Season 9 featured one of the most brutal episodes The Walking Dead has ever aired in “The Calm Before.” Breaking the whole “midseason and season finale main character deaths” tradition long ago established on the show, this episode saw 10 characters meet their end via decapitation… and then Alpha jammed their heads on pikes to warn the group not to mess with her. (Message received, Alpha.) All of these deaths were bummers, but the most painful losses were Tara (Alanna Masterson), Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Henry (Matt Lintz), who also had the misfortune of succumbing to the “all of Carol’s kids die” disease.
We also lost Siddiq (Avi Nash) to Whisperer spy Dante, right as he was starting to turn the corner on his PTSD. Nash did some incredible work on TWD this season, so it’s tough to see him go; and given Siddiq’s connection to Carl and the fact that he’d recently become a father, the loss of the character is definitely worth mourning, too.
Billy Hargrove and Hopper (Stranger Things)
The arc we didn’t know we needed that, sadly, ended with a redemptive death. In Season 2, Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) was an attractive a**hole with a horrible home life, which offered an explanation for his boorish and malevolent behavior. In Season 3, after being possessed by the Mind Flayer, Billy was straight-up evil. Yet, as he was bringing people to the monster to be melted down and added to it, Billy showed a different side of himself: One that was deeply remorseful. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), proving that underneath all his misogynistic and semi-sociopathic layers, there was a good heart. Montgomery’s acting in Season 3 was stellar, and although characters have to go for the stakes to remain high, it’s tragic Billy won’t be trolling through Hawkins in his loud car anymore.
The Season 3 finale was chock-full of depressing deaths, and yet another unexpected passing came when Hopper supposedly died in the Russian lab under Hawkins mall. Now, we all know this show isn’t getting rid of David Harbour. Hop could very well be “the American” mentioned in the post-credits scene. But all the main characters think he’s dead, and the scene of Eleven reading his speech to her was a tearjerker. Whether he’s in Russia or the Upside Down, here’s hoping Hop punches his way out.
After Luke Perry’s passing in 2018, fans knew to expect Archie’s dad not to survive the series. But rather than shoving Fred’s death into the last few episodes of Season 3, Riverdale opted to dedicate its Season 4 premiere to honoring Perry and the character of Fred Andrews, and the show was better for it. ‘In Memoriam’ was a scaled back, contemplative hour on a program with a default mode of “totally bonkers,” and its rumination grief, heroism and loss make it one of the show’s best installments to date.
Daenerys Targaryen and Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones)
As predicted, the final season of Thrones was a bloodbath. Those last six episodes saw the losses of beloved characters like Varys (Conleith Hill), The Hound (Rory McAnn) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), and departures of those less dear, like Cersei (Lena Headey). But two character deaths stand out because they weren’t just deaths: Their characters’ stories in the season went against everything those they stood for, and then, when they were almost unrecognizable, those characters died.
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) suffered most from the reduced episode order in Season 8, which made their character arcs feel rushed, backwards and even absurd. Others might disagree, but it seems like the lost potential in Jaime and Dany’s stories hurts the most — and had Season 8 been lengthier, perhaps the conclusion to their tales would’ve been more satisfying.
Jorah Mormont and Theon Greyjoy (Game of Thrones)
If Dany and Jaime’s ends were ill fitting, Theon (Alfie Allen) and Jorah (Iain Glen)’s were much, much closer to hitting the mark. We always knew Jorah would die protecting his beloved Khaleesi, and he did, producing a heartbreaking scene where Dany must cremate her most loyal advisor and friend. Speaking of someone being forced to cremate a friend after the Battle of Winterfell…
Theon, too, lost his life when the Night King attacked. Sansa (Sophie Turner) sends him into the great beyond with a wolf pin, symbolizing his return to House Stark. It’s bogus that Bran (Isaac Hempstead) couldn’t have told him Arya (Maisie Williams) was coming and saved him, but if he had to die, sacrificing himself for Bran was a fitting end for a character who’d once betrayed his adoptive family and declared Bran dead. You’re a good man, Theon.
Marcus Kane and Abby Griffin (The 100)
In a season that was filled with ups and downs, the losses of these two Season 1 mainstays were real low points. Henry Ian Cusick’s return was questionable after he became a regular on Fox’s short-lived vampire drama The Passage, but Abby (Paige Turco)’s subsequent passing is harder to understand given that there was plenty of story left to tell with her character. Even more of a bummer is the fact that these longtime lovebirds died only a few episodes apart — couldn’t they have died together?
And, for maximum emotional torture, after Abby’s death Clarke (Eliza Taylor) had to send her mother’s Simone Prime-inhabited body out an airlock, thus undoubtedly scarring poor Clarke for life… for, like, the tenth time. (Poor girl’s gonna need some serious therapy). At the rate the “adults” on this show are dropping, someone needs to protect Indra.
Quentin Coldwater (The Magicians)
…and now The Magicians fans can’t listen to “Take On Me” by A-Ha without crying. In a shocking move that saw the show lose its main protagonist, Q (Jason Ralph) sacrificed himself to save his friends. It’s no surprise that fans that saw themselves in Quentin — he was one of the very few bisexual and mentally ill protagonists around in today’s TV landscape — were none too pleased about this development. It’s incredibly tragic Q didn’t have more time to spend with Eliot (Hale Appleman), who had just re-emerged from the clutches of monster possession and was willing to give their relationship a shot.
Saying goodbye to our favorite characters is never easy… and with Game of Thrones ending this year, there were plenty of favorite characters who were paid a visit from the grim reaper.
Even setting Thrones aside, there were plenty of sob-worthy final moments and lasting impressions made when these characters left our screens, never to return again. From a series of zombified heads on spikes in The Walking Dead, to those making heroic sacrifices on shows likeStranger Things, to the deaths that came out of nowhere, let’s look back at the fictional losses we’ll carry with us into the new decade.