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Make sure you’ve got a box of Kleenex on hand for this video. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Heartbreaking Scenes in TV Dramas."
For this list, we’ve scoured the world of televised dramas to find you the most emotional and heart-wrenching scenes to ever air on the small screen. We’ll be excluding teen dramas from this list, since they deserve a list of their own. Also, considering these are some of the most pivotal and tragic scenes of these shows, a spoiler alert is definitely in order.
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Will Gardner’s Death—The Good Wife
It was a twist that no one saw coming. It’s never easy to kill off a major character on a show, but fans of The Good Wife were completely thrown when a deranged client of Will’s opened fire in the courtroom and shot him. Most of the shooting isn’t shown on-screen, but rather seen through the eyes of other characters in the building who can hear shots ringing out and people screaming. Will’s death was devastating because he was such a beloved character and it was just so unexpected. The event undeniably changed the dynamic between the characters, as well as the story itself, forever.
Dukie & Michael Say Goodbye—The Wire
They say that true friends can grow separately without growing apart, but that doesn’t hold true in the streets of Baltimore. Friendships can end suddenly, as demonstrated when Bodie and Poot killed their childhood friend Wallace on Stringer’s orders. But perhaps the most heartbreaking example came when Dukie and Michael parted ways. Michael’s decision to fully commit to the game had drastically changed his life, and after the most recent shooting, he recognizes that Dukie and Bug can’t have a place in it anymore. It’s a sad farewell, but the truly depressing moment comes when Dukie tries to reminisce about their childhood, and Michael realises that he’s too far removed to even remember that time in their lives anymore.
Dexter Finds Rita’s Body—Dexter
In Dexter, you expect plenty of death. In fact, it’s kind of central to the show. But that didn’t make the death of Dexter’s wife any less painful and shocking. Rita had a tough life even before meeting Dexter, surviving an abusive relationship and acting as a single mom to two kids. In the Season Four finale of the show, Dexter finally catches and kills Arthur, the Trinity killer who he has been after all season. Unbeknownst to Dexter, however, Arthur has managed to make one last kill. When Dexter arrives home, hoping to leave on a family vacation, he finds his infant son in a pool of blood, and Rita’s lifeless body in the bathtub.
Daryl Kills Undead Merle—The Walking Dead
To say that Daryl and Merle had a complicated relationship is a serious understatement. Merle’s final act of taking on a group of Woodbury soldiers single-handedly may have earned him some redemption, but he remained deeply flawed to the end. Daryl is on a mission to retrieve his brother when he learns of his fate first-hand: The governor has killed him, and he’s come back as a walker. Daryl clearly loved his brother despite his many transgressions, and his complete and utter devastation is palpable from the moment he recognizes him. Sobbing, Daryl lashes out at his brother. Each shove and stab seems to communicate a flurry of conflicting emotions—anger towards his brother for dying, disappointment in Merle’s life, and a profound sense of loss.
George’s Death—Grey’s Anatomy
When a man jumps in front of a bus to save a stranger, he is dragged for several blocks before being admitted to Seattle Grace. The victim, dubbed John Doe due to a lack of ID, was so badly hurt that neither the doctors nor the audience could identify him. Fans were just as shocked as Meredith was when they realized that the unrecognizable victim was their very own “007.” Viewers thought Izzie might be the one to die in the Season Five finale after weeks of uncertainty about her health. The episode ends with Izzy’s vision of seeing George in his military uniform while she wears her prom dress, which many viewers took to mean she’d be joining him soon.
Fans may not have loved Charlie from the very beginning, but by the time of his death at the end of Season Three, he had become a character that people weren’t ready to lose. The former rock star and drug addict made the ultimate sacrifice to save Claire and Aaron in the underwater station, making for what has been called the saddest death in the show’s history. Charlie uses his final moments to give a warning to the other Losties, writing “Not Penny’s Boat” on his hand to tell them that the approaching freighter has a sinister purpose. How can you not love a guy whose main priority in death was the wellbeing of others? Not only do we lose a beloved character, but the group’s hope of getting off the island is crushed, adding to the pain of this scene.
Jesse Keeps Calling Jane—Breaking Bad
When we lose someone close to us, we often react by trying to hold onto them however we can. For some, that might result in keeping their clothes, or refusing to alter their bedroom. For Jesse Pinkman, holding on to Jane took the form of repeatedly calling her cellphone. While Jane’s death was undeniably a sad moment, and certainly a dark turning point for Walter White’s character, the full weight of Jesse’s loss doesn’t become clear until this moment. Jesse just keeps dialling and listening to her voicemail message, clinging to the only words he’ll ever hear her speak again. Suddenly… the phone number is cancelled. In that gut-wrenching moment, we see Jesse lose his last piece of her.
Annalise’s Baby Dies—How to Get Away with Murder
Law professor and defence attorney Annalise Keating isn’t exactly your typical motherly type, considering she spends most her time defending hardened criminals. Throughout Season Two, audiences were confused about Annalise’s connection to Wes, as well as the details surrounding her pregnancy; but at the end of the season, fans were finally given the sad truth. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that while she was eight months pregnant, Annalise was in a car accident that caused her to have a stillbirth. Adding to an already heart-wrenching scene, Annalise’s insistence that the accident was her fault, as well as Sam’s inability to hold his son in the chilling family photo and Annalise’s breakdown in the hospital, makes this scene so painful to watch.
Jon Snow vs. Ygritte—Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is full of devastating moments—honestly, we burst into tears whenever we hear someone say “hold the door.” Jon Snow and Ygritte’s relationship was contentious from the beginning, but oh how we hoped it would end differently. Jon may “know nothing,” but he does know one thing, and that’s that he loves Ygritte. The relationship came to its heart-shattering conclusion when the two met in battle. We held our breath in anticipation, only to have it taken away with an arrow to Ygritte’s chest. Olly, avenging his father’s death, shoots her through the chest with an arrow. Thank the gods for the silver lining—the actors who play our favorite pair of Westerosi star-crossed lovers are actually dating in real life.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
Hotch & Haley’s Goodbye—Criminal Minds
- Matthew’s Death—Downton Abbey
- Cyrus Breaks Down—Scandal
- Susan Cries in a Wedding Dress—Desperate Housewives
- Don Finds Out Anna Is Dead—Mad Men
- Kristina Tells Her Family She Has Cancer—Parenthood
The Final Scene—Six Feet Under
This entire show was full of emotional moments, but viewers of this HBO show agree that this series finale is one of the best, and saddest, moments in TV history. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect ending to this critically acclaimed series than the one Alan Ball and his team came up with. Some shows end without giving the audiences the closure they crave, but Six Feet Under wrapped up in a simple, yet poignant way—by showing the death of every major character. Unlike every other episode of the show, which starts with a death, this one started with a birth and ended with flash forwards showing how all the characters that fans had come to love spent their final moments. Heartbreaking, moving, and totally worthy of the number one spot.
Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the saddest moment in a TV drama? For more heart-wrenching top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.