1. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), Sleepy Hollow
On genre shows, the death of a lead character in a dramatic season finale usually just means you have to wait until the following season for a resurrection. But Abbie’s sacrifice wasn’t just a fake-out, and fans were outraged that this rare black female lead was gone.
2. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), The Walking Dead
Perhaps the saddest thing about Abraham’s violent death on The Walking Dead is that it was immediately overshadowed by Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) later in the same episode. Abraham was a distraction for what was coming — which didn’t matter much to Abraham since he still got bludgeoned to death with a barbed wire-covered bat.
3. Angus Mhor (Stephen Walters), Outlander
How do you catch book fans off-guard when you adapt their beloved series into a TV show? Kill a different character than expected during a big climactic battle. Sorry, Angus. On the plus side, readers who smugly thought they knew what was going to happen definitely got put in their place.
4. Astra (Laura Benanti), Supergirl
Yes, Astra was a supervillain, but she was also Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) aunt. And because Supergirl is a series that embraces shades of grey, she was also a sympathetic figure who, it became clear, was trying to do what she thought was right when Alex (Chyler Leigh) took her out.
5. Barb Holland (Shannon Purser), Stranger Things
Few characters this year made a more lasting impression than Barb, who pretty much existed just to die. No one around her seemed to care about her disappearance much, but the audience — who latched onto Barb’s frumpy chic style — was instantly bereft.
6. Cami O’Connell (Leah Pipes), The Originals
After Cami got her throat slit and earned a surprise resurrection as a vampire, it seemed like maybe she’d stick around for a while. But as fans of the TVD universe know, vampires are no match for werewolf bites — and getting nipped by Lucien (Andrew Lees) did Cami in for good.
7. Catherine Brown (Daniella Alonso), Animal Kingdom
Once Smurf (Ellen Barkin) began suspecting Catherine’s double-crossing, it was pretty clear her days were numbered. But that didn’t make it any less upsetting when we watched her try to seduce Pope (Shawn Hatosy) into sparing her life only to get smothered with a pillow anyway.
8. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), Scream Queens
It’s silly to get attached to anyone on Scream Queens, a series that loves killing characters off way more than it loves continuity. But Chad Radwell was so charismatic that it’s hard not to mourn his untimely death at least a little. The fact that he died on his wedding day to Chanel (Emma Roberts)? Eh, whatever.
9. Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), Zoo
Look, Zoo is a profoundly absurd show about animals going crazy and killing humans, but Chloe was a major part of the series — she was one of the humans fighting back against the beastly threat — and her death by toxic gas was honestly a little affecting amid all the chaos.
10. Davina Claire (Danielle Campell), The Originals
The Originals wasted no time after Cami’s death before offing another beloved female character. Under a spell, Kol (Nathaniel Buzolic) drained the life from his love, and then we spent way too long thinking Davina might come back before confirming that no, she’s totally dead. TV is mean sometimes.
11. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever), The Walking Dead
Oh, you thought a queer character on The Walking Dead was going to make it through without an arrow through the eye? To be fair, The Walking Dead is a show where everyone dies. But in a year that felt especially cruel to lesbians on television, this death stung.
12. Drake Holloway (Greg Finley), iZombie
Drake was a big lovable sweetheart, but then Vaughn (Steven Weber) went and turned him into a mindless rage zombie, at which point Liv (Rose McIver) had to put him down. There was so much going on during the season finale, but Drake’s death left the most lasting impression.
13. Finn Mikaelson (Casper Zafer), The Originals
Again, The Originals just would not let up this season, killing off major characters left and right. Finn had already died as a human and again as a vampire, but his death as an Original probably means he’s gone from the series for good. Well, maybe. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up again next season, with a new face this time.
14. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), The Walking Dead
Poor Glenn. He almost died last season, but that turned out to be a major fake-out. This season, when it looked like the show was returning to the plot of the comics and was poised to portray Glenn’s gruesome death, Abraham ended up facing Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) bat. And then, surprise, Glenn died anyway.
15. Helen (Sarah Silverman), Masters of Sex
Oof, this was brutal. Betty (Annaleigh Ashford) and Helen were finally going to start a family — a bold and exciting choice for the times — but Helen died during childbirth. In her last moments, Helen cried out for her mother, who had disowned her after she revealed her relationship with Betty.
16. Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp), The Flash
This is a superhero show, so it’s not surprising Barry (Grant Gustin) would have to witness his father’s murder right in front of him. It was also sad to see John Wesley Shipp depart the series — he was TV’s first Flash, and his presence was a fun nod to the original show.
17. Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Game of Thrones
On the bright side, we learned what “Hodor” means! That wasn’t much of a consolation, though, as Hodor was quite literally torn apart by an army of the undead to save Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). The moment was made sadder by the reveal that Bran’s psychic meddling destroyed young Hodor’s brain.
18. Jodi (Emily Osment), Mom
There’s something sadder about a death on a sitcom than, say, Game of Thrones. Plus, Jodi died in a mundane but regrettably believable way as her character succumbed to a drug overdose.
19. Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Arrow
It was supposed to be her last mission as Black Canary, so it’s no surprise Laurel didn’t make it. To make matters worse, she looked as though she might make a full recovery after being stabbed with one of Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) arrows — only to die in the hospital. (And now she might be alive again, because superhero television.)
20. Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), The 100
Few deaths on this list caused as much controversy as Lexa’s — she was hit by a stray bullet meant for Clarke (Eliza Taylor), moments after the two reaffirmed their love for one another and had sex. While The 100 is another show with massive amounts of character death, Lexa’s departure was hardly a great look.
21. Lincoln (Ricky Whittle), The 100
Lincoln’s death was overshadowed by Lexa’s, which is a bummer given how integral he was to the series up to the moment he was executed by Pike (Michael Beach) for his resistance to his rule. Lincoln’s death also brought controversy when Ricky Whittle said he was bullied off the show.
22. Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Another superhero show, another bold sacrifice to save the world, another Lincoln. (In this case, Lincoln also wanted to save Daisy, played by Chloe Bennet.) At least he went out a hero, knowing he had to die for the greater good. Hive (Brett Dalton) didn’t make it either — but under far less noble circumstances.
23. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), Game of Thrones
A whole lot of people died when Cersei (Lena Headey) went a little mad with the wildfire, but Margaery’s death was the most tragic, especially since the character seemed to have so much life (and opposition) left in her. It was also rough saying goodbye to Margaery’s brother Loras (Finn Jones.)
24. Mike Dodds (Andy Karl), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
While the Law & Order franchise as a whole has seen plenty of deaths over the years, SVU had not actually lost a main character in its 17-season run. Dodds’ death was made more upsetting by the fact that — like so many other characters on this list — he looked like he was on the mend when he suddenly died.
25. Nina Krilova (Annet Mahendru), The Americans
Because Nina had spent so much time incarcerated, fans of The Americans expected her storyline to take a dramatic shift — what they weren’t prepared for was her sudden execution at the hands of her Soviet captors. To be fair, Russian spy isn’t a job title with a lengthy life expectancy. But this was still a shocker.
26. Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), Bates Motel
If you’ve seen Psycho — or even if you’re just familiar with the plot — you knew where this story was going. And yet, no one really expected Norma to die so soon, poisoned with carbon monoxide by Norman (Freddie Highmore) in a botched murder-suicide. Norma is definitely dead, but not to Norman.
27. Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), Orange Is the New Black
It’s not as though Litchfield has never seen violence, but Poussey’s death really pulled the rug out from under viewers in showing how high the stakes could be. She was accidentally suffocated during a prison riot. It was deeply upsetting, and the reactions of her fellow inmates were also incredibly painful.
28. Richard Gilmore (Edward Herrmann), Gilmore Girls
This one we knew was coming: Edward Herrmann died before Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was even announced, so obviously Richard’s death would be addressed. But who knew it would be such a big part of Netflix’s revival series? The flashback to his funeral was appropriately tear-jerking, but Emily’s (Kelly Bishop) arc as a widow was downright inspiring.
29. Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), Game of Thrones
Remember Rickon? OK, fair, few people do. But what made Rickon’s death sad is that he was so close to finally reuniting with his half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) when Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) shot him in the back with an arrow. If you can’t weep for Rickon, weep for the poor Stark family.
30. Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), Once Upon a Time
Was it too much to hope that Regina (Lana Parrilla) might get a happy ending? (Yes.) Robin did die nobly, saving Regina’s life by giving his to Hades (Greg Germann) instead. But given that he and Regina were apparently fated for each other, and given how much she had suffered already, his hero’s exit was still awful.
31. Root (Amy Acker), Person of Interest
After succumbing to her wounds from a sniper’s bullet, Root herself died. (And yes, you may have noticed that this is yet another lesbian TV character killed this year.) But while Root is dead, her voice lives on — quite literally, in fact, as she became the voice of the Machine.
32. Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), BoJack Horseman
There’s bleak, and then there’s the episode of BoJack Horseman where the titular character (voiced by Will Arnett) and his former child co-star Sarah Lynn go on a legendary bender and wind up looking like the end of Requiem for a Dream before Sarah suddenly dies. Unbearable.
33. Simon Asher (Tate Ellington), Quantico
After a lot of back-and-forth on the question of whether or not Simon was evil, it turned out… he wasn’t! And then he died. Simon was killed by a bomb, but not before driving it as far away as possible and into some water so it would cause the least amount of damage. (Didn’t help him much, but his sacrifice saved lives.)
34. Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino), The Vampire Diaries
Tyler deserved better. When Damon (Ian Somerhalder) drained him, it seemed like it had to be a fake-out — sure, Tyler hadn’t been much use to the series in a long time, but they wouldn’t bring him back just to kill him, right? His body’s appearance in Damon’s trunk in the next episode confirmed that yes. Yes, they would.
35. Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Penny Dreadful
Apparently Eva Green was going to leave Penny Dreadful whether or not the show had been canceled, but it’s hard to imagine what it would have looked like without her. So maybe it’s for the best that the series ended with her asking Ethan (Josh Hartnett) to kill her and save the world. But damn, still upsetting.
36. Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch), How to Get Away With Murder
Will viewers miss Wes? Eh, your mileage may vary. But whether you thought he was annoying or that he looked great with his shirt off — not that the two are mutually exclusive! — Wes’s death was a major blow to Annalise (Viola Davis) and an important move forward for the show in terms of raising the stakes.
37. Zoë Vaughn (Kiana Ledé), Scream
People die all the time on Scream — that’s kind of the point. But Zoë’s death stood out, perhaps because it was so awful watching her drown to death on live video, and then learning that the recording was delayed and she’d been dead all along. Also: Hasn’t Noah (John Karna) suffered enough?