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TV Deaths We Never Saw Coming In 2018

Gone are the days when your favorite TV show could be counted on to bring you familiar adventures about familiar characters week after week, year after year. We're now in the era of Peak TV — a time in which the hundreds upon hundreds of shows available across broadcast networks, cable channels, and streaming services have to compete for attention by stepping up the drama. 

As a result, showrunners have free rein to be about as shocking as they want to be, and that means killing off major and long-term characters — often when fans don't even suspect it. In recent years, we've lost beloved characters on everything from Game of Thrones to Stranger Things to even Will and Grace. And 2018 shaped up to be another bloodbath in TV land. Here's a rundown of the characters who unexpectedly left us.

Jack - This Is Us

Millions of rabid fans of NBC's smash hit This Is Us knew that Pearson patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) was going to die, but they weren't quite sure how. An earlier episode suggested that he perished in a fire caused by a faulty slow cooker—an unlikely occurrence, as slow cookers are among the safest of all home appliances. 

This Is Us used its special post-Super Bowl time slot to reveal how exactly Jack died. In a flashback sequence set in 1998, we see the family's slow cooker short out, sparking a fire that quickly engulfs the Pearson home. Jack wakes up in the middle of the night, smells smoke, and turns into Hero Dad, getting his family out of the house with a bedsheet rope. Then he goes back into the burning house to save Louie, the family dog (as well as some family mementos, because this is This Is Us). Rebecca (Mandy Moore) takes him to the hospital to attend to his minor burns. Then she steps out of the room for just a second...long enough for an ER doctor to tell her that Jack died of cardiac arrest brought on by smoke inhalation.

Carl – The Walking Dead

Carl Grimes (and actor Chandler Riggs, for that matter) grew up on TV. The son of Walking Dead protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), he'd been with the series since it started in 2010. Along the way, he endured tragedies and setbacks, including the death of his mother during childbirth, the loss of an eye, and various acts of evil by villains like the Governor and Negan. Keeping Carl alive and safe was the reason Rick never completely crumbled, and Carl kept human decency alive to the end — which is what ultimately killed him. 

Carl left Alexandria to help the mysterious Siddiq (Avi Nash) mercy-kill zombies because Siddiq believed it freed their souls. Alas, one of those zombies took a bite out of Carl. It's a death sentence, but not an immediate one, giving Carl time to say goodbye. He hangs out with his little sister Judith, writes devastating farewell letters, and then — so his death can be on his own terms — he shoots himself (offscreen) before he can go full walker.

Ferguson - New Girl

Fox's New Girl isn't so new anymore, and it's coming to the end of its seven-season run with a handful of episodes (set after a flash-forward a few years) to wrap up all of its loose ends and give each of its characters a proper sendoff. For example,Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) have finally gotten together for good, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and CeCe (Hannah Simone) have a baby...and also, alas, somebody had to die. That would be Ferguson, the beloved (to the point of obsessed) smush-faced cat belonging to Winston (Lamorne Morris). Winston acquired Ferguson back in season 2 — she belonged to a girlfriend, and when she cheated on him, he found parity and peace by adopting the cat. While viewers were saved the not-very-sitcom-friendly images and emotional turmoil of watching a pet die, New Girl devoted an episode to Winston's over-the-top grieving process, which involves a motorcade to an elaborate memorial service conducted in the Jewish tradition.

Clayton Reeves - NCIS

NCIS wound down its 15th season with a heavily promoted plot: The departure of original character Abby Scuito, whose longtime portrayer, actress Pauley Perrette, was ready to move on. NCIS fans assumed or suspected that Abby might be written off the show in the manner by which characters are most commonly and effectively removed from a series: death.

