10 Devastating TV Show Moments That Came Out Of Nowhere

Who doesn’t love a good heart-wrenching twist? Sure, we tell ourselves that we want to be happy, that we want to be optimistic and view the world as a place full of cream teas and roses and baby’s first smiles. But in reality, we want to be crushed. If it wasn’t the case, shows like Game of Thrones wouldn’t be among the most viewed of all time, and instead the annual Emmys would be swept up by the Teletubbies year on year.

But they’re not. Because nice things are nice, but they’re also boring. Some of the greatest television moments are the gut punches that hammer home the stakes. The moments that make you cry, or furious with rage at the injustice of it all. Sometimes they can be shocking, sometimes they can be brutal, sometimes they can just be heartbreakingly sad. In all cases, they stick with you.

And television, rather than movies, is where these moments really stand out. We spend comparatively so much longer in these fictional TV worlds than movies that a sudden calamitous turn can hit so much harder than in any other medium.

Grab a handful of tissues and a family sized bucket of ice-cream, it’s time to visit the most devastating moments TV has to offer.

10. Big Bird Finds Out Mr Hooper Is Dead – Sesame Street


When considering devastating TV moments Sesame Street is unlikely to be the first show to come bounding into one’s mind. However, one episode in the shows hugely influential run stands out as significantly more serious and mature than any other. Will Lee (Mr Hooper) died on December 7th 1982, and rather than recast the role, or say that Mr. Hooper had retired or moved away, the producers decided to teach their young audience about the difficult topic of death.

In episode No. 1839, Big Bird (and the audience) learns that his friend Mr. Hooper has died. The episode goes to great lengths to show exactly what death means, and healthy ways of understanding and dealing with the loss. The showrunners make the incredibly ambitious decision of showing the characters grief and the reality of the sadness when a beloved friend passes on. It didn’t shield kids from the realities of the world, but taught them to remember the positive contributions a person made after they’re dead. The stark honesty and simplicity of the episode is surprisingly touching, particularly when Big Bird discusses how it feels to continue without Mr. Hooper:

‘We can remember him and remember him and remember him as much as we want too… But I don’t like it. It makes me sad’.

This is a show for preschoolers remember, and it’s doubly devastating when you consider that this is a real death that occured, not only character in the show.

9. Tara Dies – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Mutant Enemy Productions

Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s success was equal parts down to its excellent casting and masterfully crafted tone by Joss Whedon. It found a balance between humour, heart, and horror that captured the teen world of the late 90s and has remained a treasured, nostalgia-fuelled favourite ever since. This tonal balance not only allowed for great action and comedy, but also occasion moments of tragedy. Joyce’s death in Season 5 is one such occasion, but even more devastating was Tara’s death the following season.

Tara was a fan favourite and one half of the first recurring depiction of a lesbian couple on a primetime network in the United States alongside Alyson Hannigan’s Willow. Evolving from a shy and reserved young woman to the moral centre of the Scooby Gang, Tara met her end at the hands of Warren Mears, who shot her through the heart while trying to assassinate Buffy.

Not only was the death sudden and unexpected, but it was directly responsible for another devastating turn, as the grief unleashed Willow’s dark alter ego, and she went on to be the ‘big bad’ of Season 6.

The fan response was unlike anything Whedon could have expected however, with the production team being inundated with letters, some of which were so distressing writer and producer Marti Nixon was unable to read them. The fan response is a testament to how affecting television characters can grow to be, and the real world power their deaths hold over viewers.

8. Fry’s Goodbye – Futurama


Bet you expected Seymour to be on this list, right? Well, that’s fair. Jurassic Bark is easily the saddest moment in the entire of Futurama, but it’s reached such fame now that people forget a little too quickly a few other devastatingly honest moments in Futurama where the reality of what Fry left behind in the past hits home.

One such moment occurs in the final few moments of Game of Tones, an episode revolving around Fry travelling back through his dreams to the final day of the 20th century. Throughout the episode, Fry makes a few attempts to tell his mum things he wished he could have said before never seeing her again, but realises he is only talking to her in his own dream, so it all comes to nothing.

At the end, with some help from Nibbler, Fry manages to break through to his mum’s own dream back in the 21st century, and say goodbye. It hits home the truth that this is a mother who lost her son forever. To her, Fry is as good as dead. We learn what Fry lost; a mother who loved him, and who lost her youngest son.Alongside Jurassic Bark and the similarly excellent Luck of the Fryish, Game of Tones is among the most touching episodes in the show’s seven season run.

7. Frank Kills Zoe – House Of Cards


In a better time before we knew Kevin Spacey was just another in a long line of Hollywood perverts, House of Cards was running strong as among the best shows on Netflix. The opening to Season 2 of the show cemented that reputation after a stellar first season, with the most dramatic moment coming when Frank murders Zoe.

Until this point, Zoe had been a main character, the typical snoopy reporter drawing uncomfortably close to the truth. Frank seemed to have just resolved the issue by agreeing with Zoe to wipe the slate and have a ‘fresh start’.

However, as she continues to inquire about Russo’s death, Frank recognises the need for her death, and lures her into running after him, before giving her a death by train. It’s devastatingly sudden and intense, and a poignant reminder that as charismatic Frank is, our protagonist is an inexcusable dick. It’s House of Cards at his finest, and even when you know the murder is coming it still cuts deep.

6. Rick And Morty – Rick’s Suicide Attempt

Adult Swim

Rick and Morty isn’t a show particularly known for its emotional complexity. ”Wabalubadubdub!” etc. etc. But in truth it has demonstrated on numerous occasions across its run that it can deliver a powerful emotional punch when the moment calls for it.

