Adult Fear: Live-Action TV

  • Game of Thrones: Families trying to protect their own is a major theme in the series. When they fail, it's this trope.
    • Catelyn Stark comes to believe her entire family has been lost. Her husband is executed, one daughter forcibly married to an enemy, and all the others are presumed dead except Robb — he is murdered right in front of her.
    • The death of Joffrey Baratheon as his mother looks on helplessly.
    • In the season two premier, Joffrey orders all for his father's bastards to be killed. What results is several children being murdered by the goldcloaks while their mothers are Forced to Watch.
  • Supernatural: A moment that could fill any parent with terror was in the first season, when a toddler is tempted into climbing inside a fridge which then closes. Cue mother looking for child, and taking a looong time to find that child. (The child survives, but still...)
    • Later seasons get less and less quick to enforce Infant Immortality, and children are more often either possessed, hurt, used, or more than one of the above. Several episodes have dealt with what happens when the child itself is a danger, such as with the need to kill or scar one's soul for life. Why? Because the universe doesn't care about age.
    • The series is built on this from the first episode. Imagine walking into your infant's room late at night and seeing a man standing over his crib. You assume it's your significant other, only to walk away and realise that your husband is downstairs and you have no idea who is in the room behind you or what they're doing with your baby. If that wasn't bad enough, when you run back into your child's room you are pinned to the ceiling and forced to watch as this unknown assailant corrupts your child before slowly killing you and burning you alive... all as you can't help but stare straight down at the baby you were unable to protect.
    • Dean is terrified of turning out like his abusive father. He ends up striking his honorary son Ben during his brush with imminent vampirism, which was the last nail in the coffin for his and Lisa's relationship.
    • The season 3 episode "The Kids Are Alright" revolves around this concept as children are kidnapped by creatures known as Changelings and replaced by them to feed on their parents while the actual kids are held by the Changeling Mother. This comes to head when a mother realizes the change in her daughter and practically drives the car into the lake with the creature taking her child's form inside.
    • In "Something Wicked" there was an outbreak of incurable pneumonia only affecting children, which turned out to actually be a monster disguised as a pediatrician who sucked the life out of children after sneaking into their bedrooms at night. The victims all fall into comas they won't wake up from and the "illness" spreads to all the children of a family, starting with the youngest.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The episode "An Unearthly Child", which until the reveal could easily be a story about child abuse and the Subtext is very intentional. Imagine that you are a schoolteacher and in your class there is a strange teenage girl who seems ignorant about some things and very knowledgeable on others, waits in school until after dark before she goes home, works hard in school but never does her homework, and becomes very distressed easily. She claims to live with her grandfather who never comes into the school, and won't talk to her teachers because he 'doesn't like strangers'. You discover her address on the school's records is fake, because it leads to a junkyard. When you go and investigate an old man emerges, who treats you with disdain, refuses to talk to you about your pupil and dares you to call the police, but then you hear the girl's voice coming from a locked, junked piece of street furniture and realise he's got her locked up in there...
    • "The Macra Terror" is an allegory for this. Turns out the 'happy life' society is set up to brainwash you into thinking you need - and enforcing to others - is to toil uselessly for decades in a job that benefits no-one except shadowy horrifying masters, slowly weakening and dying in order to afford the privilege of getting a week at Butlin's, listening to foul electronic pop music, and getting some new clothes and haircuts. We know Grand Control is right, and we must obey!!
    • "The Robots of Death" combines various social and political Paranoia Fuel (class warfare, revolution) with various mental illness fears - being in a mental state where you subconsciously associate everyone you love with a walking corpse is one thing, but what happens if you become delusional enough to believe that the same applies to you? Then throw in some good old-fashioned spooky robots and fear of suffocation to keep the kids interested.
    • "Image of the Fendahl". There's a horrible monster but it's explicitly a metaphor for suicidal ideation.
    • In the episode "Turn Left", Great Britain devolves into a police state and things get increasingly bleak with economic depression. It turns out it was a parallel universe, a nightmare realm, and Donna manages to return history to its old, proper course. But still.
