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A lot of people died on television in 2013. Maybe the number of small-screen fatalities are always this high but it sure seems like the past year went above and beyond in the death department. Big series offing two, three even four major characters was commonplace. No one is safe, especially on cable. Here are ten shows that featured some of the year's most memorable and/or shocking losses.
(They are grouped by series so you can safely navigate through those you haven't seen but there are SPOILERS in the write-ups.)
10. HomelandKicking off the list of characters who kicked the bucket in 2013 is one who should have died in 2011. Sorry, it's going to be hard to keep the bile down when discussing Homeland and how they finally found the courage to off one of their main characters. And no, David Harewood's David Estes doesn't count in the major character death tally, it took no guts to blow him up at the end of the second season. The passing that actually made a big enough mark to warrant inclusion in a year end list devoted to the departed is that of Damian Lewis' Nicholas Brody.
The way that Showtime's multiple Emmy (and Golden Globe) winning drama said goodbye to their Emmy (and Golden Globe) winning co-lead was easily the most memorable moment of the lackluster third season and had many critics calling it a return to form for the series. Was it enough to save the last year and a half of shoddy storytelling? Not really, but it does leave Homeland in a position where the only place to go is up. Not to diminish Lewis' talent, he's always on top form regardless of the material, however, I can't help but wonder what would have been had Brody blown himself up at the end of Season 1. While it's clear I would rather have included him on a previous year's death-list, the rather shocking public hanging was an exceptional scene and a fitting goodbye to (what was) a great character.
9. DexterIt’s difficult to eulogize Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra Morgan without getting lost trying to make sense of how Dexter ended, considering so much about Deb’s death tied into the series’ conclusion. However, Deb is a major character in Dexter, so we would be remiss to leave her off this list, as she played such a crucial role in the story, not only serving as the character with the most colorful vocabulary, but also for playing Dexter’s sister and one of the biggest ties he had to a normal life. Deb and Dexter’s relationship was arguably one of the best things about the series, so her departure marked the end of an era for these characters.
Deb died after getting shot by a serial killer that Dexter would later take out. Post-surgery complications left Deb brain dead and it was Dexter who pulled the plug on her life support, technically being the one to take her life. He buried her at sea in what should have been a moving conclusion to yet another tragedy in Dexter’s life. As part of a season that didn’t totally gel, it’s hard to really appreciate the hugeness of Deb’s death, but when factoring in everything she contributed to the series, both before and after she found out about her brother’s deepest, darkest secret, she’s a devastating loss among TV characters. Her dedication to her job and her potty mouth will be missed. (By Kelly West)
8. Orphan BlackOkay. This is a bit of a cheeky entry since (most of) the deaths are technically the same person. Well, DNA-speaking, anyway. And besides, any chance to talk about the excellence that is the debut season of BBC America's Orphan Black is worth taking. The clone drama didn't shy away from killing off its main characters, many of them played by the incomparable Tatiana Maslany, but that's not the only reason it was one of the best new shows of 2013. It probably didn't hurt. I mean, look at the death-list, audiences want to see the 'people' they love perish and Orphan Black wisely offs Maslany many times.
Orphan Black opens with an incredibly compelling first few minutes of television, introducing us to our protagonist, Sarah Manning, as she spots another woman who looks exactly like her commit suicide by go train. She doesn't just have to deal with the insanity of seeing her doppelgänger, she also has to deal with said copy killing herself and all within seconds. What does she do? Assume the dead person's identity of course. It's a brilliant set-up and Detective Elizabeth Childs is only the first clone to bite the dust during Season 1. It doesn't take long for Sarah as Beth to witness 'the German,' Katja Obinger, taking a bullet to the head and guess who pulled the trigger? Another clone. Don't worry, Helena, the assassin, also bites the dust before all is said and done, thanks to a bullet from Sarah's (Beth's) gun. Ain't no love amongst clones. Or the mom or monitors of clones.
7. ArrowMost crime series come with a substantial (minor character) body count, but The CW's Arrow doesn't just create a lot of (significant) corpses, it has also made murder an integral part of the protagonist's journey. The superhero show only recently acquired its 'super' status with the majority of its early run dealing with a very human hero taking it to Starling City's white collar criminals and, by extension, cutting down their blue-collar henchmen. But not all of the bodies belong to henchmen and/or their respective villains of the week, something that caused the aforementioned change in the crime-fighter's methods. No more killing! Unless, you know, it's absolutely necessary.
