Wait, Did Mare of Easttown Really Just Deliver the Most Shocking TV Death of the Year?!

In its fifth episode, Mare of Easttown surprised viewers with the death of a fan-favorite character. How does it compare to some of TV's most shocking deaths ever? Let's take a look.

By Tierney Bricker May 17, 2021 3:00 AMTags
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Spoiler warning! If you have not yet watched the May 16 episode of Mare of Easttown, make like Kate Winslet in Titanic and just let g.

It's official: Easttown is the saddest town in the world. Why? Well, on the HBO hit series' fifth episode, "Illusions," fans saw the unexpected and blink-and-you-almost-missed-it death of one of the show's favorite characters: Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters). Yep, they really just killed off one of the Internet's boyfriends.

The American Horror Story vet has been nothing short of impressive in his most grounded roles since becoming a genre TV favorite in the Ryan Murphy universe (not to mention his recent meta guest appearance as a fake Quicksilver on WandaVision), more than holding his own with Oscar winner Kate Winslet in the titular role. And so it feels oddly fitting that Colin—and Peters with him—was taken from viewers way too soon, with just two episodes remaining in the limited series.

But with his seriously sad death came not one, but two silver linings: The missing women were found and rescued as a direct result of Colin's work on the case, though the central mystery of who murdered Erin (Cailee Spaeny) is ongoing.

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And because, you know, we're not already sad enough over the tragic end for Det. Zabel and how we'll never really know the answer to him cheekily asking Mare, "How do you know what I want?" after their first kiss—still sobbing, TBH!—we're looking back on the most shocking deaths in recent TV history. Yeah, you're going to want to grab some Kleenex and a pint of ice cream for this stroll down memory lane...

Rebecca Pearson, This Is Us

After a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's, Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) passed away with her three children by her bedside on the May 17 episode of This Is Us

The episode featured Rebecca on a train, being greeted by deceased friends and family members from throughout her life, before eventually being reunited with first husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). 

We have not stopped crying.

Colin Zabel, Mare of Easttown

Ummm, WTF just happened?!

That was the reaction when Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) was brutally shot and killed by Mr. Potts in the HBO limited series' fifth episode when he and partner Mare (Kate Winslet) were following up on a lead in their investigation into multiple missing women. After Colin was shot, Mare was able to take down Potts, who was also trying to kill her, and save the two girls he had kidnapped and locked away in his attic. 

Just hours before his death, Colin ominously told his concerned mother, "My whole life's been about being careful...look how far that's gotten me," and then he unexpectedly kissed Mare after they shared their respective secrets. Oh, what could've been for two of Pennsylvania's most f--ked up investigators.

Michael, Jane the Virgin

Surprise! Jane the Virgin killed Michael (Brett Dier) in season three. Just when you thought he was out of the woods from a shooting, twist! And then the show jumped three years into the future, avoiding Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) grieving period.

Michael ended up to not actually be dead (he was given amnesia and sent to a ranch), but it took so long for that reveal that we're leaving him in here. That season and a half when we thought he was dead was enough to make it count! 

Walter White, Breaking Bad

Going into the series finale, there was a 50/50 chance he would have died, but how he went, and the entire series finale was spectacular. Our favorite anti-hero (sorry, Dexter Morgan), managed to take out Jack's neo-nazi gang, save Jesse (Aaron Paul) and get the money to his family. You did good, Walt (Bryan Cranston). Unfortunately, the machine gun contraption that killed the White Supremacist group also managed to hit him with a bullet, leading to his slow death. But Walt got to pay a visit to his lab equipment one last time, and he looked almost peaceful as he died.

Rayna Jaymes, Nashville

Rayna Jaymes took her final bow on Nashville and died following injuries sustained in a car accident. CMT revived the ABC series after cancellation and rumors swirled Connie Britton wasn't going to be with the show for long, but she downplayed those rumblings...until her character died. Britton said it was her decision to leave.

Joyce Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) could save the world from demons, vampires and everything in between, but she couldn't save her mom from the least-supernatural death ever: a brain aneurysm. Joyce Summers died out of the blue, leading to one of the best episodes of television of all time. The fact that Joss Whedon played this scene without the usual music in the background made it all the more devastating.

Vivien Harmon, American Horror Story: Murder House

Remember when no one knew that AHS would be an anthology series and we couldn't figure out what the bloody hell Ryan Murphy was doing killing off his leading lady in season one? Good times. When it was revealed that Vivien (Connie Britton) basically had a demon baby inside her, you knew the birth wasn't going to end well. After delivering the twins (one stillborn and one demon baby), Vivien was bleeding out too much to survive. What, the 1920's ghost doctor couldn't save her?!