      • It's made all the more chilling by the fact that, unlike most depictions of modern fascism, the episode has no evil dictator or extremist political faction to fill the obvious "villain" role. There's just a long series of badly timed disasters—the kinds of disasters that the Doctor regularly stops, in fact—that robs the people of England of their hope, and leaves them too scared to question their leaders.
    • It's made all the worse by the obvious Holocaust parallels at one point. The government sends foreigners away to "labour camps" as they're unable to simply deport them. Donna, while agitated, clearly doesn't grasp the situation in full. Her grandfather, Wilfred, lived through WWII and cries as he watches history repeat itself.
      • Not just the holocaust - there was a very disturbing 9/11 parallel as well, with the mushroom cloud rising above London, while people look to the distance and can't quite believe what is happening.
    • Plot holes aside, "Gridlock" becomes very disturbing, in a peculiar fashion, if you start thinking about being stuck in an inescapable traffic jam that will never, ever end (maybe you have to drive into to work to appreciate it).
    • In the episode "The Eleventh Hour", the then-seven-years-old Amelia Pond is clearly frightened of a crack in her bedroom wall, which she can hear voices out of. When the Doctor meets her, he even notes that she's quite brave and that the crack must be extraordinarily strange to scare her so much. It's also shown that Amelia's aunt - her only guardian - not only doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the crack, but is often not home to care for her. It turns out that the "crack" is an opening to a parallel dimension, which an alien prisoner escaped from. Because the Doctor jumps through time 12 years instead of 5 minutes, Amelia unknowingly spends most of her life living with an alien criminal hiding in her house, creating a mental link with her to steal her form. While this obviously plays off of a child's fear of things like the bogeyman and seemingly mundane details, there's also the parental fear of danger coming to a child because of not taking their worries seriously.
    • It gets worse at the end of the season. Remember how the crack erases people from existence? It got Amelia's parents. They are removed from reality itself. Their own daughter won't remember that they ever existed.
    • At the end of "The Almost People", Amy suddenly, with no mental preparation, has gone into labour and must now give birth in front of a terrifying woman who is going to do something horrible to the baby.
    • "A Good Man Goes To War" has an even worse one for Amy and Rory. Not only does their baby get kidnapped, when it seems like they've saved her it turns out that the bad guys swapped her with a flesh copy that literally dissolves in Amy's arms And it gets worse; Amy & Rory don't see their child again until she is already an adult; an adult deliberately raised to be a sociopath and Laser-Guided Tykebomb.
    • "The God Complex" also has a bit of this; alongside the Demonic Dummies and Monster Clown, the rooms also show such fears as social anxiety and disappointing your parents.
    • "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" pretty much invokes this - your children are lost in the wilderness, with a very strange man you don't trust, and now people are telling you that the whole area is about to become horrifically dangerous and anyone within is doomed. When Madge pulls a gun on them, the workers don't believe for a second that she'd use it. Until she says the words "I'm looking for my children". Then they know she is very serious.
    • In "The Stolen Earth" there is quite a bit of fear, naturally, when the Daleks appear and had seemingly left Earth with little chance to contact the Doctor, but most heartbreaking was Sarah Jane crying that her adopted son, Luke, would die so young.
  • The science-fiction series Series/Sliders was naturally filled with these. In one episode, there is a parallel universe where kids rule and adults are bossed around and have curfews.
  • Orphan Black makes heavy use of this by showing how much potential danger the family members of the main characters would be in.
    • In episode 1.04, the police interview a woman who woke up to find her son covered in blood. Not his blood, he wasn't injured, but there had been a murderer in her home with her child while she was asleep.
    • In the climax of episode 1.08, Kira gets taken out of the house by a known serial killer. She walks onto the road without looking first and gets hit by a car. Fortunately, she makes a quick recovery. Later, as part of the Season 1 cliffhanger, Sarah returns to Mrs. S.'s house to discover it's trashed and both she and Kira are gone.
