Beloved TV characters who were killed offscreen

The death of a TV character is often the perfect vehicle for an engrossing farewell performance, a big change in the show, and a chance to remind audiences just why they fell in love with the character in the first place. To quote the freshman in your Intro to Philosophy class, "Sometimes death … is actually about life, you know?" Sometimes, though, whether because of scheduling conflicts, real-life tragedies, or behind-the-scenes drama, beloved characters are killed offscreen in bizarre or tragic ways. Here are some of our favorites.

Charlie Harper (Two and a Half Men)

Two and a Half Men took the brilliant idea of combining a tried and true sitcom formula—the mismatched odd couple whose personalities couldn't be more different—with a young child who can add in the "awww" factor and life lessons of Leave It to Beaver-esque shows. The formula was an obvious success with multiple Emmys and high ratings for years, but it was less rosy behind the scenes.

Charlie Sheen's behavior on the set became so erratic that he was eventually fired after a public, expletive-filled rant about his frustrations with the showrunner. According to co-star Jon Cryer, "An astounding number of people stood up for Charlie, as though people should be able to show up to work rarely, if at all, verbally abuse their co-workers publicly with anti-Semitic slurs, get arrested on a regular basis—as well as abuse drugs to the point where they can barely function—and not have their high-paying jobs threatened."

How did the showrunners get rid of one of the main men in Two and a Half Men? By having Charlie hit by a train offscreen, pushed by his neurotic next-door neighbor. Charlie's role as a high-energy womanizer was filled by the addition of Ashton Kutcher as a new character, saving the hit series from having to change its title to One and a Half Men. The show continued on for multiple seasons.

Lawrence Kutner (House)

While actors leave shows for all sorts of reasons that range from the positive to the negative, there aren't many actors who can say they went from acting in House to working in the White House. Kal Penn earned that honor when he was offered a job as Associate Director for the White House office of public liaison while playing the happy-go-lucky Dr. Kutner, a people-pleasing junior doctor. Penn chose the White House gig, leaving the writers in the uncomfortable position of having to write off a beloved character without any foreshadowing or build-up.

Their solution was to have Dr. Kutner shoot himself offscreen in a tragic suicide that came out of nowhere for both the characters and the audience. While some fans felt like it was a true portrayal of the insidious, often-hidden nature of depression and suicidal ideation, others felt like it was a cheap shot at Penn choosing another career.

Considering that Penn later returned to acting, you'd think they could've just had his character take a trip or something, to at least leave the possibility of the character's return.

Steven Gomez (Breaking Bad)

Poor "Gomey" Gomez. In Breaking Bad's battle of the bullying baldies, he was a pacifying presence—not only for the characters, but for the audience. While Walt and Hank were embroiled in a subtextual tug of war season after season, Gomez was just quietly, methodically working cases and supporting his best friend. Which is why it was such a shame that his death in a shootout with neo-Nazis came with such little fanfare.

While other examples on this list were affected by behind-the-scenes drama or real-life tragedy, Gomez's offscreen death was really just a product of limited time. The show was hurtling towards its conclusion, and there simply wasn't time to mourn Gomez in a meaty death scene during an episode loaded with multiple killings and plot twists.

In the world of Breaking Bad, Gomez's worst sin was just being a pretty loyal guy, since he was only killed due to Hank's Moby Dick-esque hunt for his (Walt) white whale.

Brynden 'The Blackfish' Tully (Game of Thrones)

The Red Wedding holds a hallowed place in many Game of Thrones fans' hearts, mostly because that's where the daggers went into most of their favorite characters' chests. But while fan favorites Robb and Lyanna Stark were cruelly cut down by assassins, Brynden Tully, the Blackfish, managed to escape in a stroke of luck.

In the canon of the show, the Blackfish is a formidable knight with a strong sense of honor—in many ways like Robb Stark, if he'd never been murdered. Fans were eager to see how the disgraced knight would avenge his family—spring a trap on the Lannisters? Strike down Jamie in a dramatic one-on-one fight? Well, sort of—but not really—to both of those.

Instead, in season 6, the Blackfish holds a siege in Riverrun and portentously meets with Jamie before being killed by nameless Lannister soldiers in order to buy time for Brienne and Pod to escape. There were many characters ill-served by Game of Thrones' rapidly escalating plotting in later seasons, but none that had a long built-up character killed offscreen like the Blackfish.

Dolores Landingham (The West Wing)

The West Wing showed viewers a world where politics were decided by intellectual arguments, concern for the majority of the voting public, and a respect for differing moral stances. In other words, it was a science-fiction show, written by Aaron Sorkin. Ah, but we kid.

