Tonight, after thirteen years and 305 episodes on the show NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, actor Michael Weatherly will be leaving the show. Weatherly was one of the show’s main stars but no one knows how his exit will be written into the long-running program. With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at 10 memorable TV character exits.
It’s possible that Weatherly’s exit will prove to be a meaningful and memorable one both for the actor and for the audience but in the meantime, we can take a look back at a few shows that said goodbye (sometimes only temporarily) to some of their best characters.
Check it out and if you disagree or think I missed something, let me know in the comments section.
Warning: There will be spoilers.
Bobby Ewing, Dallas (1985): The CBS drama Dallas was always known for its cliffhangers but at the end of season 8, few people expected that Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), J.R.’s younger and more trustworthy brother, would meet his end. The final moments of the season featured Bobby protecting his wife Pam by pushing her out of the way of a moving car (driven by his psychotic sister-in-law). Bobby took the hit and died in the hospital in front of his family.
What happened next? Bobby was off the show for a full year. In the following season finale, it was revealed that Bobby’s death had been part of one of Pam’s elaborate dreams. Bobby had never died after all.
Rosalind Shays, L.A. Law (1991): Actress Diana Muldaur was nominated twice at the Emmys for her supporting work on L.A. Law but that’s not what people remember about her character of Rosalind Shays. They remember her character’s demise. Shays, a tough-minded and strong woman on the show, met her end when elevator doors opened in front of her and she fell to her death in an empty elevator shaft. The episode title: Good to the Last Drop.
What happened next? I assume the elevator was fixed.
Nurse Carol Hathaway, ER (2000): In the show’s sixth year, George Clooney had already moved on from ER and had starred in movies as Batman & Robin, Three Kings and Out of Sight. However, he returned to the NBC drama where Nurse Carol Hathaway, his former love and the mother of his two children decided to hang up her scrubs. According to History.com, Hathaway had watched “one of her patients, a woman dying from cancer, bid goodbye to her family” and flew into Seattle to reunite with Dr. Ross (Clooney).
What happened next? Both Ross and Hathaway returned to ER in the show’s 15th season, where it was revealed that they were now married.
Teri Bauer, 24 (2002): The first season of 24 ended with a shocker. Jack Bauer saved the day only to realize in the episode’s closing moments that his pregnant wife Teri had been killed by his traitorous ex-girlfriend Nina.
What happened next? Teri’s death was only the first of 24‘s most shocking demises. It left Bauer in mourning and set the stage for seven more seasons of Jack Bauer fighting to save the world while consistently making personal sacrifices.
Marissa Cooper, The O.C. (2006): The FOX drama The O.C. ended its third season with a shocker. Marissa Cooper, the love of Ryan Atwood’s life, was tragically killed in a car accident. Atwood said goodbye to his dying love after he carried her away from the wreckage.
What happened next? The show only lasted one more season, which featured Marisa’s best friend Summer having a breakdown and Ryan moving on with his life.
Dr. Preston Burke, Grey’s Anatomy (2007): Burke’s exit at the end of the show’s third season might not have been the most shocking one (Derek’s death takes that spot) but Burke left on a sorrowful note, leaving his fiance Christina (Sandra Oh) at the altar. After being jilted, Christina returned to the couple’s apartment only to realize that Burke had disappeared completely.
What happened next? In the show’s tenth season (in 2014), Dr. Burke — who was then married to another woman with children of his own — briefly reconnected with Christina and offered her his medical position in Zurich. Actress Oh left the series that year. Since Burke’s infamous exit in 2007, the long-running drama has been known for killing off many of its main characters (including McDreamy).
Gus Fring, Breaking Bad (2011): Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was one of the most memorable characters on AMC’s Breaking Bad. A former associate of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the character was a successful drug kingpin who was willing to do anything to maintain his power and money. When White and Fring became enemies though, White used one of Fring’s old associates as bait to bring Fring in and ultimately end his life at the end of season 4.
What happened next? White’s power continued to grow in the show’s final season (which was split into two parts). In the end though, the morally-corrupt character had to painfully face some of the consequences of his actions.
Robb Stark, Game of Thrones (2013): In season one, Game of Thrones proved that it was willing to kill off one of its most honorable characters (to coincide with the plot of the book). In season three though, the show proved that it was willing to kill off more than just the doomed book characters. At the infamous Red Wedding, the heroic Robb Stark (Richard Madden) met his maker alongside his mother Caitlyn (Michelle Fairley) after his family was betrayed. The show took the tragic event from the books one step further though killing off more characters than the novel did.
What happened next? With their army decimated, the Starks lost the war as the Lannisters continued to maintain their power– a power that has been undercut time and again since their victory over the Starks.
Hershel, The Walking Dead (2013): Although the death of Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) was tragic on this show, her demise wasn’t as memorable as the loss of the wise and noble Hershel (Scott Wilson). In season 4, right between a battle between their dueling forces, Hershel was beheaded by the psychotic Governor (David Morrissey) when the latter faced off against Rick (Andrew Lincoln). The beheading set off a major battle between the two enemies and the Governor eventually met his own fate.
What happened next? Hershel’s daughters moved on with Rick’s group but even they were not safe. Hershel’s daughter Beth was later killed.
Will Gardner, The Good Wife (2014): The Good Wife was firing on all cylinders in its fifth season. The title character (Julianna Margulies) had left the firm where she had worked since the pilot episode and her ex-lover Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was still thirsting for revenge.
In the fifteenth episode of the season, Will was suddenly shot to death in court setting the stage for Alicia to finally realize how much she truly loved him. The death was a true shocker.
What happened next? Alicia slowly moved on with her life but never found the love that she always shared with Will. The character did appear to her in a daydream though in the series finale, during which she fully realized how much he had always meant to her.