    • In 2.09 Kira is kidnapped again, and in the next episode Sarah is forced to go through all kinds of degrading rituals in order to recover her. If not for outside intervention she would have been a de facto prisoner of Dyad indefinitely.
    • Mrs. S. is horrified when she gets the news that her foster daughter Sarah died — twice. Though both times, she turned out to still be alive.
    • A running theme is Sarah doubting her ability to be a good parent and worrying about not be able to provide a safe, stable life for her daughter.
    • Alison descends into alcoholism after letting her best friend die. Her husband had to force her into rehab by threatening to take the kids.
    • Cosima develops a terminal illness and slowly wastes away over the course of season 2. Jennifer's illness also inspires this Cosima and Delphine.
    • Ethan Duncan's wife was murdered in an arson attack, his daughter was kidnapped, and he was forced to fake his death and hide for 20 years. He eventually reunites with his daughter, but that actually makes things worse; his precious little girl grew up to be a cold, amoral Manipulative Bitch with little, if any, capability to feel love or empathy. Then he commits suicide right in front of her.
    • The children in the Prolethean nursery are being raised by an abusive cult that will undoubtedly brainwash them as they grow up.
    • Mark has to watch the girl he loves be abused by her parents. He eventually stands up to her father on her behalf.
    • Cal is forced to watch as his girlfriend is kidnapped at gunpoint and the perpetrator makes it clear he's coming back for their daughter as well.
    • Another running theme is having to struggle for control over your own body. Sarah, under the guise of Beth, learns that Paul would let people into their home to monitor and experiment on Beth in her sleep. Cosima's girlfriend goes behind her back in administering treatments for her respiratory disorder that Cosima doesn't approve of. Rachel learns that she was made infertile because her father didn't want her having children. Helena and Gracie are forced into an incredibly squicky Medical Rape and Impregnate plot. Sarah is made to sign away her medical rights, and is wheeled away without warning for a procedure she didn't agree to.
    • Rudy holds Kira at gunpoint while interrogating her mother.
    • For Bonnie, coming home from a trip to learn that her home burned down, her husband died, and her daughter ran off with a military spy.
    • Seeing the tiny coffin of Abel Johanssen, who died in infancy.
    • Almost everything that happens to Gracie in season 3. She learns that her husband lied about who he really was, she suffers a miscarriage, her mother disowns her, and she gets infected with a pathogen that leaves her infertile.
  • In Teen Wolf, Sheriff Stilinski's reaction and horror at Stiles' kidnapping is a very accurate portrayal of every parent's worst nightmare of losing their children.
  • The Torchwood five-part story Children of Earth features the kidnap of children to send to the 456, at the approval of the government. At the conclusion, one child is sacrificed horribly to avert Infant Immortality. That child is Jack Harkness' grandson. And Jack had to use the machine to kill him. With vibrations. Over the course of several agonizing minutes. All while listening to his daughter screaming for her son
    • And this is just after Jack's lover, Ianto, was killed due to Jack's mistake in confronting the 456 without any real plan or safety precautions
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures, as a kids' show with an adult protagonist, runs on this. Not quite so surprising when you consider its parent show.
    • Of particular note is the episode where we're led to believe Luke isn't an alien created Artificial Human after all, but had been a normal human boy experimented on and kidnapped from his family, and thus unwittingly kidnapped by Sarah Jane. So we have your child being taken away from you, being accused of kidnapping because of what's basically analogous to an administrative error in adoption records/your adopted child's "real" parents coming out of the blue demanding "their" child back, believing you've been a good parent only for someone to say you've psychologically damaged your kid, having to give your child up despite loving them very much and your child not understanding why they have to go, and sending your child somewhere because you believe it's the right thing to do only for them to be mistreated. It's a really dark set up.
  • Firefly:
    • It posits the very, very real fear that your children could be targeted by a variety of threats, including rapist pirates and the government - which also brings up hefty fears of government repression and regulation.
    • There's the fact that the Tam siblings are forced to become outlaws because their own parents would turn them back to the Alliance, despite the clear evidence that the Academy was doing horrible things to River. This plays off of the fear of child abuse and children being unable to rely on their parents for sufficient protection.
