In Memoriam: The 10 Most Traumatic Television Character Deaths of 2012
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In Memoriam: The 10 Most Traumatic Television Character Deaths of 2012

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | December 10, 2012 | Comments ()


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If you thought last year was a tough year for character deaths, with the passing of Ned Starks, Gus Fring, and Jimmy Darmody, not to mention Lil' Sebastian, 2012 actually managed to up the stakes when it comes to traumatic character deaths. There's been a lot of talk this year about how cable television has become increasingly violent (and some naysayers are whining about it), but within that violence, some of television's most beloved characters have met their demise. It's been more than just minor characters, too: Shows are gutting major players in order to better gut their audiences.

Below, we rank the 10 Most Traumatic Character Deaths of 2012. There are spoilers, obviously, so if you haven't caught up on any of the following shows and expect to at some point, you might be wise to skeedaddle: "Dexter," "The Walking Dead," "Sons of Anarchy," "Boardwalk Empire," Game of Thrones," "Community," "Mad Men," and "Breaking Bad."

Seriously. LOTS of spoilers herein. This post should be reserved only for television enthusiasts who are also caught up on the above programs.


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The Walking Dead, Shane Walsh -- It didn't come as too huge a shock, as the last half of the second season of The Walking Dead seemed to be working its way toward a showdown between Rick and Shane, and Rick is obviously positioned as the lead character in the show, so we'd expected that he'd come out on top. The circumstances surrounding his death, the involvement of Carl, and what we learned about the infection from Shane's death, however, lent considerably to the heavy second-season finale, which would ultimately lead to one hell of a powerful third season.

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Community, Star Burns -- Maybe I'm behind, but I didn't realize until today how heavily involved in Community the man who played Star Burns -- Dino Stamatopoulos -- was. He co-wrote Abed's Christmas episode, and was a writer and consulting producer on Community (although, he departs along with Dan Harmon). Hell, the guy has an Emmy for his writing work on "Mr. Show." Anyway, it was unsettling, to say the least, to discover that Star Burns had died in a meth lab explosion on a sitcom, and while it was later discovered that Burns is still alive, his supposed death can still be considered sufficiently traumatic.


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Dexter, Isaac Sirko -- The biggest problem with the death of Issac Sirko (played nimbly by Ray Stevenson) was that it came to early. Sirko is the best character that Dexter has had since The Trinity Killer, and he deserved a better death than the anti-climactic one that wrapped up what was essentially a nearly season-long dead-end plotline to divert our attention away from the less compelling, major story of the season: The love triangle between Dexter, Debra, and Hannah.


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The Walking Dead, Lori Grimes -- No. Lori was not a fan favorite on The Walking Dead. In fact, viewers had been begging for her to be killed off since the debut season. But still, in her late pregnancy, and in the way she sacrificed herself for the life of her child, Lori redeemed herself enough to make her death a devastating one.

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Breaking Bad, Drew Sharp-- I don't think we ever learned the name of the poor kid on a bicycle that Todd shot and killed after a successful heist, but DAMN that was cold, made all the more grave by the opening of the subsequent episode in which the poor kid's body was disposed of. If there was any doubt about the pure evil of Walter White, how he handled the death of the kid dispelled it.

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Game of Thrones, Ser Rodrik Cassel -- The death of Serk Rodrik at the hands of Theon was not just unnecessary, it was mean, and all the more painful to watch because of the way that Theon botched the beheading. Ser Rodrik was a good man, a mentor, and ultimately, a casualty of Theon's misplaced pride.

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Mad Men, Lane Pryce -- We might have expected the death of the Sterling Cooper's fastidious accountant within the episode -- after all, he'd already failed at one suicide attempt -- but no would have ever seen it coming just an episode prior. The suicide by hanging added a somber and heart-sad note to an already heavy season of "Mad Men."

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Boardwalk Empire, Owen Sleater -- For my money, this was the most surprising death of 2012, although those with a better sense of Prohibition-era history probably saw it coming. Nucky Thompson opened a box to find his right-hand man's dead body inside, and the gut punch was only compounded by the heartache of Owen's mistress, Margaret, whose sobs spoke for many of us who had grown inordinately fond of Owen despite his limited screen time.

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Sons of Anarchy, Opie Winston -- Before season five of Sons of Anarchy flew off the rails, jumped the shark, tracked back around and swallowed it, many of us SoA fans were simply despondent that Opie had quit SAMCRO and no longer had a seat at the table. He was the show's fan favorite, a guy who had suffered for four seasons, and who had sacrificed so much, so it was doubly painful to see him have to sacrifice his life -- brutally -- for the good of a club that no longer deserved a man as good as Opie.

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Breaking Bad, Mike Ehrmentraut -- On the scale of shock and awe, it wasn't quite on the scale of Gus Fring's death at the end of season four of Breaking Bad, but Mike Ehrmentraut -- bodyguard, hit man, voice of reason -- had grown into not just someone we liked, but maybe the most likable character on Breaking Bad. The needlessness of his death, moreover, removed the last bit of sympathy anyone might have had for Walter White, completing the transformation from anti-hero to a pure, spiteful evil f**king villain.

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