TV offered plenty of amazing and memorable moments in 2012. Whether they were sad, funny, violent or just plain shocking, we had no trouble piling up a list of some of our favorite moments in television this year. And because we came up with so many, we've broken them down by category, staring with the demises of numerous notable characters and then moving into the other big TV moments from 2012.
SPOILER WARNING: Obviously, this list contains major spoilers from 2012 television. Read on at your own risk!
Spartacus: Vengeance: Half the lead characters.
Spartacus was brutal on fans this year, closing out Vengeance with the death of a number of characters in varying degrees of violent ends. Rest in peace Lucretia, Ilithyia, Ilithyia’s baby, Oenomaus, Ashur, Glaber and Mira.
Mad Men: Lane's self-inflicted exit.
Things weren't going so great for Lane in Season 5 of Mad Men, but nothing could have fully prepared us for the character's exit after he was caught embezzling money. After dropping off his letter of resignation, Lane hanged himself in his office, only to be found later by some of his coworkers. Sad and disturbing all at once! RIP Lane.
Dexter: LaGuerta follows Doakes into the afterlife.
Maria LaGuerta was the most notable casualty during Dexter's seventh season. Given that she spent most of her on-screen time pursuing Dexter and how closely she followed in Doakes' footsteps in the process - including getting herself killed by a woman in love with Dexter - her death wasn't a huge surprise but it was still a major exit and a loss that'll leave a mark come Season 8.
True Blood - Russell Edgington meets the true death.
After bringing him back from his burial place to pursue vampire superiority in the world once again, Season 5 of True Blood then sent Russell Edgington to a gory true death at the hands of none other than Eric Northman.
Sons of Anarchy - Opie takes a fatal beating.
Opie's never had it easy, losing his wife and father over matters concerning the club. His life was one of the few things he had left, so it was probably just a matter of time before he lost that too. Still, it was heartbreaking to see him go, getting beaten to death in prison while his brothers watched on, unable to do anything.
Justified - Robert Quarles loses his arm and his life.
Neal McDonough’s Robert Quarles was a loose cannon for a solid portion of Season 3 of Justified. Once he ran out of allies and good options, however, it was obvious he would go out in a blaze of glory. The only question was how. Fans got their answer when he showed up at Elston Limehouse’s and got his arm chopped off mid-argument. Given the fancy mechanical piece he loved so much, it was fitting.
Grey's Anatomy - Lexi and Mark both die.
Despite the good news that the show had been renewed, 2012 was a rough year for Grey’s fans. First the Season 8 finale left us crying as a plane crash took Lexie’s life, and then Season 9 shook fans further with the death of Mark Sloan as well.
Boardwalk Empire - What’s in the Box? Owen.
It wouldn’t be Boardwalk Empire if people didn’t die, horribly, and Season 3 was no exception. In the middle of last year, Charlie Cox’ Owen Slater started to secure his spot as Nucky’s new number two not to mention a place in Margaret’s heart but both of those relationships were cut short, and the love triangle flattened, by a late night delivery from Joe Masseria. Owen’s corpse. In a crate. Surprise!
The Walking Dead - T-Dog and Lori die in prison.
Lori and T-Dog met their demise in gruesome fashion. For T-Dog, it was a zombie bite that eventually led to him throwing himself to the walkers to save Carol. For Lori, it was complications during childbirth, which led her to insist that Maggie cut the baby out of her. Both characters' fates were sealed, but both took a quicker route to death to save the life of another and went out like champs.
Shocking Moments: Non-violent surprises.
How I Met Your Mother - Robin is revealed as Barney’s bride.
It’s not that most of us didn’t know Barney and Robin were destined for each other, but the big reveal of Robin in wedding dress still stands out as one of the biggest reveals of 2012. The season finale of Season 7 cast the future into question when Barney proposed to Quinn, but ended with the woman we all knew was meant for him waiting at the altar.
The Good Wife - Kalinda waits for her husband.
By now we’ve met Kalinda’s husband and her behavior toward the man has been more fickle than expected. However, at the end of Season 3, catching the most badass woman in The Good Wife holding a gun pointed at her front door, still wearing her signature black boots as an unknown, terrifying man tried to burst in, was one of the most powerful she-moments on TV.
Call the Midwife - Watching a breach birth.
Births on television are sometimes horrific experiences, showing screeching, screaming, and occasionally terrified women popping out little suckers like their lives depended on it, which is often the onscreen case. However, Call the Midwife takes this a step further, showing a breach birth and the capable hands of a nurse who works through the experience, step by step. It leaves most other pregnancy scenes in the dirt.
