Another year of television down, another in memorium for all the beloved characters we lost along the way. As we all prepare to start our New Year’s resolutions, we can’t help feeling the very end of 2016 has left us with a bad taste in our mouths by handing us many losses, some of which were fictional, and others which were sadly all too real.
In the golden age of the small screen, viewers are slowly learning they can no longer wear their hearts on their sleeves. As much as we’d like to think all the showrunners of Hollywood won’t murder fan favorites, it simply isn’t true. Killing off major characters isn’t the daring move it used to be. If you want to compete in the ratings race, the chances are high you may have to off somebody along the way.
From the heroes who risked their lives for the greater good, to the on-screen mutilations that had us saying good riddance to some of TV’s most hated personas, it’s been a doozy of a year. Whether you loved them, hated them, or loved to hate them, these are The Biggest TV Deaths of 2016. May they all rest in peace.
Needless to say, SPOILERS lie ahead.
16. Stranger Things – Barb Holland, Eleven
It was the show that took the internet by storm and left viewers asking, “What about Barb?!”
When creators Ross and Matt Duffer were tossing around ideas for how to grab fans’ attentions, they could never have foreseen the emotional outpouring that would come from the death of Nancy’s best friend, the freckle-faced Barb. Played by Shannon Purser, Barb was the good friend everyone hopes they have in their corner; so when the Demogorgon dragged her into the Upside Down, we all let out a collective sigh which was only worsened when the show dropped her like a hot potato, never investigating her whereabouts after she disappeared.
If there was one shining beacon of hope from Stranger Things after Barb’s passing, it was that newcomer Millie Bobby Brown was still waxing the floor with all the newcomers in the TV world. Still, we knew the mysteriously appearing Eleven, fit with her psychokinetic abilities, would not likely have a happy ending. In her sacrificial departure, she pinned the series’ monster to a wall and disintegrated it, disappearing in the process. While we know she’s likely to return for season two, it doesn’t make her act of heroism any less impactful.
15. This Is Us – Jack Pearson
Following the interconnected lives of two fraternal twins, Kate and Kevin, as well as their adopted brother Randall, This Is Us weaves together the past and the present through moments of tragedy and heartbreak, but it was one major character whose story came with the biggest head-scratching question of season one.
Jack Pearson, loving father to three and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, is shown through flashbacks struggling with alcoholism. Despite being mentioned in passing, Jack is never shown in the current day until it’s revealed that he had died years ago, though his exact cause of death is never discussed. Carrying on the tradition her father set, Kate watches Steelers games with her father’s urn while his life lessons continue to haunt his family long after he’s gone.
The season one finale would leave fans with a major cliffhanger as Kate’s recently dumped boyfriend Toby flew across the country on Christmas to win her affections. In a last minute shock, he’s seen collapsing on the ground after an apparent heart attack as he’s put on a gurney and rushed to the hospital, leaving viewers waiting for season two to see if we’ll have another name to add to the series’ RIP list.
14. Person of Interest – John Greer, Samantha “Root” Groves, John Reese
Despite receiving significant acclaim during its five-season run, Person of Interest always felt like CBS’s little-recognized stroke of genius that few people knew about. The series never shied away from major deaths, and in the series’ final year, it wasn’t about to go out with a whimper.
In the tenth episode of season five, fan-favorite Root, a highly intelligent computer hacker, laid her life on the line to protect Harold Finch, the creator of the Machine (a way of monitoring the entire world through surveillance in order to stop global acts of terrorism). While driving with Harold, an asset working for an opposing artificial superintelligence known as Samaritan targets Finch with a rifle. Weaving in the way of the bullet, Root is fatally shot, succumbing to her injuries moments later.
Later in episode twelve, John Greer, a former MI6 agent working for Samaritan, sacrifices himself in a failed attempt to kill Finch, sealing them both inside a room before the air is sucked out. While Finch ultimately survives, the same cannot be said about his partner John Reese, who is gunned down while uploading a version of the Machine which could destroy Samaritan for good.
13. Empire – Rhonda Lyon, Camilla Marks, Mimi Whiteman
The music game is tough. Empire came out of the gate swinging when it debuted back in 2015, and the look inside Lucious Lyon’s Empire Entertainment has been nothing but scandals and power struggles ever since.
