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10 Shocking TV Exits: Did Your Favorite Character Make Our List?

Fall premieres are still rolling and, with each first episode, fans rejoice in seeing their favorite characters return from where we left them in the season finales. Sometimes, however, a much beloved actor doesn’t always return with the show.  Their untimely exit is not always preventable for a multitude of reasons; an actor’s choice, a network decision, the writers, etc. Let’s take a look at some popular characters and their premature exits that have inevitably left a mark on their shows and fans. (These are in no particular order). <Possible spoilers ahead.>

Thomas Gibson, Criminal Minds

CBS
CBS

Character: Aaron Hotchner
Departure: Network Decision

Thomas Gibson was recently involved in an on-set incident that resulted in a suspension, which then turned into a firing from CBS’s Criminal Minds.  He had been a show staple for the last 11 years, and while it’s still unclear as to how the show will write off Hotchner, many longtime fans are going to surely miss his stoic nature. Meanwhile Adam Rodriguez (Luke Alvez) and Paget Brewster (Emily Prentiss) have been bumped up to series regulars.

Kal Penn, House, M.D.

E!
FOX

Character: Dr. Lawrence Kutner
Departure: White House Position

That’s right, Kal Penn left acting to pursue a job at the White House. The show had Kutner commit suicide which shocked fans and ruined any hopes of a return. While his choice to leave acting for a higher calling of politics is something to be admired, fans can delight in knowing he has returned to acting. He’s playing alongside Kiefer Sutherland in ABC’s new show Designated Survivor.

Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries

Annette Brown/The CW
Annette Brown/The CW

Character: Elena Gilbert
Departure: Personal Reasons

The Salvatore brothers played by Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley weren’t the only ones devastated when Elena fell into a semi-permanent comatose state.  After Dobrev announced her departure from the show, fans were left wondering what would become of our favorite trio. Thankfully writers of show put Elena into a ‘convenient’ sleep that offered viewers the hope that she will somehow make it back. With the show’s 8th and final season beginning this week, that hope might actually be more of a reality.

Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow

Fox
FOX

Character: Abbie Mills
Departure: Personal Reasons

In a show where characters are able to come back from the dead by some supernatural force, I thought (like many fans), Abbie can’t be really dead?! Can she? Well folks, yes she can be and she was.  The realization that the Abbie’s death was permanent shocked a lot of Sleepy Hollow fans. Beharie confirmed what the fans didn’t want to hear, Abbie would not be returning. Viewers are eagerly anticipating how the show will handle her death in season 4 now that Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is left to navigate the supernatural world without his trusted friend and ‘Leftenant’.

Stana Katic, Castle

ABC
ABC

Character: Kate Beckett
Departure: Network Decision

Katic’s character, Kate, was one-half of a detective team, partnering with Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) for 8 years. The characters’ untimely split left viewers uncertain of the show’s future. By May 2016, the ABC network executives announced that the show would not be moving on to season 9.

Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: SVU

NBC

Character: Elliot Stabler
Departure: Personal Reasons

We’ve mentioned a few shows that split up beloved duos, but the idea of Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) without Stabler was just wrong! Meloni was part of ‘an elite squad’ for 12 long years. Fans who remained loyal for all those years were stunned by the departure. Without some form of closure for Benson and Stabler fans, his exit left a bit of a hole in our hearts. Thankfully, Hargitay and the new team are still going strong in their 18th season.

Michael Pitt, Boardwalk Empire

HBO
HBO

Character: James Darmody
Departure: Network Decision

While rumors swirled of Pitt’s on-set behavior being the possible cause of his character’s unfortunate demise, the network, HBO, maintains that killing off Darmody in the season 2 finale was a creative decision. Whatever the true reason, fans were shocked by his death since James Darmody was one of the show’s major characters.

Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy

ABC
ABC

Character: Derek Shepard
Departure: Personal Reasons

I’m not sure I’ve ever cried harder at a characters unexpected death. Dempsey’s portrayal of Derek, and his relationship with Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey were the heart of the show for 11 years. While reasons for the exit make sense and are seemingly mutual, did they have to kill Derek? According to Shonda Rhimes, that was the only way for him to go out. Even though the show continues on as Meredith navigates life as a widow, I can’t help but miss our favorite Dr. McDreamy.

Josh Charles, The Good Wife

CBS
CBS

Character: Will Gardner
Departure: Personal Reasons

Charles’s character, Will, was killed off by a client in the courtroom.  Fans were hopeful that Will would make it, but were sorely disappointed when he didn’t.  Even his co-star, Julianna Margulies who portrays Alicia Florrick cried when she learned that he would be leaving the show.  No one saw it coming and it definitely left a sad mark on audiences and Alicia.

T.R. Knight, Greys Anatomy

ABC
ABC

Character: George O’Malley
Departure: Personal Reasons

The exit of one of the most beloved characters that was on the show from season 1, was just plain devastating.  Shonda Rhimes went straight for our heart strings, writing George off in the most unsettling of ways. George O’Malley was the patient hit by the bus! Viewers didn’t get the big reveal until close to the end when he wrote ‘007’ on Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) hand. I can still remember shouting ‘NOT GEORGE!’ to my TV screen! I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that loss.

And there ends our list of some of the most shocking and disturbing exits of characters we have loved.  No longer on our televisions but, forever and always in our hearts!

What other departures have left you going “WHY?!”

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Shikha Bajracharya

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Music geek. Professional TV and movie nerd. Typical travelaholic. Passionate food aficionado. Organizer. Pop culture junkie.