11 Shows That Survived After Killing Off A Main Character

Nick Briggs / © HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection

There is a wide array of genres to pick from when it comes to choosing a TV show to be a fan of; however, it seems now more than ever no character is safe on any show, even if they are one of the lead actors. The cliffhanger has always been a pivotal device for shows, yet less and less often does the character who gets shot or injured at the end of one season actually survive into the next, which completely shocks fans. While killing off a main character definitely achieves the shock factor, what is surprising is how many of them continue on after that person has left the show. Whether fans are sticking around to see who else could just suddenly die or to realize that the show is good enough to not rely on one character, many shows have cut ties with an actor and just kept on rolling in with the same success. Check out 11 Shows That Survived After Killing Off a Main Character.

11. 24

24 was a fast-paced cop drama which promised shootings, death and shocking story lines; however, after season one, fans realized that the shootings and death were not restricted to just the bad guys. The climax of the end of the first season was the very unexpected death of Teri Bauer played by Leslie Hope, the wife of the main character Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). At the time, fans were utterly devastated by the death, but also completely impressed at the show’s willingness to kill off major characters, something that wasn’t as common on TV in the early 2000s as it is now. Even worse for fans, social media was only just beginning, meaning they had to suffer in figurative silence. They could not proclaim their hate for the show to the millions of other show “followers.”

Source: Fox

10. Two and a Half Men

Two and a Half Men technically has three main characters; however, fans of the show could tell you that Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper was the main reason the show did so well. Things began to look bleak for the show in 2011 when a rift between Sheen and creator Chuck Lorre started. The show had to be put on hiatus while Sheen entered rehab. Things got worse when Sheen slammed Lorre publicly and fans knew that would be the end of his association with the show, and many also assumed the end of the show all together. Ashton Kutcher, however, stepped in after Sheen’s character Charlie Harper was killed by a train. The show was not nearly as good and was heavily criticized when Kutcher took over, but it did not fail. In fact, it lasted for four more seasons and even continued after another one of the main stars, Angus T. Jones, left the show after season 10.

Greg Gayne / © CBS / courtesy Everett Collection

9. One Tree Hill

The thing about One Tree Hill is that there were a lot of characters that could be described as central to the show because, aside from the five main teenagers, there was their larger group of friends who were important and, of course, the adults/parents. It may not be surprising then that the show was able to continue after Craig Sheffer’s character Keith Scott was killed; however, his death was so shocking, it rattled fans long after the season and series ended. Keith was one of the most beloved characters on the show and the episode already stuck out for fans because it focused on a school shooting and the suicide of another character. Keith’s own brother shot him in the hallway and then blamed it on the school shooter who was already dead. Keith died in season three; however, the show roared on for six more  seasons. Luckily Keith reappeared as a type of angel several times through the remaining seasons.

Fred Norris / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

8. Grey’s Anatomy

Before Game of Thrones started killing off any character you would dare to like, Grey’s Anatomy already was already playing that game with audiences in the bag. After five seasons, one of the original residents, George O’Malley — played by T.R. Knight — left the show after being hit by a bus while saving a stranger. Afterwards, a devastating plane crash killed off not one but two main characters, Lexie Gray (Chyler Leigh) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane). Then Dr. Derek Shepherd was killed off in the finale in season 11. Still, in spite of this, the show is going on to its 14th season!

Randy Holmes / © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

7. House of Cards

Netflix certainly has hit its stride by streaming everyone’s favorite movies and shows of the past and with its original programming. It really has taken over the majority of audiences thanks to amazing shows like House of Cards. When the show debuted in 2013, it did not take long for it to gain an instant legion of hooked fans because of its great storyline and excellent casting; however, it too showed it was strong enough to kill off a fan favorite character. In the very first episode of season two, Kate Mara’s character Zoe Barnes confronts Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). While we knew this meant something big, the last thing we were expecting was for him to push her in front of an oncoming subway train. Her death may have left fans reeling, but they still tuned in for the rest of season two, three, four and now five.

