The 25 Biggest TV Deaths and Cast Departures of 2017

6:05 AM 12/8/2017

by Lesley Goldberg and Josh Wigler

From the expected ('Game of Thrones') to the surprising ('Jane the Virgin'), THR takes a look at some of the biggest on-screen exits of the year.

Courtesy of HBO

Not every story ends in death.

This year, rather than the standard roundup of shocking character deaths on the small screen, THR also looks at the major cast departures that helped create new and sometimes bold narratives on their respective shows as yes, some characters did get their happily ever afters.

From salary standoffs (Hawaii Five-O), large-scale reboots (Once Upon a Time) and plot twists (Game of Thrones), here's a look at the 25 biggest TV deaths and exits of 2017. (Spoilers below, naturally.)

  • Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, 'Hawaii Five-O'

    Courtesy of CBS

    Series regulars since its start, Kim and Park opted to exit the CBS procedural ahead of its eighth season after holding out for equal pay with stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. Producers CBS Television Studios offered sizable raises but the overall offers still fell short of what its two leads wanted.

  • Sophia Bush, 'Chicago P.D.'

    Courtesy of NBC

    After four seasons at the top of the call sheet on NBC's Dick Wolf procedural, Bush opted to depart the series. “[It] took me a long time and a lot of hard work to get out of that show,” the actress said of her decision. “I left because I wanted to. End of story.” She has since signed a talent and development dealwith 20th Century Fox Television.

  • Wentworth Miller and Victor Garber, 'Legends of Tomorrow'

    Courtesy of The CW

    Original series regulars Miller and Garber will exit The CW's DC Comics-inspired time-traveling super show in its current third season. Miller and Garber played Leonard Snart/Captain Cold and Martin Stein/Firestorm, respectively.

  • Martin Henderson and Jerrika Hinton, 'Grey’s Anatomy' 

    Courtesy of ABC

    Martin Henderson was written out of ABC's Shondaland drama in its current 14th season when his character, Nathan, was reunited with his presumed dead fiancée. Hinton's Stephanie, meanwhile, exited in the season 13 finale after her character was badly burned in a hospital fire and she opted to do something different professionally.

  • Erinn Hayes, 'Kevin Can Wait'

    Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment

    As part of its second season reboot, the CBS comedy fired female lead Erinn Hayes, who played the wife to Kevin James' central character. On-screen, the network killed off Hayes' Donna and brought in James' former King of Queens co-star Leah Rimini as the show jumped forward in time.

  • Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Emile De Ravin, Rebecca Mader, 'Once Upon a Time'

    David Gray/ ABC

    The Disney-themed ABC fairy tale drama hit a major reset for its current seventh season after original stars Jennifer Morrison (Emma), Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) and Jared Gilmore (Henry), as well as Emilie de Ravin (Belle) and Rebecca Mader (Wicked Witch/Zelena) were written out. The show now revolves around an adult version of Gilmore's Henry (Andrew J. West) and series favorite Lana Parilla, who is playing a new character.

  • Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata, 'Saturday Night Live'

    Courtesy of Universal Pictures

    Lorne Michaels' NBC staple went through its annual turnover, parting ways with Bobby Moynihan — who exited to star in CBS comedy Me, Myself and I — as well as Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata. They had been with SNL for nine, seven and four seasons, respectively.

  • Connie Britton, 'Nashville'

    Mark Levine/CMT

    Britton's country music superstar Rayna James was killed off in season five, not long after the former ABC drama began its run on Viacom's niche cable network CMT.

  • Michelle Yeoh, 'Star Trek: Discovery'

    Courtesy of CBS

    Ahead of its debut, many viewers expected Yeoh's Capt. Philippa Georgiou to stick around for the entire season of the CBS All Access drama. But that wasn't in the cards as producers killed the character off in the series premiere, setting the stage for the series to focus Sonequa Martin-Green's First Officer Michael Burnham, a human raised by Spock's Vulcan father.

  • Rupert Friend, 'Homeland'

    Courtesy of Showtime

    Few actors have the opportunity to be killed off their series twice but that's effectively what happened with Friend's Peter Quinn on the Showtime drama. The former sniper died in the season six finale when he took a bullet for the president-elect. That came after a fifth season finale in which Carrie (Claire Danes) appeared to take Quinn off life support. 

  • Ryan Eggold, 'The Blacklist'

    Will Hart/NBC

    Eggold was an original series regular on the NBC procedural whose character was spun off last season before returning to the flagship. His character, Tom Keen, was killed off in season five when he died in a fight with a blacklister.

  • Brett Dier, 'Jane the Virgin'

    Eddy Chen/The CW

    The CW dramedy dropped plenty of hits but few actually thought the Jennie Snyder Urman-created dramedy would go through with killing Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) husband Michael but that's precisely what happened in season three.

  • Aidan Gillen, 'Game of Thrones'

    Helen Sloan/HBO

    For much of his time on the show, Gillen's Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish was billed as the person pulling the strings behind the people pulling the strings: the master manipulator in Westeros, chiefly responsible for all of the initial end ensuing chaos. In the end, however, he was bested by the Stark children he always underestimated, with Arya (Maisie Williams) cutting Littlefinger's time and throat short in the season seven finale — the chief face of human antagonism now fully excised, with only six episodes before Game of Thrones takes its last bow.

