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TV Deaths That Seriously Angered Fans

For dedicated fans of a television show, it is difficult to not become attached to your favorite characters. Consequently, when a show decides to kill off a fan-favorite character, things can turn ugly. Maybe the character didn't "deserve" to die, or maybe the showrunners killed them off in a cold or brutal fashion. Whatever the reason, fans will be sure to let the world know how mad they are. Let's take a look back at some of the character deaths that have upset fans the most over the years. 

Warning: This article is filled with spoilers from the following shows: The 100, Firefly, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter, Mad Men, Grey's Anatomy, M*A*S*H, Sons of Anarchy, and Roseanne.

Lexa - The 100

In the post-apocalyptic CW drama The 100, the show's creators spurred outrage among the fans when they made the decision to kill off lesbian character Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in the season three episode, "Thirteen." Not only was Lexa a fan-favorite character, but her development arc had just reached an important milestone. Lexa and her female romantic interest Clarke (Eliza Taylor) had just slept together for the first time, right before Lexa is killed in crossfire.

Not only were fans angry about the interrupted storyline, they were also incensed because Lexa's death seemed to be a prime example of how "disposable" LGBTQ+ characters are in television and film. The trend of killing off these characters is so prevalent, it even has its own trope: "Bury your Gays." The backlash was so intense that The 100 showrunner Jason Rothenberg penned a letter to fans to apologize for the show's handling of Lexa's death.

Wash - Serenity/Firefly

This death technically happened in a movie, but since it was a beloved TV character who was killed off, we think it still deserves a place on this list. Although it only lasted one season—primarily because of Fox's mishandling of the series—the futuristic space/western series Firefly gained legions of dedicated fans. In order to wrap up the plotlines that had been left hanging, Universal put out the 2005 movie Serenity. Fans were happy—until they got to the third act of the movie.

Following a scary flight with Reavers on their tail and through an Alliance blockade, fan-favorite character Wash (Alan Tudyk) manages to safely crash-land Serenity. Unfortunately, only moments later he is killed when a Reaver harpoon spear punches through his chest.

The sudden nature of his death was derided by some fans as a cheap shot, especially as it came during the climax of the film and didn't really serve to drive the plot forward at all. One fan was so angry about the death that he tried to use physics to try to prove that the movie was "wrong" and that Wash should still be alive.

Adriana - The Sopranos

In a mobster series that's filled with gruesome deaths, perhaps none packed a bigger emotional punch than the death of Christopher's long-time girlfriend/fiancée, Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo). While Adriana appears to be shallow and materialistic at first, as we get to know the character better, we learn that she's really a good person—one who wants the best for her boyfriend, despite his often-abusive treatment of her. When the FBI coerces Adriana into becoming an informant, she tries to get Christopher to join the Witness Protection Program with her. Instead, Christopher brutally attacks her and nearly chokes her to death.

Christopher's assault angered fans, but watching the rest of the episode unfold makes it even worse. Tony later tells Adriana that Christopher has attempted suicide, and sends his enforcer Silvio to pick her up. As the car drives further from civilization, the audience realizes along with Adriana that she's actually being driven to her death—Christopher has betrayed her. Some fans were so shook up by the murder that they refused to believe that Adriana was dead at first, even theorizing that she was still alive because she was off-camera when Silvio shot her.

The Red Wedding - Game of Thrones

No list of anger-inducing television deaths would be complete without The Red Wedding from season three on Game of Thrones. While readers of George R.R. Martin's books knew what was coming, for those who were show-only fans, the episode left them reeling. After seeming to reconcile with the easily-offended Lord Walder Frey, Robb Stark and his retinue visit the Twins for the marriage of Edmure Tully to Roslin Frey. All seems to be going well, until suddenly, it isn't. Within just a few minutes, several major characters are dead, including Robb, Talisa, Catelyn, and Grey Wind.

If the many social media reactions to The Red Wedding are any indication, most shocked fans erupted with angry and profanity-laced tirades about the killings. The targets of their hate? Walder Frey, Roose Bolton, the Lannisters, the showrunners, George R.R. Martin, and even their friends who had read the books and didn't warn them ahead of time. But, as Ramsay Bolton would likely tell them: "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."

Joyce Summers - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

For fans of Joss Whedon's work, it probably shouldn't be surprising that he's earned not one, but two entries on this list. Perhaps what makes this episode so gut-wrenching and anger-inducing is the stark reality that Whedon used to show the death of Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), Buffy's mother. After being ill for most of the fifth season, Joyce was finally starting to get better. Then, at the start of "The Body," Buffy returns home to find her mother motionless on the couch—dead from a sudden brain aneurysm.

