The 10 Biggest TV Deaths From the 2015-16 TV Season

10:30 AM 6/16/2016

by Sydney Bucksbaum

From 'Game of Thrones' to 'Arrow,' the grim reaper was very busy this past broadcast season.

Lexa Hodor Abbie Split H 2016

Death is on the verge of losing its meaning.

Ten years ago, a TV series killing off a main character was a shocking move to make. Almost downright unbelievable. And most definitely controversial. But now? Looking back on the 2015-16 broadcast season, the tables have turned. It's gotten to the point where a TV show is more creative and brave if it finds a way to not kill off a main character or come up with a new twist other than death. The amount of major character TV deaths has grown exponentially, and no network is safe from the grim reaper.

But why have onscreen deaths become so commonplace? From contract negotiations to the need for propelling plot forward with a traumatic loss, the reasons vary from show to show. But the bottom line is that having a series regular gig on a major network show no longer means having job security. Any character is fair game.

The Hollywood Reporter rounded up the 10 biggest onscreen deaths from the past season that mattered the most, either for the effect it had onscreen or how it rocked viewers offscreen. 

  • Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), The 100

    Although Debnam-Carey was only contractually allowed to appear in a finite number of episodes of The CW's post-apocalyptic drama due to her series regular status on AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, her onscreen death came as a shock to viewers. Since Lexa was a lesbian and had just consummated her relationship with Clarke (Eliza Taylor), her onscreen death via a stray bullet meant for Clarke just one scene later kicked off the "Bury Your Gays" conversation about a controversial and worrisome trope of killing off LGBTQ characters. That conversation has only intensified in the months since as other lesbian/bisexual characters have been killed off of shows like Root (Amy Acker) from Person of Interest, Denise (Merritt Weaver) from The Walking Dead, Mary-Louise (Teressa Liane) and Nora (Scarlett Byrne) from The Vampire Diaries, among others.

  • Abbie (Nicole Beharie), Sleepy Hollow

    But sometimes, the decision to kill off a character comes from the actor portraying that character, like in Beharie's case. When Abbie, one of the two Witnesses the Fox series is centered on, sacrificed herself and died in the season three finale, viewers and critics alike were shocked. But sources told THR that Beharie had been unhappy about her time on the show and actively was trying to exit the series for quite some time. The character, sources said, originally was supposed to be killed off during the midseason finale, but insiders are said to have gotten cold feet.


  • Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Game of Thrones

    Lovable giant Hodor's tragic backstory was finally revealed this season on HBO's hit fantasy series, but it came about right as he was killed by White Walkers while trying to protect Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). It turns out that he could only say his name because Bran warged into him while time traveling to Hodor's childhood, and "hold the door" was the only thing Hodor could hear during the present day attack, forever traumatizing him. This death was one that both book readers and show viewers alike didn't see coming.

  • Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Arrow

    When the grave flash forward was first introduced in the season four premiere revealing that one of the core Arrow characters would die at the hands of Damien Dahrk (Neil McDonough), the writers didn't actually have a plan of who they were going to kill off. That ended up backing them into a corner when it came time to finally choose which character would bite the dust. Despite the Black Canary having a long and storied history with the Green Arrow in the comics on which the show is based, Laurel Lance was the one who ended up with a fatal arrow wound in her side.

    "I was OK with it," Cassidy said. "We all came to an understanding that this was what was going to happen. I think the shock value is good. It’s such a jolt and such a turn in the story that it gives them so much more to do and places to go with it. Otherwise I feel like shows can get stale."

  • Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), Once Upon a Time

    After promoting a major death in the penultimate episode of season five, the ABC fairy tale drama delivered when Robin Hood died and was honored with a heartbreaking funeral that ended with his daughter being named in his honor. According to Maguire, the decision came from a creative choice made by showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis, and it was not a choice he was happy about.

    "In all honesty, no, I wouldn't say that I was [happy with the way Robin's journey ended]," Maguire told THR. "I felt like it was an abrupt end; I didn't feel the character had any development this year and wasn't really written for. That was disappointing ... In all honesty, I don't feel that a character like Robin Hood got the development that he could have had. But I respect the way the guys want to run their show. You either have to be on board or not. I'm happy to serve the writers."

  • Cami (Leah Marie Pipes) and Davina (Danielle Campbell), The Originals

    While The Vampire Diariesspinoff series is known for its high body count, losing two female series regulars -- who have been starring on the show since the pilot -- just a few weeks apart was a lot to take. Add to that the fact that both women lost their lives as a result of their boyfriends, and the losses were that much harder to process. 

  • Grant Ward/Hive (Brett Dalton), Agents of SHIELD

    Very few actors have had quite the roller coaster of a character arc than Dalton. Starting off in ABC's Marvel series in the pilot, Dalton played the heartthrob government agent who took no prisoners and was the perfect soldier. Then, he became the love interest and mentor for Skye/Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) ... until it was revealed in the biggest shock of the series that he had actually been a Hydra agent in disguise the whole time. He then became the show's greatest villain, which was only amplified after his midseason death when the Inhuman Hive took over his body and wreaked havoc on the world for the second half of the season. SHIELD finally managed to defeat Hive and thwart his plan, finally putting an official end to Dalton's time on the series after a half-season delay thanks to alien forces. What will SHIELD look like without Dalton? That remains to be seen.


  • Lincoln (Ricky Whittle), The 100

    While many expected that fan-favorite Grounder Lincoln would die since Whittle landed the starring role in Starz's American Gods, his onscreen death was still shocking in how gruesome it was. Lincoln was shot point blank in the head, execution style, and the scene played out in gory, slow-motion detail. But the drama didn't end there: after his death aired, the actor came out with an incendiary interview claiming he was bullied on set by showrunner Jason Rothenberg and written off the show sooner than was planned.

    “It was my choice to go,” the actor said. “Jason Rothenberg abused his position to make my job untenable. What he did was disgusting and he should be ashamed. A lot was made of what my mom said all over Twitter, but everything she said was true. He was professionally bullying me, cutting out all the storyline I was supposed to be doing, cutting lines, cutting everything out, trying to make my character and myself as insignificant as possible ... It kind of seemed settled that Lincoln was going to go toward the end of the season, and then a script came out and an amendment came out ... where he went back and was executed. I mean, even that storyline — he was executed for no reason. It was very weak."

  • Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Legends of Tomorrow

    One of the founding members of the Legends team-up sacrificed his own life to save his team in the penultimate episode of season one, completing his journey from psychopathic criminal to true hero in one heartbreaking scene. Since The CW's DC Comics series revolves around time travel, the door is still open for the Prison Break star to return in flashbacks, which he already did in the season one finale. Plus, Miller recently just closed a groundbreaking new deal with Warner Bros. TV, so while he will no longer be a regular on Legends of Tomorrow, he has entered a series regular contract spread over all of the different Greg Berlanti-led DC Comics shows, including The Flash and Arrow (and possibly Supergirl).

  • Ziva (Cote de Pablo), NCIS

    Although fan-favorite character Ziva was written off the long-running CBS series back in season 11, the character "returned" only to die offscreen in Tony's (Michael Weatherly) farewell episode in season 13, angering fans who had been hoping she would return properly for the emotional hour. Viewers were outraged that Ziva was killed off so unceremoniously and unnecessarily after all her years on the show.