Most Memorable Character Sendoffs in TV History
Whenever a favorite character’s journey comes to an end, fans often struggle to wrap their heads around it. The characters and their storylines come into our homes and touch our hearts. Fans fall for them and become connected.
But whether fans are ready to say goodbye or are still shell-shocked by the characters’ departures, there have been some amazing character sendoffs in TV history — like the examples that follow. As you proceed, be aware that there are some spoilers in the content ahead.
Grey’s Anatomy — Christina Yang
There’s nothing like some diehard Grey’s Anatomy fans. So, when those fans learned of the inevitable departure of a fan favorite, everyone waited with bated breath to see how Shonda Rhimes would write the frontrunner’s best friend, Christina Yang, off the show.
The sendoff was in typical Christina Yang fashion. She was chasing bigger and better things for her career and left Meredith with strong, empowering advice. Fans were sad to see her go, leaving an empty space in the dynamic dancing duo. But, fans were also more than happy that Shonda didn’t kill her off — like some of their other favorites.
Grey’s Anatomy — Lexie and Mark
Very few diehard Grey’s Anatomy fans can forget the plane crash episodes. They were surprising, shocking and heartbreaking. As the new season started and flashed back to each character, detailing what happened during the crash, we learned early on that Lexie wasn’t making it.
However, with that devastating loss, we heard Mark’s heartfelt profession of undying love for her. It was the duo we always wanted to see work things out, and it finally happened as Lexie left forever. But later, Mark’s injuries became too much to bear, too. The remaining cast sat in the hallway of the hospital as Mark was taken off life support.
The Walking Dead — Glenn
As we savored the sixth season of The Walking Dead, we were left with a major cliffhanger. Negan had all our favorite characters, and one of them would be dying. There was so much building up to the seventh season’s premiere that fans were blindsided when not just one, but two fan favorites died.
Once Negan took his bat to Abraham, fans took a deep breath and thought that was it. Everyone else was saved. But, then Negan truly punished the group, and all of us, when he went for the jugular and took out Glenn — one of everyone’s favorite characters on the show.
The Vampire Diaries — Stefan
It’s no surprise that the end of The Vampire Diaries series culminated in a death; after all, the show focused on so many dramatic near-death adventures. But, most fans were shocked by Stefan’s death nonetheless.
We all watched Stefan’s struggle between his good soul and his evil desires as a vampire throughout the entirety of the show. So, it should’ve come as no surprise that Stefan’s end in the series would be as a savior for humanity. His ending, while tragic, served the perfect purpose. He was our unusual Prince Charming that put his eternal life on the line to save others.
The Originals — Klaus and Elijah
Fans first met Klaus and Elijah as evil original vampires in The Vampire Diaries. As fans grew to follow their storyline, and as they received their own spinoff, we got to peel back the layers of each of those once-hated characters.
Elijah showed us his softer side with his unending love for and devotion to those he cared for. Klaus showed us he didn’t have a heart of stone when it came to protecting his daughter. As the series came to a close and we found out Klaus had to die to save all those he loved and protected, it seemed fitting that Elijah died with him.
The Originals — Hayley
Shortly before The Originals came to a close, fans had their hearts broken with the loss of Hayley. Her fierce strength and protection over her daughter and the family that she found were some of the many reasons fans fell in love with her.
It was probably the most tragic thing of all that the love of her life couldn’t save her when he needed her most. We watched as Hayley sacrificed herself so she could destroy the evil after her daughter. She proved to all fans that she would do anything for the ones she loved, even to the bitter end.
Lost — Charlie
The goofy, struggling musician lost on an island was forced to go through a major detox. Who would’ve thought this would’ve become one of the fans’ most beloved characters? Charlie won our hearts as he became an integral part of the story.
But Charlie also struggled to prove his worth. So, when he volunteered to seek out more answers to the group’s never-ending quest to be found, fans knew this was an appropriate character arc for Charlie. With Charlie’s dying breath, he revealed not only an answer but also more questions regarding where they were and whether they would ever be found.
Lost — All Characters
Fans of the show Lost spent the entirety of the series trying to figure out what happened. They learned early on that it wasn’t a simple plane accident that left the characters stranded.
As more surprises and new plotlines emerged, fans were desperate to have some answers at the end of the series. But, as everyone watched the final storyline unfold, they were left with even more questions. Did the characters go into an alternate universe? Did they all die in the crash? Was this heaven and Jack finally came to terms with his death? Fans may never know.
Breaking Bad — Walter White
The riveting, suspenseful Breaking Bad turned a geeky science teacher and a messed-up kid into drug-dealing partners. It was a combo that no one, other than the show's creator, could have imagined. As tensions and the stakes continued to rise, the show came to a total breaking point (pun intended).
Walter White saved Jesse, took out the gang that was holding Jesse hostage and lay on the floor dying. The show ended with ambiguity over whether Walter White actually died or was saved and detained. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch El Camino to get the story on Walter White’s situation.