    • River had been recruited by a prestigious school because she was gifted. Why? So she could be abused, tortured, and experimented on. It gets worse... she was regularly sending back perfectly innocent and happy letters in her own handwriting so all this happens without you ever suspecting a thing.
  • Possibly the three scariest words on American television: the Emergency Broadcast System, complete with one of the most un-nerving sounds on American television (and, thanks to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, one of the scariest ones in American video games).
  • In CSI, two boys went missing and the main suspect is a pedophile. It didn't help when the team had to enlist his help to try to find the boys and he began to describe in detail to Grissom how he would lure a child to him by gaining their trust. Another suspect was one of the boys' abusive grandfather. Imagine you were the father of that man, forced to leave your son with him because the grandfather was the only one available to look after your son. And failed.
  • Space Sheriff Shaider. Be careful of your children. A cult might brainwash them into committing unspeakable acts.
  • The 1988 TV movie God Bless the Child provides a very depressing scenario: a woman is deserted by her husband, and evicted from her apartment. She and her daughter are homeless and have to go on welfare. She is unable to get a job because she is homeless, and has limited experience, having been a homemaker. Although the state agency finds her some low-income housing, it is infected with rats; when she complains to the health department, the landlord evicts her in retaliation. Eventually, her daughter gets an infection, and, while she recovers, her mother sees no other option but to turn her over to foster care.
  • Jam relied heavily on this. The "Plumber Baby" sketch is possibly the best-known example, with other sketches focusing on paedophilia, child murder, sexual assault, Out with a Bang ("Gush") and more.
  • Ghost Writer has a story arc where people, including one of the team, are getting sick seemingly randomly; the culprit turns out to be toxic waste dumped in the community garden. It's horrible enough for kids, but even worse from an older perspective; being a parent of one of those kids, finding out that the community garden that was thought could only be a good thing is actually poisoning their children. The member who was a victim was Gabby, at the time the youngest team member. Seeing the normally high-energy Gabby being unable to do more than weakly protest being forced to eat soup, while her older brother is obviously petrified to the point of treating her like a china doll, is heartwrenching.
  • Being Human uses this in one episode, when Annie sees her mother for the first time after dying. There are two points that stand out in particular. The first is when Annie is too shocked to say anything, and the medium who is speaking on her behalf has to tell Mrs. Sawyer that there isn't anything he's being told. Mrs. Sawyer says that she hopes he's lying, because she can't stand the thought that her daughter could communicate through him freely, but can't speak to her own mother. The other is when Mrs. Sawyer breaks down and confesses that she feels she failed her daughter and that if she was a better mother, she would have known that her child was unhappy and alone.
  • There are far too many things in Criminal Minds that appeal to parents watching it. Such as child abduction, pedophiles, child porn and children seeing things they shouldn't. Plus the episodes that subvert Infant Immortality.
  • The Twilight Zone was full of this in addition to more supernatural threats. The episode "In Praise of Pip" shows a bookie receiving news that his son Pip has been seriously wounded in The Vietnam War and is possibly dying. The rest of the episode revolves around the man hallucinating(?) that Pip is a ten year old boy again while he is dying of a gunshot wound. In what is a massively sad scene, he begs his son not to die and apologizes for not being a better father and role model to him while promising to do better even though he realizes it may be too late for both of them.
    • "How Much Do You Love Your Kid?" from The Twilight Zone (2002): Your child may be kidnapped, and the police won't do a thing about it, because it's for a perfectly legal TV show. And there's the implied threat that if you can't find your child in an hour, you'll never see them again. And your own husband was the kidnapper, and thinks that doing it all was a favor.
  • Rescue 911. Usually about Once an Episode they'd feature a true story about a kid getting wounded in some horrible way or another.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit centers on Ripped from the Headlines plots, doesn't hesitate to whip out the truly alarming statistics on domestic abuse, sexual assault, incest, and child molestation. In one particularly upsetting-for-grownups episode, a little boy goes missing at a birthday party and is found dead shortly afterward. The security tape from the party shows him holding a balloon as he walks out of the camera's viewpoint— only for the balloon to roll by it without the boy only seconds later. The big kicker? He was killed by another child. An adult might have a healthy suspicion of other adults around their kids, but who would ever question another kid at a birthday party?
