2016 will go down in historical infamy for many reasons, and the entertainment world was afflected by a melancholy span with far too many deaths befalling beloved artists in all walks of fame. One would think we could flock to TV for a form of escapism on that front, but safety definitely hasn't been guaranteed for small screen characters in 2016. It has been a rough one, to say the least, so join me in raising a glass in memory of the fictional souls who left us this year.
Spoilers are all over this article, given the nature of its subject matter. Tread carefully, and with your blinders on.
Hodor - Game Of Thrones
Though his limited form of self-referential speech was a punchline among fans of Game of Thrones, Hodor himself most certainly was not. The gentle giant was already the show's best personification of loyalty and selflessness over five seasons, a distinction that was driven home even more effectively when his complicated and bawl-worthy end was revealed. With perfectly depressing poetic licence, Hodor's own dying words were what cursed him, and rarely have Internet memes and fan-crafted door-stoppers worked so well to remind audiences just how damned sad we should still all be about this particular Game of Thrones tragedy.
Poussey Washington - Orange Is The New Black
A TV death that positively haunted me this year came during the tumultuous and reflective fourth season of Orange is the New Black, when fan-favorite Poussey's flashback episode culminated in her extremely tragic death. The season took cues from real life police brutality cases, coming to a head when Poussey suffocated to death beneath the weight of a distracted guard who couldn't hear her pleas for help in a moment of chaos. (Think Eric Garner, but with more grey moral area.) The pain of Poussey's easily avoidable death was bolstered by witnessing everything leading her up to her arrest.
Lexa - The 100
When Alycia Debnam-Carey's Lexa entered The 100's faction-friendly drama in Season 2, no one could have expected the uproar that would come a year and a half later after her gut-punch of a death early in Season 3. For one, she and Clarke had developed a fan-supported relationship, and her death came during a particularly rough patch for the small screen's LGBTQ community. Perhaps the backlash would have been a tad softer if her death had come by any other means beyond "stray bullet."
Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead
This one is probably going under the radar for most of you out there who probably haven't heard of The Walking Dead. I kid, of course, since Glenn's death was one of the most talked about TV moments of the year, and fans had already been contemplating it for ages prior to Negan's arrival. The actual incident was every bit as brutal and shocking and mentally debilitating as it was in the comic books, and there probably weren't many dry eyes in the homes of viewers for the Season 7 premiere. There probably weren't any distended or bulging eyes in the crowds, either.
Laurel Lance - Arrow
Every year of adulthood has been horrible for Oliver Queen, but 2016 dug some deep notches into the vigilante's psyche. Perhaps the biggest blow to Oliver and Team Arrow was the Damien Darhk-delivered death of Laurel "Black Canary" Lance. Her murder lost some shock value thanks to the flash-forward of the grave that propelled part of Season 4, but it was no less anguishing for viewers and her loved ones . We've since seen one hallucinated Laurel, a mystery Laurel, and an Earth-2 Laurel from Katie Cassidy's Flash appearance, which also watered things down. Still, though, it was sad.
Root - Person Of Interest
The TV "death" of Person of Interest itself could be here, had I stretched the rules. But Season 5 was the CBS drama running on all cylinders, both with The Machine and the human characters. As the Samaritan narrative continued ramping up, Amy Acker's deadly hacker Root was shot by an enemy operative and died doing what she lived for: protecting Finch and The Machine. Root's death alone was damning enough, but the real emotional punch came when The Machine called in the final moments and it was Root's voice coming through the line. I'm cutting so many onions, I swear.
Henry Allen - The Flash
In true tortured superhero fashion, The Flash at first seemed like a lighthearted romp, but it's gotten progressively mourn-worthy over time. Audiences watched Barry Allen's mother Nora die multiple times in slightly different ways since the premiere, but an emotional zenith was reached in 2016 when big bad Zoom provoked Season 3's adjusted timeline by cutting short Henry Allen's time as a free man. Cisco survived a vibrating arm through the chest in Season 1, but Barry's Flashpoint reset offered no such relief. (Audiences still got actor John Wesley Shipp back as Earth-3 Jay Garrick, which is the opposite of a sad thing.)
