This Is Us fans knew from the get-go that Randall’s birth dad, played by Ron Cephas Jones (above left), was not long for this world. But thanks to gorgeously believable performances by Jones and Sterling K. Brown (above right), we couldn’t help but hope the arts-loving William and his smarting-but-smitten son had more time to make up for lost time and trod their common ground together.
Photo by Chris Haston/NBC
Rosario, Will & Grace
Likewise, we were warned that Rosario wasn’t part of the reboot, but Will & Grace fans still held out hope that retired actress Shelley Morrison would un-retire long enough to let Karen Walker’s bedeviled, beloved housekeeper pop up now and then. The definitive answer to that possibility came via a heartbreaking but pitch-perfect November episode in which an unseen Rosario collapses at Karen’s home and dies in the hospital, inspiring her stunned frenemy to plan a quinceañera-slash-funeral she was too bereft to attend. Both a testament to the mightiness of the maid and Megan Mullally’s delicious ability to serve us all our emotions at once, it was a fitting send off to the spicy snark-master who called her boss Count Drunkula to her face and lived to clean another day.
Frank/Black Jack Randall, Outlander
So much for wondering if Claire will ultimately end up with frank but stable Frank (Tobias Menzies) or sexy baby daddy Jamie (if you didn’t already know from the Diana Gabaldon book series on which Outlander is based). Though time-traveling Claire’s soldier soulmate killed Frank’s 1776 alter ego Black Jack Randall in the Season 3 opener, Frank himself lived on for a few episodes that shed light on his and Claire’s difficult union — then died in a car crash following an ugly fight about the doomed prospects for their marriage. Though there’s now no one bemoaning her love for Jamie, Claire weeps over Frank’s corpse, telling her departed husband — no doubt a bit too late — “I did love you. Very much. You were my first love.” Tobias Menzies fans can soon catch the handsome Brit in AMC’s supernatural series The Terror.
It’s always the first loves that get it. For Brett Dier’s poor Michael, first comes Jane’s love. Then comes no marriage. Then comes his fiancée with a baby carriage after an artificial insemination oopsie at the doctor. Then comes some Herculean patience when Jane thinks she might love donor-daddy Rafael instead. And THEN comes marriage. Yay! Happy ending! For about five seconds before Sin Rostro, AKA Rose, gave him a bullet to the chest as a wedding gift in the Season 2 finale. The shot wasn’t fatal, but the injury ultimately was.
Linda Reagan, Blue Bloods
Call this one a Bloods-y shame. After Danny Reagan’s missus survived their house fire in the Season 7 finale, the Season 8 opener clumsily revealed that the ER nurse literally went down in flames in an off-screen helicopter crash while on the job. Though the real cause of Linda’s death was quickly revealed to be actress Amy Carlson electing not to renew her contract, Linda’s hazy, lazy exit left some true-blue Bloods fans ticked off to no end.
Donna Gable, Kevin Can Wait
And while, we’re at it, Donna—ill-fated wife of Kevin James’ Kevin Gable—also died off-season and off-screen. And also sans explanation. But her cause of death is hardly a mystery: James’ longtime King of Queens missus Leah Remini was white-hot thanks to her Scientology takedown and available for new projects. Boom! Erinn Hayes’ Donna Gable, out. Leah Remini as Vanessa, Kevin’s smart-mouthed former police partner, in.
Abby Donovan, Ray Donovan
In that same WTF! vein, viewers were led to believe that the Donovan matriarch—a fan favorite played by Paula Malcolmson—triumphed over her breast cancer, only to learn that the cancer won. Fans protested that the long-suffering Abby’s demise came just as she seemed to be on the brink of a pithy storyline so befitting the feisty dame and Malcomson’s talent. But unlike Linda Reagan’s unceremonious demise, Ray bid farewell to Abby in the stunning episode “Horses,” that revealed that, even as her flesh fatally weakened, Abby’s true Southie spirit was there to the end.
Rayna Jaymes, Nashville
As Rayna goes, so does the show. First, the music-centered ABC nighttime soap moved to CMT, hoping to breathe new life into the foundering drama. And though the series maintained a zealous band of loyal fans who call themselves Nashies, when Connie Britton’s country crooner turned music exec succumbed to car crash injuries as her longtime lover and short-time husband Deacon wept at her bedside, even the most ardent fans (correctly) suspected it was all over for Nashville, too. See Britton next as a call center operator in Ryan Murphy’s 9-1-1.
Hmmm. Maybe it’s the name.
In any case, the sins of the brother were visited on wayward Tariq’s sister when Raina (Donshea Hopkins) was caught in the crossfire of her father and brother’s dealings with Ray Ray. Defending her twin to the crooked cop, the teen took a bullet for her trouble. But her killer got his comeuppance, too, when—ill-advised or otherwise—’riq got revenge.
Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
Olenna Tyrell, Game of Thrones
It’s entirely possible that Jaime Lannister is no longer taking orders from his sister/lover Cersei now that he knows (and accepts) a few damning things. But when he still was, the evil queen dispatched him to take out the last of her House Tyrell enemies, using Joffrey’s own sword to do the deed. Diana Rigg’s master manipulator was fully prepared to go out with a win, not a whimper. When Jaime offers her a more humane death by poison, she bravely takes the fatal swig, but not without a few words of wisdom. “She’s a monster, you do know that?” she advises her executioner of Cersei. “She’ll be the end of you. … She’s a disease. I regret my role in spreading it. You will too.” And, finally, sweet words of revenge, assuring Joffrey’s poor pop of just exactly whom took out his son: “Tell Cersei, I want her to know it was me.”