  • The season 1 finale of Lost has Michael's son Walt stolen right out of his hands and abducted by the Others for unknown purposes, before they torch the raft to ensure they can't be followed.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • In the pilot, Regina's adopted child seeks out his biological mother who he claims is his real mom and who he immediately loves and prefers over her. Most of the first season is driven by Ragina's paranoia that Emma is trying to take Henry from her.
    • Also in the pilot, Snow and Charming having to send a newborn Emma to a place they know nothing about, with the only other choice being allowing Regina to murder her.
    • Near the end of Season 1, Emma's son, Henry, makes a Heroic Sacrifice for her by eating the turnover that Regina has made from the poisoned apple, leaving him in a coma-like state. Emma's reaction when Henry collapses onto the floor after eating the turnover, and when she finally realizes that Henry was right about the curse in Storybrooke, makes this a pretty good example.
    • Regina, who happens to be Henry's adopted mother and whom she truthfully loves despite what Henry thinks, when she realizes that he ate the turnover instead of Emma.
    • When Regina reveals that magic is unpredictable in Storybrooke and that there is a possibility that Henry can actually die from eating the turnover. Henry almost almost does die but is saved by Emma when she kisses him goodbye.
    • There's Rumplestiltskin whose son, Baelfire, was about to be drafted into a war. He was all Rumple had, and Rumple was so desperate to save his child from the horrors of war that he became the new Dark One.
    • Bae runs away after Rumple breaks his word to give up his power. Rumple's agony over losing his son is palpable
    • Jefferson remembers his past life with his daughter, yet has to watch her be raised by another family. She is Happily Adopted so Jefferson can't bring himself to destroy her world.
    • In the season 2 episode "Welcome to Storybrooke", Regina becomes fixated on a child who stumbles across town with his father just after the curse is unleashed, and tries to force them to stay with her, even using her mind control against Graham to keep them in Storybrooke, having Kurt arrested and forced to be separated from his son, making him an orphan.
    • In season 3, the Charmings, along with Regina, and Henry's father Neal, frantically search for Henry after he's been kidnapped by people they thought were friends.
    • Later, Snow and Charming's infant son is kidnapped just moments after birth. Fortunately, his family eventually gets him back.
    • Elsa spends much of the Arendelle arc fearing for Anna's life when Anna sets out for the Enchanted Forest to learn the real reason for their parents' ill-fated ocean voyage.
      • In flashbacks, when Ingrid has Anna imprisoned and Elsa interrogates her, Anna is crushed by the prospect that she may have lost her sister's love and trust. Once Elsa dismisses the guards and assures Anna that the interrogation was an act and she wasn't taken in by Ingrid's accusations against her, the relief on Anna's face is palpable.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall's reaction to his father's sudden heart attack was sob-inducing because it was sudden and unexpected and it happens.
    • Also, Lily dumping Marshall to go to San Francisco. Not the event itself, but the fallout that pops up in the episode Unpause. Turns out that Marshall still carries resentment over it and legitimately asks Lily whether her life with Marshall is a consolation prize, and whether or not she would have even come back had her bid to be a successful artist actually panned out in San Francisco. Adult Fear for Marshall, who after seven years still has that very scary thought in his head that he and his son are a Replacement Goldfish for the life his wife actually wanted - and Lily, whose love of her life is legitimately and truly questioning her devotion to him years after for the same offense.
  • Combined with a Wham Episode in Glee when Dave Karofsky's dad comes home to see that Dave tried to hang himself.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "The Body". Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch. Buffy, a girl who fights vampires and demons, is reduced to a near catatonic state clearly wondering how long Joyce had been in the house and if she could have been saved. It gets worse several episodes later when, despite the Scoobies' best efforts, her sister Dawn is still captured.