The last comment refers to the Hero (formerly known as the Hood) choosing to kill Seth Gabel's Count Vertigo even after the 'no killing rule' was implemented and he's just one of several villains (recurring or not) that have met their end by Ollie's hand in the past year. He didn't make the decision to stop until Colin Donnell's Tommy Merlyn died while saving Katie Cassidy's Laurel from the earthquake in the Glades. That episode, the Season 1 finale, also saw John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn die but he's since come back to life (and Manu Bennett's Slade Wilson technically did too) so... there might be hope for a reversal of some of the other emotional losses that occurred on Arrow? The recent death of Celina Jade's Shado comes to mind. Well, maybe death should be permanent sor the sacrifices mean something. I'm sure there are more to come.
6. Spartacus: War of the DamnedWho died at the end of Spartacus: War of the Damned? It would probably take less time to talk about who didn’t die at some point before the Starz gladiator drama wrapped up. The series has always been something of a bloodbath, and the conclusion was no exception, taking Manu Bennett’s Crixus out ahead of the finale and finishing off many of the series’ lead and supporting characters in the last episode, the title character included.
It wasn’t a huge surprise that Liam McIntyre’s Spartacus died, as history pointed to death as a likely outcome for the character, but it was still devastating to watch Spartacus nearly taken out by Crassus’ sword during a battle between the Romans and rebel soldiers. And then we were given the closest thing to a happy ending this series could have had, in seeing Spartacus carried away to die in peace among what was left of his friends, his deceased wife’s name on his lips as he went to join her. The rain that soon followed was a fitting send-off for the bringer of rain.
Also hard to watch was Dustin Clare’s Gannicus’ crucifixion, though that was also soften slightly by the sight of Oenomaus waiting to greet him in the afterlife and the roar of the arena crowd, which must have been like music to Gannicus’ ears. Among the rest of the dearly departed were Saxa, Naevia, Lugo and Castus, all of whom died fearlessly fighting for freedom. (By Kelly West)
5. Sons of AnarchySons of Anarchy has never shied away from killing off characters, and it seemed impossible that the series could out-shock us after Ryan Hurst’s character Opie’s horrible demise. As it turns out, it was very possible, first when Ron Perlman’s Clay was essentially executed by Jax, after the club voted unanimously. Clay’s death was used as part of a set-up to make it looked like Clay and the Irish killed each other in a shoot-out. The exit of such a major character, added to the sight of Clay being shot in the neck was a jarring moment in a series known for some incredibly jarring moments. But nothing comes close to what transpired in the season finale.
All season and even through part of the final episode of Season 6, it was looking like Maggie Siff’s Tara was willing to betray the club and her husband if it meant taking her sons and escaping club life. And then Jax stepped up and agreed to turn himself in, essentially letting Tara off the hook for everything in the process. The two actually sort of reconciled, which seemed too good to be true. And it was. Because nobody told Gemma that Jax’s arrest was his own choice and not Tara’s, and — believing she was protecting her son — she went to Tara’s house, waited for her to get home and then brutally murdered her, first by pushing her face into a sink full of dish water and then stabbing her through the back of the head and neck with a carving fork. It’s one of the most unsettling and violent scenes TV’s seen in a while. To have it transpire between two lead characters makes it all the more upsetting, as it means not only having to accept that Tara is gone, but that Gemma killed her. (By Kelly West)
4. Boardwalk EmpireIt wouldn't be a season of Boardwalk Empire without several characters meeting their demise and Season 4 was certainly no exception. And it wasn't just a bunch of faceless bodies piling up on the Boardwalk (or in Chicago, New York, Tampa), this past year of the HBO drama contained the most emotional loss since Michael Pitt's Jimmy Darmody bit the bullet to end the second season. Of course, Jack Huston's Richard Harrow getting fatally shot is the devastating death to which I am referring, it's why I used the word faceless... sorry. Richard's death was sad to be sure, but also beautiful in its own way with the character finding some peace (and redemption) before his passing. HBO even made him an in memoriam video.
Obviously, Christina Jackson's Maybelle White didn't find the way that Richard went out beautiful since she end up as collateral damage in his journey. Poor Chalky, he was really put through the ringer this season with a lot of people around him winding up dead as he narrowly avoided his own several times. One such close encounter resulted in the violent death of Erik LaRay Harvey's Dunn Purnsley, a character who has been integral to the former's storyline for two seasons now. Another Boardwalk Empire two-seasoner was also offed this year with Arron Shiver's Dean O'Banion meeting an untimely, bullet riddled end. Newcomers Morgan Spector's Frank Capone and Brian Geraghty's Agent Tolliver both also lost their lives, the latter in a truly memorable scene. And last, but not least, Anthony Laciura's Eddie Kessler, who's been with us all along, jumped out of a window instead of betraying his boss. He will be missed. Eddie!