Morty burying his own (alternate universe) corpse in the first season and Rick sacrificing himself to save Morty in the time fracturing premiere to season 2 are stand out moments, but the real kicker is Rick’s attempted suicide in the episode Auto Erotic Assimilation.

After a weekend long drug binge, Rick’s repeated insistence that he doesn’t need his family, and being dumped by Unity, Rick retreats into his garage and attempts to commit suicide, just pulling his head out of the way of the laser beam at the final moment.

Undoubtedly tragic as suicide always is, it is particularly devastating to the viewer to see Rick in such a desperate state of being.

We normally see in Rick in positions of power. With his genius intellect he’s almost a god. Seeing him vulnerable to the point of suicide is his lowest point in the show, and easily its most devastating moment thrown completely out of the blue.

5. Jane’s Death And The Resulting Fallout – Breaking Bad


In a show as revolutionary as Breaking Bad there’s bound to be a fair few moments that knock the fanbase off their feet. Although the hype never really bubbled over to world breaking until the fifth season, the show is a paragon of television and storytelling from episode one. Hanks’ death, Walt killing Mike0 and, Gus’ death are all contenders, but the number one spot goes to Jane’s overdose and the resulting fallout that resulted in a plane collision.

The hard hitting side to Jane’s death is how it marked a poignant step in Walt’s path to outright villain. In electing not to save her after flipping her onto her back while trying to wake Jesse, Walt as good as murders her. It’s so heavy because the act is arguably the worst thing Walt has done up until this point, and also makes him third-handedly responsible for the plane crash that takes place over Albuquerque in the following episode. That moment in particular stirred up some criticism for stretching the bounds of realism a little too far, but also sent a powerful message about the incredible repercussions of Walt’s descent from family man to drug kingpin.

And, above all else, it was about as intense as TV gets.

4. Nina Is A Chimera – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood


Every now and then there is an artistic triumph so good it transcends its medium. You don’t need to love superhero movies to enjoy The Dark Knight, you don’t need to enjoy jazz to love Kind Of Blue, and even the most hardcore of anime haters would be hard pushed to find fault in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Its strength lies in its characters. Not only the Elric brothers but everyone. Case and point: Nina Tucker, a playful 5-year-old girl who appears in episode four. If you’ve seen it you’re probably feeling that gut-wrenching feeling the episode delivers already.

After the Elric brothers spend the first half of the episode hanging out with Nina and her pet dog Alexander, they return to her father’s house to discover a talking ‘chimera’ the state alchemist created. In one of the most haunting sequences in the show, Ed discovers that the beast is the result of a twisted experiment that combined Nina and Alexander into the chimera, mutilating them both to create the hybrid.

It’s one of those rare moments that once seen is never forgotten. Nina is eventually killed in an act of mercy by Scar to end her suffering, who also murdered her father for his crimes. Tragic and gripping like no other moment in the show, Nina is an early example in Brotherhood that shows just what a high ambition and powerful TV it really is.

3. Beth’s Death – The Walking Dead


Alongside Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is a show famous for unceremoniously smoking characters left and right when it feels like it. Unlike Game of Thrones however, it often gets called out for ‘unexpected’ moments being the result of lazy writing or an attempt to throw in some cheap shock value. While that admittedly may be the case, the sudden, unceremonious exit of some characters can still be devastating turn leaving you wondering what the f*ck just happened.

The most strident example comes in the excellent season 5, with the death of Beth. The reason why it’s so unexpected and devastating is that the whole Beth at the hospital arc had been built up across first half of the season. Rather than a big pay off, Beth goes out in a matter of seconds, after taking a swipe at Dawn with a pair of scissors Dawn puts a bullet through her head and it’s over.

It was also devastating in a whole different way for all the fans who the show spoiled the death for on Facebook straight afterwards. Thanks AMC, you’re not forgiven.

2. Marshall’s Dad Dies – How I Met Your Mother


One of the most famous moments in How I Met Your Mother’s run, this reveal comes at the very end of the episode ‘Bad News’. Throughout the episode a big deal is made around Marshall and Lily’s attempts to conceive a baby, and in the closing moments, Lily tells Marshall she has some news. Understandably, we expect it to be relating to the baby, but instead, she tells him that his father has suffered a heart attack and died.

The episode is famous for its ‘countdown’ sequence, with numbers appearing throughout the episode counting down to the tragic moment, and it’s pulled off fantastically by Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. Most cutting is Marshall’s line when he hears the news:

“My Dad’s dead? I’m not ready for this.”

Anyone who’s suffered a loss in the immediate family will recognise the feeling of helplessness when facing the news. It’s an intensely powerful moment that rises above the show itself, and proof that HIMYM has the capacity to be a great deal more than the middling sitcom some people write it off as.

1. The Red Wedding – Game Of Thrones


Obviously, it’s the Red Wedding.

More so than any other sequence in Game of Thrones, from Oberyn to Eddard to Joffrey to Hodor, The Red Wedding exemplifies everything GoT stands for when it comes to sudden, brutal devastation.

Eddard Stark’s execution was the first time we were exposed to the episode 9 curse, but at that point the show was still in its early days, and there was a long drawn out execution scene to brace us for the fact. Plus, with it being Sean Bean and all, we might have guessed his character was not long for the world. The Red Wedding is that times fifty. Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Talisa Stark and her unborn child, along with countless Stark men and even Grey Wind, Robb’s direwolf.

The moment’s impact propelled Game of Thrones to the biggest show in the world and remains to this day its most avidly discussed scene. It is the moment all other shocking or tragic turns in both TV and film are measured against, and the clearest example of how the most devastating moments are also the most remembered and, if not exactly ‘loved’, most important moments to the shows viewers.






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