longer wanted to overlook something that she knew was wrong. But she asked the wrong questions to the wrong person. I still did not see that coming. I had no idea that this was coming and kudos to the entire cast of House of Cards for keeping a tight lid on this. It didn’t get leaked at all and I was in complete shock when Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) threw her in front of a moving train when she started asking too many questions. I thought she would be around for a long time, but I was wrong. That just goes to show you, don’t mess with Frank Underwood.

There you have it. Twelve television deaths that still haunt us, for the most part. Did I leave anybody out?

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