It certainly appeared that this fate had befallen lab tech Abby, especially since in what was Perrette's second-to-last episode, airing on May 2, 2018, she and co-worker Clayton Reeves, an MI-6 operative and NCIS Liaison Officer, struggled over a gun with a yet-to-be-identified assailant, and a gunshot rang out as the screen cut to black. Resolving that cliffhanger ending, the May 9 episode depicted Ducky (David McCallum) sympathizing with another coroner about the agony of performing an autopsy on a former colleague. Had Abby died from a gunshot? Surprise! She hadn't. When the body bag was unzipped, inside was Reeves, portrayed by Duane Henry on more than 30 episodes of NCIS from 2016 to 2018. Evidently, he'd bravely and selflessly stepped in front of Abby to take the bullet. As for Abby, she was in the hospital, but she pulled through, and played an integral role in one last high-stakes NCIS adventure.

Nick Clark - Fear the Walking Dead

While remaining distinct and very different from its AMC zombie-verse predecessor series The Walking Dead, the fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead saw the show almost completely rebooted. In the mix are a handful of new characters played by TV veterans like Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood), Maggie Grace (Lost), and Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg), along with the disciplined, killing-averse Morgan (Lennie James) from The Walking Dead. All that newness means some of the oldness has to fall away, which of course means the death of some original Fear the Walking Dead characters.

The early seasons of the show largely focused on Nick Clark (portrayed by Frank Dillane), a recovering heroin addict whose self-motivated behavior served him well in the zombie apocalypse, from forming alliances with nefarious individuals to doing whatever it took to protect himself and his family. 

Apparently, Dillane had asked to be written off the show during the show's third season, and it fell on new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to get rid of Nick. They did it by having Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), a tween working as a mole for a different survival group, shoot him dead.

Half the cast of Gotham

Deaths on Gotham are frequent, but they're usually just underlings, stooges, or random victims of the future Rogue's Gallery. Since it's a Batman prequel series, Gotham can't mess with the subject matter's mythology too much, or it won't "set up" what needs to happen next. Or maybe not, because many familiar Gotham characters met their end in the show's fourth season finale.

Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell), who somehow once survived an attempted murder by Barbara (Erin Richards), was brought back to life by a dip in a toxic swamp... although he came back not quite right, as the monstrous Solomon Grundy. The Penguin (Robin Taylor), however, seeking revenge for the murder of his mother, killed Butch/Solomon — and in front of his dear Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) to boot. The Penguin shot her in the leg, too, for good measure.

Also among the dead: classic Batman character Ra's al Ghul (Alexander Siddig). After Barbara turned down the baddie's offer to leave Gotham—after he destroyed it, of course—she dispatched him, stabbing-wise, with the assistance of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz).

Tobin - The Walking Dead

Tobin (Jason Douglas), once a construction chief, first showed up in season 5 as a resident of Alexandria who quickly differentiated himself with a crush on Carol (Melissa McBride) that developed into a relationship. That made him stand out from the pack — well, that and the time when he cowardly ran away, leaving Holly (Laura Beamer) to die after a zombie ambush. Sure, Abraham saved her, but Tobin still looked the fool.

Ultimately, Tobin had to die to lay the groundwork for some chilling plot developments that promise to play out in future seasons of The Walking Dead. Saviors leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) had previously claimed that lacing weapons in zombie guts made them better weapons — if you wound someone and don't kill them with a knife, for example, they'll still be infected with the zombie virus and eventually turn Walker. And that's what happened to poor Tobin: A Savior stabbed him in the belly, which proved to be a fatal, zombifying wound.

Will Simpson - Jessica Jones

Will Simpson (Will Travel) was a vital character in the first season of Jessica Jones — at first he was one of the many unwittingly mind-controlled subjects of Kilgrave (David Tennant), a cop forced to kill Jessica's associate Trish Walker. She saved Trish, convincing Will that Trish was already dead...and then she saved Will, preventing his death at the hands of Kilgrave when he outlived his usefulness to the supervillain. 

The spell broken, Simpson was in control of his own life again, and entered into a relationship with Trish and hatched a plan to exact revenge on Kilgrave that involved taking combat assistance kills which made him so manic he killed three people — and almost killed Jessica before he was kidnapped by the enigmatic IGH, who just so happened to be his pill supplier. 

