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21 of the Most Jaw-Dropping, Couch-Screaming Television Moments of the Past 12 Months: A Seriously Spoileriffic List

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | March 27, 2014 | Comments ()


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*Warning: There be spoilers here! If you’re not completely caught up on the following series, you may want to stop right here and back the fork up: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife, Sherlock, Hannibal, Luther, Homeland, Mad Men, Top of the Lake, Rectify and Justified.

We love to be surprised, don’t we? Let’s face it, most series’ shockers, and plenty of the moments on this list, involve characters dying—maybe before their time or in surprising ways. There are characters we thought somehow immune, or for crying out loud, just children. When it comes down to it, knowing all men must die doesn’t mean anyone’s prepared. You’d think we’d learn… There are a few non-deadly trip-ups in here, just to throw a wrench in the works. Still, we screamed, didn’t we?

1. Lizzie Kills Mika, The Walking Dead

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We knew Lizzie was having difficulty coping with the whole zombie apocalypse thing; we suspected her of feeding the walkers rats, and worried for Judith. But we sure as hell didn’t see that sister murder coming.

2. Carol Kills Lizzie, The Walking Dead

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Carol and Tyrese had no choice though, this being television, who knew they’d come to such a quick decision—or that it would gut us as much as it did Carol.

3. Walt and Skyler Fight; Walt Takes Holly, Breaking Bad

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With all the crazy, illegal, murderous Breaking Bad goings-on, it was the Whites as parents going after each other that hurt like they were our own mother and father. I stepped right into Junior’s shoes and was completely broken when he had to protect Skye from Walt…then again when Walt took little Holly, leaving Skye sobbing in the street.

4. Hank Is Killed, Breaking Bad

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There were two Breaking Bad deaths that seemed like they just couldn’t be real, and by far this was the one that haunted me past the series end. After surviving One Minute, how could Hank be dead?

5. Frank Pushes Zoe to Her Death, House of Cards

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Uh, isn’t this a risky move for the Vice President who has Presidential aspirations?

6. Frank Is Sworn in as President of the United States, House of Cards

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Apparently not! One can’t help but admire how the man’s ever-so-well-planned machinations played out.

7. The Red Wedding, Game of Thrones

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It’s one thing to read about this kind of massacre, quite another to see it play out onscreen. And when it still shocks the crap out of anyone who watches? Well done.

8. Theon Loses His Junk, Game of Thrones

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It’s been flat-out skin-crawlingly, excruciating to watch Ramsay Snow torture Theon, but taking away his…sausage? That’s the worst.

9. Trey Removes ID and Gets Rid of George’s Body, Rectify

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George commits suicide, because he can’t live with…something, and when Trey finally comes upon his body, he takes George’s wallet and pushes the body into the creek. Uuh.

10. Daniel Is Brutally Beaten, Rectify

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Of all the moments on this list, the beating delivered to Daniel by Bobby Dean and his cowardly cohorts made me feel a soul-crushing devastation like nothing else. It still makes me flinch to even think about it.

11. Don Reveals His True Self to Clients, and His Children, Mad Men

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While it was certainly shocking to Don’s peers and clients when he opened up about his childhood during a pitch meeting, it was almost more so to see the man being truthful with his own children. Sad…and beautiful.

12. The Winged People, Hannibal

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Hannibal has become known for its beauty, in everything from cooking to the crime scenes. But by its fifth episode, we still weren’t prepared for the carnage coming at us; cripes, those wings! I still can’t look at them closely.

13. Hannibal and Jack Fight, Hannibal

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We might think we know how the story of Jack Crawford, Will Graham and Hannibal plays out, but Fuller enjoys the game as much as his titular character. Eventually the tables will turn; when and how we see that is not up to us. And we cannot wait to see how this fantastically acted and choreographed scene ends.

14. Jamie Falls to His Death, Top of the Lake

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In an act of selflessness, Jamie dons Tui’s coat to draw Matt and his men away from Tui, and while being chased, Jamie falls off the side of a cliff. Heart-breakingly horrifying…

15. Moriarty Kills Himself, Sherlock

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Their rooftop meeting after Moriarty sets up Sherlock’s fall climaxes in an impossible ultimatum—Sherlock must jump to his death to save his friends’ lives. Of course Moriarty has a fail-safe Sherlock tries to convince him to use, but Moriarty has a fail-safe for the fail-safe…a gun to his own head. Splat; we weren’t ready for that.

16. Maybe Not? Sherlock

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And…in (arguably) one of the best moments of the Series 3 finale, Moriarty announced his return. Is it a trick? Was his suicide the trick? Is Mycroft in on the whole thing? Heck, who cares; all I need to know is we’ll get at least a little bit more wicked Andrew Scott.

