Last night treated the viewing public to two deliberately epic television deaths. At risk of revealing spoilers, the deaths will not be mentioned—but you can read about one here and the other here. In honor of this monumental night of television, we’re looking back on some of the most epic, shocking and moving demises we’ve seen on the small screen. The range covers the hard-hitting crime series murders, the emotionally resonant sitcom and drama passings, and a likely surprising animated entry. Check it out, and sound off with some of your most memorable entries in the comments section.
Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire
Not long after another big (and quite unsettling) development in the character of James Darmody, who had been considered by most to be Boardwalk Empire’s driving force, the character was killed off by his former mentor and father figure, Nucky Thompson. From the getgo, Boardwalk was pegged not just as Nucky’s story, but as Jimmy’s—and as the second season progressed, this became more and more a reality. So the removal of his character altogether after weeks of thick, heavy attention to his story was not only shocking, it left us without any idea of where the show might go from there. We’re still hoping for the best.
Christopher or Adriana on The Sopranos
You can’t really be all that surprised when someone gets the axe on a show about the mafia. But The Sopranos took it up a notch with a couple of its most memorable entries: Christopher, who incurred the wrath of his own mentor and cousin, Tony, and Adriana, whose position as an FBI informant resulted in some very displeased family members. Both were pretty defining moments in the illustration of the lengths these characters were willing to take to preserve their world.
Henry Blake on M*A*S*H
What was so powerful about the death of Henry Blake on M*A*S*H was how America found out. The country bade farewell to the lieutenant on the third season finale, happy to hear that the good-natured soldier would be returning home to his wife and family. However, after a summer of misplaced comfort, the fourth season opened with the news that Blake’s plane was shot down after takeoff, instilling the viewing public with a tremendous deal of grief—both for this fictional character and for the nation’s fallen troops as a whole.
Jane (Jesse’s Goth Girlfriend) on Breaking Bad
Admittedly, there are better examples of truly epic and memorable deaths on Breaking Bad. Gus Fring as the obvious, with henchman Vincent and chemist/bicycle enthusiast Gale Boetticher as close runners up. But Jane was the first example of Walt’s decline. He chose to let her—a generally innocent person—die in order to better himself. Though her passing was slower and quieter than that of those before and after her, Jane’s death was a horrifying and poetic turning point in the show. The first real step in Walt’s big, bad breakdown.
Seymour on Futurama
This is likely the most surprising entry on this list. First off, Futurama is a cartoon. Secondly, Seymour, the individual in question, was a dog—and not a regular character. But you would be hard-pressed to find emotional resonance in the passing of any television character matching that of time traveler Philip J. Fry’s 20th Century dog. It wasn’t so much the death of the canine that was so heartbreaking, but the years leading up to it: as we found out in the final moments of the episode, faithful Seymour waited ten years for his beloved owner Fry to return from the future, never leaving the spot where they last parted, and eventually dying of lonely old age. Just writing about it now brings a tear to my eye…
Rita on Dexter
A testament to how strong a show Dexter used to be, Rita’s death was one of those rare moments in television that inspired complete silence in roomfuls of viewers, followed by weeks and weeks of nonstop conversation. The emotional resonance of Rita’s death on a show about an emotionless sociopath is a fascinating phenomenon, and one that truly exemplifies how much Benz contributed to the show. Unfortunately, along with Rita, Dexter’s quality also took a pretty big nosedive.
Charlie on LOST
LOST has multitudes of epic deaths. The early demise of major character Boone (Ian Somerhalder) kicked off the idea that on this show, nobody was safe: a theme that carried all the way to the very last episodes, when we couldn’t help but cry (don’t deny it) at the passing of Jin and Sun. But Charlie’s death stands out far and beyond the rest of the series’ major deaths. Troubled by his drug addiction since before coming to the island, Charlie struggled with his identity, which landed somewhere between hero and villain throughout the early seasons. But Charlie’s role was solidified with the monumental sacrifice of his life. Few deaths on television have been more perfectly suited to the character—Charlie became the hero as no one else could, embracing his lifelong passion of music to figure out and enter the harmonic code into the underwater signal-jamming device and save his friends and, more significantly, the love of his life.