Thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, a new trend has emerged in the world of television whereby lead characters could be killed off at any moment. No one is safe. As a result, some of the most heartbreaking TV moments of the past decade have been character deaths. Whether they were ravaged by zombies or killed by rival gang members or simply died in awe of the Moon landing, we’ve lost some of our dearest TV pals to an early grave throughout the 2010s. Here are The 10 Most Tragic TV Show Deaths Of The Decade, Ranked.
10 Bert Cooper (Mad Men)
Unlike its cousins Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, Mad Men was never known as a show that callously killed off main characters every couple of weeks. Still, a few characters did die over the course of the series. Bert Cooper, one of the central advertising firm’s partners since the beginning, died while he was watching the Moon landing on TV. He was sitting at home, watching television, witnessing the first man to walk on the Moon, and he was so blown away by it that he died then and there, right on the couch. It was totally unexpected.
9 Opie (Sons of Anarchy)
There were plenty of heartbreaking deaths on Sons of Anarchy, including Jax Teller himself in the series finale. However, arguably the most tragic death in the show’s seven seasons was Opie Winston’s. A bunch of the Sons had been caught on various charges and locked in prison. While they were in there, a couple of old gang rivalries reared their heads.
In one gut-wrenching scene, Opie was gruesomely beaten to death in prison as Jax watched. It was long and drawn-out, and there was nothing Jax could do to stop his best friend in the world from being slowly killed.
8 Debra Morgan (Dexter)
Although it seemed a little far-fetched that Dexter would kill his own sister and then sail out into a dangerous storm to toss her body into the ocean, Debra’s death was still really shocking and tragic. Just like drug kingpin Walter White had DEA agent Hank Schrader in his family, serial killer-killing serial killer Dexter Morgan had tough-as-nails cop Debra Morgan in his. Debra was always right on the trail of the serial killer that was terrorizing the other serial killers of Miami. When she discovered that it was her brother, she was torn — and it eventually led to her death.
7 Bob Newby (Stranger Things)
Joyce Byers’ new boyfriend Bob Newby, played by The Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin, was mainly used for comic relief when he was first introduced as Will and Jonathan struggled to accept their “new dad.” But Bob grew on fans of Stranger Things throughout the show’s second season. As a horde of monsters escaped from the Upside Down via the portal opened up in Hawkins’ government lab, Bob heroically stepped up to go to the breaker room and turn the power back on. He made it back safely – and then he was mauled and ripped to shreds by Demodogs.
6 Brian Griffin (Family Guy)
Family Guy made headlines a few years ago when it was announced that Brian would be killed off. Brian, the Griffins’ pet dog, is one of the most beloved characters on the show, and it wasn’t going to be the same without him. The death turned out to be a publicity stunt, as he was brought back to life a couple of weeks later, but when he actually died in the episode “Life of Brian,” it was heartbreaking.
He got obliterated by a drunk driver and then passed away later on the vet’s operating table. Family Guy rarely allows tragedy to take over from comedy, but here, it felt appropriate.
5 Sarah Lynn (BoJack Horseman)
Netflix’s tragicomic animated series BoJack Horseman is one of the most emotionally resonant shows on the air right now. It’s grounded and relatable, forward-thinking and human, despite the fact that half the characters are talking animals. In one particularly difficult-to-watch episode, BoJack fell off the wagon with his old co-star, Sarah Lynn. Sarah Lynn was a child when she starred in the sitcom Horsin’ Around with BoJack, but she grew up to become an addict. After a lengthy drug binge, Sarah Lynn died while looking up at the night sky with BoJack. It marked a dark turning point for the series.
4 Jack Shephard (Lost)
The pilot episode of Lost opened with a shot of Jack lying on the ground in the jungle of the island, opening his eyes after being flung from the plane crash. The series finale was controversial for a number of reasons, but at least it brought things full circle with the final shot, as a wounded Jack returned to the jungle ground and his eyes closed in a reverse of the pilot’s opening shot. Some parts of the finale bothered Lost fans, but Jack dying to save the island left very few of dry eyes as the end credits rolled for the last time.
3 Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)
HBO’s Game of Thrones easily has the highest number of tragic deaths of any TV show in recent memory. Not only was Ned Stark universally adored — just like most of the characters that George R.R. Martin had the cold heart to kill off — he was the first major character to go. His execution was the moment that telegraphed to audiences that this was a show where no character was safe, even the lead. The Walking Dead has the same ethos, but it wouldn’t have been bold enough to kill off Rick in the first season, and that’s essentially what Ned’s death was in Game of Thrones.
2 Hank Schrader (Breaking Bad)
Any debate of the most heartbreaking death in Breaking Bad likely comes down to Walt and Hank. But the case could be made that Hank’s is sadder. For starters, although Walt began as the series’ protagonist, he was so evil by the end that he was basically the villain. He saved Jesse, but that wasn’t enough to make up for his wrongdoings.
And secondly, Walt died with a sense of accomplishment, looking upon meth-cooking equipment like he’d fulfilled his destiny. Hank was always a good guy, striving to bring criminals to justice. When he was killed by Uncle Jack in the episode “Ozymandias,” Hank had failed.
1 Hershel Greene (The Walking Dead)
The writers of The Walking Dead forced us to sit through not one, not two, but three entire episodes following what happened to the Governor after the destruction of Woodbury before returning to the moment that he showed up at the prison with a tank to terrorize Rick and his group. The Governor then used Michonne’s katana to lop off Hershel’s head. The fans’ long-running attachment to the character combined with what he’d already been through (losing his home, losing half his family, losing his leg to survive a zombie bite) combined with the brutality of a decapitation to make this the most tragic TV death of the decade.