There’s nothing more noble and tear-inducing on TV than when a character lays down their life for someone else. It breaks our hearts, but it makes for some of the best moments in these series. A self-sacrifice also has the ability to redeem a character you might have previously hated. Grab some tissues as we look back on 11 times a TV character sacrificed themselves.
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1. Summer the Direwolf, Game of Thrones
Like all the direwolves, Summer was incredibly loyal. He looked after Bran since he first got him. He was even there to protect him while he slept through the assassination attempt ordered by Cersei. His drive to protect Bran is what drove him to his fateful death. In season 6, Summer died fighting off the attack by the wights, sacrificing his life so Bran could escape.
2. Tess Mercer, Smallville
Tess was a character who we went back on forth about liking on Smallville. Eventually, she became what Clark had sort of always hoped Lex would be — someone with a darkness in them that could be lifted and replaced with goodness. This became her undoing. When Lex returned in the series finale, Tess went to him and got close enough so that she could infect him with a memory loss from Summerholt. He would have no recollection of life before that moment, effectively destroying his memory of Clark’s abilities and their friendship. She died to protect Superman’s legacy.
3. Emma Swan, Once Upon a Time
Emma knew that the only way to get the darkness out of Regina was to tether it to someone else. This was the only way to contain it. Of course, in doing so, someone else had to become the Dark One. Without even thinking, Emma went straight at it so that she could get Regina out of it. She was willing to take on this enormous burden because she believed Regina had worked too hard to have her happiness destroyed.
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4. Jo and Ellen Harvelle, Supernatural
Jo had her heart set on building a bomb and sacrificing herself to kill the hounds, so that nothing was chasing the team any longer. Of course, her mother Ellen was completely against it. In a heartwarming scene where Jo insists her mother finally treat her like an adult, the two decide to go out together. They gave up their lives so the Winchesters could carry on with their mission.
5. Opie Winston, Sons of Anarchy
This was maybe the hardest scene to get through in Sons of Anarchy. Poor Opie had been through so much tragedy in his life and it was really due in large part (if not completely) to the things the club made him do. Still, he laid down his life to get viciously beaten to death in prison as the price the club was forced to pay. Even Jax couldn’t bear to watch as this happened to his childhood best friend.
6. Mona Vanderwaal, Pretty Little Liars
Mona’s death was actually a lie (I know, what a shock), but the intention behind it was still self-sacrificial. This one is a little more controversial. What Mona did was totally screwed up on so many levels because of the emotional trauma it caused not only the Liars, but her poor mother too. The reasoning for it can be debated, but in Mona’s eyes, she was doing the right thing. She thought this was necessary because it would help put Alison behind bars, where she felt she belonged. Mona does love her mother and care for the Liars, so in many ways, this was still a huge sacrifice for her. Also, the scene where her death is announced was superbly emotional.
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7. Robert Queen, Arrow
This was a sacrifice made before the Arrow story even begins, but it’s one that still haunts Oliver. In fact, the sacrifice his father made is what made Oliver into the hero we know today. When the two were shipwrecked and traveling on a lifeboat, Robert knew that only one of them could survive with the provisions left. He killed the other crew member and then gave up his own life so that Oliver could carry on. His parting words to Oliver were to “survive” and right his wrongs. Oliver has carried that message with him every day since.
8. Dan Scott, One Tree Hill
Somehow, the guy who killed the beloved uncle of Lucas Scott eventually won over our sympathies. Though we could never really forgive him for what he did to Keith, he did everything he could with the rest of his life to redeem himself. He went out the best way he could, giving his life to save Nathan from his captors. He had just enough time to get some closure with Nathan and all those who he wronged (except of course for the absentee Lucas, who he did the most damage to.) Still, it was tear-jerking to watch him go.
9. Eddie Thawne, The Flash
After discovering that Eobard Thawne aka Reverse-Flash is actually a descendant of Eddie Thawne’s, Eddie made the ultimate sacrifice to prevent the existence of this villain. If Eddie were to kill himself, Eobard would never be born. He only had moments to think, as Reverse-Flash was just about to kill The Flash (and announced plans to kill the rest of his family.) He knew killing himself was his only option, and Eddie went out a hero.
10. Walter White, Breaking Bad
No matter what you think of Walt, there was nothing forcing him to go back to Albuquerque and do what he did in the Breaking Bad finale. Walt wasn’t looking for redemption. He just had a realization that he needed to make some of the wrong things he did right. He would never earn his son’s forgiveness, but he could at least try and save Jesse from the torture of the neo-Nazis. With the entire police force searching for him, Walt still risked going to prison to get Jesse out of trouble, and ended up dying from a gunshot in the process. To be honest, it was a poetic end for him to die in that meth lab.
11. Eleven, Stranger Things
Eleven quickly became beloved by absolutely everyone who watched Stranger Things. She was such a representation of goodness and purity that we became immediately invested in her. She was so good, in fact, that she gave herself up to the upside down and the Gorgomon so that she could rid the world of this evil that caused so much trouble in Hawkins. Thankfully, we saw that she’s still alive, but it didn’t make her sacrifice any less noble.
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Which of these moments hit you the hardest? What other moments of self-sacrifice on TV had you reaching for tissues? Share them with us in the comments below.
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