The emotions we commonly feel after a loved one's death—confusion, shock, anger, denial, and overwhelming grief—are all on display throughout the episode, as the rest of the characters learn of and react to Joyce's death. Many fans were deeply upset with Joss Whedon for killing off Joyce.

Even Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar herself later revealed that she argued with Whedon over the decision. Although most fans now agree that "The Body" is one of the best episodes of the entire series, the reality of Joyce's death definitely took some time to be accepted.

Rita Morgan - Dexter

In the season four finale of Dexter, an unexpected death sent shockwaves through the psyche of title character Dexter Morgan—and through the Dexter fandom. Dexter sends his wife Rita (Julie Benz) and the kids out of town to keep them safe as he attempts to hunt down the Trinity Killer. Eventually, Dexter is successful in abducting Trinity and he kills him in order to prevent him from murdering more innocents. Unfortunately, Dexter was unaware that Trinity had a final victim—Dexter's wife, Rita. He returns home and finds Rita murdered in the bathtub, their son Harrison crying and sitting in a pool of his mother's blood.

Although Rita was not always a popular character among fans, many were upset by her death. Some felt her death was not only a cop-out by the writers, but that it marks the point where the show's quality began to go drastically downhill.

Lane Pryce - Mad Men

His death wasn't particularly surprising if you'd been paying close attention to the signs throughout the season, but there's no doubt that the suicide of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) in season five of Mad Men was one of the most upsetting moments in the entire series. After his introduction on the show, Lane became a fan-favorite character. When he got into some financial trouble, Lane embezzled $7,800 from the agency in order to cover his debt. Don discovers this "bonus" payment and confronts Lane, telling him he will have to resign from the company.

After a suicide attempt using his new Jaguar (which won't start), Lane returns to the agency and hangs himself in his office after typing a "boilerplate" resignation letter. Fans were upset by Lane's death, with some believing that the way he fell apart during seasons 4-5 was extremely out-of-character for the "ultimate bean-counter."

Derek Shepherd - Grey's Anatomy

Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd's relationship with Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy was a central point within the show's narrative, and dedicated fans followed the couple through several rocky patches and reconciliations along the way. In season eleven, it seemed the couple had finally managed to reach a measure of stability, and thing were looking up. Unfortunately, the happiness wouldn't last for long. 

Derek (Patrick Dempsey) witnesses a car accident and he springs into action to help save the lives of the passengers. Afterwards, he returns to his car to leave, but is suddenly t-boned by a semi truck. He's rushed to a hospital, but they fail to detect a brain injury, and he is declared brain-dead. Meredith has to make the difficult decision to remove him from life support.

Following the episode, fans angrily took to social media about Shepherd's death. Many of them directed their ire at Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. Derek wasn't the first fan-favorite character she has had killed off, and for many viewers, his death was the last straw.

Colonel Blake - M*A*S*H

In what was typically a light-hearted comedy, the sudden and unexpected death of Lieutenant Colonel Blake in the third season of M*A*S*H was unprecedented. When McLean Stevenson decided to leave the series after the third season, the show's creators decided to write Blake off of the show with an honorable discharge. Most of his final episode, "Abyssinia, Henry," consists of funny and touching moments between Blake and his friends at the 4077th as they say goodbye. However, the writers decided to add a final scene to the episode—one which the entire cast (except Alan Alda) was kept in the dark about. 

In the scene, Radar enters the operating suite and informs the team that Blake's plane had been shot down over the Sea of Japan. "There were no survivors," he tearfully adds, before leaving the room as the rest of the cast stand in stunned silence.

Following the episode's airing, backlash was intense. The show received over a thousand letters from viewers, most of whom were upset that such a depressing death had been included in what they thought was a situational comedy series. Even the networks were mad about the scene, with CBS (which aired the show) and Fox (which produced it) expressing their dismay. In later re-airings of the episode, CBS even cut the final scene entirely.

Charlie Pace - Lost

Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan) started out as one of the most troubled characters on Lost. As a washed-up musician and heroin addict, Charlie didn't have much to live for following the crash of flight 815—until he meets fellow survivor Claire and becomes romantically involved with her, acting as a father-figure to her son, Aaron. As the show progresses, the better side of Charlie's character beings to shine through—he gets sober and does his best to help those around him.

