‘The Golden Girls’: 5 Moments That Had Viewers in Tears

In 1985, TV viewers were introduced to a group of four elderly roommates in Miami. The Golden Girls is a timeless classic, which ran for seven seasons on NBC, and has found new homes in syndication. Throughout the course of the series, there was plenty of laughter and a few saddening scenes. Here are a few moments that had fans reaching for the tissue box.

Betty White in a black dress, Rue McClanahan in a red dress, Bea Arthur dressed in a black outfit, and Estelle Getty also wearing a black dress in a 'The Golden Girls' scene.
Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Estelle Getty I ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

‘The Golden Girls’ series finale is a tearjerker

In May 1992, fans said goodbye to their favorite ladies. Although The Golden Girls was still a ratings winner, the show ended due to Bea Arthur’s desire to leave. The series finale showed Dorothy Zbornak (Arthur) marrying Blanche Devereaux’s (Rue McClanahan) uncle Lucas Hollingsworth (Leslie Nielsen).

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Dorothy then prepares to move to Atlanta with her new husband. Before she leaves, she shares a heartfelt goodbye with her mother and two roommates. Following Dorothy’s exit, the girls break down in tears, realizing this is the end. Nearly three decades after the finale, fans still feel emotional. In a Reddit thread, commenters discuss their thoughts on the final episodes. “That last scene when she doesn’t come back makes me ugly cry,” wrote one fan.

Sophia Petrillo befriends a man with Alzheimer’s

The Season 3 premiere “Old Friends” earned Estelle Getty a Supporting Actress Emmy for her performance. In the episode, Getty’s character Sophia Petrillo befriends Alvin Newcastle (Joe Seneca). The two spend their days on the boardwalk, people watching. Sophia realizes something’s wrong with Alvin because of his memory lapses and mood swings. After the two fight, Dorothy follows Sophia to the boardwalk, where she meets Alvin’s daughter.

Later in the evening, Dorothy relays her conversation with Alvin’s daughter to Sophia. Alvin has Alzheimer’s, and they’re the family’s sending him to New York where his nephew will help him. Sophia puts on a brave front, although deep down, she’s upset about her friend. At the conclusion of the episode, Sophia sits alone on the boardwalk and realizes Alvin’s never coming back. When Dorothy suggests visiting Alvin the next time they’re in New York, Sophia refuses, saying she wants to remember him the way he was.

Rose Nylund’s first birthday without her husband

The Season 2 episode “Piece of Cake” has the women reminiscing about past birthdays. Rose Nylund (Betty White) recalls her first birthday celebration after her husband Charlie Nylund’s death. Rose is alone in her kitchen with a cake; she then looks at an empty chair and talks to Charlie as if he’s there with her. She tells him of her plan to sell their St. Olaf farm and move to Miami. Afterward, Rose chokes up as she tells Charlie she loves him and misses him.

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‘The Golden Girls’ had one mother grieving her child’s death

It’s every mother’s worst nightmare to lose a child. In Season 6, The Golden Girls had Sophia grieving the death of her son Phil Petrillo. Phil was never seen but was the topic of conversation. Although Phil is married with children, his habit of crossdressing sparked speculation about his lifestyle.

After Phil’s death, Sophia feuds with her daughter-in-law Angela (Brenda Vaccaro). With Rose acting as counselor, she gets to the root of Sophia’s probelm. Sophia admits Phil’s crossdressing bothered her, and she blames herself for making him the way he was. Angela tells Sophia that Phil was a good man, which causes Sophia to cry, “my baby’s gone,” before embracing her daughter-in-law.

A friend asks Sophia Petrillo of a special request

The Golden Girls’ storylines featured many important topics in society. In the Season 5 episode “Not Another Monday,” Sophia’s friend Martha Lamont (Geraldine Fitzgerald) asks her to be there when she plans to commit suicide. Sophia wrestles with her decision and chooses to be there for Martha.

When Sophia shows up at Martha’s apartment, the two reminisce about their first meeting. Sophia then breaks down in tears as she pleads with Martha not to go with her plan. Martha cries when she admits she has doubts about ending her life. Sophia tells Martha if she’s unsure, then don’t do it. Martha doesn’t go through with her plan, and Sophia says she’ll be there whenever Martha needs her.