(Spoiler alert: Naturally, there will be major spoilers for several shows, discussing characters and plot lines in great detail. Please do not read on if you don’t want to accidentally spoil yourself for a show you were saving to binge later.)
As if 2017 wasn’t already a dumpster fire and the darkest timeline yet, politically speaking, TV also gave us some gut punches and killed off some major characters.
Not every death was something to mourn, of course. Some were a long time coming, others a shock to the system, some changed the entirety of a show, others brought the series to a fitting end.
Below are some of the biggest TV character deaths of 2017.
Hannah Baker, 13 Reasons Why
The suicide that spawned a thousand think pieces, you’d be hard pressed to find a death more talked-about in 2017. Hannah Baker’s death is the sole reason 13 Reasons Why exists, as the high school student left behind a dozen tapes for all the people she deemed responsible for her death and we spent 13 episodes piecing together all the circumstances that led to her taking her own life. A second season has been ordered for the buzzy drama, so there’s even more examining of Hannah Baker’s death to come in 2018.
Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead
After eight seasons, the Robert Kirkman comic book adaptation may have just made its biggest kill yet. Technically we won’t watch him die until the midseason premiere in 2018, but Carl Grimes’ fatal zombie bite leaves Andrew Lincoln’s Rick the very last surviving member of the original cast from the pilot. Carl is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character, but no one could have predicted he would be killed off, especially since he has been groomed to be the leader of Rick’s group for years and is, indeed, the leader in the comic books. This out-of-left-field death leaves the comic fans of The Walking Dead in the dark about future TV storylines as everybody else.
Littlfinger, Game of Thrones
There’s a lot of big deaths on Game of Thrones pretty much constantly, and Olenna Tyrell’s “Tell Cersei” is another really good one, but it’s hard to top the seasons-in-the-making takedown of Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. It’s been a frustrating season watching the shrewd politician manipulate Sansa and Arya Stark against each other, so it could not have been more satisfying to watch the sisters, now grown up and fearsome leaders in their own right, team up to turn the tables around him him using their own unique set of skills.
Bob Newby, Stranger Things
Justice for Bob! While the internet lost its mind for a cameo-sized character’s death last season, this Season 2 death, of Joyce’s kind-hearted farmer boyfriend, actually stings. It’s fitting, then, that after Bob heroically sacrifices himself and saves the lives of several of our main characters from the Upside Down, he is enshrined forever as a superhero by Will and his friends.
Peter Quinn, Homeland
Quinn has been a steadfast presence at Carrie’s side for so long, it’s hard to imagine the show without the dedicated CIA agent. But he went out in a fitting way, dying in a blaze of heroic glory, saving Carrie and the president-elect. Sure, she turned out to be pretty corrupt and is shaping up to be Season 7’s big bad, so you might say he died for nothing, but hey, welcome to 2017 America.
Donna Gable, Kevin Can Wait
Who knew a plot line on an episodic CBS sitcom could cause so much controversy? But eyebrows and questions were definitely raised when the Kevin James sitcom announced his longtime King of Queens co-star Leah Remini would be joining the show in Season 2, ostensibly replacing the show’s original leading lady. And poor Donna, wife to James’ character Kevin, wasn’t just going to be sidelined – she would be killed off. Not only that, she would be killed off offscreen, in the hiatus between Seasons 1 and 2. To add even more insult to injury, Erinn Hayes, the actress who played Donna, was not consulted at all in regards to how her character would be killed off. Hot mess all around.
William Hill, This Is Us
On a show that specializes in tearjerking moments, none came close to the death of William Hill, the terminally ill poet and former junkie birth father of Randall Pearson. As father and son got to know each other over the course of Season 1, William requested a roadtrip with his son to Memphis, where he grew up. Only then did William make the heartbreaking reveal to Randall that he’s so close to dying he would not make it back to Randall’s house in Philadelphia – he wanted one last chance to spend time with his son and die in Memphis. Excuse me, off to cry some more.
Rayna James, Nashville
It’s always a shock when a show kills off one of its leading characters, but it’s an even rarer instance when they kill off the first-billed, A-list actress fronting the show. Connie Britton, who played country star Rayna James from its ABC beginnings to its CMT resurrection, apparently was the one who requested being freed from the show, but it still doesn’t take the shock off Rayna getting into a catastrophic car accident and later dying from her injuries. And that the
Stefan Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries
Fans were expecting a big death in the series finale of the CW vampire drama, once upon a time about two brothers who both loved the same girl. By the end, the girl, Elena, had chosen, and Stefan, the “good” brother, bit the dust, after a series finale full of twists and fake-outs over which Salvatore would be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Frank Randall, Outlander
Poor Frank, he never really had a chance. Though he was originally married to Claire, she was destined to travel back through time to the 18th Century and fall in love with Scottish sex symbol Jamie Fraser, ultimately choosing her new life and new love over her old one. Though Claire returned to Frank – out of necessity – it was clear by Season 3 that their relationship would never be the same, and ultimately Frank was put out of his misery in death. So, too, was his doppelganger of an ancestor, the sadistic villain Black Jack Randall, who tortured Jamie relentlessly in the 1700s. Thus Outlander said goodbye to the third leg of its wobbly triangle and Jamie and Claire sailed off for a new life on new shores, free of old baggage.
Which TV death in 2017 shook you up the most?
Linda Ge | TV Editor