  • Sean Astin, 'Stranger Things'

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Forget about "Justice for Barb." Following season two of the Netflix breakout, it's all about "Justice for Bob" … Bob Newby, superhero, that is. The Goonies and Lord of the Rings actor brought nostalgic warmth to the throwback thriller, only to provide the season with its chilliest moment when he was ripped to shreds by monsters from the Upside Down.

  • Cliff Curtis, 'Fear the Walking Dead'

    Michael Desmond/AMC

    In his final season as showrunner, Dave Erickson launched the Walking Dead spinoff into dangerous territory with a bold move: killing the show's co-lead in the second episode of the year. The death of Curtis' character, Travis Manawa, signaled the start of the most ferocious season of Fear yet — a challenge new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg look ready to tackle with the fourth season, a veritable reboot with brand new actors and one familiar face from the Walking Dead flagship.

  • Sonequa Martin-Green, 'The Walking Dead'

    Gene Page/AMC

    Certainly not as surprising as the aforementioned Fear the Walking Dead departure, Martin-Green's exit from Walking Dead was a huge shift all the same — namely because it came paired with the news that the erstwhile Sasha would be trading in the zombie apocalypse for a new voyage into space, as the star of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery.

  • Alexander Skarsgård, 'Big Little Lies'

    Courtesy of HBO

    For those who read the Liane Moriarty novel on which the David E. Kelley miniseries was based, the death of Skarsgård's abusive Perry Wright wasn't much of a shock. But for fans who first discovered this California thriller through HBO, the erstwhile Eric Northman's death capped the end of a ride with enough twists and turns to rival its Pacific Coast Highway setting.

  • Catherine E. Coulson, Miguel Ferrer, Warren Frost, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, Frank Silva, Don S. Davis, 'Twin Peaks: The Return'

    Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

    Fans have likely seen the last of David Lynch and Mark Frost's groundbreaking television series, after returning to the air more than 25 years following its initial cancellation. It's a sad enough prospect on its own, though it pales in comparison to the show's treatment of the aforementioned actors, all of whom died either before, during or after production. Among its many strengths, the way in which Twin Peaks: The Returned honored its fallen friends with creative reinventions (David Bowie's Phillip Jeffries reimagined as a sentient tea kettle, for instance) and moving sendoffs ("Goodnight, Margaret") stands right at the top of the mountain.

  • Michael McKean, 'Better Call Saul'

    Courtesy of AMC

    Is it clear that we have seen the last of Chuck McGill? First of all, there's almost certainly some form of return in the future, given the Breaking Bad successor's flexibile relationship with time. What's more, season three of the AMC spinoff ended without eyes on Chuck as his home erupted in flames — but the sight of the destruction should be enough to signal Better Call Saul will be minus one McGill moving forward.

  • Ewan McGregor, 'Fargo'

    Courtesy of Chris Large/FX

    Given its anthological nature, Noah Hawley's Coenesque crime series has always been liberal in killing off series regulars as the story dictates. Still, it was shocking to see such an early departure for McGregor's Ray Stussy, one half of the actor's two-part performance. Sure, McGregor remained in the mix via his turn as Emmit Stussy (at least until the final episode), but to lose one of the season's central gimmicks so early on was an unexpectedly dark turn, even by Fargo standards.

  • Christopher Eccleston and Bill Camp, 'The Leftovers'

    Courtesy of HBO

    The little-seen but much-beloved HBO series from Damon Lindelof ended its three-season run this year, and its final season included nothing short of the death of God himself — if you believe David Burton (Camp) is god, at least, and not some ordinary conman who met his dark end at the maw of a lion. In either case, the episode featuring "God's death," called "It's a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World" serves as one of the final and best showcases for Eccleston's ailing Reverend Matt, who succumbs to cancer off-screen in the series finale.

  • Stephanie Corneliussen, 'Mr. Robot'

    Nadav Kander/USA Network

    Following what many considered a sophomore slump, Sam Esmail's USA Network computer hacker thriller returned with force in season three, equipped with a breakneck pace and a frightening willingness to pull players from the board with no warning at all — beginning with Corneliussen's celebrated turn as Joanna Wellick, the Lady Macbeth of Mr. Robot lore, shot in the head with no warning and even less fanfare.

  • Paul Adelstein, 'Prison Break'

    Photofest

    Returning to Fox after ending its initial run eight years ago, Prison Break launched back into the action in signature fashion: eliminating a major character from the equation with zero room for any other interpretation. Adelstein's addled agent Paul Kellerman was the unlucky avatar of the new season's stakes, shot point-blank in the face with several episodes remaining in the revival — a violent reminder of Prison Break's "take no prisoners" approach to its cast.

  • Sigourney Weaver, 'The Defenders'

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Hyped as the main antagonist of Marvel and Netflix's long-awaited team-up series, Weaver instead lent her legendary talents as a red herring writ large. With two episodes still remaining, the celebrated star's role in the series was cut short quite literally thanks to Elektra (Elodie Yung) stabbing Weaver's Alexandria in the back, and subsequently removing her head. That's one way to shake up the status quo.

  • Viserion, 'Game of Thrones'

    Courtesy of HBO

    Call it a cheap pick, but there's no doubt it's a game-changer in Game of Thrones land: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finally lost one of her three dragons, killed in battle against the White Walkers. Worst of all, the nefarious Night King went ahead and resurrected the fallen Viserion, turning it into a flying, frozen nuclear warhead on the side of the army of the dead. In a year filled with deaths and departures, the fall of this computer-generated character certainly stands out as one of the most significant.