Spoilers ahead for multiple TV shows!
Every television season brings along its fair share of winners and losers, and this year was no exception, with several new shows emerging on the scene. Yet, compelling storytelling is often rooted and propelled by tragedy. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that some of the most memorable television moments of 2016 featured tragic deaths of some of the most integral characters to their respective series. These are the kinds of farewells that often forever change the direction and weight of a series entirely.
Below we review some of the most shocking and impactful character deaths to hit the small-screen this year. For the record, it doesn’t matter whether or not these were the final farewells of these characters, as creative minds often find ways around what may initially appear to be a character’s death. Rather, the main criterion for inclusion in the list below is how much dramatic heft accompanies the death and how it effects the surviving characters. So let’s get started.
10. Faith Fraser, Outlander
The only character on this list who never truly appears, is the heart-wrenching death of Jamie and Claire’s still-born child who nevertheless had a tremendous effect on the series’ two leads and produced perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the show’s history. Considering the drama regularly wrought by Outlander, this is an impressive feat indeed.
9. Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp), The Flash
Much of Barry Allen’s motivation throughout this series has centered on how he witnessed his mother’s murder at the hands of the Reverse-Flash as a child. In a chilling turn of events, Season 2 baddie Zoom lures Barry back to his childhood home and slaughters his father before his very eyes. No wonder the “fastest man alive” was so emotionally distraught afterwards that he created the Flashpoint timeline as a result.
8. Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), Bates Motel
It’s the death fans of Bates Motel knew was coming. Although the series has long hinged on Norman Bates’s troubled relationship with his mother, the established mythos of the character dictates that mommy dearest would have to wind up dead and preserved in her own home. Regardless, this inevitability — and what it means for Norman — have taken the series to another level.
7. Nina Krilova (Annet Mahendru), The Americans
The Americans has never shied away from the darker side of espionage and political intrigue. Yet, the death of Nina — who gradually became a more integral player on the series after being introduced as a recurring player in the first season — stung viewers more than they may care to admit.
6. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), Sleepy Hollow
It’s not often that a hit series dares to kill off its female lead. Yet, after three years alongside Ichabod Crane, this FBI agent fell in the most fantastical of ways: by entering the mystical Pandora’s Box. Since the series has yet to return for its first season without Abbie, we’ll be curious to see what kind of impact her death continues to have on the story.
5. Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch), How to Get Away with Murder
Well, it’s all in the title there, isn’t it? This ABC hit features a built-in expectation for this kind of tragedy, but the death of original cast member, Wes, still caught many fans by surprise. Considering how recently this episode aired, his death may very well be among the freshest wounds on this list.
4. Liz Keen (Megan Boone), The Blacklist
We warned you in the beginning that we weren’t disqualifying deaths that were later undone. Sure, Liz is ultimately revealed as having faked her own death, but her apparent passing — and its impact on Red — still packs a tremendous punch, as it is hard to imagine the show without her.
3. Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Arrow
Here’s another character that has refused to stay dead. Laurel Lance/Black Canary initially only reappeared on this superhero series in flashbacks and visions but was recently revealed to be alive for unknown reasons. While she was resurrected somehow (stay tuned, loyal viewers), Laurel’s death had a profound effect on Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow, coloring their actions for months.
2. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), The Walking Dead
It was the cliffhanger that had the world on the edge of their seat. After months of waiting to see who Negan would off, poor Abraham was ultimately the unlucky character. Yet, it was Negan’s second victim who would shock and appall viewers, as Glenn received an even more savage beating from Negan’s beloved bat, Lucille.
1. Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Game of Thrones
Fans of this adaptation of the George R.R. Martin novels know that it is no stranger to death. In fact, Game of Thrones is infamous for its ruthlessness in claiming the lives of even the most beloved characters. Still, the twist involved in Hodor’s death left a mark on fans, who finally glimpsed the character’s significance in a whole new light.
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