12 Heartbreaking TV Deaths We’re Still Not Over

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No one ever likes it, but sometimes beloved characters in TV shows and movies die. Sometimes we see it coming, sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it takes us by total surprise.

When a popular character dies, it can generate a lot of talk at the office and among friends, family, and neighbors. It can seem we’ve lost a little piece of ourselves, and even though the character is make-believe, we still grieve, at least for a little.

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This is Us
Image Credit: 2021 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Coming up with a list of the most heartbreaking TV deaths is an entirely subjective matter, but the following are some that hit us pretty hard. Warning: There are spoilers ahead!

Carl Grimes (The Walking Dead)

Chandler Riggs
Image Credit: Gene Page AMC – 2017 AMC Film Holdings LLC

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Carl didn’t have an easy childhood. Still, he persisted and grew in wisdom, responsibility, and maturity alike. When he kills himself before he can turn from a walker bite, we’re devastated.

Ruth Langmore (Ozark)

scene from Ozark show
Image Credit: Netflix

Here’s another one who almost made it and who we really thought would. Instead, she’s gunned down by the vengeful mother of a drug cartel leader. Whether you liked her from the start or she grew on you, everyone was pulling for Ruth by the end.

Teri Bauer (24)

Leslie Hope in 24
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television

Until the very end, the first season of 24 was just another (very good) action series. But who can forget, after all Jack Bauer did to save his wife and the country, seeing him cradling his wife’s body, leading the show to end in tragedy, not triumph?

Fred Andrews (Riverdale)

Luke Perry in Riverdale
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television

In a show with a lot of drama, Fred was usually the most calm-headed, clear-thinking person in town. Tragically, he dies in a hit-and-run accident. Even more tragic is why the show had to end his character; at the age of 52, actor Luke Perry died from a stroke.

Hannah Baker (13 Reasons Why)

Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Wy
Image Credit: Netflix

From the very first episode, we knew that Hannah had died by suicide. Over subsequent episodes, we were able to piece together the “why” bit by bit. It all culminated in the final episode where we learn what finally put her over the edge and see her take her own life. It was harrowing.

Omar Little (The Wire)

Making a living by holding up drug dealers, Omar wasn’t exactly an angel, but viewers came to love him for his humor, wisdom, and cold ruthlessness. Somehow, he was “our” bad guy. It seems so shocking and wrong when a young drug dealer shoots and kills him in a corner store.

Derek Shepherd (Grey’s Anatomy)

Patrick Dempsey in Gray's Anatomy
Image Credit: 2020 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Dr. “McDreamy” spent 11 seasons on the show and was a huge part of its early success. The sequence leading up to his death is tragic, ironic, and perhaps a dark indictment of our healthcare system. Regardless, millions of hearts broke the night this character died.

Rosita Espinosa (The Walking Dead)

Rosita Espinosa
Image Credit: Gene Page AMC – 2018 AMC Film Holdings LLC

She almost made it. We really thought she was going to. Even at the end, with her passing seemingly taking longer than normal, we hoped that maybe, somehow, she’d be spared. But she wasn’t, and she succumbed to a walker bite, leaving her infant daughter motherless.

Robb Stark and Talisa Maegyr (Game of Thrones)

scene from Game of Thrones
Image Credit: HBO Movies

Like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones was never afraid to kill off popular characters, which is why both make this list twice. In the infamous “Red Wedding” episode, Walter Frey betrays Robb and his people, slaughtering them mercilessly. Talisa is pregnant with Robb’s child at the time, compounding the tragedy, and the killing of Robb’s faithful dire wolf adds even more sting.

Viserion (Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones Viserion
Image Credit: HBO Movies

Come on, admit it: you loved the dragons. How could you not with the way the show brought their power, majesty, and terror to life? While some viewers grew weary of their mother Daenerys, no one seemed to get tired of the dragons. When the Night King pierces Viserion with an icy spear, he pierces us all.

Lexie Grey (Grey’s Anatomy)

Lexi Grey in Grey's Anatomy
Image Credit: American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

The tragic plane crash in Grey’s Anatomy took away several beloved characters, but none hit harder than the death of Lexie Grey. As Meredith’s younger half-sister, Lexie had her fair share of ups and downs but had finally found love with Mark Sloan. Their final moments together, as they confessed their love for each other while she was trapped under the wreckage, left fans in tears.

Poussey Washington (Orange Is the New Black)

Orange is the New Black
Image Credit: JoJo Whilden/2014 Netflix

Poussey’s untimely death in the penultimate episode of the fourth season of “Orange Is the New Black” was a gut-wrenching moment that left fans in shock. A beloved character known for her kindness, wit, and infectious smile, Poussey’s death during a peaceful protest in the prison was a poignant commentary on real-life issues of police brutality and racial injustice. Her passing not only deeply affected the inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary but also resonated with viewers around the world, making it one of the most heartbreaking moments in TV history.

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Top Gun - Maverick
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

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scene from In the Heart of the Sea
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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Planes Trains and Automobiles Steve Martin
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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey.

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.