Melinda Sue Gordon/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

6. Homeland

Homeland, like other government and terrorist focused shows, comes with the expectation that death is part of the storyline and it didn’t spare anyone when it unapologetically killed off star Damian Lewis’s character Nicholas Brody. His character had come close to death before, but there was no questioning the fact that Lewis had definitely been killed off when he was hung by the Iran government as Carrie (Claire Danes) looked on in the crowd. Unlike many other main characters that had been unexpectedly killed off, it seems Brody wasn’t that loved by fans, meaning his death did not throw the show into a state of uncertainty as it was clear the show would go on successfully without him.

Kent Smith / © Showtime Network / Courtesy: Everett Collection

5. Sons of Anarchy

Keeping up with the plotlines and various relationships, partnerships and business deals in Sons of Anarchy is a feat all of its own, but well worth it as fans of the show know all too well. It is addictive, intriguing and without a doubt gruesome, with death gracing the screen in any given episode; however, even with killing being just a part of the show, there have been deaths that no one saw coming. Like many of the shows mentioned, there are many characters who are considered main but, without a doubt, the death of Ryan Hurst’s character Opie left fans wondering how much more of the show they could take after he died in season five. In a scene almost unbearable to watch, Opie is beaten to death in prison while his best friend Jax and several other SOA members look on, unable to help. The show carried on without him for two and half seasons, although there was a noticeable absence.

Dee Cercone/Everett Collection

4. The Good Wife

By 2014, you think audiences would be used to the now well-used “shocking death” twist but, for the series The Good Wife, the death of Will Gardner played by Josh Charles was catastrophic. Social media exploded with fans who could not believe the way the episode ended and that it wasn’t even a season finale episode. Will was shot to death in season five, episode 15 titled, “Dramatics, Your Honor.” Although many fans of the show made it seem like they would not continue watching without the character, it has continued to do well, although viewers may not be as trusting of the writers or creators as they once were. It can be argued that Will’s death helped carry the show since the shocking episode, as it was part of many storylines.

Source: CBS

3. Dexter

Dexter never pretended to be a conventional show, so it is in no way surprising that a major character would die through the course of the many other murders depicted. That also in no way meant that fans of the show did not find the death of Dexter’s wife, Rita Morgan (played by Julie Benz), extremely traumatic for the season finale of season four. Surprisingly, many viewers were not too perturbed by her death in hindsight, as many found her character annoying and a hindrance to Dexter. Due to feelings such as these, it isn’t surprising that the show continued on for four more seasons without her. The show did suffer, but not from the loss of this particular character. Instead it suffered because of the loss of showrunner Clyde Philips and it never recovered from this.

Peter Lovino / © Showtime / Courtesy: Everett Collection

2. Charmed

Another unconventional show to hit TV was Charmed, which featured actresses Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano and Shannen Doherty as three sisters who also happen to be the most powerful witches in history. At that time, having a supernatural-based show, not to mention with three female leads, was really new and exciting and this was reflected in the record-breaking premiere it had on the WB with its pilot episode. The show was different; however, no one was expecting the death of one of the main characters, Prue, played by Shannen Doherty. Considering their magic was based off of “The Power of Three,” fans did not understand how the show could continue without a third sister. Many expected Prue to come back to life in the season four premiere. However, Doherty was, in fact, off the show. Surprisingly, Charmed did just as well or perhaps better when actress Rose McGowan stepped in as the half-sister Paige Matthews. There must have been real magic on the set of Charmed. Not many shows can survive after killing off a main character and this show was able to go on for five more incredible seasons.

Source: WB

1. Game of Thrones

Last, but most certainly not least, is everyone’s new favorite show, Game of Thrones. As fans are already well aware, absolutely no one is safe in this series. In fact, the second you latch on to a favourite character, it seems like they are killed off. While those who read George R.R. Martin’s series before it hit the screens were privy to these shocking moments, a lot of fans were brand new to the story. If anything nearly broke the internet, it was definitely The Red Wedding. The thing about Game of Thrones is there is no predicting who will stay and who will go, as villains, such as Joffrey, die and so do the entire main family of good guys, The Starks. Thanks to a huge cast and compelling story, fans keep coming back for more, even after Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) died, leaving devastated and stunned audiences.

Nick Briggs / © HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection
Telisa Carter

Telisa Carter

Telisa enjoys learning and writing about all things entertainment in the world of Hollywood. When she isn't catching up on her favorite TV shows, she likes to read, and obsess over all things football.