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TV Deaths That Were Planned From The Beginning Of The Series

Some of TV's most beloved characters have been killed off in the most unexpected ways. It starts off simply: A series premieres, and audiences get to know and love — or love to hate — the character in question. They might be the star, the sidekick, the villain, or someone else entirely. Sometimes, this character is the reason viewers tune in. The storylines may get boring, and the jokes might no longer hit, but this character keeps viewers coming back for more. Consider Smurf (Ellen Barkin), who is killed on season three of TNT's hit action-drama, Animal Kingdom. She is the embodiment of a character fans love to hate, and her death is completely unexpected. In the wake of a death like this, fans are left to contemplate what the series might look like without the deceased character — and wonder if they were doomed to die from the very beginning.

Oftentimes, TV characters' deaths have, in fact, been woven into the fabric of a series from the very beginning, the actors in question having been given the shocking news long before fans experience it for themselves. We're here to explore a few of those TV character deaths that were planned from the very beginning.

James "Ghost" St. Patrick

Premiering in 2014, the Starz crime drama Power follows nightclub owner and drug kingpin James "Ghost" St. Patrick. Ghost is a family man and entrepreneur who poses as a pillar of the community on the strength of his rags-to-riches façade. Secretly, his best friend is his partner in very literal crime, and the first season sees Ghost embark upon an extramarital affair with his middle school sweetheart. 

Omari Hardwick brought Ghost to life, enticing viewers with his sharp suits, menacing focus, and chiseled good looks. Ghost's secret life of crime was bound to catch up to him in the end, though, and in the final season, he is shot dead by his son Tariq. Power's creator, Courtney A. Kemp, always planned to have Ghost die, as it turns out. "The series is about consequences for their actions," she reflected. "The characters always cause their own deaths, one way or another." Several Power spin-offs further explore the St. Patrick family saga and Ghost's origins.

Jackson "Jax" Teller

Sons of Anarchy premiered in 2008, hooking fans with its killer characters and gruesome scenes of gun violence and gang battles. Dripping with all-American good looks, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) quickly rose through the ranks of fan-favorite characters: The prodigal son, set to lead the California motorcycle crew his father once led, he manages his overbearing mother, life as a new father, and his own torn emotions over the one who got away. Over the course of seven seasons, he works to transform the trajectory of his crew, so that violence and criminal activity are no longer at the forefront of their lives. During this time, his son is kidnapped, his best friend is killed, and his mother kills his wife. In the end, he sacrifices himself for the well-being of the crew. 

This sounds like a lot for a showrunner to put a character through, but in a 2014 interview with E! Online, executive producer Paris Barclay made it clear that this was always the plan for Jax: "I knew that he wasn't going to end up at a carnival buying snow cones for his sons and that was the last shot. I always knew this was going to end badly." In 2018, show creator Kurt Sutter premiered a new motorcycle crew show, Mayans M.C., based on a tight-knit crew in Mexico. It remains to be seen if the lead actor will experience a shocking demise.

Barry "Baz" Blackwell

TNT's Animal Kingdom is a 2016 remake of the Australian movie of the same name. The show focuses on a dysfunctional Southern California family who are bonded together by a life of crime: They steal large sums of money to fuel their over-the-top lifestyle, and kill anyone that gets in their way. A shrewd matriarch known as Smurf rules over the clan, comprised mostly of her band of surfing sons — but the arrival of a long-lost nephew changes everything. 

In the first season, viewers are introduced to one of the more complicated brothers, Barry "Baz" Blackwell (Scott Speedman). He's raising his young daughter with his long-time girlfriend, and enjoys Smurf's trust. Baz was adopted into the family, and molded into a loyal lieutenant. But, in season two, their relationship sours after the unexplained death of his girlfriend and Baz's growing mistrust of Smurf. Smurf gets wind of Baz's underhanded attempts to ruin her, and has him killed. Series creator John Wells spoke with Entertainment Weekly in May 2018, and made the inevitability of Baz's fateful ending clear: "I'd always talked to Scott [Speedman] about the fact that I didn't think it would be a five-or six-year deal, so he was prepared for it when it happened."

