The Best Episodes of the 21st Century With the Most Shocking Deaths

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Bates Motel - Vera Farmiga
Cate Cameron/A&E

The Psycho prequel Bates Motel. We knew from the classic 1960 film that disturbed Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) would slay his mom (Vera Farmiga), but the surprise on “Forever” (Season 4, Episode 9) was how tender that goodbye was. Alas, there is nothing gentle about the moment.

THE AMERICANS - Keri Russell, Lois Smith
Jeffrey Neira/FX

The Americans’ Soviet spy Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) offs a kindly old woman (Lois Smith) on “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” (Season 3, Episode 9). She happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which equaled an oh-so-right opportunity for Elizabeth to kill.


Speaking of baddies, the murderous Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) makes life hell for his fellow inmates on Oz…until devout Muslim Kareem Said (Eamonn Walker) slaughters him on “You Bet Your Life” (Season 4, Episode 8), a rare moment of justice.


Not so cathartic: The post-childbirth demise of Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) brought the achingly real to the genteel world of Downton Abbey (Season 3, Episode 4)…and sparked an outcry from fans on Twitter.

The Good Wife

The Good Wife’s “Dramatics, Your Honor” (Season 5, Episode 15) was equally controversial and heart-wrenching. An angry client shoots attorney Will Gardner (Josh Charles) on the legal drama—shattering any chance of a happy future with his love, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies).

The Walking Dead - Madison Lintz
Gene Page/AMC

Naturally, The Walking Dead’s “Pretty Much Dead Already” (Season 2, Episode 7) mixed horror with its heartbreak as zombie fighter Rick (Andrew Lincoln ) guns down young Sophia (Madison Lintz), who’d become a flesh-eater. (Dead again!)

ER- Kellie Martin, Noah Wiley

And while it’s expected that fatalities hit hospitals, we were shook during ER’s “All in the Family” (Season 6, Episode 14) watching Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin), the first of many medics to flatline on the series, sadly succumb to stab wounds she’d suffered on the previous episode.

Grey's Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy kills non-patients too. Bomb disposal expert Dylan (guest star Kyle Chandler) explodes after saving then-resident Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) on “As We Know It” (Season 2, Episode 17).

The Wire

At least death becomes some people: The Wire’s “Middle Ground” (Season 3, Episode 11) finds drug kingpin Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) assassinated by rivals. That chilling scene—Bell tells his killers to just get it over with—launched Elba to stardom.

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It’s a fact of life on television: Fan favorites bite the dust. And some shows have managed to turn TV mortality into an art.

Click through the gallery above to find out our picks for most shocking TV character deaths!

And make sure to check back with TV Insider daily as we countdown the 10 Best Episodes of the 21st Century, including picks from favorites like The Sopranos, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more.

It’s all leading up to the top pick reveal on Tuesday, April 10. Stay tuned, and sound off on our choices in the comments below!