The 20 most shocking TV deaths EVER

How could they?!

Game of Thrones may have turned shocking character deaths into an art form, but it's far from the only show to blindside its viewers by offing one of their favourites. After all, Joss Whedon practically revelled in it. But it's far from easy to make a truly memorable shocking death.

Here, we celebrate the shows that did it right and left us staring open-mouthed at our screens. In the case of a few, they even inspired Internet-wide outrage (not that it ever takes that much). We rounded up 20 of the most shocking demises for you to relive and, needless to say, spoilers are ahead.

20. Doyle, Angel

How they died: To save Angel (David Boreanaz) and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), half-demon Doyle (Glenn Quinn) sacrifices his own life to disable the Beacon, a machine that could have killed anyone "tainted" with human DNA. He rips out a power cable and gets disintegrated by its energy.

Why it's shocking: By the first season of Angel, we shouldn't really have been shocked by Joss Whedon killing anyone off. But Doyle's death still blindsided us because it happens nine episodes into a season where he's been established as one of the main trio of characters. And we'll never get to know if his demon face was one Cordelia could have learned to love.

19. Ianto Jones, Torchwood

How they died: When aliens called the 456 invade the Earth and demand 10% of the Earth's children, Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) and Jack (John Barrowman) confront them in Thames House and refuse to comply. As a result, the 456 unleash a fatal virus as Thames House is locked down and Ianto dies in Jack's arms.

Why it's shocking: Russell T. Davies, you absolute bastard. The third season of Torchwood, Children of Earth, is easily the show's best, and starts by developing the relationship between Ianto and Jack, even introducing Ianto's sister and brother-in-law. So, of course, Ianto is killed off in the fourth episode. David-Lloyd and Barrowman are heartbreaking in the final scene: "Don't forget me." "Never could." We can't either.

18. Brody, Homeland

How they died: After he kills the head of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, Brody (Damian Lewis) escapes to a safe house with Carrie (Claire Danes). However, CIA asset Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub) arrives after being tipped off by the CIA, arrests Brody who is then found guilty of treason and hanged in a public square.

Why it's shocking: OK, so Brody probably should have died as he was supposed to in Homeland's first season, yet that doesn't make his eventual death any easier. Even when Brody accepts his fate, we still don't expect the hanging to actually happen. It's really the brutal manner of the death that's the most shocking, compounded by the lingering shots of Brody hanging and Carrie looking on helplessly.

17. Adric, Doctor Who

How they died: As Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) is trying to stop a Cyberman-controlled spaceship from crashing into Earth, a dying Cyberman destroys the computer preventing him from doing so. With the Doctor safe on board the TARDIS, Adric dies in the crash.

Why it's shocking: Unlike Clara in the most recent season and other companion "deaths" throughout Doctor Who, Adric is one of the few companions to actually die. And he does so in the most horrifying fashion, trapped on a spaceship that he knows will crash and that he cannot do anything about. Not to mention the fact that he was only a teenager. He may not have been the best companion, but nobody deserves that.

16. Mitchell, Being Human

How they died: After someone else is framed for his massacre of the Box Tunnel 20, Mitchell (Aidan Turner) asks George (Russell Tovey) to kill him. George refuses but when an Old One, Edgar (Lee Ingleby), attempts to recruit Mitchell, George stakes Mitchell.

Why it's shocking: Being Human might have gone on for another two seasons, but this felt like the true finale of the show. The whole of season three was about the prophecy of Mitchell's death, so it's perhaps not shocking in the sense of being unexpected. Many wouldn't have expected it would be George to do it though or that he did it out of love. Tovey and Turner are exceptional and have their own Star Wars moment: "I'm doing this because I love you." "I know."

15. Dee, Battlestar Galactica

How they died: Having reconciled with her estranged husband Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), Dee (Kandyse McClure) goes to her locker, pulls out a gun and shoots herself.

Why it's shocking: We get it. After spending four seasons searching for Earth, it must be a massive blow to realise it's basically an uninhabitable wasteland. Yet, we still don't expect Dee's drastic solution to this bleak discovery. It's clear from the moment she makes her way to her locker after a night with Lee that something is not quite right. But, even then, that smile blindsides us before the deed is done.

14. Shane, Mara and Jackson Vendrell, The Shield

How they died: Seeing no way out after Vic (Michael Chiklis) threatens him with jail, Shane (Walton Goggins) tricks his wife Mara (Michele Hicks) and son into drinking an overdose of painkillers. As his former colleagues kick down the door to his house, Shane shoots himself.

Why it's shocking: Lem's death in season five at the hands of Shane might be more visceral, but there's no doubt Shane's murder-suicide of his entire family is more shocking. It was highly unlikely he was going to survive the series once he killed Lem; what none of us saw coming was that his family would go with him. And to make it even bleaker, his wife was pregnant.

13. Adriana La Cerva, The Sopranos

How they died: Adriana (Drea De Matteo) decides to tell her fianc Christopher (Michael Imperioli) that the FBI want her to inform on the family. Bad move. He tells Tony (James Gandolfini) who gets Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) to shoot Adriana as she attempts to flee.

Why it's shocking: As soon as she got mixed up with the FBI, Adriana's prospects were bleak. However, against all of our best instincts, we hoped Christopher would stick by his long-term other half. Sadly, it was not to be and, weirdly, the fact that we didn't see her actually die makes it worse. Instead, we're left to picture it ourselves from her cries of distress and two stark gunshots.

12. Rita Morgan, Dexter

How they died: Returning home after murdering the Trinity Killer, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) realises that Trinity had one last kill up his sleeve. After hearing Rita's (Julie Benz) phone ringing on the table, he hears his son crying upstairs and discovers Rita's body in a bloody bathtub.

Why it's shocking: Death was fairly commonplace throughout Dexter, although no other character demise hit as hard as this. What's worse is that it was wholly avoidable if Dexter hadn't toyed with Trinity and just straight-up killed him. We had just started to hope that Dexter would find a happy ending with Rita when we're hit with the horrifying image of her lifeless body in blood-red water. It's an unforgettable ending to season four.

Ian Sandwell

Ian Sandwell is an entertainment journalist, an avid FrightFester, and horror genre lover, as well as being a bit of a Marvel geek. Ian was the Features Writer at GamesRadar between 2015-2017, and has since moved on to Digital Spy where he currently sits as the website's movies editor.