Omar Little

Michael K. Williams is a phenomenal actor, who often portrays conflicted characters who overshadow the series' leads. From Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire to Montrose Freeman on Lovecraft Country, Williams seamlessly transforms into dark, enigmatic characters audiences grow to love. In the 2002 HBO series The Wire, Williams played Omar Little, a stick-up guy who robs drug dealers and keeps them on their toes. The Baltimore crime drama has gained classic status since its 2008 finale, often being called one of the greatest shows in TV history. Omar stands out as an especially great part of the series, because of the strategic way he runs the streets, his well-rounded moral compass, and the then-surprising fact that he is gay. 2002 TV watchers had truly never before seen a gay character like Omar on a gritty crime show.

 In the final season, Omar is killed in a convenience store by a young drug dealer named Kenard. Speaking with MTV News in 2008, Williams shared his feelings about Omar's death, and revealed that he'd always known it was going to happen: "It took me for a loop. I was also saddened. Not that he was dying, 'cause when I got the job, they told me season one Omar was only going to be around for seven episodes." Since starring on The Wire, Williams has appeared in 12 Years a Slave, The Night Of, and When They See Us, in addition to other highly acclaimed shows and movies.

Zoe Barnes

In the first season of House of Cards, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) is the key to Francis Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) demise. Underwood holds many secrets: Some would destroy his growing political career, while others would destroy his calculated marriage. Zoe, who works as a journalist for a DC newspaper, is seduced by the criminal congressman. As Zoe learns more about Francis, she shares her intel with her boss, but grows fearful as Francis begins to stalk and antagonize her. Finally, Francis follows Zoe into a subway station and pushes her onto the tracks. The murder is swift, cold, and shocking. 

Executive producer David Fincher has a dark visual and dramatic style to his films, so perhaps it's no surprise that his foray into television followed suit. Still, fans were blown away by the sinister scene. When show creator Beau Willimon spoke with The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, he let fans in on the fact that Zoe's death had been planned from the beginning of the series. "We told Kate from the get-go," he recalled, "I always knew that Zoe was going to meet her maker in the first episode of season two." Zoe's presence is felt throughout the show's six seasons, as Francis' personal and professional life unravels.

Jesse McKenna

The '90s TV drama Life Goes On was a predecessor of family dramas like Parenthood, Brothers & Sisters, and This Is Us. Beyond the typical family struggles the show portrays, it stands out for featuring a character with Down syndrome and a character who is HIV-positive. Kellie Martin played Becca Thatcher, a very focused, type-A teenager, with her goals at the forefront of her mind. In the second season, Jesse McKenna (Chad Lowe), a new student, becomes friends with Becca. He seems to be a loner and a bit reserved, which makes Becca want to know more about him. Even after Jesse reveals he's HIV-positive, Becca embarks on a romantic relationship with him. In a flash forward in the final season, Jesse has died, Becca is married, and she has given birth to a son she has named Jesse, in his honor.

A 1993 Baltimore Sun article gave interesting insight into Jesse's story arc. The character was originally set to appear as a guest in only eight episodes, with an inevitable death ending his run. But Jesse's character remained on the series as a vehicle to explore a variety of AIDS-related issues.


The Boys explores an alternate universe where people with extraordinary gifts are labeled "Supes," and attract the attention of conglomerates. Vought International, a majorly powerful corporation, has created a team of celebrity Supes called the Seven, who fight crime and work to save humanity. But, this work is, of course, a façade. When the cameras and capes are off, many members of the Seven lead challenging lives, and are even dangers to humanity. Take Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore), who is a former member of the Seven with the ability to set things ablaze. He's mentioned quite a bit in season one, and finally appears in season two. The truth about his complex allegiances is revealed — and then he sets himself ablaze. In a 2020 interview with TV Line, Ashmore shared his feelings about knowing his character was set to die from the beginning: He "loved" it, and called it a "bold choice."

Ana Lucia Cortez

When Lost premiered in 2004, it seemed like a simple action-drama: A group of plane crash survivors come together to figure out life on a deserted island. But the J.J. Abrams series has a six-season run because it's everything but simple. There are supernatural elements to the island, and every survivor has a complicated past that led them to the crashed plane. Ana Lucia Cortez (Michelle Rodriguez) was on the tail section of the plane and emerges as a leader in season two. She puts her LAPD skills to use on the island, but gains a lot of enemies in doing so. She's eventually killed by Michael, a fellow survivor. 