Denny, Grey's Anatomy

All. The. Tears. One of the saddest death scenes on Grey's Anatomy, no? And TV of all time. A patient of Izzy's (Katherine Heigl), Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) waited a long time to get his heart transplant, and you thought his happily ever after was on its way! But the cruel Shonda Rhimes had other plans: Denny died after a clot from his stiches went to his brain. Izzy, all dressed up in her prom attire, found her fiancé lying dead in his hospital bed. She promptly crawled in with him to cuddle one last time. Ugh, our hearts are broken all over again and now we need a transplant.

Caitlin Todd, NCIS

NCIS played us like a fool in the season-two finale! Agent Todd (Sasha Alexander) and the gang had a big shootout with terrorists, and she dove in front of Gibbs (Mark Harmon) to take a bullet. We feared the worst, but Todd was fine because she was wearing a vest. Just when we all exhaled and relaxed while Gibbs thanked her, bang! Ari (Rudolf Martin) the sniper shot her right between the eyes.

Ned Stark, Game of Thrones

The first time we knew this epic HBO series was not messing around. Game of Thrones arrived on our small screens with a shocking death in the first season: the main character! Readers of the books knew this was coming, but it was still shocking to see our great king get beheaded, especially since the order came from the worst person ever: Joffrey.

Adrianna La Cerva, The Sopranos

Is there any way out of the mob besides death? After discovering that Adriana (Drea de Matteo) had been working as an informant for the FBI, Tony (James Gandolfini) ordered her execution. Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) took her for a drive (we all know what that means), making Adriana think he was taking her to see Christopher (Michael Imperioli). Instead, he shot her twice and killed her. At least the camera panned up so we didn't have to see her take the bullets. Still, since we don't really know what happened to Tony (cut to black!), this goes down as the most shocking Sopranos death of all time in our book.

Detective Carter, Person of Interest

File under: Did not see this coming! Carter (Taraji P. Henson) just got her detective title back, but then Simmons (Robert John Burke) had to ruin everything! He pops up out of an alley and shoots both Carter and Reese (Jim Caviezel). Unfortunately, it's Carter who succumbs to her wounds, and she dies in Reese's arms.

Clay, Sons of Anarchy

Remember that time they killed off the show's second male lead?! Holy crazy bananas twists! After Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and the gang breaks Clay (Ron Perlman) out of his prison transport, SAMCRO kills the Irishmen and pins it all on Clay. How? Jax shoots him in the neck (and in the chest after he falls to the ground), and makes it look like Clay was involved in a gun fight with the Irish. R.I.P., Mr. President.

Lexie Grey, Grey's Anatomy

Damnit, Shonda! Stop doing this to us. After the plane carrying Lexie (Chyler Leigh) and six other doctors goes down, she gets crushed under debris and there is nothing that can be done to save her. Sloan (Eric Dane) finds her and holds her hand while she dies, telling her he will always love her. She passes away just as her sister Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) appears on the scene. Back in Seattle, Sloan also dies from the wounds sustained in the crash, and Seattle Grace is renamed Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

Lost Deaths

Where do we begin with this show? John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) was strangled by Ben (Michael Emerson), Sayid (Naveen Andrews) sacrificed himself on Widmore's submarine, and don't even get us started on Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) drowning together. The fact that Jin refused to leave his love after she got trapped in the flooded compartment...still gets us even today.

Lucy Knight, ER

How can we ever forget that shot of Carter falling to the floor, only to see someone already lying there, dying? Lucy (Kellie Martin) is stabbed by the schizophrenic patient Paul (David Krumholtz), who was in a delusional state. What makes this death much, much worse is Carter (Noah Wyle) getting stabbed as well after discovering a Valentine's Day card from Lucy to him. As he falls to the floor bleeding, he sees Lucy also on the ground, slowly dying from her wounds. Despite the heroic efforts by the docs at Chicago General, Lucy eventually dies. 

Teri Bauer, 24

Jack's (Kiefer Sutherlandwife Teri (Leslie Hope) dying in the season-one finale made us reallly sit up and say, 'Oh, snap! 24 is not fooling around." It was heartbreaking to watch Jack finally get to his wife, only to find her slumped over in a chair, dead from a gunshot wound to the stomach. The image of Jack holding Teri's lifeless body and telling her he's sorry will haunt us forever.

 

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Tara Knowles, Sons of Anarchy

We knew it would never be a happy ending for Tara (Maggie Siff) and Jax (Charlie Hunnam), but holy hell, did it have to end so horrifically? After giving us an inkling of false hope that everything might turn out OK, Tara's mother in law Gemma (Katey Sagal), the grandmother of Tara's child, went full-on crazytown on Tara, brutally killing her. Cut to: Tara dying in the arms of a sobbing Jax. All. The. Tears. We don't know whether to high five showrunner Kurt Sutter or shake an angry fist in rage—but we guess that's why we have two hands.

