TV's 55 Most Shocking Deaths Ever (Including a Certain Nashville Casualty)

Nashville fans are likely still bereft after witnessing the death of Connie Britton’s Rayna James in Thursday’s episode.

And while we would never try to underplay the significance of a major character’s passing, this certainly isn’t the first time that “Nashies” — or TV fans in general, for that matter — have been put through the proverbial wringer. (Rayna’s death was the result of a second brutal car crash, after all.)

This season alone has been positively devastating, with fan-favorite characters from The Vampire Diaries, Jane the Virgin and How to Get Away With Murder cashing in their proverbial chips.

So how does the loss of TV’s country queen stack up against other recent offings? Browse the attached gallery of TV deaths — both from yesterday and yesteryear — below, then drop a comment: Which deaths have hit you the hardest?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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110 Comments
  1. Emily says:

    most shocking deathts ever… but not one LOST mention? Sun and Jin? Jack? Charlie? Boone? Faraday? i could go on.

  2. quinten says:

    Good list. But Tara from Buffy really should be on this list. One of the biggest moments of the show. And George from Greys Anatomy.

    • lisa says:

      My first thoughts too!

    • Joey says:

      Glad I’m not the only one thinking that. I’m glad Joyce is there since that led into one of the greatest episodes of TV I’ve ever seen, but Tara should really be in the list too.

    • J.B. says:

      Was just coming to say the same thing. I thought if Joyce wasn’t on this list at least Tara would be. I mean Joyce *should* be on this list but Tara’s death impacted the show way more than hers.

  3. Lisa Smith says:

    How about Francie from Alias?

  4. Aunt Pearl says:

    As a GH fan for 40 years, I was delighted to see that little BJ Jones was on the list!

  5. D says:

    Not to be too nitpitcky but how was Norma’s death a surprise? She always had to die otherwise the show wouldn’t work as a Psycho prequel. Ditto Victoria Grayson. If she had died in season one or two that would have been shocking, but the only way the cycle between her and Emily/Amanda was going to end was with one of them dead

    • SUSO says:

      I’m with you on Victoria, but I would argue that Norma was a surprise because it happened in season four. Most viewers were expecting her to be offed way closer to the series finale.

  6. kmw says:

    All heartbreakers your list. So sad for fans of Nashville that Rayna is gone.

  7. Shay says:

    George (the 007 moment give chills) ans Denny from GA.
    Angel season 1 of Buffy.
    We have not yet seen his death but it was a shock to know he’said dead in the present it’s Jack from This is Us.
    Nadia in Chicago PD
    Lowell in iZombie
    Paul in Orphan Black

    • Jason says:

      That was season 2 of Buffy. Not 1.

    • Yeah, Nadia on Chicago P.D. was upsetting and startling. It’s rare to see these inter-franchise crossovers have a real and lasting effect … the last one I remember was the final HOMICIDE/LAW & ORDER crossover, which derailed the DA Ed Danvers’ chances for either a U.S. Attorney position or federal judgeship, I forget which.

  8. Hilla says:

    How about Chief Taylor from Major Crimes? I was so shocked ti see him get killed off

  9. RedReddington says:

    Warrick Brown dying on CSI was way more shocking than Tyreese on the Walking Dead. You expect everyone to die on TWD, haha

  10. Rachel says:

    How do you forget Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing?? I’m still traumatized by that one!

  11. Phil says:

    ANOTHER headline article about this less than 24 hours after the episode airs? That’s just disrespectful to your readers, TVLine. Who you already spoiled this for.

  12. Chris says:

    I’ll never be over Michael’s death on Jane the Virgin. I still don’t understand why he had to die. Michael and Jane were everything and the writers decided to kill the heart of their show, and me, in the process.

    • Patti says:

      I agree!! That character was such an intregal part of the show that it is definitely not the same show without him.

    • Mangochic says:

      I also miss Michael. I wish they didn’t do a 3 year time jump. Seems bizarre to me that they didn’t give his fans time to mourn like an episode

  13. Keith says:

    David Palmer on 24.Sylvia Costas and Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue

  14. Biff says:

    Kenny on South Park

  15. Jason says:

    Tara on Buffy is still at the top of my list. right beside Joyce. Also, Charlie on Lost. Next , you should do a list of most pointless deaths. Sweets would be high on that list for me. As well as another Charlie. This one from Supernatural.

  16. A fan of TV says:

    Rita. Dexter. Still the ultimate “No!!” TV death for me. Then of course they doubled down by killing Deb, the two characters that the show needed most, apart from Dexter himself.