Breaking Bad - Hank figures it out.
It may have been just a matter of time before Hank figured out that Heisenberg's been right under his nose the whole time. And ending the first half of the season with Hank figuring it out was great on its own. But making it happen while Hank was on the toilet, just noticing a note in a book and making the connection he missed before was a stroke of simple excellence.
Game of Thrones - Melisandre’s Demon Baby.
The second season of Game of Thrones wasn’t quite as devastating as the first (NED!) but HBO’s fantasy series still contained a few shocking sequences and Melisandre delivering the demon baby is one that stands out. Or crawls out. Gross. Sir Davos looked on horrified as the sorceress gave birth to the smoke monster from LOST.
Eastbound & Down - Kenny Powers wakes up to a crying baby.
Kenny Powers has found himself embroiled in a lot of nonsense while Eastbound & Down has been on the air, but nothing has ever been crazier or funnier than when he woke up to the sound of his own baby screaming and April gone. Immediately, he knew he was in for a fiasco, and viewers knew they were in for a hysterical season.
Downton Abbey - Lord Grantham kisses the maid.
Lord Grantham’s brief dalliance with new housemaid Jane in Season 2 was shocking mostly because it was so entirely out of character for him. While Grantham comes to his senses before his misbehavior can go too far, his loss of control was one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the season.
True Blood - Bill becomes a vampire God.
After a season that kept fans wondering if Bill was truly gone bad or just playing along, the finale left no doubt as Bill drank the blood of Lilith. At first it seemed to have sent him to the true death, but in the final twist of the season, he instead rose from the pool of blood looking an awful lot like Lilith herself.
Shocking Moments: The bloody ones!
Spartacus - Lucretia takes a dive with a baby.
Spartacus is chock full of shocking moments, but few come close to the sight of Lucretia standing at the edge of the cliff, clutching Ilithyia's baby, prepared to deliver it and herself to Batiatus in the afterlife. We'll certainly feel Lucretia's loss next season, but man that was a brilliantly horrifying exit.
Boardwalk Empire - Richard’s Rampage.
Richard Harrow is one of the most beloved characters on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the masked man with half a face didn’t disappoint this season. Not only did he receive a most memorable smooch from his new sweetheart but, more importantly, he also went on an incredibly violent tirade to save Tommy from Gillian’s and/or Gyp’s evil clutches... “close your eyes.”
Breaking Bad - Todd takes care of the kid.
When a kid witnesses Walt and his people stealing chemicals, Todd doesn't hesitate to kill him to eliminate a witness. Gone is the image of Jesse Plemons as the lovably dorky Landry Clarke of Friday Night Lights and in his place is Breaking Bad's creepy Todd, the guy who can wave at a little kid and then shoot him without a second glance. Disturbing doesn't even begin to define that moment.
Dexter - Deb pulls the trigger.
Not only did Season 7 of Dexter end with LaGuerta's death, but it was Deb who pulled the trigger. To make the situation even more twisted, her immediate reaction after shooting LaGuerta was to cry and hug her. Not your typical reaction from someone who's just willingly committed a murder, but it added an extra layer of disturbing to the scene.
Scandal - Fitz gets shot.
Just when it seemed like Olivia was really ready to move on from Fitz (yeah, right), he goes and gets out of a limo and gets himself shot. The episode-ending moment left us with our mouths hanging open as we were forced to wait to see if the gunshot wounds were fatal and then to wonder who pulled the trigger, which as it turns out, was (technically) no one.
Son’s of Anarchy - Tig’s daughter gets burned alive.
How do you repay someone for killing your daughter? You have him chained up and forced to watch as his own daughter is burned alive. Poor Tig had to stand by and watch Dawn get torched and murdered in a scene that was equal parts heartbreaking and horrifying.
Sons of Anarchy - Otto bites off his own tongue.
And speaking of horrifying, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter put his own character in some of the more gruesome scenes this season. Between Otto ruthlessly stabbing the nurse and later slamming his chin down on a table to bite off his own tongue, we may never be able to look at the showrunner without the image of him grabbing his tongue and tossing it at the window in our minds.
Revolution - Rachel stabs the scientist to stay alive.
Revolution has featured a slew of compelling speeches and less-than-fascinating action sequences, but the series sold me when it made it’s mother resort to murder to save the lives of her child. Revolution is willing to go to violent extremes and sacrifices, and that’s why we should be willing to see where it leads.