3. The Walking DeadThis entry was a no-brainer. Yes! Nailed that. I should stop right there because there is no way the discussion of The Walking Dead will match that pun. Obviously, a lot of characters are dying on zombie series, (dead is in the title, for God's sake) so lets not waste too much time discussing minor losses like Kyle Galner's Zach, even if that bit was quite fun, and move right into last season's biggest death, Michael Rooker's Merle Dixon. Twice, actually, as is sometimes the case on AMC's series that sees the dead walk again. Oh, you thought I was going to say Laurie Holden's Andrea? Sure, that was a big one too but Rooker's Dixon was probably the best part of the inconsistent series.
Andrea's post-bite suicide was also a great moment and the most emotional death of the third season. It didn't take long, however, for the fourth to top that as The Walking Dead said goodbye to Scott Wilson's Hershel. His death once again reinforced the show's underlying theme - that the living are just as/more dangerous as the dead - with David Morrissey's The Governor being the one doing the killing, (half)decapitating the Greene patriarch with Michonne's blade. Don't worry, the big-bad soon got a taste of the steel as well, joining the in memoriam bandwagon. AMC made a video to commemorate the eye-patched monster. Oh yeah, that new little girl also tuned and had to be put down but, don't worry, the Governor was eventually killed by her mom, Audrey Marie Anderson's Lilly. As for Judith, well, we'll see next year.
2. Breaking BadThe final stretch of Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad was a masterpiece in murder. Very few of the (remaining) main characters made it out of the series alive, none made it out unscathed. From the moment that Dean Norris' Hank Schrader took that fateful shit, everyone we'd come to love or hate was a potential casualty on AMC's drug saga. Not that they were particularly safe before but with the end in sight, the stakes were obviously the highest they'd ever been. And besides, all those losses took place before 2013 and none were as hard to watch as Hank's final scene.
Only moments after seeing Steven Michael Quezada's Gomez gunned down by the Nazi crew, Breaking Bad gave Agent Schrader an honorable out, worthy of a samurai. Those two departed pretty early in the final season, meaning there were many more corpses to come, including each and every one of those Nazi bastards, with Michael Bowen's Uncle Jack and Jesse Plemons' Todd (Meth Damon) deserving an actual mention. Todd, you cock, you killed Emily Rios’ Andrea. And then there's Bryan Cranston's Walter White. What can I say? 'Breaking bad' cost him his life but at least he spent his final moments with his true love and took all those bastards (as well as Laura Fraser's Lydia) with him. Redemption? Nope, but a fitting end. Of course, the saddest death of all, was that of the series itself. You will be rewatched.
1. Game of ThronesMany of Game of Thrones' (many) main characters met untimely ends during the epic third season of the HBO fantasy. And a few probably wished they had (Theon). Even fans of the George R.R. Martin novels on which the series is based who knew what to expect (me) were blown away by the butchery that occurred during "The Rains of Castamere," an episode that featured the deaths of Michelle Fairley's Catelyn Stark, Richard Madden's Robb Stark, Oona Chaplin's Talisa Stark(-Maegyr), Unborn Baby Stark and Greywind (Stark) all within a minute. Yep, Game of Thrones earned its number one spot. And what do you know, HBO even made an in memoriam video celebrating every death in the series. So far…
As devastating as all the human deaths were, I still can't watch Greywind close his eyes without tearing up. Oh yeah, that Frey girl was also murdered at the Red Wedding but lets not cry over spilled Freys, especially when there are still so many other sad losses to discuss as well as a few triumphant ones. Remember Dany frying Dan Hildebrand's Kraznys mo Nakloz? That was worth a cheer or several thousand. Jon Snow offing Mackenzie Crook's Orell was also rather satisfying as was Robert Pugh's Craster finally getting what he deserved. Of course, losing James Cosmo's Lord Commander Mormont was the price we had to pay for the daughter-lover to die during the Night's Watch's revolt. Beric Dondarrion's sixth death was pretty rad, nothing like a fiery sword fight before resurrecting. The third season also said goodbye to sexposition expert Esme Bianco's Ros, with King Joffrey finally succumbing to his sociopathy. As for Season 4, well, 'The North Remembers.'
Though this is a Top 10 list, it feels necessary to honorably mention other shows that lost major characters but didn’t quite make the cut (again, shows to avoid spoilers)… House of Cards, True Blood, Bates Motel, American Horror Stor