    • The possibility of Buffy losing guardianship of Dawn is discussed several times, but it comes to a head in the Season 6 episode "Gone" when a social worker comes at absolutely the worst time, everyone says absolutely the wrong things, and ends up with the following:
      MS. KROGER: I think I've seen enough.
      BUFFY: No, actually, I really don't think that you have. It's just ... it's been kind of, kind of a, a bad time.
      MS. KROGER: It's been a bad time now for a while, hasn't it, Ms. Summers? [...]
      BUFFY: But there—there are good reasons.
      MS. KROGER: Oh, I'm sure there are. But my interest is in Dawn's welfare. And the stability of her home life, something I'm just not convinced that an unemployed young woman like yourself can provide.
      BUFFY: I can. I, I do!
      MS. KROGER: Well, we'll just have to see about that then, won't we? Oh, and I'm, uh, going to recommend immediate probation in my report.
      BUFFY: What does that mean?
      MS. KROGER: It means that I'll be monitoring you very closely, Ms. Summers. And if I don't see that things are improving, well, I'll be forced to recommend that you be stripped of your sister's guardianship.
      BUFFY: You can't do that.
      MS. KROGER: I do what is in Dawn's best interest ... as should you. Have a nice day.
  • Angel does a pretty good job of this as well: it's bad enough when people are trying to get at your child before he's even born; it gets worse when he ends up in the hands of the enemy after being kidnapped (albeit with the best intentions) by one of your best friends. And when he finally comes back, you've missed his entire childhood and he's now a certifiable psychopath conditioned to kill you. This eventually forced Angel to cut his throat. He was saved by a timey-wimey Deal With The Evil Law Firm and given a normal life in which he had not memory of Angel, and just when Angel was coming to terms with that returned to Angel's life, having no idea who Angel was and then being forced to fight an extremely powerful demon while having no idea how to fight. That's just the big things.
  • JAG:
    • In episode "Nobody's Child", pregnant Harriet Sims accidentally gets to see crime scene photos of the corpse of a brutally murdered girl and freaks out. A few episodes later in "The Adversaries" she sees the dead girls identical twin sister and gets flashbacks of the photos.
    • During the show's last two seasons, Harm became the legal guardian for a teenage girl named Maddie, who was abandoned by her father, who was driving when her mother died in a car accident(it was later revealed that her father was sober behind the wheel at the time). During the show's final season, Maddie was badly injured in a bi-plane crash and faced paralysis. Although Harm was being reassigned to London during the show's finale, he promised that he and Maddie would be together and that he would help her rehabilitate from her injuries.
  • JAG spinoff series NCIS has Gibbs, whose wife and daughter were killed by a Mexican drug cartel while he was serving as a Marine sniper. Their deaths still haunt him to this day.
  • Primeval:
    • A season 4 episode has a pack of prehistoric creatures loose in a school during Saturday detention. A parent who sent their child off to do detention in an empty school and find out that there is some kind of wild animal or dangerous person on the loose. To make matters worse, the teacher is the first to die leaving the students alone. To make matters even worse one of the children wanders off and gets eaten before the team can save her.
    • A season 2 episode has a little girl and her dog disappearing through an anomaly. The girl in question had lost both her parents and was being taken care of by her neglectful older brother. And she was outside and found the anomaly because he wouldn't play with her. Imagine having someone in your care lost somewhere where they can't get back as a result of you neglecting them.
  • Most of the events of Fringe occur because scientist father Walter Bishop watched his only son die of a childhood illness and couldn't bring himself to let it happen again in the parallel universe.
  • Several episodes in Flashpoint deal with children being abducted and being held hostage, sometimes by people who have no trouble shooting them.
    • One episode had a baby trapped in a room with an armed hostage taker, causing everyone in Team One to worry.
    • A young girl is kidnapped from a playground despite her mother attentively watching. To make things worse, there was a recently paroled sex offender taking pictures of little girls in that playground from his car.