Revenge - Daniel’s not dead
From the series premiere, we were led to believe that Emily's fiancé Daniel would end up face down and dead (or dying) at some point later on on the series. Of course, when 2012 rolled around and the big party took place, it was finally revealed that it wasn't Daniel who was shot on the beach, but sneaky Tyler. An interesting twist! (But since we'd gotten to know Daniel pretty well by that point, the bigger twist might have actually been to have him really die.)
Magic City - Ben "The Butcher" Diamond kills the family dog while on the phone.
Gangsters get up to unpredictable nonsense. I’ve never seen anything like Danny Houston’s mafia leader, Ben Diamond, who watches his wife masturbate from a secret two-way mirror and, once, in a moment of sheer anger, kills his dog with a revolver. Add a telephone call and the presence of his lovely wife, and you’ll get one terrifying man.
Game of Thrones - Wildfire on the Blackwater.
One of the most spectacular and unforgettable scenes on television this year began with Bronn igniting the wildfire for Game of Thrones’s Battle of Blackwater Bay. Tyrion looks, uh, green watching as his plan results in the fiery death of Stannis’ soldiers but King Joffrey doesn’t seem to mind at all. He’s a sadistic little prick but it was hard not to enjoy the fantastic sight.
Emotional moments and tearjerkers.
Parks and Recreation - Leslie and Ben get engaged.
It was rough watching the couple try to maintain their relationship while separated due to their jobs, but they made it work and now they're ready to take it to the next level. Or Ben was ready when he popped the question while he and Leslie were looking at a house. Leslie needed a minute to absorb the situation before she let him proceed in a truly sweet and genuine show of affection and devotion.
Parenthood - Kristina’s video to the kids.
As though Kristina's struggle with cancer hasn't induced enough tears for fans, we get to watch Kristina's video message to her kids, which is full of love, pride and support for who they are. To add even more tears to the equation, we're watching this video as Adam tearfully watches is, while worried about his wife's health as she lays feet away in a hospital bed. This show.
Saturday Night Live - Kristen Wiig’s sendoff.
After seven years on the show, Kristen Wiig's final episode as series regular on SNL ended with an unexpected send-off in the form of a touching graduation and a dance that was sweet and charming and might have made some of us sniffle just a little bit.
Suburgatory - Tessa meets her mom.
Suburgatory began with a young woman who had grown up without a mother and turned that young lady into a girl more curious about her roots. I was a little shocked we got to meet the mother this early in the series, but the moment was everything this series needed, and everything fans were waiting for.
Saturday Night Live - Silent Night cold open.
One day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Saturday Night Live aired its Christmas episode. Rather than starting off with a funny cold open, the episode started with the New York City Children’s Chorus singing “Silent Night”. It was a fitting and emotional tribute so soon after the tragedy and an appropriate way to start the episode.
Parenthood - Crosby and Jasmine get married.
Like plenty of other decisions made in the Parenthood universe, Jasmine and Crosby’s conclusion to get married was quick and impulsive and led to an impromptu wedding early in 2012, proving that sometimes ending in a wedding is not so cliched, after all.
Modern Family - Haley’s aversion.
A conversation in the car turned incredibly awkward when Alex misunderstood her father, who referenced Haley’s “aversion.” Giggling at what she thought Dad said caused Phil to realize why Alex thought that was so funny. Apparently, Haley’s not aversion.
Girls - “Dancing On My Own”
Whether they loved it or hated it, people couldn’t shut the hell up about HBO’s Girls. Plenty of moments are worth mentioning but the last scene of the third episode, after Hannah learns her college boyfriend is gay and Marnie’s had her encounter with Jorma Taccone, stands out because of its humor and warmth. And also offers a glimpse at Hannah’s twitter account.
Community - "Leonard likes this post."
Shot in the style of a Ken Burns documentary, "Pillows and Blankets" had the students of Greendale Community College at war with one another and communicating through cell phones and social media. Leonard liking Abed's post was not only a great LOL moment in an episode full of laughs, but it pretty much sums up the hilarity of the entire episode in one
Weeds - The cast smokes one last joint together.
Showtime’s Weeds ended with its characters having grown older, but not necessarily wiser, in a bleakly humorous series ending that left the main cast smoking a joint on the porch. The cast’s situations may have somewhat changed, but despite this, the porch scene proves nothing has really changed, at all.
Raising Hope - Jimmy’s baby mamma comes back from the dead.
Since My Name is Earl was unceremoniously cancelled, Greg Garcia has treated every season finale as if it was a show’s last. Raising Hope closed out last season with an epic 2-parter, featuring Nancy Grace and a slew of other guest stars that ended with Jimmy’s crazy bitch of a serial killer baby mamma brandishing a knife and all hell breaking loose. If he manages to top this comedic closer in 2013--or ever--fans have some good TV headed their way.