When season 2 started up, Simpson was stalking Trish. He cornered her and she shot him in the leg —at which point he warned Trish she was in danger. Sure enough, they were attacked by a person who turned out to be Alisa, Jessica's mother, who snapped Will's neck.

Simon - The Walking Dead

Simon (Steven Ogg) was Negan's loyal, selfless, and nasty henchman/second-in-command. What did he get for his constant devotion to the cartoonishly evil leader of the Saviors? Violently choked to death by his former boss.

The death wasn't completely out of the blue — nor, through the warped lens of Negan's sense of justice, totally unwarranted. He was pretty brashly making overtures to take over the Sanctuary. Negan knew about it for a while, but rather than kill Simon right away, he gave him a few chances to prove himself or make it right.

When Negan acted like he was going to kill him with Lucille, Simon accepted his fate and dropped to the ground, awaiting his painful death. He passed that test of loyalty, long enough to endure another trial. Negan then caught Simon conspiring and challenged him to a fight — winner wins all the power. Negan won, and after Simon died and turned Walker, he was ritualistically thrown up on the Sanctuary as a warning to anyone else who might want to cross Negan.

Midge - Riverdale

Riverdale is not your grandfather's Archie. Based on the squeaky-clean comic book adventures, the show is a dark and wild reimagining, switching out low-stakes teen life for murder, sex, and mystery. Take Midge, for example. A minor character in the comics — she was known for having short hair and dating the jock/sometimes bully Moose — Midge was brutally murdered in public on Riverdale. 

After surviving an attack by the show's second season big bad, a mysterious assailant known as the Black Hood, Midge (Emilija Baranac) was cast in Riverdale High's production of the musical version of Stephen King's Carrie. But when the curtain on the show rose, audiences — and half the town of Riverdale — learned that the Black Hood came back to finish what he/she started. There was Midge, brutally stabbed, with the knives and scissors still in her body and creepy messages written in blood on the wall around her.

David Rosen - Scandal

If Scandal itself had to die, so, too would one of its main characters. Somebody would have to pay — in the biggest way possible — for seven seasons worth of political machinations, backstabbing, extramarital affairs, politicking, terrorism, murder, and other mortal sins. That person wound up being Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina).

In the penultimate episode, Washington, D.C. fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) told the public about the existence of the secretive B613 operation, hoping that the revelation would somehow stop sneaky, power-crazed Vice President Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry). Cyrus struck back at the walls caving in with an act of self-preservation. After handing A.G. Rosen a cocktail, Cyrus simultaneously confessed and apologized to his colleague for his bad deeds, saying that he had to do "what needs to be done." Also, Rosen was in his way, and he had to be dispatched. Rosen then fell dead, because the drink Cyrus gave him was primarily poison.

Cigarette Smoking Man, Skinner, and Reyes - The X-Files

The season finale of the second round of the rebooted X-Files sure felt like a series finale — mostly because so many longtime characters died. One of the season's main arcs concerned Cigarette Smoking Man's plans to unleash a deadly virus, and to pull it off, he'd manipulated Scully's shape-shifting son William, along with FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner and Agent Monica Reyes, into helping him execute it. CSM (William B. Davis) also happened to be William's biological father — he was the one who'd drugged and medically impregnated Scully (Gillian Anderson) nearly two decades ago. 

William, wishing to be free of all this evil awfulness, finally confronted CSM on a dock while using his powers to disguise himself as Mulder. CSM then shot William-as-Mulder in the head. Then the real Mulder, distraught and devastated (in part because he was led to believe he was William's father), shot CSM and kicked him into the water. This means that one of series' biggest and most memorable big bads is finally dead. However, on the way to his own death, he caused some collateral damage: After Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) shot onetime Scully replacement Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), he got run over with a car. But is anybody ever really dead on The X-Files? Even William burst up out of the water at the end of this death-laden episode.