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Game of Thrones
Sansa finally had enough of her supposed keeper and confidante’s duplicity, teaming up with murder-happy sister Arya to give Baelish (Aiden Gillen) a taste of his own medicine—and then a bloody death courtesy of a fast swipe of Arya’s beloved Needle. But we cannot tell a lie. Just as we cheered when Ramsay Bolton became dog food, then mourned the fact that we’d never see the twisted little bugger’s icky antics again, we’re kinda going to miss our Bae and his Great Clips hairdo, too.
photo courtesy of HBO
Viserion, Game of Thrones
Yes, we know. Those were some eye-roller circumstances leading up to the demise of one of Daenerys Targaryens dragon triplets—namely wights that couldn’t swim out to kill Jon Snow, but could scuba to the bottom, wrap some massive, mysteriously handy chains around the impaled Viserion’s corpse and lug him right back onto land—where the Night King resurrected him as a blue-eyed killing machine. This one’s tricky, because he’s only kinda, sorta dead. But seeing Daenerys’ sorrow, coupled with the notion that her “child” managed to melt the eons-old Wall (and the safety it afforded ), leaves us wondering if we’d rather he just rest in peace.
Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead
On the subject of only kinda dead offspring, Chandler Riggs’ Carl Grimes has yet to expire, but to the exclusion of none thus far, if you’re bit by a walker, you’re a goner. So, after Grimes Junior lifted his shirt at the end of the midseason finale to reveal he’d taken a chomp while trying to bring Siddiq into the Alexandrian fold, we’re pretty sure little Judith is soon to be an only child. We’re of two minds on this one. The kid’s either been relegated to petulant knucklehead or severely underused, so there isn’t really very much to miss. On the other hand, the bits of story he had been getting recently—Negan’s enemy-camp-based favorite son, pointer-outer of Rick’s hypocrisy, introspective peacenik and keeper of Alexandria—finally let us root for the kid.
Sasha, The Walking Dead
Since we’re talking Dead, how about that Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) choosing to join her departed lover Abraham and make herself a weapon in the process. After talking Negan out of a higher AHK death toll and surrendering herself to the Saviors, the lovelorn Hilltop warrior took the suicide pill Eugene gave her, popped in her headphones, hopped in Negan’s prop coffin and gave the bad guy much more than he bargained for. Which gave Alexandria a chance to regain the upper hand. Green now stars in Star Trek: Discovery
Shiva, The Walking Dead
The rarely-seen, computer-generated feline never did blend into the storyline beyond her earliest appearances—during which we were more preoccupied with figuring out if King Ezekiel was legit or a wing-nut, anyway. Still, she deserved better than her equal parts heroic and pathetic death at the hands—er, mouths—of zombies too slow to reach Carol, the hobbled King and Jerry, who weren’t doing anything but standing there looking at ’em. We hardly knew ye, Shiva. But you were a good, good kitty.
Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
Mrs. S, Orphan Black
We’ve loved Maria Doyle Kennedy since her sultry debut as a songbird in the 1991 surprise hit The Commitments, so (even though we knew from history class that it was coming) we mourned her brave and noble Queen Catherine of Aragon’s death on The Tudors. And mourned again when her nanny Sonya inexplicably went MIA on Dexter. And we mourn again as Mrs. S—that’s Siobhan Sadler for, er, long—was shot dead by Ferdinand (Kennedy’s Tudors costar James Frain). But Orphan’s loss is Outlander’s gain. Kennedy will join the cult hit series as Jamie’s aunt, Jocasta, in Season 4.
Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA
Ferdinand, Orphan Black
Did we mention Mrs. S shot back?
(Frain’s new enterprise? Playing Ambassador Sarek on Star Trek: Discovery).
Courtesy of Netflix
Bob Newby, Stranger Things
What wasn’t there to love about “The Brain?” His supreme Radio Shack pride? The best. His utter joy at finally landing Joyce, the girl of his high-school dreams? Dreamy. His devotion to her admittedly messed up clan? Adorable—and timely, to boot. His ability to figure out what on (or off) earth Will the Wise created with his crayons and 50 million sheets of paper? Genius. And his willingness—even though he was clearly scared silly—to try his Radio Shack skills set to save the day at the Hawkins Lab? Heroic. So, his death in the jaws of a Demodog? Soul-crushingly sad.
Photo by: Nadav Kander/USA Network
Joanna Wellick, Mr. Robot
Behind every sinister man is an equally sinister woman? Played by Stephanie Corneliussen, Robot’s own version of Lady Macbeth was a delicious duality — admiringly protective of her family but downright ruthless if you cross her or muddle her plans. But the very picture of control fell victim to a rare weakness, shot dead by her spurned and manipulated lover, Derek. But Corneliussen approves of her character’s exit. “Joanna is such a force, and I thought it would take so much to take her down—like an army,” Corneliussen told Entertainment Weekly. “The fact that it’s a scorned lover when she has disregarded other people’s feelings for so long, there was a poetic justice in the fact that that’s the way she went.”
Cate Cameron/A&E Networks LLC All Rights Reserved
Norman, Bates Motel
Somebody call The (Good) Doctor!
[SPOILER ALERT: If you're not caught up on your favorite shows and want to avoid potential spoilers, keep your pleasure alive and kill the urge to click further.]
The grim reaper of the small screen was a busy guy this year, snatching up and mowing down characters whose demises knocked our socks off and broke our hearts — and perhaps one or two whose fatal comeuppance was a long time coming. Join us in remembering some of TV’s dearly (or not so) departed by clicking through the gallery above.