Disturbing scenes that had to be cut for TV

An episode of television goes through three stages before it's seen by viewers: first it's written, then it's filmed, and then it's edited. And after all this, it's still possible you won't ever see it—particularly if it's excessively violent, sexual, or both. Often, various versions of scenes are made, but sometimes, they're just cut completely if there's no way to negotiate the material. Here are some memorable examples of scenes that were eliminated from shows for being too disturbing—or even led to an episode being banned altogether.

A sex scene too intense for HBO (Girls)

Over six seasons, HBO's Girls attracted attention for its unflinching displays of drug use, nudity and sexuality, including masturbation, anal sex, possible rape, and more. According to creator Lena Dunham, there was one scene HBO refused to air during the show's second season because it would have cost the network its broadcasting license. The scene in question? A moment in which Elijah, played by Andrew Reynolds, ejaculates. While co-executive producer Judd Apatow referred to the scene as "sexually provocative, and that's what made it interesting and new and fun," HBO refused to show it.

Getting squeezed to death (Game of Thrones)

Another HBO show known for its portrayals of sex and violence, Game of Thrones has been controversial since its inception, prompting its viewers to ask every week, "Did they really have to show that?" Like The Walking Dead, it's hard to imagine what kind of scene would be so disturbing it couldn't be aired, given that this is the same show that brought us Sansa's wedding night and Ned Stark's execution, only two of many. One scene, though, from the show's fourth season, was so intensely brutal that it had to be cut. It was written as part of a longer sequence in "The Mountain and the Viper," in which Gregor Clegane squeezes Oberyn Martell's head until it explodes. (Oh, but wait.) When cast member Ben Crompton, who plays Dolorous Edd, saw the scene, he recalled thinking, "Oh my God, they're never going to be able to show that on telly." He was right, and a different edit was used.

Later, Fat Joey (The Walking Dead)

AMC's The Walking Dead is pretty hard to watch normally, what with all the killing of zombies (particularly bad when those zombies are kids), and the discovery of an oasis that then turns out to be a trap set by cannibals. So when a show that has no qualms about killing sacred characters or showing explicit violence in every episode has a scene cut because it's too much…yikes. When Fat Joey, played by Joseph Hoover, died in Season 7's mid-season finale, the scene was predictably gory. But as Hoover told ComicBook.com, getting beaten to death by Darryl wasn't depicted as violently as it could have been. "Everybody said it looked so awesome," said Hoover, "but also pretty graphic. So I'm assuming that's why they didn't show that angle." Whether or not the show has decided to tone down the violence after things got particularly crazy in the Season 7 premiere remains to be seen.

Incest and murder (The X-Files)

"Home," a Season 4 episode of Fox's long-running sci-fi hit The X-Files, aired in October of 1996, after which it was quickly banned from being shown on the network—and pulled for syndication—due to numerous scenes that were deemed beyond disturbing, including one involving a baby being buried alive, a quadruple amputee hiding under a bed (the mother of brothers in the episode, who's been breeding with them for years), and some truly ghastly murders. On Halloween of 1999, Fox showed the episode again with the caveat, "Consider yourself warned."

The worst breakfast ever (Dexter)

Showtime's hit drama Dexter was as innately overall disturbing as you'd expect any show about a serial killer/forensic expert to be, but the initial draft of the opening credits were actually deemed too dark to air. In the unused sequence, Dexter shaves, makes breakfast (probably the most upsetting part of the sequence), and gets dressed, and it's impressive how unsettling those ordinary tasks seem in this context. You can watch the original credits here, and compare it against the ones that actually aired.

The one with the bomb scare joke (Friends)

What? Friends? Yep. This scene, which was supposed to be included in an October 2001 episode, was pulled, given that making a joke about a bomb scare in an airport one month after 9/11 was definitely in poor taste, given the global context.

The possible rape scene (Poldark)

After much outrage, the BBC chose not to air a Poldark scene between Ross Poldark, the series' hero, and his former lover, Elizabeth. The scene was in the preview of the show's second season, and while the network—as well as Andrew Graham, the son of the author of the books upon which the series was based—insisted that rape wasn't actually being depicted, the network pulled it, replacing it with something more overtly consensual.

Negan and Lucille cross the line (The Walking Dead)

The Walking Dead left a slew of tough-to-watch footage on the cutting floor again during the making of the Season 7 premiere, when all 11 characters were filmed being murdered by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his bat, Lucille. While it was Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) who died on the show, things could have gone differently—as they did during the ultimately unaired footage in which the pregnant Maggie gets bludgeoned. It was deemed more disturbing than the scenes that actually aired. You might be able to find it online, but…maybe don't.