Modern Family season 10 saw the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan deal with their first big death – here’s who died and how the family dealt with it. Now in its eleventh and final season, ABC’s Modern Family has given viewers over a decade of hijinks and laughs from its lovably dysfunctional characters. It’s not a show usually known for tackling serious issues, hence it took until Modern Family’s tenth season before it killed off a big character and explored the impact that death had on the family.
A week or so before Modern Family season 10 premiered, show co-creator Christopher Lloyd teased a significant character would shuffle off this mortal coil at some point during the season. That led to a flurry of speculation from Modern Family fans as to who it could be. As the oldest main character on the show, Pritchett patriarch Jay (Ed O’Neill) seemed like a possible contender. Phil’s (Ty Burrell) dad Frank Dunphy (Fred Willard) also emerged as a suspect and even Jay’s French bulldog Stella was considered.
In Modern Family season 10’s fifth episode “Good Grief” viewers finally got answers after weeks of speculation. Set on Halloween, the episode revealed DeDe Pritchett – Jay’s ex-wife and Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell’s (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) mother – had died offscreen in her sleep while on a trip with her women’s group. Played by Cheers star Shelley Long, DeDe was only in a handful of episodes throughout Modern Family’s run but still made an impact despite being a mostly offscreen presence.
The episode explored the various ways DeDe’s death affected each character but there was comedy amid the sadness as they spent Halloween reminiscing about the Pritchett matriarch in ridiculous costumes. Claire and Mitchell talk about their mother and how Claire had a fight with her the last time they spoke, and things get a bit teary when Claire finds a voicemail DeDe left her apologizing and saying she loves her. The Modern Family grandkids mourn in their own way with Haley (Sarah Hyland) binge-eating, Luke (Nolan Gould) making inappropriate jokes and Alex (Ariel Winter) making out with her boyfriend.
Phil and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) eat ice cream and remember DeDe while dressed as an insect and Meghan Markle respectively while Jay gets emotional about a sandwich because it’s made with the same breadDeDe used to buy back when they were a happy couple. Meanwhile, Jay’s wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) thinks she’s being haunted by DeDe and even admits she admired her despite their rocky relationship. In typical Modern Family style, DeDe’s death was emotional but provided a good few comedic moments too and was a befitting send-off for a great character.