Barb Holland - Stranger Things
No one expected Netflix's Stranger Things to become not only one of the year's most buzzworthy new shows, but also a multiple Golden Globe nominee. And even fewer people probably expected one of the biggest standout characters to be Nancy's bespectacled and sparsely used friend Barb, but the morally deft high schooler was downright revered after she presumably succumbed to The Upside Down. Everyone wants her back for Season 2, but I worry that would just set fans up for even more downward mood swings if something worse would happen. (Don't listen to me, Matt and Ross Duffer! Bring her back!)
Abbie Mills - Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow wasn't guaranteed to make it to Season 4 on Fox, since its third season hemorrhaged viewers as its new Thursday night slot shifted to Fridays mid-year. But just about nobody expected the show to preface its slate-cleaning fourth season by killing off co-lead Abbie Mills, with Nicole Beharie's tough and determined Witness sealing her own fate by sacrificing herself so that the Hidden One could be defeated. Knowing her love for Ichabod Crane, viewers' cocktails of somberness and rage were spiked when she spent her last moments soothing him with encouraging words of other Witnesses. Poor mishandled Abbie.
Angus Mhor - Outlander
Outlander doesn't follow the same time travel rules as The Flash, so there's likely zero chance of reconnecting with the Starz drama's comic relief Angus Mhor. Like the most successful character exits, Angus' was tiered in how it hit viewers. For one, his death marred what was an assured victory for the good guys in the Battle of Prestonpans. As well, internal bleeding meant he was dying for far longer than we were aware on first viewing, when our sympathy went to the injured-but-healing Rupert. Knowing Angus dies makes a second viewing all the more distressing, and it's the perhaps the most unique in that respect.
Nina Krilova - The Americans
Few shows on TV are as consistent with quality like The Americans, and the acclaimed drama pulled the now-bloodied rug out from under audiences when the imprisoned Nina was killed off in moment that came so quickly, it didn't immediately sink in that The Americans unflinchingly killed off one of its top characters. In Season 4's fourth entry, Nina is seemingly destined for sunnier days thanks to Oleg, but the works were wrenched when she was denied an appeal and subsequently executed before she could properly react to the awful news. Rarely do end credits feel so unwelcomed.
Jodi - Mom
Most folks seen in this list led their respective shows, but not Emily Osment's recurring Mom character Jodi, a recovering addict befriended and sponsored by Christy. Season 3 floored audiences when Jodi was found dead of an accidental overdose, the result of starting up a romantic relationship with an addict in early recovery. But even though Christy gave her the advice that would have saved Jodi, Christy wasn't there in Jodi's most crucial time of need, which is Mom at its dramatic best. The show returned to this emotional hook later, when the boyfriend was introduced and properly berated by Christy.
Lincoln Campbell - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As seen elsewhere in here, one good way to earn yourself some tear-stained sympathy in a TV death is by putting yourself on the line to keep others safe. On Marvel's spies-and-more drama Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the martyr distinction was placed on Secret Warrior Lincoln "Sparkplug" Campbell, who made the epic decision to sacrifice himself to save love interest Daisy in the Season 3 finale. Heading out into space was noble and brave and all the rest, and the heartstrings were pulled taut when Lincoln declared his love for her after that point of no return. In space, no one can hear you sniffle.
Ziva David - NCIS
Another oddball entry for the saddest deaths of 2016, Cote de Pablo's much beloved Ziva David hadn't been a part of NCIS for years when her death came into the show's story. De Pablo chose to leave NCIS over a displeasure with how her character's stories were being handled. Her final farewell scene with Michael Weatherly's Tony Di Nozzo was a perfect moment (in certain respects), and viewers had to wait until the Season 13 finale, Weatherly's final episode, to discover that Ziva died in an attack, leaving behind a daughter she shares with Tony. This one hit us in the nostalgia center.
Abraham Ford - The Walking Dead
Before Glenn got to meet Lucille face to face in The Walking Dead's Season 7 premiere, Negan rhymed his way into deciding Abraham would be the member of Rick's group to pay the eternal price for all the Saviors the protagonists had killed off. The cigar-chewing badass took his first lick like a champ (following a perfectly understated farewell), and kind of got the last word in before Negan turned his entire head into a pile of red hair, red bone fragments, red cheek flaps, etc. Abraham was at a crossroads in respects to his romantic entanglements, meaning his death lives on in other characters' emotional stakes.