17. DS Ripley Dies, Luther

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This one came out of nowhere, and it hit us directly in the chest, just like that bullet. “He’s my mate. I love him.”

18. Brody Is Hanged, Homeland

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Knowing he has to go, and seeing him go in that slow, horrible way—two completely different things.

19. Danny Crowe Trips and Falls into His Dog’s Freshly Dug Grave, Stabs Himself in the Neck and Dies, Justified

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By far, the funniest and most appropriate death scene yet. While we were all sitting there waiting for the moment Raylan pulled his umpteenth quick-draw McGraw, Danny killed his own dumb ass. Bravo.

20. Boyd Throws Picker an Explosive Pack of Smokes; Picker Explodes, Justified

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Doubling down on a practiced scene, Boyd cunningly restaged the players and went right back to the moment he was about to have a last cigarette. Only he wasn’t the only one lighting up…and Picker went boom.

21. Will Is Shot, The Good Wife (I don’t even watch this one, but I was traumatized-adjacent)

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I’ll just let Dustin’s words do the talking.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Danny

    How is Moriarty shooting himself on this list? That episode was from 2 years ago.

  • Oopsie. Uh, Sherlock time is different than regular time?

  • More Andrew Scott is never a bad thing.

  • mairimba

    I think Tara getting stabbed in the back of the head with a carving fork should be added to this list. And then Juice shooting Eli.

  • Excellent call.

  • kirbyjay

    Something about Will....maybe because it is reality based where The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones is fantasy based but that was really a gut punch. Also, the grief on Kalinda and Diane's faces added to it tenfold. When I go to a funeral mass, I'm very composed until a family member or close friend loses it and then I'm a basket case. I can't stand to see such grief in another person.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    crazy question, when is the last time Raylan actually shot someone dead on Justified?

  • Zirza

    "taking away his…sausage? That’s the worst."

    Totally OT but the Dutch word for sausage is worst. So, yes. Yes it is.

  • Maddy

    I'm really not into Moriarty as a villain. I actually groaned at the end of series 3. Apparently death is meaningless in this series.

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I honestly don't think he's actually coming back. Duelling fake deaths at each other? Not even Motfiss is that ridiculous. I think it was a ploy by Mycroft *or* the new yet-to-be-introduced villain to keep Sherlock in the game.

  • Maddy

    Yeah in thinking about there's no way he's alive. I just never understood everyone losing their shit over Moriarty. He was just never a particularly interesting villain to me.

  • JustOP

    True that. I never really felt threatened by him, and I hated how he was portrayed sorta 'mad dog'. So many of his scenes were like 'you could totally kill me/capture me right now, BUT I HAVE CONVENIENTLY PLACED SNIPERS/HOSTAGES/W,E WHICH MEANS I'M COMPLETELY SAFE BOHOHOH'. Got pretty tiresome.

    They shouldn't bring him back, especially after how lacklustre they were in explaining Sherlocks 'death'.

  • Bananapanda

    Same! I thought he was a little too mopey and didn't seem all that terrifying.

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I liked him (Adam Scott is just fab), because he was the insane opposite to Sherlock. Consulting Criminal and all; but the *far* more terrifying villain was CAM because he wasn't about murder, he was about power and was so calculating about it all.
    The description of the Shark in the aquarium was so apt and I loved it.

  • I'd been waiting for The Walking Dead to get to an episode like "Grove". They managed to transfer one of the iconic scenes of the comic to the screen and kept the gutpunch feel of the comic's panels.

    Game of Thrones is a whole other gutpunch altogether. I'd read the books beforehand, so I knew what was coming. I was still floored by how brutal everything was. I especially enjoyed the snippet they kept from the novel concerning the desecration of Robb Stark's corpse.

  • DominaNefret

    I haven't actually finished season one of House of Cards; I'm on episode 10. But I have been assuming for awhile now that he is going to both end up as VP and throw Zoe off something and kill her. RIGHT ON BOTH COUNTS.

  • BWeaves

    I watched the original British House of Cards, so I knew the journalist was going to get killed by Urqhart. What was shocking in the American version was not that Underwood killed her, but that he killed her before I expected him to.

  • What's your feeling on watching them in reverse order. Should I bother?

  • BWeaves

    I don't think it matters whether you watch the American or British version first. The idea of the storyline is the same, but the actual plot points are different due to the differences in the way Parliament works vs. Congress. Also, the things that Urqhart does to bring down his foes are different from what Underwood does.

  • I watched them in reverse order. It doesn't take away from the stellar acting on the part of Ian Richardson. Pretty much expect the same story but with an emphasis on different human characteristics.

  • Thanks!

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I watched both as well; although I prefer the Kevin Spacey version, there is great merit to the UK original.

