These days, the death of a major character on a TV show is met equal parts remorse and suspicion. It’s become a pretty common plot device for a TV show to shock audiences by suddenly killing off a very substantial character completely out of nowhere. They then leave fans to stew over that death for a while (whether for a couple of episodes, a whole summer, or even a full season) and then display the twist that said character is actually alive.
Let’s look back on some of these big characters that we’ve had to say goodbye to, only to find out we would see them again soon after. Here are 16 of our favorite major characters on TV who were resurrected from the dead.
1. Jon Snow, Game of Thrones
One of the most controversial deaths of recent television was that of the beloved Game of Thrones hero, Jon Snow. Jon was betrayed by his fellow members of the Night’s Watch who disagreed with his leadership choices and each took turns stabbing him until he died. Jon’s death at the end of season 5 sparked long discussions among fans who theorized how he could come back to life, while others (mainly just the cast and crew of the show) insisted that he was, in fact, dead. Turns out the people who held on hope were not wasting their time, as the second episode of season 6 showed Melisandre (The Red Woman) performing a ritual that breathed life into our favorite bastard child once more.
2. Sam and Dean Winchester, Supernatural
In the Supernatural universe, dead never means dead. Every character in the show has died at least once, but we usually get the opportunity to see them once more. Sometimes only in flashbacks, alternate universes or afterlives, but also often by being brought back to life. This is most especially true for the series’ two main characters, Sam and Dean. One of the Winchester brothers seem to die in almost every season finale, only to be brought back to life in the next season’s premiere episode. The chances are pretty good that these two will live forever.
3. Alaric Saltzman, The Vampire Diaries
A death on The Vampire Diaries is similar to a death on Supernatural, because most don’t last long. Often on TVD, characters remain alive by being turned into vampires, but some are brought back to the mortal world without having turned as well. Over the course of the show, Alaric has died more times than anyone. He’s been stabbed, resurrected, broken his neck, resurrected, run over by a car, resurrected, staked, and guess what? Resurrected. Alaric has got more lives than a cat.
4. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Vampires aren’t the only ones who can come back to life — their killers can too. The first time our favorite vampire slayer Buffy was killed was at the end of season 1. Luckily, she was resuscitated quite easily through CPR. Buffy went on to die again in season 5, but CPR wouldn’t have been as effective this time. It takes some serious dark magics and teamwork from Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya to resurrect her that time.
5. Phil Coulson, Agents of SHIELD
Agent Coulson was a fan-favorite of Marvel movies who brought a warm and somewhat goofy energy to the seriousness of SHIELD. Coulson died in the Avengers movie, much to the superhero team’s and many fans’ dismay. Luckily, Coulson was revived for the Marvel spin-off series Agent’s of SHIELD, through the “TAHITI Protocol”. Coulson’s work protecting the world carried on on the smaller screen.
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6. Sara Lance, Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow
Sara was first presumed dead in the series premiere episode of Arrow, having gone down with the Queen’s Gambit ship in 2007. Over a year after her death, Sara was brought back to life in the Lazarus Pit by her sister Laurel and Thea. The Lazarus Pit had some dangerous side-effects on Sara temporarily, as it causes whoever it brings back to life to have the urge to kill whoever had hurt them in the first place. After her resurrection, she had a rather abrupt exit from Arrow, which bridged her entrance into Legends of Tomorrow, where she joined Rip Hunter’s team of time-traveling heroes as the White Canary.
7. Peter Hale, Teen Wolf
Peter Hale is an Alpha Werewolf who was the main focus in the beginning of Teen Wolf who ended up dying in the season 1 finale when Derek slashes his neck and becomes the Alpha. In season 2, he is brought back to life after manipulating Lydia in her hallucinations. In her hallucinations, he convinces her to dig up the floorboards over his grave, and drag Derek back to the house. Lydia puts Derek’s unconscious body in contact with Peter’s corpse, shines moonlight over them and uses Derek’s healing powers to bring Peter back to life. It was some pretty impressive work to accomplish from beyond the grave.
8. Sarah Tancredi, Prison Break
It was heartbreaking when Michael Scofield’s love interest’s head showed up in a box delivered to him to prove that she was actually gone. It turned out the reason for this was in fact to kill her off. Prison Break doesn’t live in any type of science fiction world, so an actual resurrection would have proven impossible. Sarah Wayne Callies (who plays Tancredi) actually had some issues with her contract on the show, so this is how she was written off. It proved to be a little rash, as the disputes were resolved and she was able to come back. Her “resurrection” was written in as a faked death and that she was actually alive and on the run. It wasn’t the most plausible storyline, but it was great to see that Sarah lived on.
9. Cisco Ramon, The Flash
Cisco was the comedic relief in the first season of The Flash, so there was no way they could get rid of him. After Harrison Wells revealed himself to be Reverse-Flash to Cisco, he plunged his fast-flying fist into Cisco’s chest and killed him. Just shortly after, thanks to the wonders of time travel, this event never took place and our beloved Cisco was bringing smiles to our faces once more.