Airing the second half of season two early in the year, the Lyon empire was able to breathe a big sigh of relief with the death of Camilla Marks and Mimi Whiteman. Returning after season one, it’s revealed that Camilla is married to Mimi, who has managed to take over Empire Entertainment from Lucious. After an enraged Mimi dumps all her stock in the company, Camilla kills her wife, staging it to look like an accident. What she never predicted, however, was that Lucious would film the whole thing, using it as leverage to convince Camilla to commit suicide by drinking poison.
In the same season, audiences were treated to a cliffhanger as Anika Calhoun, the former head of A&R, threatens to release confidential information that could destroy the company unless Lucious marries her. Confronted by Rhonda, the wife of Lucious’ eldest son Andre, the two tussle on a balcony, where it’s revealed that Rhonda fell to her death.
12. Bates Motel – Norma Bates
From the beginning of Bates Motel, viewers have been pondering the question, “Exactly how will Norma die?” We all know about Norman’s obsession with his mother in his later years, but the murdering crossdresser to be had a long way to go before he actually made the leap and killed his own blood.
Fans finally got their answer in season four. In the penultimate episode, Norman is shown comforting his mother after she falls asleep. Taking a moment to stare at her before he leaves, he sneaks off to the basement of their home and lights the furnace, making sure to close all the vents of the house along the way. It isn’t until the following week, in the finale, that we’re finally given the outcome of Norman’s intended murder-suicide. Laying next to his unconscious mother, we quickly learn that Norma didn’t make it, leaving her heir to the motel awake and grieving over the loss.
For viewers wondering how the series will proceed, there’s no need to fret. Series creator Carlton Cuse has already confirmed actress Vera Farmiga’s return for season five, only now she will appear as a part of Norman’s psyche, playing with his emotions and setting the stage for everything to come.
11. Westworld – Theresa Cullen, Dr. Robert Ford
Of all the new shows to debut over the past year, none enjoy seeing characters die more than Westworld, and for many of those characters, we’ve witnessed their deaths time and time again.
Set in a futuristic theme park where humanoid robots live in a western-style setting, the visitors of the attraction pay a steep price to do anything they want, including mutilating the bodies of the hyper-realistic inhabitants. On a weekly basis, multiple cast members bite the dust, only to be resurrected and reprogrammed by the Westworld staff. With so many shocking twists revealing secrets within the walls of the park, it’s not surprising that some of the human characters would see an early exit.
As the Head of Quality Assurance, Theresa Cullen is responsible for overseeing safety and standards, a fact which puts her in conflict with the park’s creative director Robert Ford. After she devises a plan to prove Ford has been tinkering with the machine’s personalities, Ford recruits a host to strangle her. She would be avenged, however, as Ford would be shot in the back of the head by another series regular in the season finale, leaving fans with questions about his demise.
10. Outlander – Dougal MacKenzie, Angus Mhor
Adapted from the best-selling novels by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander has been a roller coaster ride through the murky political landscape of Scotland around the time of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Transported to a foreign land, WWII nurse Claire finds the life she knows threatened by dangerous warriors. With the aid of the strapping Jamie Fraser, whom she marries, she watches as companions and enemies die around her.
The second season of the series brought an alarming number of notable deaths. To recap just a few, the fan-favorite Highlander Angus Mhor took an early bow after succumbing to injuries sustained in the Battle of Prestonpans. Also destined to go was the respected and feared Dougal MacKenzie, who sought to kill Claire and Jamie for treason after hearing of their plans to assassinate Prince Charles to prevent the Battle of Culloden from ever happening. He fell after the two worked together to overtake him, stabbing him to death.
Apart from the fan-favorites, we also saw characters such as the Duke of Sandringham and season two villain Le Comte St. Germain meet their demise. In the season finale, it was also revealed that 20 years had passed since Claire returned to her husband Frank Randall in modern time, learning he too has died.
9. The Americans – William Crandall, Frank Gaad, Nina Krilova
In its four seasons, The Americans has managed to achieve something few shows on television can claim to have done: get better and better each year. That’s because this Cold War drama has provided high-tension episodes week after week, thanks to character deaths and failed missions which keep the audience in suspense.
While The Americans saw the exits of a few characters, none were more tragic and lonely than Nina Krilova’s. In the fourth episode of the season, fans anxiously awaited Nina’s fate after the KGB operative was charged with treason. Awaiting her appeal, she is eventually greeted by two guards, who escort her to a small, isolated room and shoot her in the head mere seconds after her sentence is handed out.