  • Jim

    McBride's mastery of her craft is breath-taking because she lives all the small bits and quiet moments. When Tyreese and Lizzy turn to walk inside, the look that goes across her face and eyes for just a split second is just gutting. For a second you see the Carol inside, the one that would prefer ANY life other than this one. If she doesn't get an Emmy for that episode alone, I believe I shall run amok.

  • HerringGull

    From the shows I've seen this list is great.
    Of the shows I haven't seen, I wasn't planning on watching them anyway.

  • Protoguy

    I wasn't too shocked by some of the these that I did see, but the Red Wedding was AMAZIZING at how it still made me jump up in my seat and get all goose-bumpy, even though I'd read all the books by that point.

    The Walking Dead/Lizzie scenes were definitely a shocker though.

  • Three_nineteen

    I was actually expecting Lizzie to kill either herself or Judith, so in that way it was a surprise.

  • John W

    RW is # 7 wow.

  • They're not in order of severity.

  • John W

    I only meant that, what a bloody tv landscape we live in where the RW can actually not be #1.

    (I think the Lizzie ep is more shocking.)

    BTW the reruns of Writers Room have been real good.

  • Glad you're enjoying!

  • DeltaJuliet

    When Walt took Holly and Skyler was in the street screaming, I almost threw up. Even looking at the stills now gives me goosebumps. I've had nightmares like that about my own children and it's just....terrifying.

  • Maddy

    I've never been so relieved about anything then when Walter gave Holly back.

  • Second that.
    The look on Walt Jr. face makes me a shudder to this day, like a bad memory of my own that I've had to repress.

  • ZizoAH

    I think I will never scream and gasp at the screen as much as I did with this week's episode of The Good Wife.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Moriarty talking about how life is boring and making that flat-line gesture with his hand is one of my favourite TV moments of the last several years. It's part of the rooftop scene.

  • cox

    the red wedding in the show had nothing on the book version. it came like third way in, not even in the vicinity of the climax of the story. come on, how can you be surprised if the series does something shocking in the 9th episode, for three years in a row? sure, you can be surprised by the extent of the carnage, by stabbing pregnant lady in the stomach, but at least you know something is coming. the book version really, truely, comes out of nowwhere. and it is told from Caitlin PoV, so you expect her at least, as a narrator, to survive. not to take you with her as she goes mad and to the very point when she dies. by far, the most unpleasant reading experience i ever had. it hurt more than all of these combined.

  • JustOP

    Agreed. I remember reading it thinking, 'it's a hundred pages in. it's a HUNDRED pages in. there's still 200-300 pages left. how can he do this? he can't carry this momentum for that long, it just can't happen.'

    Oh boy was I wrong. That book just keeps on going, people dying every 50 pages, fallout everywhere, awesome dialogue. Probably one of the best reading experiences I've ever had.

  • Maddy

    The book floored me. The show managed to be devastating for me to watch even though I knew it was coming. At least in the books they fought back. And would it really have been so hard to have Grey Wind take out a bunch of Freys? I liked that they made Catelyn the focus ... makes up somewhat for them sidelining her character so much. Michelle Fairley's face gives me nightmares. I hate Mr Filch!

  • cox

    agreed! grey wind going down in a blaze of glory was by far my favorite thing that they dropped. the red wedding in the book was more traumatic (for me), but at least it wasnt a thing the Starks were passive in.

  • Yup, and in the books, a woman takes an axe to the stomach so it's really not as far beyond the pale as people think (aside from the whole "recently impregnated Talisa" bit, which I will grant you does add a level of cringe to the whole procedure.)

  • Mrs. Julien

    We've been watching that season just now and I know what is coming and Mr. J doesn't so it's interesting watching the pieces fall into place.

  • MHJ

    It's weird that I don't feel bad for the horrible things that happens in GoT (Although I read the books, so maybe that's why)? The psychological games in Hannibal are worse D:

  • Blake

    The lack of Rick and Morty, Utopia and Misfits all of which had holy sh*t traumatizing moments (in almost every episode) of the three series is a bit maddening.

    *Also no Sherlock killing a guy? That forever changed my opinion of him and needs to be addressed in series 4.

  • TacoBellRey

    Yeah, Rick and Morty digging their own graves was pretty dark. Don't get me started on the Molester Jellybean.

  • Blake

    Yep, I'm surprised Morty is still able to function. Rick is right when he says "Don't think about".

    *You ruined it for the non-watchers but there is a spoiler warning.

  • TacoBellRey

    Sorry everybody! Wasn't thinking. Feel free to start throwing the tomatoes at me any time.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Just this past week has been brutal TV-wise, at least for the shows that I'm really into. If Community and/or Parks & Rec are downers tonight, I'm considering smashing my set.

  • Robert Matthews

    Lucky for your set that they're not on tonight, then.

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