  17. David S. says:

    Way too slanted towards more recent deaths. Also, is it really a surprise when someone dies on Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? Almost everyone is fair game on those shows, and most of the deaths were in the books they were based on anyway. Same goes for Norma Bates. We’ve known that was coming for 57 years!

    A lot of the more recent ones on here weren’t really shocking in the sense of coming out of left field like Rosalind Shays or Kutner.

    Anyone who later came back in some form (Brian Griffin, Sara AND Laurel Lance, Snart) should be disqualified by reason of being alive.

  18. marie says:

    Matthew Crawley on Downtown Abbey tops many of these listed; much more of a shock than Sybil.

  19. Um…Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under? Hellllooooo?

  20. Oh, and George O’Malley from Grey’s Anatomy was totally unexpected too!

  21. Nanda says:

    Deep Throat – The X Files

  22. Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire. His death was Will Gardner-level shocking for me.

    And how do you include Jodi from Mom? She was an addict living with an abusive addict boyfriend. That’s about as high risk as it gets. Also, she was in what…two episodes?

    • Another Poster says:

      I agree with you that Jodi from Mom should not be on the list. It was more of a “CBS Cares” public service special with an appearance from the Surgeon General at the end of the show to give addicts advice on how to get help with their medical problems.
      A minor supporting character, she was in the episode where she was introduced, and soon after, brought back to die.
      How about replacing her with Ziva David from N.C.I.S?

  23. Sherry Muir says:

    They should have replaced her. It was a main caracter. Very disappointed with this years writing of story line

  24. Jim on Ghost Whisper( though they brought him back in another body),Prue on Charmed,Finn on Glee,Francis on Reign,Rayna on Nashville,Katherine on Vampire Diaries are my saddest tv deaths though I’m a bit upset about Cami and Davina on TO too.,

    • I can see why they didn’t list Finn on GLEE … it was shocking that the actor died, but once that happened, the show had to write him out somehow. The same reason they didn’t list Leo McGarry on THE WEST WING.

  25. Tom says:

    Tara from Buffy definitely should be on the list

  26. Efe says:

    how can you guys skip Lost?

    Ana Lucia & Libby are one of the most shocking deaths on television. The shocking part was who killed them.

  27. Angela says:

    Wes Gibbins and Abbie Mills’ deaths definitely count as shocking for me. And yes to Mike Delfino, too. I’d also add Jason Gideon from “Criminal Minds”-did not see his death coming, either.
    .
    Norma Bates’ death was shocking in the sense that I didn’t expect it to happen when it did, or how, but obviously, it was a death we all knew was coming eventually. Didn’t make it any less heartbreaking and horrifying, though.

    • Eureka says:

      Why would you see Gideon’s death coming? He hadn’t been on the show in years.

      • Angela says:

        Yeah, I know that. Just that I figured the show would’ve simply left it at “Oh, he left to do whatever and that’s that.” I just never really thought they’d even touch on his character again outside of the occasional mention of him from a team member, let alone decide to ultimately kill him off all these years later.

    • Emme says:

      Maeve for Criminal Minds. Well, ticked me off more than shocked me. Still shocked me though. Just once could they leave the wahmbulance (you know, the one that screams, “Wooooobie! Wooooobie! Wooooobie!” as it rushes past) in the garage when it comes to Reid? I know Gubler suggested it, but I just would have preferred the relationship simply not working out (too married to their jobs). I mean why let Reid have a somewhat normal life when the whump can get shoveled out instead? /s
      .
      Jason’s death wasn’t all that surprising (disappointing, but not shocking, even though it turned out to be a really good episode) since Patinkin had been gone for 8 years at that point. If Frank had killed Gideon at the end of season 2, I think that would have been shocking since the team seemed pretty bullet proof at that point.
      .
      And I have to agree, too many recent shows here. What about Claire from Law & Order? And I second Mrs. Landingham from West Wing.

  28. Chris says:

    Tara’s death on Sons Of Anarchy. Man, I didn’t care a lot about her character but that death just floored me. Not a lot of shows leave my jaw dropped like that but man it was great television. Miss that show terribly.

    • Nick says:

      I still have a visceral reaction every time I see a meat form, eek

    • lisa says:

      I loved the show! Oddly, prior to reading this list, it had not occurred to me that her name was ‘Tara Teller”. Kind of funny sounding.

    • Helen Robinson says:

      I loved Tara’s character bc she did a helluva lot for the MC and didnt deserve to die. She just wanted a good life for her family and asshole Gemma had to go and screw it up! I wish it wouldve been that junky Wendy. But Gemma got hers!