10. Alison DiLaurentis, Pretty Little Liars
From the first episode of Pretty Little Liars, we’re made to believe that Ali has been murdered and her killer is after the rest of the Liars. We see through flashbacks that Ali was manipulative and would pin all of her friends against each other, but made herself look like the only one they could trust. Of course, we knew that Ali was the biggest liar of them all. This became even more apparent when we found out that Ali never died — she had been faking everyone out the whole time and was hiding out, watching everything from a distance. Ali being “brought back to life” took a lot of adjustment for the girls, who had all come to terms with her death and accepted that she had been a cancer in their lives anyway. Having her return left them feeling betrayed, confused and insecure — just like old times.
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11. Brian Griffin, Family Guy
The sarcastic smart-ass pet of the Griffin family was always sort of the voice of reason in this incredibly immoral family. He had his own qualms, but the point is that there was no Family Guy without Brian. In season 12, Stewie destroys his time machine once and for all, and shortly after, Brian gets run over by a car. A tearful scene at the vet leaves Brian dead, and the family soon after gets a new dog. This sparked outrage by fans everywhere of the long-running adult cartoon series. Just a few episodes later, the Christmas episode shows Stewie running into himself at the mall. Past Stewie had traveled forward in time to buy a new toy. Present Stewie uses this opportunity to hop a ride back in time with him to save Brian’s life. The show carries on and we can forget all about the time this cartoon series tried to kill off one of our favorite, most relatable characters.
12. Lex Luthor, Smallville
This Superman origin story always went a ways away from the traditional story of Superman’s upbringing. The biggest difference between the two was that in Smallville, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor were friends in Clark’s teenage years who were destined to turn into enemies later on when Clark became Superman. Even more in its own path, the series had Lex Luthor discover that Clark Kent was Superman and feel betrayed enough to try and kill him. His attempts ended with Lex Luthor dying, years before Clark even becomes Superman. Of course, the reason Smallville was sort of forced to go this route is that Michael Rosenbaum (who played Lex) left the show after his contract ended after season 6, while Smallville carried on for 3 more seasons. In the series finale, Rosenbaum returned to revive Lex Luthor so that the Superman legend could carry on as it was destined to — with legendary archenemies, Superman and Lex Luthor. The strange unanswered question here was that, with Lex knowing exactly who Clark is, why wouldn’t he expose him now that he accepts that they’re enemies? Whatever. Seeing Lex Luthor back in Smallville was too epic a moment to ruin with logic.
13. Fox Mulder, The X-Files
In the season 7 finale of The X-Files, Mulder was abducted by aliens. In season 8, we see his body returned to Earth and abandoned outside of a farm compound. When it was finally discovered, Mulder seemed to have been dead for days. As a result, Mulder was buried. However, Walter Skinner’s theory proved accurate days later when another body that had been abducted had regained consciousness. The team quickly pulled Mulder out of his buried coffin to discover he was, in fact, just barely alive.
14. John Locke, LOST
In season 5 of LOST, Ben Linus kills John Locke after they disagree about telling Sun that her husband Jin is actually still alive. However, we see that John is alive in the very next season, though with a completely different outlook and a determination to get off of the island. This isn’t exactly a resurrection, because the islanders later discover John Locke’s body surface to shore and figure out that the man leading everyone off the island isn’t actually Locke — it’s the Man in Black who’s taken over Locke’s body.
15. Elizabeth Keene, The Blacklist
Liz Keene has been known to fake her death in the past. In the season 1 finale, Aram informs Red that the only way out of their contract is if Liz is killed. In order to protect her, Red fakes her death until the funds are released. In season 3, we see Liz “die” once again, only this time we’re not sure if it’s fake. While giving birth to her daughter in season 3, Liz passes away. Killing off this major character is highly suspected by fans to be another fakeout. We’ve seen Liz fake her death a number of times now, so it’s not out of character. Also, the real-life actress who plays her, Megan Boone, is also actually pregnant. Her “death” could likely be a temporary thing while the actress is on maternity leave, later exposed as another fake death. It would fit in perfectly with the story as well. Mr. Kaplan points out to Red that he has never been able to protect her. Now that she’s giving birth, it’s possible that her death was faked so that she hand her baby could life a life without danger of being chased after by anyone, something that Red and Mr. Kaplan could have helped orchestrate. The fact that her death happened during a commercial break and was handled somewhat casually also plays into this.
16. Glenn Rhee, The Walking Dead
In another moment of fan outrage, season 6 of The Walking Dead shows Glenn seemingly meeting his end under a pile of attacking zombies. We found out later that Glenn actually managed to use Nicholas’ body as a human shield and hide out under a dumpster during the attack, completely out of reach of the zombies and managing to survive. Of course, fans of the comics know that Glenn actually does die at the hands of Negan, which means that the POV death of someone at the hands of Negan in the season 6 finale could likely be Glenn. His first fake-death would definitely soften the blow this would have on fans, who are frantically speculating on who it is that Negan actually killed.
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(Images courtesy of HBO, NBC and The CW)