Apart from Nina’s departure, the series also saw the disgraced FBI Counterintelligence Agent Frank Gaad dying after refusing to talk when he’s approached by some middle-management KGB agents. When he runs away, he’s tackled through a glass window, where he slowly bleeds to death. Elsewhere, KGB illegal William Crandall injected himself with a deadly virus after being captured by the FBI, refusing to hand over any information to his American captors.
8. Narcos – Pablo Escobar
In all fairness, this death wasn’t exactly the surprise of the year. In fact, the series’ showrunners informed the audience that it would happen over the course of the season after the series had already covered Escobar’s reign as a cocaine kingpin during the first year of the show. While Wagner Moura’s spot-on portrayal of the over-the-top Escobar would earn him critical acclaim across the board, we knew it was only a matter of time until his departure came about. The real-life Escobar died on a roof in Medellin, Colombia on December 2, 1993, after a shootout following his recent jailbreak, and the date in question was heavily used to promote the upcoming season on Netflix.
Orchestrated to perfection by the film crew, the final showdown was as accurately replicated as possible, even going so far as to have Moura wear a matching outfit complete with a polo shirt and jeans. Ending with a point-blank headshot, Escobar’s era came to an end, and Narcos began its transition over to a new story away from the drug lord as viewers waited to see who will inherit the throne as the next big crime magnate.
7. The 100 – Lexa, Lincoln, Charles Pike, Jacapo Sinclair
Three seasons in and The 100 continues to be a severely underrated and underappreciated gem deserving of a bigger audience. While the CW series did not hit its biggest strides in season three compared to the years before, it did add shock value and take some heavy risks by taking out some notable characters.
Just seven episodes into the season, fan-favorite Lexa, leader of the Grounders, was killed after being suddenly shot in the chest by a bullet intended for Clarke, a leader of the 100 and her love interest. Another grounder, Lincoln, soon followed suit. Ordered to be executed by Charles Pike, the new Chancellor of the Sky People, he is shot in the head after Pike threatens to kill all the Grounders he had imprisoned if he didn’t cooperate. Later in the season, the cast experienced two more deaths as the loyal Sinclair succumbs to stab wounds and Pike is also stabbed to death to avenge Lincoln’s execution.
The 100 has given its fans unease over the past year, continuing to pride itself on assuring viewers that nobody is safe. With four major deaths in 2016, that reputation is likely to continue as season four approaches.
6. Penny Dreadful – Vanessa Ives, Hecate Poole, Bartholomew Rusk
With the season three finale of Penny Dreadful, fans were left with a large question mark hovering over the series. Was Vanessa Ives, the mother of evil who had dealt with her inner demons for the past three years, really dead? As it turned out, she definitely was, and according to series creator John Logan, it was all part of the plan.
The finale turned out to be the conclusion for the gothic horror, and what an ending it was. In episode six, things got heated at an awkward dinner, resulting in a shootout between police inspector Bartholomew Rusk and the sharpshooting werewolf Ethan Chandler. At Ethan’s side was Hecate, who transformed into her nightcomer form and proclaimed to be “the End of Days” before things erupted into chaos, resulting in Rusk and Hecate being shot.
Wrapping up the show, Ethan once again found himself in the middle of everything as he was forced to shoot Vanessa in an act of love after she fell to the vampire charm of none other than Dracula, nearly bringing about a world of darkness with her. Fans hung on to the hope that Vanessa might be resurrected, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
5. Orange Is the New Black – Poussey Washington
As a viewer, the penultimate episode of OITNB‘s fourth season may have felt like a punch to the gut, but for many, it was a necessary one. Poussey Washington, an outspoken LGBT inmate of Litchfield Penitentiary, brought controversy with her passing. There were claims that the series was trying to bury a gay character of color, an underrepresented demographic in Hollywood, but regardless of where viewers fell on the issue, it was a detrimental death that rocked the show’s fan base.
In a series known for tackling relevant problems in society today, OITNB was not going to let a senseless act go unpunished. In the scene in question, Poussey is held to the ground by Correctional Officer Baxter Bayley during a protest against the treatment of the inmates. While trying to restrain Crazy Eyes, who has become noticeably upset, Bayley does not notice Poussey is unable to breath, resulting in her death by compression asphyxia.
Poussey’s exit was not the end of her story, as Litchfield broke out in violence in response to her death. Through unfair treatment and inhumanity, the prison suffered a big loss, but in her absence, the cast was willed to address an issue that has plagued them from the start.