Spencer - American Housewife

A relatable family sitcom injected with a hefty dose of social satire, American Housewife concerns a middle-class family trying to keep their values and decency in check while living in the ultra-rich and superficial town of Westport, Connecticut. The Ottos' middle child, Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio), brings an Alex P. Keaton element — as Keaton embraced '80s materialism in spite of his ex-hippie parents, Oliver has laser-focused his actions on getting as rich as his Westchester peers. Part of that involved befriending a new neighbor, a disgraced wolf of Wall Street just released from prison named Spencer (George Hamilton). While Oliver initially intended to be nice to get on the old guy's will, a true friendship developed. He kept Oliver in check against the greed of the community, which is why it was so shocking that American Housewife writers killed him off right when things got sweet and gentle.

Artie Goodman - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Kimmy and Titus's widowed, me-against-the-world landlord Lillian Kaushtupper, an old school tough New Yorker, former criminal, and anarchist, found love again in the third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with a most unlikely candidate: Artie Goodman (Peter Riegert), owner and operator of a Whole Foods-like grocery chain called Big Naturals that wanted to open a store in Lillian's neighborhood, which would bring about unwanted gentrification. They finally got together and Lillian reluctantly agreed to go on vacation with Artie. At the outset of Season 4, however, viewers learned that Artie died on their trip, and Lillian was entrusted to spread his ashes at the site of his summer camp in Manhattan, now an exclusive club called Snoke House. Barred from entering the exclusive club, Lillian was able to give Artie the final resting place he asked for—sort of—along with some closure for herself: She sold two plastic baggies full of Artie's cremains for $1,200 to a bunch of Snoke House finance-bros who clearly thought those ashes were something a little more party-friendly.

Madison - Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead continued to reinvent itself in its fourth season as civilization in the world of the show irrevocably collapsed. The series is set in the frightening and chaotic early days of the zombie apocalypse also explored on The Walking Dead, and that means people are going to die — it's just especially surprising that the show has killed off almost all of its original main characters at this point. The nexus of the series was Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), a Los Angeles high school guidance counselor and mother of two turned scrappy survival group leader...turned martyr.

Viewers learn via flashback that Madison died a hero's death. After getting her family to safety, she leads a horde of zombies into the baseball stadium where survivors once accumulated. Trapped inside with the walkers, Madison shoots as many of them as she can before using a flare and oil to unleash a great fire of the undead — and burns to death alongside those scary monsters.

Riggs - Lethal Weapon

In May 2018, Clayne Crawford was shockingly fired from Fox's TV version of Lethal Weapon. Apparently, over his two seasons of work on the show as loose cannon cop Martin Riggs, Crawford made life difficult on the set for many people, notably co-star Damon Wayans. The two often clashed behind the scenes, and Wayans says he was struck in the head by debris from an explosion in an episode directed by Crawford.

Lethal Weapon still earned a third-season renewal, and news came down that Crawford would be replaced by Seann William Scott, who'd portray Wesley Cole, new partner to Wayans' Roger Murtaugh. That ramped up speculation as to how Lethal Weapon would explain Crawford's sudden absence. The show addressed the issue with its third-season premiere, and it was pretty easy for the show's writers. The second season ended on a cliffhanger, with Riggs shot by his half-brother, Garrett (Peter Coventry Smith). Riggs didn't survive the shooting — and Garrett, distraught over killing Riggs, took his own life.

DeDe, Modern Family

Modern Family isn't the ratings juggernaut it once was, and its tenth season may be one of its last. To bring back some of the viewers that have tuned out over the years, the show pulled a little publicity stunt before the season began, promising that a "significant character" would die an episode to come. "We're handling some bigger life events in this season," co-creator Christopher Lloyd told Entertainment Weekly. "We do deal with a death, which is certainly a topic that families have to deal with." Fans and reporters speculated about what "significant character" meant, exactly, and who would be the one to kick the bucket. Perhaps Jay Pritchett, the patriarch portrayed by Ed O'Neill? Maybe Stella, Jay's adorable and pampered French bulldog? In the end, the character that met their end was Dede (Shelley Long), Jay's first wife and the mother of main characters Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen).