Lori Grimes, The Walking Dead

Uggggghhhhh...This was hard to watch. After delivering her baby, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is bleeding out from her emergency C-section. Carl (Chandler Riggs), knowing her mother will reanimate after death, decides to prevent that from happening by shooting her in the head. 

Allison, Teen Wolf

In its three-season run, the MTV hit series has killed off some minor characters (only to resurrect them later), which is why we were so completely shocked when it went and killed off its lead female character in the penultimate episode of season three. Our girl died in Scott's arms after being stabbed by an Oni spirit during a massive fight. "I'm in the arms of my first love. The first person I've ever loved. The person I've always loved. I love you...Scott McCall," she said, as we desolved into a puddle of tears.

Brody, Homeland

OK, so we knew this day would eventually have to come, as the executive producers always said their original plan was to off the conflicted war vet-turned prisoner of war-turned terrorist-turned-maybe a good guy. But then you take into account that Damien Lewis is Damien Lewis. He won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his performance and he's the male freakin' lead, so yes, we were completely thrown off-guard when Brody was hanged in public in the season three finale as as devastated (and pregnant!) Carrie (Claire Danes) watched. 

The Red Wedding, Game of Thrones

Remember that time that show killed off an entire family of lead characters? The ones you thought would surely make it to the very end? Fans of the Game of Thrones book series knew this was coming, but even they got a surprise when Robb's (Richard Madden) wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) got stabbed in the stomach at the feast (she wasn't supposed to be there!), killing both her and their unborn baby. Rob tried to avenge her, but took too many arrows to the chest, and Roose (Michael McElhatto) finished him off with a sword. Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), overcome with grief, slits Walder Frey's (David Bradley) wife's throat moments before Black Walder Frey (Tim Plester) cuts her throat. Thanks for killing everyone we love, GoT writers!

Rita Morgan, Dexter

We are still in therapy over this one, which goes down as the most horrific thing that has ever happened on a TV show, in our book. Even though Dexter (Michael C. Hall) has killed Trinity (John Lithgow), there is one last murder he had yet to discover: his wife. Dexter walks in on Rita (Julie Benz) in a bathtub full of blood and their son Harrison crying on the ground, coverd in his mother's blood. Rita's head and lifeless eyes are turned toward the baby she cannot help. The memory of that awful scene is stuck in our brains forever. And let's be real. It wasn't just the death of Rita, but the death of a show we couldn't ever feel the same about afterward. RIP, Rita Morgan and Showtime's Dexter.

Jon Snow, Game of Thrones

Noooooooo! The season five finale of the HBO hit series' delivered its most devastating death yet: Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Yep, they actually freakin' did it, with Jon being stabbed to death by his fellow Night's Watch brothers who didn't approve of Jon's mercy towards the Wildlings. And having young Olly, Jon's protege, deliver the final stab? Too. Freakin'. Much. And Harington confirmed that Jon really is dead, even if we are holding out hope that one of these theories turns out to be true. Alas, we know nothing...except that we will never get over Jon's heartbreaking death.

Derek Shepherd, Grey's Anatomy

When Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) discovered that her hubby hadn't made it to his last DC meeting, right after they had reconciled and he was moving back home, we couldn't have dreamed that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) would actually be dead. He had already survived death so many times that he almost seemed invincible. Then, he spent half an episode saving the lives of some car crash victims, only to be t-boned by an 18-wheeler right after he got back into his own car. He could have lived, if the ambulance hadn't taken him to some dinky hospital with incompetent doctors who didn't think he was stable enough for a brain scan. A hallucination made us think for a second that he survived, but then the truth was revealed: he was brain dead. Meredith then had to pull the plug, both on Derek and on our hearts, while "Chasing Cars" played in the background. The death may have been spoiled a couple hours before the episode aired, but it was still a total shock a serious bummer to basically the entire world. We may never get over it. 

Will Gardner, The Good Wife

Talk about a death no one saw coming. The CBS hit, well into its critically acclaimed fifth season, pulled a fast one on fans, killing off the show's male lead Will Gardner, played by Golden Globe nominated fan favorite Josh Charles. The worst part? He was gunned down in court while representing one of his deranged clients (guest star, and a former favorite of ours, Hunter Parrish). 

"Every moment has been a pleasure. We'll more than miss you. With all our gratitude, Michelle & Robert." The Good Wife co-creators Robert King and Michelle King tweeted at Charles after the shocker went down. All the tears...and Will and Alicia feels!

Mare of Easttown airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.

For everything you should be watching right now, don't miss BingE! Club hosted by Erin Lim on Snapchat!