As another year comes to an end, we’ve had to say goodbye to many beloved (and also many hated) characters on TV. 2016 saw some gruesome and unexpected deaths. From the unsurprising kills on Game of Thrones to the heartbreaking loss on Orange Is the New Black, the kill count on TV was pretty high. Let’s take a look back at 19 of the most significant deaths on TV this year.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Arrow, The Flash, Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, How to Get Away With Murder, Legends of Tomorrow, Mr. Robot, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, Orange Is the New Black, Penny Dreadul, Person of Interest, Pretty Little Liars, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, The 100 and The Walking Dead.
1. Norma Bates, Bates Motel
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, season 4 of Bates Motel saw the demise of the female lead and mother to Norman, Norma Bates. In a murder-suicide attempt, Norman purposely set off a gas leak while his mother slept. While the trick worked on her, Norman ended up surviving. Of course, fans of the original film Psycho which this series acts as a prequel to knew this was coming, but it didn’t make the moment less difficult to watch.
2. Richard Gilmore, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
The real-life passing of actor Edward Herrmann was written into the story for the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls. Throughout the show, Richard had a few health scares, and the revival had him finally succumbing to his latest heart attack. He died quickly, but the impact of his passing was felt throughout all four new installments as Lorelai and Emily tried to come to terms with it.
3. Tyler Lockwood, The Vampire Diaries
TVD has never really had a problem with killing off any major characters, and they made that abundantly clear again with the death of Tyler Lockwood in the final season. After he made an attempted strike at Damon, he tries to convince Damon to walk away from Amara and save himself before he does something unforgivable. Damon tells him it’s way too late for that and proceeds to chomp into his neck.
4. Wes Gibbins, How to Get Away with Murder
As common as murders are in this show, this was one we didn’t expect to see. Fans were speculating who it was under the sheet in a previous flash-forward scene which showed someone dying in an explosion at Annalise’s house. The season 3 winter finale episode revealed that person to be Wes, who arrived at Annalise’s house after getting a call from her to come over. The shocks didn’t stop there, as the coroner revealed that Wes actually died before the explosion even happened.
5. Laurel Lance, Arrow
After a job offer to become the new DA, Laurel hung up her black leather jacket as the Black Canary. Shortly after this decision, when Damien’s magical powers restored, the big bad made good on his promise to the traitorous Detective Lance and killed Laurel.
6. Robin Hood, Once Upon a Time
Just as Robin is telling his daughter that everything is going to be all right because he’s there, Hades enters to prove him wrong. He goes out as a true hero when he steps in front of an attack that Hades had intended for Regina.
7. Metatron, Supernatural
Amara was on a war path this year on Supernatural, even taking out the scribe of God. Fans went from absolutely despising Metatron for his actions in season 9 to actually caring for him by season 11, only to have him disintegrate into nothing at the hands of Amara.
8. Leonard Snart/Captain Cold, Legends of Tomorrow
Upon discovering a fail-safe on Oculus that must be manually held in place, Captain Cold sacrificed himself to destroy it. He did this because he wanted to save the team and make sure their destinies are fulfilled. By doing so, his destiny is fulfilled as well, as he goes out as a hero, just as Sara pointed out.
9. Henry Allen, The Flash
In an effort to prove to Barry that he was just like him, Jay Garrick took Barry’s dad’s life away. He rushed him to his childhood home to make it “poetic,” and killed Henry right in front of Barry. Right before he died, Henry’s last words to his son were, “Your mother and I loved you.”
10. Hodor, Game of Thrones
Fan-favorite servant and friend to Bran, Hodor died in a heartbreaking and self-sacrificing scene. As the White Walkers came for Bran, Hodor stayed behind to block the door for Bran’s escape. This gut-wrenching scene also revealed that Bran’s time travel was the reason Hodor can only say this one word.
11. Poussey Washington, Orange Is the New Black
In the penultimate episode of season 4, Poussey was unintentionally suffocated to death by the happy-go-lucky rookie guard, CO Bayley. It was tragic not only because we lost the sweetheart that is Poussey, but also because we saw what an innocent kid like Bayley had become after working in this prison.
12. Gideon Goddard, Mr. Robot
Just two episodes in to the second season of Mr. Robot, we were quickly reminded that no one in this show is safe. Not even nice guys like Gideon Goddard. Gideon was shot in the neck by a man who thought he was a crisis actor, and exclaims, “This is for our country” before pulling the trigger.
13. Glenn Rhee, The Walking Dead
After a fakeout death earlier in season 6, Glenn bit the bullet for real in the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. Or rather, he bit the spikes on Negan’s bat. It was revealed that the POV-shot of someone in the group getting viciously beaten to death by the sociopath was in fact Glenn. Many fans believed that Glenn would be immune from this, as we already had his death scare so shortly before, but following the canon of the comics, he died upon meeting Negan.
14. Noel Kahn, Pretty Little Liars
Noel had a very short-lived and still confusing return to Rosewood. The Liars often suspected that Noel was wrapped up in the A-game all along, and it was confirmed that he does know more than he was telling. He finally actually tried to kill the girls, and in a struggle for his axe with Hanna and Emily, he was accidentally decapitated.
15. Lexa, The 100
The death of this character sparked a lot of controversy among fans of The 100, many of whom felt that it crossed the line and became yet another example of TV killing off its LGBTQ characters. Just after sleeping with Clarke, Lexa was shot when she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A gunshot intended for Clarke ended up piercing her instead and she died in Clarke’s arms.
16. Abby Mills, Sleepy Hollow
In a bold move, Sleepy Hollow killed off one of the series stars in the season 3 finale. Abbie Mills was tragically killed off when she made the ultimate self-sacrifice to save the world. She stepped into Pandora’s box and ended her own life to protect the world from The Hidden One’s wrath.
17. Ziva David, NCIS
Ziva’s death hit NCIS fans hard for a lot of reasons. In Tony (Michael Weatherly)’s final episode of the show, many were hoping that Cote de Pablo would reprise her role as Ziva to send Tony off properly. The show took a different approach, and killed her off (off-screen) in an explosion, which emotionally wrecks Tony. They also revealed that she had left behind a daughter who she never told Tony about, and who ultimately becomes the reason he leaves the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Not only was she killed off-screen, but her death was used as a plot device to explain Tony’s exit, both of which infuriated many fans on social media.
18. Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful
The season 3 finale of Penny Dreadful told a tragic tale for Vanessa, who makes an altruistic sacrifice so that everyone else can live. She makes this choice because of and also for the people she cares most about. In a loving exchange with Ethan, she has him pull the trigger so that she can (as she puts it), “Let it end.”
19. Samantha “Root” Groves, Person of Interest
The 100th episode of this show ended with a heartbreaking twist, as the brainy hacker Samantha “Root” Groves was shot and killed by a sniper bullet. She died while trying to save Harold Finch, the creator of the mass-surveillance computer system known as The Machine.