The Top 10 Most Shocking TV Character Deaths

Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

Extreme. SPOILER. Warning.

We can’t be any clearer about this: if you do not want ten of the greatest television series of all time ruined for you, stop reading now.

Okay. With that out of the way, Logan Roy kicked the bucket on last week’s episode of the hit HBO drama “Succession,” and so BetCarolina is taking a break from covering North Carolina sports betting to see where the curmudgeonly patriarch’s passing ranks amongst the most shocking TV deaths of all time.

10) Susan Ross - “Seinfeld”

George’s fiancee Susan dying after licking the toxic adhesive on the wedding invitations Costanza insisted on (because they were cheaper) was certainly shocking. But we can’t put it any higher on the list because the absurdity of this plot twist is exactly what we’d come to expect from “Seinfeld.”

9) Jimmy Darmody - “Boardwalk Empire”

Jimmy Darmody was the clear second lead in HBO’s bootlegging crime epic beside Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson. Darmody’s death at the end of season two was shocking not only because of the character’s prominence, but also because it was Nucky, who was like a father to Jimmy, pulling the trigger.

Rumours have persisted for years that Darmody was killed off because actor Michael Pitt, who played Jimmy, was difficult to work with. For what it’s worth, “Boardwalk Empire” exec producer Terence Winter denies this.

8) Adriana La Cerva - “The Sopranos”

One of “The Sopranos” most beloved characters, the charming, sexy, and fashion-forward girlfriend of Tony’s nephew Christopher met her tragic end in the season five finale. After revealing herself to be an FBI informant, Adriana manages to convince Christopher to runaway with her, but when he has a change of heart, Adriana is rubbed out for good.

7) Maude Flanders - “The Simpsons”

Oh-diddly-no, Maude!

After “The Simpsons” left audiences on a cliffhanger ending that teased the death of a Springfield resident in 1995’s “Who Shot Mr. Burns,” the irreverent animated sitcom officially did away with a different recurring character in February 2000 when they killed off the wife of Homer’s neighbour/nemesis Ned Flanders.

It was shocking not only because of the uncharacteristic finality of Maude’s death, but also because of the way she went out — shot in the chest with a t-shirt canon at a NASCAR event and subsequently falling to her death from the arena grandstands.

6) Zoe Barnes - “House of Cards”

Zoe Barnes was a main character in the pioneering Netflix original series “House of Cards” when it premiered in 2013. But after the thriller starring Kevin Spacey as a corrupt and power hungry politician returned for its second season, audiences were thrown for a loop when Spacey’s character pushes Zoe in front of subway car at the end of the season two’s premiere episode.

This is arguably the moment when the “Netflix binge” was born.

5) Gus Fring - “Breaking Bad”

Throughout season four of “Breaking Bad,” Walter White is trying to free himself from the powerful grasp of drug lord, and chief proprietor of the Mexican chicken chain Los Pollos Hermanos, Gus Fring. What makes Fring’s death so shocking is that it comes after a failed assassination attempt by Walter, when Bryan Cranston’s chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-dealer appears to be completely backed into a corner.

Plus Giancarlo Esposito emerging from the nursing home explosion with half his face burnt off, straightening his tie, and then collapsing onto the ground is a top ten TV moment of the 2010s. 

4) Logan Roy - “Succession”

It’s tempting to list this at number one after last week’s kinetic episode of “Succession,” but we’re not giving into recency bias. Logan has had numerous health scares over the course of the series, and “Succession” is premised on the power struggle to become the next CEO of Waystar RoyCo. Albeit a shock, Logan’s death mid-way through the final season checks out from a plot perspective.

That said, kudos to the writers and filmmaking team for expertly conveying the big reveal. By limiting our view of a Logan in distress, the audience is thrown into the same sense of shock as the show’s main characters. After the episode aired, it was further revealed that the moment when the Roy siblings learn of their father’s death was filmed in a gigantic 27-minute take, surely adding to the chaotic energy of the big moment.

3) Rita Morgan - “Dexter”

The rocky relationship between Dexter, the titular killer of serial killers in Showtime’s hit series, and his love interest Rita is a major through line across the first four seasons “Dexter.” By the beginning of the fourth season, the pair are married and have a son of their own — making it all the more shocking when she winds up dead in the season four finale.

That season’s arc surrounds a cat and mouse game between Dexter and John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer, with Lithgow’s character orchestrating Rita’s death as a final act of revenge. The most shocking part? Dexter had already taken out The Trinity Killer when he discovers Rita’s body in a bloody bath tub.

2) Stringer Bell - “The Wire”

One of the greatest scenes in arguably the greatest TV series of all time occurs when fellow drug dealers Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell share their final drink together in Episode 11 of “The Wire” season three.

Sipping whisky on the balcony of Avon’s downtown high-rise, the childhood best friends reminisce about their come-up from petty thieves to Baltimore’s top drug kingpins. At this point Stringer has already sold-out Avon to the cops, and Avon’s arranged for Stringer’s eventual murder.

As the pair parts ways, they share a loaded embrace, leaving the audience to wonder whether or not Avon and Stringer are already aware of the extent to which they’ve engineered one another’s downfall.

1) Eddard “Ned” Stark - “Game of Thrones”

In a series dominated by shocking deaths, we selected Ned Stark’s as the most shocking because of how it set the stage for what was to come. In the penultimate episode of season one the show’s main character, Eddard Stark, head of the House of Stark, Lord of Winterfell, and Warden of the North, is publicly executed in front of his family and the citizens of King’s Landing. Ultimately, Ned’s death establishes the brutal precedent that runs through the core of “Game of Thrones” — no character is safe.

Honorable Mention: Michael Cordero - “Jane the Virgin”

When the chief love interest of Jane Villanueva was shot and killed halfway through the third season of “Jane the Virgin,” fans were shook. It came out of nowhere and completely altered the trajectory of the entire series. It would easily make top five on this list, except ... Michael lived. In true telenovela style, he returned, albeit with a case of amnesia, for the fifth and final season.

We hope you enjoyed this list from BetCarolina, where our main focus is around the launch of mobile North Carolina sports betting apps.

But keep close for fun research items such as this, too, and let us know who we left off! 


Jeff Parker is a writer for A writer for film, television and the internet, Jeff is a life long movie buff, with an actual Masters Degree in Popular Culture. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works full time as documentary filmmaker and producer.

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