Parenthood — Zeek
The 2010 version of Parenthood featured a loving cast with normal, and at times crazy, family drama. Each character brought fans closer to the family as if they were true friends. And every episode welcomed fans into the Braverman home.
The bond that held the family together was between Zeek and Camille Braverman, the patriarch and matriarch of the family. They broke up fights and renewed promises. Their love for each other and their love for the family gave viewers hope for humanity. Near the series' end, fans lost Zeek but saw the family unite in their grief and mutual support.
This Is Us — Jack
The tears are sitting just behind our eyes. Fans can still feel the pain of the smoldering Super Bowl fire. This unbelievably good family drama has given us twists and turns in its character development but has also been so very real while rawly presenting American family life. Fans found out early on that the beloved character, Jack, dies.
As we watched, literally after the Super Bowl, the Pearson family awoke to a fire after their own football celebration. We knew Jack’s time was nearing an end. Even still, his death was devastating. Thankfully, we didn’t say a total goodbye to this character — he still appears in the show’s flashbacks
Orange Is the New Black — Poussey Washington
Following the dramatics of a women’s correctional facility was a new and exciting show for fans to get on board with. It opened up eyes and warmed hearts to populations of people who are often brushed aside. The storyline provided drama and humor to those living on the inside.
Fans quickly fell for Poussey, a woman trying hard to be as strong as her military father while still discovering new things about herself. Poussey had a strong will and an even bigger heart. So, when she jumped in to try and help out a fellow inmate and friend, it was even more devastating to watch her go.
Once Upon a Time — Regina
Once Upon a Time managed to make a show for adults using childhood fairytales. It created a renewed spirit in our kidlike imaginations, making us believe that Prince Charming could be real. We learned that good always wins and evil, while hard to overcome, is always defeated.
Regina was the show’s evil queen who seemed impossible to defeat. As the show went through its remaining seasons, more of Regina’s character was revealed. We learned that Regina just needed love and support, and she finally did get her happy ending. All her friends and family supported, loved and trusted her to lead them.
How I Met Your Mother — Ted and Robin
This ending is up for debate. Fans of the show are very divided when it comes to how the characters signed off. As Ted revealed a little more each episode about how he met his children’s mother, it wasn’t until the last season that we finally put the pieces together.
Fans weren’t sure what was worse: the random character finally introduced as Mom, or the fact that she was no longer around. As fans saw the older version of Ted show up to win over the older version of Robin, many were happy to see them together but wished for a different road to that ultimate end.
Game of Thrones — Hodor
Hodor became the face of many, many memes but also a face that stole fans’ hearts. His protection of and dedication to crucial characters in the show made him integral to their success. We never knew how deep his connection and importance would become until his time came to an end.
He held the door, allowing Bran and the others to escape death. This character, whose storyline seemed like a footnote in a much larger plan, suddenly became a much larger piece of the ultimate puzzle. His love for and protection of Bran allowed fans the ending that emerged, whether they liked it or not.
Game of Thrones — Ned Stark
Another heartbreaking and shocking character departure that came very early on in the series, this death may even have been too early for fans’ liking. At the end of the first season, after Ned Stark won over our hearts, he was beheaded.
It seems brutal and abrupt, doesn’t it? That’s how many fans felt, too. However, not all fans thought that way. Diehard Game of Thrones followers — or those who read all the books — knew this was coming. Those fans were also hopeful for the seasons after, knowing Ned Stark’s death signaled that the director was going to stay true to the books’ plots.
Stranger Things — Bob Newby
Tapping into our nostalgia for the 1980s, Stranger Things gave us all things creepy but also all things wonderful about life several decades ago. The eerie storyline kept us wanting more. So, it was no surprise that the second season revealed more about secret experiments and questions about the Upside Down.
With those adventures and discoveries, we were introduced to new characters. One of those favorites was Bob Newby, the lovable, nice guy who cared deeply for Joyce. It was that devotion that was also the character’s downfall. Bob acted as a savior, allowing the others to break free as Demodogs ended his life.
Friends — All Characters
Monica and Chandler got their house in the suburbs and their twin babies. Joey got his food and his fame. Phoebe found real love and true happiness. Ross and Rachel remembered they were each other’s lobsters.
Dedicated fans watched and re-watched the series over and over. We laughed, we cried and we loved these characters deeply. Watching them all walk out of the apartment together, leaving their keys and heading to go grab some coffee was the perfect way to end the series. Fans got the closure they desperately wanted for each character and the happy ending that all shows deserve.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Buffy
Buffy met her end twice in this dramatic show. Fans thought she died for her friends, closing a portal allowing demons to come to Earth. But, her sister and friends refused to let her stay dead, bringing her back to life.
Seasons later, she trained a band of fellow slayers to defeat demon vampires, preventing the end of the world. As she said her heartfelt goodbyes to the vampire love interest who always seemed second-best, she joined her friends and fellow fighters on a bus leaving Sunnydale. She watched as the entire city burned to the ground, along with her former life.