4. Luke Cage – Henry “Pop” Hunter, Rafe Scarfe, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes
The Netflix/Marvel train continued to roll in 2016, knocking many of television’s superhero competition off its pedestal. Luke Cage was no different, bringing its antiquated superhero with blaxploitation roots into the modern day and handing viewers yet another African-American protagonist to look upon in admiration. Still, even with all of Luke Cage’s coolness, it was the breakout star Mahershala Ali who took over the series.
As the villainous Cottonmouth, Ali is deviously snake-like, ruling the criminal underground of Harlem with his local nightclub and his politically connected cousin Mariah. In the end, however, it was Cottonmouth’s words which got him killed, after Mariah viciously murders him with a mic stand in a shocking turn of events.
Despite the most remembered death of the series, there were two others who also left too soon. Henry “Pop” Hunter, a local barbershop owner and father figure to Luke, was the tragic victim of an impromptu drive-by shooting, while Rafe Scarfe, a hard-nosed detective in Cottonmouth’s pocket, was fatally shot after trying to extort money from the criminal kingpin. Ultimately, it was a season of twists that left everyone reeling while awaiting the arrival of Iron Fist and The Defenders.
3. Arrowverse – Henry Allen, Laurel Lance, Leonard Snart
Before we go into detail about all the heroic deaths of the Arrowverse over the past year, it’s important to note that many villains also died. Obviously, bad guy deaths come with the territory, so before we get any comments about their exclusion, let it be known that Damien Darhk, Hunter Zolomon, Vandal Savage, and Astra all met their demise in 2016.
Spanning four different shows, there were plenty of opportunities for heroes to lay their life on the line for the greater good. Over on Arrow, it was the series veteran Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary, who died in a hospital bed after being stabbed by Damien Darhk. In Legends of Tomorrow, Carter Hall, better known as Hawkman, was killed by Vandal Savage, and Leonard Snart proved himself by destroying the Oculus machine which gave Savage power, taking himself out in the process.
Finally, over on The Flash, Barry Allen witnessed the death of another family member, as his father Henry got caught up in his son’s fight against Earth Two’s Hunter Zolomon. Bringing a tear to our eyes, we watched as the helpless Barry was unable to save another parent from a cruel end.
2. Game of Thrones – Tommen Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton, Hodor, Rickon Stark, Everyone in the Sept
Game of Thrones is a fickle mistress. One second the acclaimed HBO fantasy series has you cheering in joy, overcome by your emotions to find that Jon Snow has come back from the dead. Then, in the blink of an eye, you’re saying goodbye to Hodor as he courageously shields Bran from what would’ve been his ultimate demise.
In 2016, winter finally came, and it brought with it the sad departures of many beloved (and not so beloved) characters. Overall, there were more than 30 worthwhile characters that left us in season six, far too many to list in their entirety. So here are the greatest (or saddest?) hits that deserve the most recognition: Ramsay was eaten by hounds; half of King’s Landing, including Margaery and Loras Tyrell, were engulfed in wildfire in the Great Sept of Baelor; King Tommen jumped to his death after witnessing the sept’s firebombing; and finally, another Stark was lost as young Rickon got an arrow through the chest. (The youngest Stark never learned to zigzag, apparently.) Of course, many others — such as the Waif and the Three-Eyed Raven — were also on the list of goners, and at the end of the season, we grieved for them all.
1. Walking Dead – Sgt. Abraham Ford, Spencer Monroe, Glenn Rhee
With the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead, showrunner Robert Kirkman promised some controversial changes and so far he’s delivered, for better or worse. After a gruesome premiere episode which saw the savage and fatal beating of two beloved characters by the new series regular, Negan, the AMC series took a nosedive in the ratings. As it turns out, the move may have been poison for the apocalyptic drama, as many viewers were forced to say goodbye to the ever-quotable Abraham and the compassionate voice of reason, Glenn, before they were ready to do so. But the show didn’t just stop there.
In the back end of the first half of the season (the second half will premiere next February), which many fans accused of dragging on, the community of Alexandria was faced with some tough decisions following a failed attempt by Carl on Negan’s life. Settling into the cozy, gated neighborhood while Rick is away, Negan is approached by the conniving Spencer Monroe, who conspires against Rick to take over the town his mother built. In return, he’s gutted in front of everyone. Negan apparently doesn’t much care for backstabbers.
So far, it’s been a violent display of gore on a level that TWD has only begun to explore. While all the heartbreak may not be worth it to some, it’s certainly kept audiences talking about the show’s future.
Did we leave out any of the small screen’s biggest deaths in 2016? Did any of them break as many hearts as Glenn’s fatal departure? Let us know in the comments.