  29. Erik says:

    Tara and Anya from Buffy and Fred from angel.

  30. Baz says:

    John Reese on Person of Interest. A major bummer.

    • Another Poster says:

      I agree that the death of John Reese was a real bummer, especially when we were first led to believe that it was Harold Finch who would be killed in the series finale.

      I would remove Brian Griffith from Family Guy and Bobby Ewing from Dallas from the list because they were brought Back to life and they did not die as originally shown. Brian Griffith returned thanks to time travel, (as many viewers thought he would be), and Bobby Ewing returned, because the entire season when he died was just a “dream”.
      That lessened the impacts of their “deaths” a great deal.

      Those are the only two characters on the list who came back to life that I am aware of.

      To Bella:
      Henry Blake from M*A*S*H was #55 on the list. His death was one of the first truly memorable fictional deaths on a TV show. It even surprised some of the cast members when it was announced by Radar. He represented all the people who went off to war and did not return home to a happy homecoming.

  31. Jake says:

    Abbie’s death was awful and created major controversy it only confirmed that the higher ups at sleepyhollow saw the character and actress as a stepping stool for Tom mison’s Ichabod, they repeatedly try to replace but non of the women they tried to pair with ichobod had the chemistry that Abbie and ichobod had I loved their friendship and banter. The series is just plain bad now.

  32. AngelWasHere says:

    What? No Walking Dead deaths?

  33. Bella says:

    I couldn’t get through all of them because the grisly pictures just became too much for me. Was Henry from MASH on the list? Because that was one of the first shocking deaths that I can remember.

  34. NP20 says:

    Pretty lame gallery – just names and pics, no commentary of any kind?

    And really Norma Bates was a surprise??

  35. Ellen says:

    Gary from Thirtysomething. (I have a long memory.)

  36. DarkDefender says:

    Most shocking TV death will always be Rita on Dexter. Glenn and Abraham in TWD close second.

  37. clintbrew says:

    you should added Vincent Nigel Murray and max brennan and bones

  38. Det. Steve Crosetti on HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET belongs on this list. Henry Allen on THE FLASH is a glaring omission. Doyle on ANGEL shifted the show’s status quo a heckuva lot faster than anyone expected, I think (we’d find out why later, sadly). And I’d argue that Tommy Merlyn and/or Moira Queen from ARROW should be on there as well.

  39. Rayna James is the tv death that hit me the hardest. It takes a lot for me to cry but I just watched last night’s episode and I am still crying. Connie Britton, the writers and crew of nashville made her more than just a character it was like she was a real person. There has been a lot of great tv moms over the years but the number 1 tv mom on my list is Rayna James!

  40. Sharon says:

    For me it’s still Joss Carter from POI and Joyce Summers from Buffy. Game of Thrones deaths were sudden, surprising but not shocking because of their environment. Probably Will would be my 3rd most shocking but I was pretty tired of Will/Alicia by the time he died.

  41. Shane Vendrell and family – The Shield

  42. Liz says:

    Stringer Bell from The Wire. A lot of the ones here I kinda knew wild happen but Stringer just blew my mind.

  43. Amy says:

    I knew what was going to happen on Nashville before I watched it (I just could avoid the temptation of spoiler alert! :0( ) and I still teared up the last 10 minutes. Hated to see her go but agree with the producers that she would have never left her family.

  44. Lucy dying on ER was why I started reading spoilers :(

  45. N!loofar says:

    Most heartbreaking of the list for me.

    #1 Michael Cordero
    Lexie Grey
    Tara Knowles-Teller
    Joss Carter
    Will Gardner
    Lance Sweets
    Vanessa Ives
    Hodor
    Nina Krilova
    Poussey Washington

  46. Lois says:

    I’m glad you included Lexie Grey, because I’m still not over that and I couldn’t go back to the show afterwards. I agree that there should be some Lost in this list, Jin and Sun’s deaths were pretty shocking. And the Ana-Lucia/Libby murder was pretty damn shocking.

    I don’t see how King Henry’s was in Reign considering he died in history? It literally had to happen for Francis to be king. I guess the fact that Francis killed him was ‘shocking’ but the death itself wasn’t.

  47. Lucy Rodriguez says:

    Will not watch show anymore.

  48. Rayna´s was worst. Never before I have mourned tv character like close friend would have died :( This has really been ringer for a week already and no end in sight :(

  49. Ally Oop says:

    Thanks TVLine for spoiling Nashville for me. I’ve been avoiding clicking on Nashville topics until I had the opportunity to watch but you put Rayna’s death right in the link description.