ER — Mark Greene
Before there was Grey’s Anatomy, there was ER. The medical drama that bordered on your average soap opera kept fans hooked for years. One of its main doctors stole our hearts early on: Mark Greene.
His dedication to his work, his colleagues, his daughter and his friends made him the most loveable character. When we watched him get diagnosed with cancer and suffer through treatment, we rooted for his success. But his peaceful and loving death brought fans to tears and showed the raw reality of a horrible disease.
ER — Carol Hathaway
As we saw Carol fight for what she wanted, we fell for her strong will and spirit. She was certainly raw and flawed but strong and smart. She was the average person just trying to find happiness in a world full of craziness.
When we saw her make her way to the house on the lake and her love, we got the happy ending we always wanted for Carol — what we always knew she deserved. Fans were left with a pleasant ending for the doctor and the nurse who fell hard for a "happily ever after" promise.
Homeland — Brody
This riveting, suspenseful show gave fans some dramatic insight into the inner workings of Homeland Security. Fans were unsure how they felt about Brody’s character. His storyline, drawing from a similar real-life one, seemed too crazy not to believe. Carrie always had her doubts until she fell head over heels for him.
It was a love interest that was surprising and unexpected but still one that fans could get behind. The couple’s story seemed to be moving forward even with all the obvious hurdles until Brody was captured and sentenced to death abroad. Carrie watched on, trying her best to stay strong as Brody took his final breaths.
Sons of Anarchy — Jax
This new view of the typical biker gang gave fans an insider peek at what life was like for the members of Sons of Anarchy. Jax, the gang leader and protagonist of the show, stole hearts and became a hot love interest for many fans.
Many surprising and dramatic deaths and departures occurred throughout the show’s time on TV, but it was Jax’s decision to sacrifice himself that gave the show its dramatic end. His devotion to family, whether blood or gang, shaped him into the character we saw ride off on his bike into oncoming traffic.
The Good Wife — Will Gardner
The Good Wife showed how a strong, determined woman proved she could juggle life’s worst and still manage to keep it all together. Through all her pain and determination, fans wanted to see Alicia find happiness.
It was devastating to see her affair with Will get destroyed outside of their control. Even more devastating was watching as Alicia realized that Will was taken out in a courtroom shooting. Her dreams of a happy ending ended with Will’s death. It became a story of starting over again for her and seizing every moment available.
Sex and the City — Carrie
The show that brought women back to girls’ nights, bars, brunches and enjoying martinis kept fans wondering what would eventually happen to Carrie Bradshaw. Would she find true love? Would she stay in the city? Who would win her over? Through it all, the girlfriends' bond was strong.
The end of the series brought the girls closer and answered a Big (hint, hint) question for Carrie. Fans were happy she found love (even if it wasn’t with the guy they thought she should be with), happy she stayed in the city and happy to see the whole gang in the movies that followed.
The Office — Michael Scott
The hilarious U.S. version of the British show connected fans all over the world. The satire and realness of the typical and ridiculous life of the American employee built a huge crowd following. It brought laughter, tears and smiles to fans of all backgrounds.
When Michael Scott decided to depart from the show, his awkwardness and emotions were a perfect fit. It ended in a goodbye but with the obvious laughter and raw honesty from preceding seasons. While many fans felt the show was never the same after his departure, his mark on TV history and The Office remains.
The Golden Girls — All Characters
These lovely, funny ladies were the original girl gang. The soft and kind-hearted group of single women trying to find their way together won over hearts and minds through this beloved show. No matter their ages, fans wanted to be them.
Through laughter, tears and reality checks, The Golden Girls connected women of all ages to a story of love and truth. Their story and love still reign true today as younger viewers, who weren’t even alive during the show’s run, are now getting on board and loving The Golden Girls.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — Will
There might not be another show that developed its protagonist as well as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show took a simple inner-city kid in a raw situation and dropped him into one of the richest places in the U.S. Fans not only loved Will’s quick wit, amazing humor and good looks but they also fell for the softer, unexpected moments that caught everyone by surprise.
Will’s story had ups and downs that were raw and emotional, and he hid his struggles in his humor and friendliness. Fans were happy to see Will get his success story.
Pretty Little Liars — All Characters
This was a story in which you never knew who the bad guy was because every character was a bad guy. It was also the show in which the dead never actually stayed dead. People were hidden and deaths were faked. You knew to always expect the unexpected.
There were new characters and storylines with every turn. The girls were brave and real. The last season showed the girls grown up and back together, relying on their friendship to get through anything. The truth was ultimately revealed, though, and each of the pretty little liars was united in the secrets she kept.
Charmed — The Hallowell Sisters
Charmed managed to save itself even after killing off one of the sisters. The storyline continued with the discovery of another sister in her place. It branched off into more demons and adventures but always stayed true to the original characters. The sisters brought strength and female empowerment to their battle against evil, fighting adversity using powers they never asked for.
In the final season, the sisters defeated the evil that constantly crept into their lives. Fans saw a future that held happiness and love. The show revealed how each character’s life continued on and grew to include children and grandchildren.