The show's focus was on character progression, specifically Martin Sheen's idealized President Bartlet, and Presidential Secretary Dolores Landingham was a perfect view into that. She treated him like a regular person, called him out for bad decisions, and knew him before he became the iron-shouldered president viewers came to love. Still, that direct pipeline to the president's heart turned out to be the character's death knell when she was killed in an accident to add narrative complications to a bad situation Bartlet was dealing with.

While the character's death reinvigorated the audience's connection with Bartlet, it's still a bit odd that she was killed by a drunk driver entirely offscreen, rather than giving the kind of juicy farewell normally afforded to such a beloved character.

Bill McNeal (NewsRadio)

No getting around it, the death of Phil Hartman at the hands of his wife in 1998 was an absolute tragedy. NewsRadio had the unfortunate task of finding a way to honor Hartman's character, Bill McNeal, in a way that paid homage to Hartman's work while acknowledging his death. The show was a comedy, which meant that the kind of evocative grief that dramatic shows could get away with was out of the question, but to be completely blasé about Hartman's death would have left a grim taste in fans' mouths.

NewsRadio found a compromise by killing off Hartman's character in a way that stayed true to the established world. McNeal died offscreen of a heart attack while watching television, and the characters mourned him, but with the kind of black humor the show had already established. For everyone involved, it seemed like the best way to honor Hartman's legacy was to stay true to what he had already established.

Donna Gable (Kevin Can Wait)

Kevin Can Wait is a sitcom starring Kevin James as a retired police officer dealing with all the difficulties of being a sitcom dad: unruly kids, nosy neighbors, and a beautiful wife that's equal parts patient and understanding, at least until she's killed offscreen without explanation between seasons. Wait, what?

Fans were stunned to learn that Donna Gable (Erinn Hayes) would be killed between seasons. Was the actress being difficult on set? Were there scheduling conflicts? Well, not really. According to James himself, Kevin's wife was killed between seasons because "The plot of the show didn't have enough drive … If we got through a second season, I wouldn't see us getting through a third one. We were literally just running out of ideas." In fact, the show barely even acknowledged her death with a quick joke in the season two premiere, before going back to jokes about how Kevin was so bored being retired.

Pierce Hawthorne (Community)

Chevy Chase has earned a bit of a reputation over the years—and Dan Harmon, the showrunner of Community, likewise has a reputation as an exacting perfectionist, so it's no wonder that putting those two personalities together would eventually prove combustible.

In fact, the biggest surprise was that it took so long. As Pierce, Chase played a misanthropic old man with too much money and not enough to do for four seasons, with the character eventually dying prior to the fifth season. Supposedly, Harmon was pushed to the breaking point when Chase left an angry voicemail for him saying, "You're missing the f—ing point. … It's just a f—ing mediocre sitcom! I want people to laugh and this isn't funny."

Chase did make a surprise cameo as a hologram after Pierce's passing, on the other hand. Maybe there weren't any hard feelings after all.

Jason Gideon (Criminal Minds)

Beloved character actor Mandy Patinkin defined the first few seasons of Criminal Minds with his portrayal of brilliant, damaged FBI profiler Jason Gideon. While the long-running show always relied on an ensemble cast, Gideon was an easy standout with a no-nonsense attitude and a commitment to the job at the expense of his family.

Unfortunately, Patinkin found that the grim subject matter of the show was bad for his mental health, and quit after the third season, leaving writers to figure out the perfect sendoff for the beloved character. It's a sweet moment: Gideon leaves the FBI, stops at a diner, and confesses he doesn't know where to go next before driving off into the sunset.

But, as you might have guessed considering his inclusion on this list, that wasn't the end of Gideon. He was murdered by a serial killer seven years later in season ten, spurring the cast into action to bring him justice. A pretty grim ending for Gideon.

Morris O'Brian (24)

24 mined pulse-pounding drama from counterintelligence agent Jack Bauer's series of ludicrously bad days, with each episode of the season corresponding with an hour in one day. The show's stripped-down aesthetic never stopped the plots from going to some crazy places, with cougar attacks and a literal nuking of Los Angeles, but it was all anchored by the charisma of the characters.

In season five, the show introduced CTU agent Morris O'Brian, a brilliant agent with a dark past who struggled with alcoholism. Fans thrilled to his easy banter with Bauer and re-romance with estranged ex-wife Chloe O'Brian, and he remained a mainstay of the show until season eight. His story ended when he and his son were killed in a hit-and-run accident. Shockingly, while terrorists lurk behind every corner in the world of 24, his death seemed to be a genuine accident, used to wring extra drama from Chloe's character.