By Tyler McCarthy
Published December 20, 2018
As we prepare to watch the ball drop on another year in TV, the sad truth is that some of our favorite on-screen characters won’t be making the journey into 2019 with the rest of us.
Like every year before it, TV series were forced to kill off key characters for one reason or another — whether it was succumbing to illness, murder or the plagues of a zombie outbreak. As we move toward a celebration of the past and hope for the new year, it’s important to take a moment to properly say goodbye to some of the characters we lost in 2018.
Below are the top five most shocking TV deaths of the year, in no particular order:
[SPOILER ALERT: This article will contain major spoilers for shows in 2018]
After production of the first two seasons of "Lethal Weapon" was marred by in-fighting between the two core cast members and allegedly unsafe working conditions on set, Clayne Crawford’s Martin Riggs was killed off in the premiere of Season 3, allowing Seann William Scott to take over as the other half of the series. Fans learned in the opening scene that the gunshot wound Riggs suffered in the Season 2 finale was, indeed, fatal. Season 3 kicked off with a frantic hospital sequence that ultimately ends with doctors telling Murtaugh that his partner died.
After teasing that a significant character and member of the family will die in the latest season, fans were speculating left and right who would it be. While the loss of a regular cast member may have been a little too dark for the beloved family sitcom, it managed to pull off something emotional with the loss of Jay Pritchett’s ex-wife, DeDe, played by Shelley Long. During the Halloween episode of Season 10 it’s revealed that she died peacefully in her sleep. While she was not a favorite member of the family, it allowed the show to explore the grieving process through the eyes of each character.
ABC’s revival of “Roseanne” had a lot of promise, but was ultimately shut down when the network severed ties with the title star after she directed a racist tweet at former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. Still, the series was far too popular to just let go of the beloved family from Lanford and, thus, “The Conners” was born. The first thing the show had to do was explain why Roseanne Barr’s character wasn’t around anymore, and it opted for a death. It was revealed early on in episode one that the character’s pre-existing opioid addiction killed her in her sleep. Fortunately, the rest of the family is able to go on without her.
For a show that’s willing to kill main characters at the drop of a hat, most fans agree that the loss of Carl Grimes, a Season 1 alum, felt different. Not only was he on the younger side of the casualty list for “The Walking Dead,” but he was just coming into his own as a man in the battle against Negan. Unfortunately, Carl’s propensity to help others ended up being his undoing. When a new survivor wandered into our hero’s territory, Carl got bit by a walker trying to help him to get to the safe zone. While most characters would have sung their swan song then, Carl kept on his feet long enough to lead the community full of adults to safety once Negan came-a-knocking. The show has taken a time jump since Carl’s death, but it hit the world hard and will go down in history as a pivotal point in the show’s larger narrative.
Another series that had to do some quick-thinking in order to explain the loss of its principal star was “House of Cards,” which opened its last season with Frank Underwood dead and buried — actor Kevin Spacey was ousted suddenly over allegations of sexual misconduct. However, the mystery of what happened remained until the finale, when it’s revealed that his trusty fixer Doug Stamper intentionally gave him too much of his liver medication in an attempt to protect Frank's legacy from himself. It may have seemed a bit too open-and-shut, but the series pulled off the big reveal in the eleventh hour before the credits rolled on Frank and Claire Underwood’s presidencies for the last time.