In a 2006 interview with TV Guide, Lost executive producers and co-showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse offered details on Ana Lucia's arc. As they developed the character and put the casting word out, they heard from Rodriguez's agent: She was interested in the role, but only for one season. "She wanted to do one kick-ass arc, as she described it, and we basically started to wrap our brains around her energy and say, 'Yeah, we'll bring you on the show and then we'll kill you off at the end of the year.'" Apparently, Rodriguez likes the flexibility that comes with her acting career, and didn't want to commit to a series long-term.

Tara Knowles

When Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) pops up in Charming, California, Jax Teller is stunned. They loved each other in high school, but Tara left to focus on her studies. She comes back as a doctor, finding Jax in pretty bad shape, with a drug-addicted girlfriend and a new baby. Despite their hiccups and hurdles, the Sons of Anarchy sweethearts stick it out: They get married and have a son of their own. But Tara is always at odds with Jax's overbearing mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal). For her part, Gemma is wary of Tara's true intentions, and wants to maintain her position as the most important woman in her son's life. Acting on false information, Gemma kills Tara. Jax is devastated, and never recovers from the pain. 

In a 2013 Today article, a teary Maggie Siff and Katey Sagal discussed Tara's death. Sagal, who is married to show creator Kurt Sutter, had hoped he would go back on the already-planned death. But Sutter stood firm, having decided that Jax needed the "major and psychic emotional shift" as the series reached its ending.

Dr. Jack Shephard

As Lost moved through its six seasons, we learned that Jack (Matthew Fox) is more than the self-appointed leader of the survivors — he's been connected to them for years. Through flashbacks, these connections are revealed, as well as the shameful mistakes of Jack's past that led him to Oceanic Flight 815. He grapples with his estranged relationship with his father, his love for Kate (Evangeline Lilly), and his animosity for Sawyer (Josh Holloway), a charming Southerner who also captures Kate's heart and challenges Jack's leadership.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall's book, The Revolution Was Televised, reveals that early versions of Lost actually killed Jack in the pilot, and made Kate the group's leader. "In the vein of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (or even the pilot of Oz), they planned to pull the rug out from under the audience by killing Jack midway through the first episode, forcing Kate to take charge." Of course, Jack lives and gets off the island, only to return with other survivors who made it home. The big mystery of the show ends up being whether the survivors are dead, existing in an alternate universe, and/or experiencing some kind of strange shared dream.

Candy Ferocity

The FX drama Pose is loud, proud, and unapologetic. Set in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the show follows the lives of gay and transgender people who participate in the underground ballroom scene. Created by Ryan Murphy, the groundbreaking drama is notable for featuring a plethora of trans actors. In a 2019 Deadline article, Murphy and co-producer Janet Mock talked about the decision to have fan favorite Candy Ferocity killed in the second season. Played by the phenomenal Angelica Ross, Candy is a member of an opposing ballroom house, often mocked by ballroom announcer Pray Tell (Billy Porter). But she's true to her name as a ferocious force to be reckoned with, and her death is deeply felt in the community. "Our hardest thing was [choosing] which character," Mock reflected. "So, once we figured out which character [would die] — and Ryan really plotted it out in his mind — we kind of plotted the whole first half of the season around losing Candy and really showing what that would look like." The decision was necessary to the story as they had built it, but Mock and Murphy also felt it was important to shed light "on the epidemic of violence that trans women are facing, not just back then but today."

Lady Sybil Crawley

On the sweeping 2010 series Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown-Findlay) is the youngest daughter of Robert and Cora Crawley, the Earl and Countess of Grantham. Along with her very different sisters, Lady Sybil maneuvers through high society and the complicated social pressures that come with their position. She makes great efforts to set herself apart, intermingling with classes deemed lesser than her own. She even falls in love with an Irish driver named Tom, spurning the turned-up noses of her aristocratic family. Sybil and Tom are able to welcome a daughter, but Sybil ultimately dies from childbirth complications. 

Worried about being stuck on a never-ending series, Brown-Findlay set her terms well before the show started. As Downton Abbey's creator Julian Fellowes told Vanity Fair, "Jessica had said she was going to leave right from the beginning. She said, 'I'm doing three years, then I'm leaving.' So that was all worked out." Downton Abbey ultimately aired for six seasons, and debuted a full-length movie in 2019.