As fans began to become attached to Charlie, things started to go downhill for him again. In season three, Desmond alerts Charlie about his recurring visions, which show Charlie's death, and this convinces Charlie that he is fated to die. In the end, Charlie heroically gives his life at the Looking Glass underwater station in order to save Desmond and end the electronic jamming which prevents the survivors from calling for help. 

When fans started to hear rumors that Charlie would die in the season finale, they even mounted efforts to "save" the character. Naturally, upset fans reacted strongly to Charlie's death, and the ratings of the show dropped markedly in the fourth season onward—perhaps in part to the untimely exit of this beloved character.

Shireen Baratheon - Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones seems to be the reigning champion when it comes to "most rage-inducing character deaths," and this untimely death from season five is a big reason why. In a scene that doesn't occur in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the HBO showrunners decided to kick up the pain a notch by killing off the gentle and innocent Shireen Baratheon. 

What follows is perhaps one of the most horrifying scenes in the entire series, as the innocent Shireen is led through a crowd, and then she sees what awaits her—the Red Woman. Melisandre has the girl tied to a stake and then sets fire to it, as her parents stand by while their only child is sacrificed to the Lord of Light.

The fan backlash was intense; with book-readers in particular leading the way as they chastised the showrunners for what was a completely unnecessary death and a major divergence from the book plot and characterization of Stannis. If you're making Cersei look like a good parent in comparison, you're probably doing something wrong.

Jax Teller - Sons of Anarchy

In the 2014 series finale of Sons of Anarchy, the lead character Jax Teller made his exit from the show in a controversial way—suicide. After spending much of the episode putting his affairs in order—in sometimes violent fashion—Jax's final scene shows him riding down a highway, with over a dozen police vehicles in pursuit. When a semi truck rounds the corner ahead of him, Jax decides to commit suicide by colliding with the truck.

This decision did not sit well with fans, many of whom had problems with the ending. The #RIPJax hashtag quickly racked up Tweets as fans discussed the finale. Some thought that the ending was unworthy of Jax, and that he deserved better. Others thought that Jax was a horrible person, and deserved a more painful death instead of a suicide. And many fans were unhappy with the "cheap" CGI used in the final shot of the series. There's no question that it will go down as one of the most-talked-about character deaths in TV history.

Dan Conner - Roseanne

In the final season of the long-running sitcom Roseanne, things take a turn for the weird. The blue-collar Conner family wins the Illinois Lottery, and the episodes that follow venture into strange variety-show fare: Roseanne goes on Jerry Springer, Dan has an affair, Roseanne dresses up like Lucy Lawless in Xena, and many more weird episodes. 

In the season finale, Roseanne shocked audiences with a rambling 15-minute-long monologue. In it, she reveals that it was all just a dream; Roseanne fictionalized her life to "fix" the parts she didn't like: Dan actually died after his heart attack at Darlene's wedding, Darlene actually married Mark and Becky married David, and many more changes. The crazy fantasies of season nine were just Roseanne attempting to cope with her loneliness following the death of her husband.

Many fans and critics weren't too happy with the bait-and-switch ending, especially with Dan's death or some of the other major revelations from the final episode. If that sounds like you, then the recent Roseanne revival news should make you happy—John Goodman is signed on for the project, and reportedly they are planning to ignore the events of the ninth season of Roseanne entirely.

Hodor - Game of Thrones

In a show that has proven over and over that literally no one is safe, you would think that fans would be used to their favorite characters getting killed off by now. But as the season six episode "The Door" proved, Game of Thrones viewers haven't learned their lesson about getting too attached. In this heartbreaking episode, a decades-old mystery is revealed when we learn the origin of Hodor's (Kristian Nairn) name, and watch him die at the hands of the Night King's wight army. 

In the scene, we see Bran immersed in a green dream of the past, a dream which includes Wyllis (Hodor) when he was still just a normal boy. As the Night King's forces close in, part of the action in real-life makes it through to Wyllis through Bran's dream—and he collapses in a seizure, presumably witnessing his heroic death in the future—leaving him broken and only able to say the word "Hodor" for the rest of his life.

Fan reaction to the episode was swift. Like Shireen Baratheon's death, this scene never appeared in George R.R. Martin's books—meaning fans of the show and the novels alike were united in their sadness and rage, especially at Bran for his complicity in the death. Even Bran's actor (Isaac Hempstead Wright) called him out for it. If sweet and innocent characters like Hodor and Shireen can't survive, then is saving the world of Westeros even something we want to root for?