Game of Thrones - Tyrion slaps King Joffrey.
It’s not the first time Tyrion has put Joffrey in his place, but it may have been the most satisfying. The Season 2 moment when Tyrion slaps King Joffrey and reminds him that a king is still just a man, and this one is more of a boy, had us applauding.
Girls - Hannah's parents in the shower.
The lesson to be learned in this hilariously awkward Girls scene involving Hannah's parents in the shower is that sometimes even parents have steamy shower sex. Of course, they run the risk of falling and throwing their backs out. Adding humiliation to a lot of nudity, the scene gave us an amusing and very close up look at Hannah's mom and dad. And they get points for effort, if not balance.
New Girl - Emotional fluffer.
New Girl is full of funny characters, storylines and gags but Jess and Nick’s will they-won’t they relationship, even though it’s the most formulaic aspect of the Fox comedy, delivers one of the best exchanges on any sitcom in 2012. Sick of helping Jess get in the mood before being with other dudes, Nick finally confronts her about his role as her emotional fluffer. And that’s just the beginning of the epic argument. “Blech!”
Louie - David Lynch!
The hardest part of this entry’s inclusion in the best television moments of 2012 was deciding which one scene from David Lynch’s brilliant cameo on Louie to include. So screw deciding (or allotting the appearance several spots, which it deserves), because all of the moments from the ‘Late Night’ arc that feature the pair are worthy, from Louie’s first meeting with Lynch’s TV exec Jack Dahl to his painful audition.
New Girl - Schmidt describes his bedroom technique.
Known for being a lady's man, Schmidt enlisted the help of a lesbian gynecologist when he was having trouble pleasing his woman. This led to a very elaborate and creative description of how he typically pleasures a woman. This includes going outside to "get the paper" and "shake the neighbors" hand, visiting a sharing circle and at some point spiking a volley ball.
Big moments in unscripted TV.
Big Brother - Dan evicts Shane.
Dan played it sneaky for most of this season of Big Brother, but his biggest (and arguably most entertaining) play was convincing Danielle to use the Veto to take him off the block so that he could evict Ian. As she'd been doing all season, Danielle went along with Dan's plan, after which Dan promptly evicted Danielle’s show-mance Shane, instead of Ian. Danielle’s jaw dropped as Shane was sent packing and Dan was left with two people who would take him to the end.
Celebrity Apprentice - Clay loses to Arsenio (2nd place again!).
It seemed like Clay Aiken had Celebrity Apprentice in the bag, but in the end, Trump went with Arsenio Hall for the win, leaving Clay as a second place winner in a reality competition series - again.
Jersey Shore - Mike destroys the duck phone in a fit of rage.
We could probably scrape together plenty of dramatic moments from Jersey Shore but few left its mark quite like Mike’s reaction to learning the birthday cake his girlfriend gave him previously served as the resting place for some guys balls. Mike responded to Paula’s telling pauses on the phone was to throw the house’s duck phone down, smashing it to pieces in the process. RIP duck phone.
American Idol - Jermaine Jones disqualified.
Whether it was for ratings, to justify their decision or to serve as a cautionary tale for future auditioners, we can only speculate, but Idol made a big production of showing Jones’ disqualification by airing the conversation producers had with him after learning he had outstanding a criminal history. It was an awkward set up that had nothing to do with music, but likely got people’s attention. Everyone loves controversy... right?
The Amazing Race - Dave and Rachel set a record for leg wins.
During Season 20 of Amazing Race, audiences got to watch two of the greatest teams ever to compete on the long-running reality show: border patrol agents Art & JJ and husband and wife Rachel & Dave. The former won three legs and never finished a single trip worse than 4th. The latter had seven victories heading into the finale and wound up edging it out and setting the Race record in spectacular fashion.
Project Runway All-Stars - Mondo finds redemption
The right person doesn’t always win reality competition programs. Because of the formats that emphasis the most recent work over the totality of achievement, great players sometime fall short like Mondo Guerra from Season 8 of Project Runway. Luckily, the designer was given his chance at redemption earlier this year during All-Stars. The favorite from wire-to-wire, he conquered the demons and claimed what should have been his all along.
Piers Morgan Tonight - Robert Blake goes nuts.
Calling his interviewer “Charlie Potatoes” and rambling about God knows what, Robert Blake appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight over the summer to pitch his new book about The Little Rascals. Unfortunately, he wound up threatening an entire police force and making a slew of wild corruption allegations during a speech directly into the camera in a moment that may have been evening news’ weirdest of 2012.