Bud, Last Man Standing

When the Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing returned to Fox more than a year after ABC canceled it, producers made a few changes. For example, actress Molly Ephraim was unable to reprise her role as middle Baxter sibling Mandy, and was replaced by Molly McCook. Another big change: Bud Baxter, father of Allen's grumpy sporting goods store owner Mike Baxter, portrayed by veteran character actor and Oscar nominee Robert Forster, wouldn't be back at all... because Bud is dead. Forster showed up here and there on the ABC version of the show, but producers used the network switch to send his character into oblivion, which set up a new plot arc ripe with comedy: Mike Baxter's son-in-law takes over Bud's marijuana dispensary, much to Mike's chagrin. The death also led to an episode where Mike sees his dad one last time, in the form of a ghostly vision (because this is TV), for closure on some unresolved issues and to say goodbye.

Gregory - The Walking Dead

Deaths on The Walking Dead aren't altogether unexpected, as the show takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which the ever-shrinking group of protagonists is beset by flesh-eating zombies on one side and ruthless maniacs like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) on the other.

From his introduction in season six, Gregory (Xander Berkeley), leader of the Hilltop group, was not one to be trusted, appeasing Negan's gang and doing whatever he could to save his own skin and live in relative luxury. Over time, Maggie — stronger and more resilient than ever — assumes leadership of the Hilltop, which Gregory didn't really dig. 

The show's ninth season began with Gregory staging an elaborate plot to overthrow Maggie, which involved getting blacksmith Earl (Jon Finn) drunk enough to kill her. It didn't work out — Maggie easily figured out Gregory was behind it, and decisively showed him who was the real boss of the Hilltop with his public execution by hanging.

Frank Underwood - House of Cards

After some extremely troubling and terrible allegations involving Kevin Spacey broke in late 2017, Netflix swiftly announced that the actor wouldn't appear on House of Cards again. When viewers last saw Spacey as the sociopathic political climber Frank Underwood, he'd cheated, connived, and killed his way to the White House, only to resign the position but still wishing to secretly control the new president — his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Early in the first episode of the sixth season, released in November 2018, viewers learned that Frank Underwood had died from taking too much of his prescription liver medicine. 

But nothing on House of Cards was ever simple or accidental. In the final moment of the season — and series finale — it's revealed that his longtime, blindly loyal lieutenant Doug Stamper, who'd variously served as Underwood's chief of staff and director of strategy, was to blame. Doug stopped an enraged Frank from killing Claire by stuffing a fatal dose of liver pills down the former president's throat. "I had to protect the legacy from the man," he tearfully confessed to Claire Underwood. Then Doug tried to finish the job Frank started, and threatened Claire with a letter opener, only to back off... at which point she grabbed the letter opener, stabbed Doug in the stomach, and suffocated him until he was just as dead as Frank.

Angela - Family Guy

Deaths on animated shows are rare, as cartoon characters generally don't age or feel the sometimes fatal effects of life. If a voice actor dies, they can be replaced with a soundalike while the character's appearance can stay exactly the same. But Carrie Fisher wasn't just any voice actor. The beloved screenwriter and portrayer of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films appeared on more than two dozen episodes of Family Guy after its 2005 revival, portraying Angela, Peter Griffin's boss at the Pawtucket Brewery. Fisher passed away in 2016, and Family Guy's writers decided to have Angela die, too — she went comically, having gone swimming less than 20 minutes after eating.

Peter delivers a eulogy at what he thinks is her funeral, which in Family Guy fashion, is full of references to old TV shows, like Cheers. ("Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, Angela.") Then the lines between actress and character blur, as Peter's eulogy turns sweet and personal. "She had grace, courage and an unmatched zest for life," Peter says. "She may be gone, but her voice will live on in DVD and Hulu Plus, and tiny droid-projected messages. I may have lost a boss, but heaven has gained a princess."