heartbreaking tv deaths

20 Heart-Wrenching TV Deaths to Make You Burst into Tears

Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chicago Fire, Grey's Anatomy, Jane the Virgin, Lists, Lost, Nashville, Orange Is the New Black, Orphan Black, Pinned, Revenge, Scandal, The 100, This is Us

Every week we welcome television characters into our lives, and they become part of our family. When we lose our favorite characters, it can feel like we lost a friend and loved one.

Sometimes the death sneaks up on you in the form of an accident, and other times, there are signs and portents that you push to the back of your mind because you hope that your favorite character isn’t actually going die.

Here are some of the most heart-wrenching character deaths we’ve seen on television. They’re in no particular order, but each one feels a bit like a punch to the gut.

Be warned: this list contains spoilers! 

1.Jack Pearson (This is Us)

This Is Us - Rebecca Pearson Crying

This scar is still so new.

We’ve known that this was coming for a while, but how and when were a mystery. In This Is Us Season 1, we saw Kate introduce Toby to her father’s urn, and since then we’ve wondered just how Jack would meet his end.

This Is Us Season 2 Episode 13, “That’ll Be The Day,” set up for the fateful night when a twenty-year-old Crockpot with a janky switch shorted and engulfed the family home in flames.

Picking up from where “That’ll Be the Day” left off, This Is Us Season 2 Episode 14, “Super Bowl Sunday,” showed Jack’s death. Jack got the family to safety, including the family dog, before going into cardiac arrest caused by smoke inhalation.

Despite knowing this was coming, it still felt surreal, but given the way This Is Us plays with time and memory, we won’t be saying goodbye to Jack Pearson entirely.

2. Derek Shepherd (Grey’s Anatomy)

Derek Shepherd - Beautiful Day to Save Lives

Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey had recently reconciled when he died on Grey’s Anatomy Season 11 Episode 21, “How to Save a Life,” and we’re still not over it.

Related  21 TV Episodes to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

After witnessing an accident on his way to the ferry, Derek saved a mother and daughter, and two high school kids, before getting hit by a semi. He was taken to Dillard Medical Center where failure to get a head CT caused brain death.

Meredith ultimately decided to discontinue life support, and a supercut of the Meredith and Derek relationship played out on screen.

Tissues, please.

3. Lexa (The 100)

Lexa - Life Is About More than Just Surviving

Lexa’s death was unexpected. The 100 Season 3 was no picnic as the Sky People dealt with the aftermath from Mt. Weather, and tensions rose between the Grounders and the Sky People.

Those tensions reached a peak on The 100 Season 3 Episode 7, “Thirteen,” when Lexa ordered a perimeter to be set up around Arkadia, and any Sky Person outside of the border shot.

Clarke was given the chance to stay in TonDC with Lexa but decided to go back to Arkadia.

After an emotional, and intimate, goodbye Clarke prepared to depart when Titus attempted to kill her. Lexa was shot rushing into Clarke’s room.

Clarke attempted to save Lexa, but Lexa said: “her fight is over.” Clarke recited the Traveler’s Blessing, an Arkadian prayer, and they kissed one last time.

4. John Crichton (Farscape)

Farscape John Crichton Icarus Abides Character Death

There was tension between John and Aeryn from the very beginning.

Then came Farscape Season 3 and the John Crichton clone, and a whole new boat of angst came starburst into the Uncharted Territories.

The original John Crichton and his clone resented each other, with each clone thinking the other Crichton was trying to move in on his life. Eventually, two ended up on different ships as the crews split in two.

Related  Preview -- This Is Us Season 3 Episode 6: Kamsahamnida

During Season 3, Aeryn and one of the Crichtons grew closer. They also had the chance to get their hands on some wormhole technology that would get them back to Earth. Aeryn and this-John were all set to go to Earth, but in the process of destroying a dreadnought, he was exposed to radiation and died.

Of course, remember this is a clone, so this wasn’t the end of John and Aeryn. While this John died, there was still another one on another ship. When the two crews were reunited, a grieving Aeryn turned cold and icy towards the remaining John.

5. Mrs. S (Orphan Black)

Mrs. S – Orphan Black – Character Death

Orphan Black killed off several characters in its final season, but none shook the Clone Club more than Mrs. S.

Sioban Sadler was the champion of the Leda clones, and it was fitting that her death came in the form of a final stand against Ferdinand and Neolution. The calculated and prepared mother hen died on Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 8 “Guillotines Decide” of a gunshot wound, but not before taking out Ferdinand with her.

It was a hell of an exit, made all the more heartbreaking by the way Mrs. S picked up a photo of Sarah and Felix and cried, “Chickens!”

6. Charlie Pace (Lost)

Lost - Charlie Pace - Not Penny's Boat

The second that Desmond told Charlie, “You’re going to die,” the weight hit viewers like a ton of bricks. Throughout Lost Season 3, Desmond attempted to save Charlie numerous times, until his final vision showed Charlie dying in a flooded Looking Glass station.

Related  25 Incredible TV Dramas from 2018

Charlie accepted his fate and went with Desmond to the Looking Glass station, passing his Drive Shaft ring to Aaron and saying goodbye to Claire. Before he dived into the station, he passed Desmond a note of his life’s greatest moments.

When Mikhail blew a hole through the window, Charlie sent a final message to save the rest of the Flight 815 survivors by writing, “Not Penny’s Boat,” on his hand.

Next Page


Lauren Busser is an Associate Editor at Tell-Tale TV. She is a writer of fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared in Bitch Media, Popshot Quarterly, Brain Mill Press Voices, and The Hartford Courant. She has also been a dog sitter, worked front end at a bakery, and helped out in a kindergarten classroom. She learned to knit when she was five-years-old and thus, can now complete sweaters at a superhuman speed. She’s currently nursing a novel she’s been making slow progress on for the last six years.

Leave a Reply