Offing a main character isn't the show-destroyer it once was

By Nate Jones
March 24, 2014 12:00 PM
John Paul Filo/CBS

Killing off a main character in a television show is a risky move: You’re upending the show’s world (and putting a coworker out of a job) in the hope that the shake-up will lead to something greater down the line. And guess what? Despite the ministrations of fans, who claim that they will never watch their favorite show without [insert character name here], it often works!

Below, 13 shows that did the same thing The Good Wife did Sunday night, and not only survived, but thrived.

Warning: Major spoilers for all of these shows below!

Teen Wolf

Character: Allison Argent (Crystal Reed)

Cause of death: Stabbed by an Oni demon

Time on series: Three seasons

Fan reaction: Distraught enough that MTV launched a memorial site where fans could pay their last respects with the hashtag #GoodbyeAllison

House of Cards

Character: Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara)

Cause of death: Pushed in front of a subway train by Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)

Time on series: One season, plus one episode

Fan reaction: Surprised, though Netflix’s release strategy meant nobody was sure when exactly they were allowed to talk about it


Character: Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis)

Cause of death: Executed by the government of Iran in a public hanging

Time on series: Three seasons

Fan reaction: “They should have done it in season one”

Downton Abbey

Character: Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)

Cause of death: Automobile accident brought on by behind-the-scenes drama

Time on series: Three seasons

Fan reaction: Heartbroken (British version); heartbroken and spoiled (American version)

The Walking Dead

Character: Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies)

Cause of death: Complications from pregnancy in a post-apocalyptic zombie dystopia

Time on series: Three and a half seasons

Fan reaction: Relieved, yet surprised by their own grief

Boardwalk Empire

Character: Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt)

Cause of death: Shot by former mentor Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi)

Time on series: Two seasons

Fan reaction: Shocked but intrigued for the future of the series

Game of Thrones

Character: Eddard Stark (Sean Bean)

Cause of death: Executed after losing the metaphorical game of thrones

Time on series: One season

Fan reaction: A slow realization that evil always triumphs and everyone good is doomed (unless they read the books, in which case they learned that lesson a long time ago)


Character: Rita Morgan (Julie Benz)

Cause of death: Murdered in a bathtub by the Trinity Killer

Time on series: Four seasons

Fan reaction: Oddly captivated

Grey’s Anatomy

Character: George O’Malley (T.R. Knight)

Cause of death: Struck by a bus after pushing a stranger out of its path

Time on series: Five seasons

Fan reaction: Muted


Character: Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards)

Cause of death: Brain cancer

Time on series: Eight seasons

Fan reaction: Saddened, though E.R. had killed off enough minor characters by then to lessen the blow


Character: Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope)

Cause of death: Shot by CTU mole Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke)

Time on series: One season

Fan reaction: Devastated (though in the pre-social-media era fans had to deal with their grief privately)

South Park

Character: Kenny McCormick (voiced by Matt Stone)

Cause of death: Killed by aliens, an elevator and Ozzy Osbourne, among others; he died seemingly for good in the 2001 episode “Kenny Dies,” but returned a year later

Time on series: Seventeen seasons and counting

Fan reaction: Unfazed


Character: Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson)

Cause of death: Shot down over the Sea of Japan during the Korean War

Time on series: Three seasons

Fan reaction: Unprecedented – the first major-character death on American television earned the CBS sitcom hundreds of letters of complaint from outraged viewers

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