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8 Of The Most Violent Episodes To Ever Air On TV

Why are human beings fascinated by depictions of violence? Perhaps it allows us to experience the darkest, most extreme moments of humanity from a safe distance. Or perhaps we just like the blood and guts. Whatever the reason, if you’re in the mood for something dark, please peruse these episodes of television with stunningly sick portrayals of graphic violence. But be warned — there are both depictions of disturbing materials and some light spoilers ahead. I’ll let you decide which is worse.

 

“Home”, The X-Files

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In a television series like The X-Files, so full of boogeymen and horror, how do you stand out when it comes to sheer disturbing gruesomeness? By starting with the rotted corpse of a baby (a baby!) and ramp up in intensity from there. Originally airing in 1996, “Home” is simultaneously revered and reviled by X-Files fans and creators alike. It features incest, a matriarch without any limbs, and a group of inbred, deformed brothers (the ironically named Peacocks) who resort to violence when their way of life is threatened. This episode was so shocking, it was never aired again on Fox until 1999, promoted as a “banned episode” for a Halloween special.

 

“Coquilles”, Hannibal

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Gone too soon but not forgotten, Hannibal made a gourmet meal out of horrible violence, with intricately crafted grotesqueries that provoked wonder and even beauty in spite of (perhaps because of?) their brutality. “Coquilles” took this aesthetic to its logical extreme, featuring images of “angels” made by skinning the backs of humans and displaying the flesh as “wings”. No, Bryan Fuller’s camera does not sensitively cut away; we see every bit of viscera on these victims. This kind of stuff would be insane on an HBO show; the fact that it aired on a primetime network television NBC drama is downright ludicrous.

 

“Treehouse Of Horror V”, The Simpsons

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For this Simpsons Halloween episode, the writers made the deliberate decision to add in as much graphic violence as possible, and boy howdy does it show. From Groundskeeper Willie getting axed in every story, to children being ground up and eaten by adults, to an ending musical number performed by the Simpsons who have suddenly turned inside out, this episode aims to provoke and succeeds. Perhaps we should’ve listened to Marge in the opening sequence, when she warned the episode was too gory to even show.

 

“JSS”, The Walking Dead

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Calling The Walking Dead a violent show is like calling a chocolate milkshake yummy — of course it is, what did you expect? For my money, “JSS” stands above the pack because its violence and brutality features no zomb– sorry, walkers. Instead, the acts of terror are perpetrated by humans against each other, adding to the time-honored zombie narrative tradition that humans are the true monster. The group of murderous folks in this episode, known as the Wolves, are truly unrepentant, with all kinds of horribly specific methods of murder explored. The episode title letters stand for “just survive somehow”. The question is, at what cost?

 

“The Rains of Castamere”, Game of Thrones

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I’d like to think that somewhere, a happy couple ready to take the plunge into marriage was going to innocently call their ceremony a “Red Wedding”. Perhaps it was as part of a theme — the groomsmen and bridesmaids would all wear red, there would be red tablecloths at the reception, there would be Hawaiian Punch instead of champagne. Then, this episode of Game of Thrones aired, and they had to hastily change a bunch of banners to say “Read Wedding” and throw a bunch of books around to justify the change. Anyway, this episode features a character stabbing a pregnant woman directly in the stomach, earning it a horrifying spot on this list.

 

“Be Still My Heart”, ER

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Much of the blood and guts in ER is of a medical, clinical nature, meaning it’s a little more palatable than many of the deliberate acts of violence portrayed on this list. However, the season six episode “Be Still My Heart” decided it wanted to play rough, ending with the brutally graphic stabbing of two main cast members by a schizophrenic patient — all during the middle of a Valentine’s Day party. Would they have pulled this kind of stunt while the Cloon-dog was still a cast member? Doubtful.

 

“The Getaway”, Dexter

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Fortunately, the pool of blood Dexter’s baby is sitting in does not belong to the baby. Unfortunately, it belongs to Rita, Dexter’s wife, who is lying in a bathtub of her own blood. This moment of severe familicide is thanks to the Trinity Killer, the big bad of season four, whom Dexter dispatched earlier in what was supposed to be a gruesomely cathartic moment of release. For a show founded on death, murder, and mayhem, this episode stands out to me not just because of the gore, but the emotional violence weighed on Dexter, and the notion that the Trinity Killer had the last macabre laugh, even after death.

 

“The Thing In The Pit”, Spartacus: Blood and Sand

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For a show that has “blood” in the dang title, you’ve got to go really far to shock. And “The Thing In The Pit” goes far, all right. So far, in fact, that where it lands isn’t even on most maps. A dishonored Spartacus finds himself in the Pits, fighting brutally for sheer survival. The fight scenes in Spartacus are always spectacularly gory, yet this episode goes the extra mile by featuring an enemy who wears the skinned faces of fallen opponents as a mask. How do we learn this information? Oh, by seeing the enemy kill someone, skin their face, and wear it as a mask. Maybe next episode we give “sand” a chance? Seems a lot more peaceful.

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