Character deaths on TV are often turning points, for good or bad. A well-written character death can galvanize the plot, rejuvenate a tired premise, and leave you crying for days. A bad character death can ruin the show, either because the death was poorly written or just because everyone loved that character so much they lost their interest in the entire stupid-ass show. I gave up on Grey’s Anatomy for years after they killed off Denny because my heart was broken and needed some time to heal. Character deaths are serious! Here are 12 character deaths that ruined TV shows. BEYOND THIS ARE SPOILERS FOR The OC, The 100, Misfits, Dexter, Grey’s Anatomy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey’s Anatomy, The X-Files, Arrow, 24, andThe Walking Dead. THIS WILL BE SPOILERY AS HELL YOU BEEN WARNED.
1) Marissa – The OC
The OC was facing declining ratings and quality and decided to mix it up and have one of their main characters, Marissa Cooper, die in a terrible car accident. But the real victim of that fatal car accident was the show itself, which never recovered and was put out of its misery shortly after.
2, 3) Lexa and Lincoln – The 100
The 100 started out as a show about space kids who came down to Earth, but after we discovered that there were humans still alive on the ground, the Grounders quickly became the most interesting part of the show. But the writers clearly hadn’t figured that out when they killed off two of the most compelling characters — Lexa and Lincoln — in really disappointing ways. Lexa was felled by a stray bullet and Lincoln was shot in the head unceremoniously by someone who got killed himself shortly after. Many fans have sworn not to watch the show’s upcoming fourth season, but whether or not The 100 is ruined for good remains to be seen.
4) Curtis – Misfits
When Curtis died, all the original characters had left the show, and the audience was expected to care about an entirely new cast. While the writing on the show remained good, it’s pretty hard to convince audiences to stick with a show after all the original main characters are gone. We didn’t just care about ANY misfits, you know? We wanted OUR misfits.
5) Rita Bennett – Dexter
Rita was the balance to Dexter’s character, the person who (unintentionally) supplied cover for his murderous ways, and also inspired him to be a better person. Without her, the show struggled to find the balance that had made it so appealing in earlier seasons. I heard that the last season of Dexter got good again but I honestly don’t know because I gave up on it the second Colin Hanks was wrangling snakes or whatever.
6) McDreamy – Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy is famous for killing off major characters in totally ridiculous ways. A lot of people thought the show lost its way after the plane crash that killed off Lexie Grey and McSteamy (and Arizona’s leg, and Arizona and Callie’s marriage). But the last straw might have been McDreamy kicking it because of a surgical mistake after a car accident. What the crap.
7) Tara – Buffy
The reactions to Tara’s death was mixed — some people liked the path it sent Willow down, while others were upset that half of primetime network TV’s first lesbian couple was offed by a stray bullet. Tara was a fan favorite and many viewers stopped watching after her death — Buffy’s final season fell in the ratings from 4.4 million to 3.8 million viewers.
8) Fox Mulder – The X-Files
While they didn’t exactly kill off Mulder permanently, his weird treatment in the last few seasons dulled the appeal of the show. The X-Files was all about Mulder AND Scully and the way they played off each other. Without that chemistry, the show lost its footing.
9) Charlie – Two and a Half Men
When Charlie Sheen lost his mind very publicly, he was killed off of his own show and replaced by Ashton Kutcher. Killing off a major character is always a bold move, but especially in a comedy. Replacing Sheen with Kutcher did add to some renewed interest in the show, but without two of the original three main characters (Angus T. Young converted to Christianity and decided the show went against his morals), Two and a Half Men basically became a spin-off of itself. It lasted two more seasons before being canceled, so I guess the question is which version of the show did you like better?
10) Laurel – Arrow
Laurel Lance started out as a badass, independent woman. She died in recovery after surviving surgery and didn’t even have time to say goodbye to her dad. People were pretty freaking pissed that she was all “I’m glad you found happiness, it’s okay you don’t love me but I love you” right before she kicked it. Not a befitting ending for a strong woman, and her death turned Arrow into The Felicity Show. Ratings dropped off in the episodes after Laurel’s death because we didn’t sign up to watch the dang Felicity Show.
11) Curtis – 24
How are there two Curtises on this list?! Jack Bauer shot his pal Curtis in the head because Curtis kidnapped a bad dude. Because Jack Bauer has never kidnapped a bad dude?! Or murdered someone?! Weird change in morals. This felt like a gratuitous death of a major character that just pissed people off. It didn’t need to happen, it was just a ratings grab and a disrespectful end for a well-liked character. Boo. We expected 24 to stick to what it did best — advocating torture and depicting a world where nobody eats, sleeps, or goes to the bathroom.
12) Glenn – The Walking Dead?
While this death only happened a couple weeks ago and we don’t know what the show will be like without him, a lot of fans are pissed as hell that Glenn will no longer be on the show. Yeah, we know Negan killed him in the comics in the same way he was offed on the show, but the show has diverted from the comics before. And his eye popping out? God damn. That was truly awful, even for a show full of death, misery, and gore. There are so few season one characters still alive and Glenn was one of the most relatable. F*ck. I’m sad now.
Has a character death ever ruined a show for you? Tweet at me and let me know @erikaheidewald!