  • In Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves Rasmus' parents are more than a little worried that their son might contract AIDS. For the main characters AIDS is a brutal, unmerciful disease that takes them one by one and they don't know what causes it. The title of the series comes from how the medical personnel were so afraid of falling sick themselves that they didn't even dare to dry their patients' tears without wearing gloves. It may seem harsh given what we know today but in the eighties nobody knew how the disease was spread so it's hard to blame them for being scared.
  • One episode in Elementary deals with children being mysteriously abducted and their bodies would be later found. The latest victim was a little girl who was taken from her own bedroom.
  • The X-Files:
    • "Oubliette" features a child molester who kidnaps little pre-teen and teen girls and keeps them locked in a creepy basement. Amy, his victim, tried to escape but he caught her and dragged her back, and then denied her even water as punishment. She cried and begged him to let her go home to her mother. Oh god... Finally, when he realized he couldn't have her, he tried to drown her in a river.
    • "Home" was a very scary episode:
      • The Family That Slays Together might have been a bit exaggerated, but otherwise, such a nasty family of people who keep to themselves might exist. Abuse, incest, pain, filth, murder... For them, it represents their strength and unity.
      • There was a horribly deformed baby with every genetic defect imaginable. Agent Scully expressed her own uneasiness and anxiety over the issue.
        "Imagine all a woman's hopes and dreams for her child and then nature turns so cruel. What must a mother go through?"
    • The episode "Paper Hearts" featured a Serial Killer fascinated with Alice in Wonderland, fancying himself to be a Mad Hatter. He was a salesman and was very skilled in gaining people's trust. He took and murdered 16 little girls and kept twisted souvenirs in the form of hearts cut from their pajamas.
    • "Sein und Zeit" had a Serial Killer who was taking children from their beds, but tormenting their parents and the police with notes about what he's done, which all end with "NOBODY MESSES WITH SANTA CLAUS!" He also made the parents themselves be suspected of the crime.
    • Doggett's backstory is full of Adult Fear. His 7-year-old son, Luke, was riding his bike around the block on afternoon while his mother sat on the porch counting his laps. On the seventh lap, he doesn't come back around. He was kidnapped. No witnesses, no ransom, no suspect. Three days later, Doggett and Reyes discover Luke's body in a field, with a bullet in his back. It haunts then both relentlessly through seasons 8 and 9. Reyes describes the case as "stealing-into-the-bathroom-to-cry-my-eyes-out kind of hard." Doggett eventually finds Luke's killer and gets closure, but kids are forever his Berserk Button.
    • Even worse, the time he loses his memory, then gains it back, and having to relive the pain all over again.
    • Then there was "Fire" from the 1st season... Namely the children being trapped in a burning building twice!
  • Monday Mornings, a medical drama, had several.
    • All terminally ill children would fall here, but one of them stands out as particularly scary. Dr. Napur meets a young family in a coffee place and she compliments the parents that they have a cute baby girl. She's two months old and keeps smiling and almost laughing all the time. When the parents tell Dr. Napur that she's always this happy, she knows that something is very wrong and sends them to hospital immediately. It turns out that Chloe has a tumour in the vital part of her brain, and surgery on a baby this young is extremely risky.
    • A couple loses their child — a teenage daughter — during minor surgery to remove some scar tissue behind the ear. What was supposed to be a simple operation went sour when the nurse accidentally mixed a lethal dose of adrenalin (it should have been far smaller) with the anaesthetics, which went unnoticed by both the anaesthesiologist and the surgeon. This happened at very fancy hospital with stellar reputation.
    • What's more, the surgeon responsible is fired. Think about what goes into being a doctor. Deciding from a very young age that this is what you want to be. Working your ass off in high school to get into a good college. Working your ass off in college to get into a good medical school. Working your ass off in medical school to get into a good residency. Working your ass off in residency—and in certain specialties, like the one this doctor was in, the training is especially intense and grueling. All to earn a well-deserved reputation as one of the best doctors of your kind, only to lose it all in one instance because of a mistake.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine can provide a generous dose on occasion, particularly in its notorious 'O'Brien must suffer' episodes:
    • In 'Hard Time', the level-headed, down-to-earth Chief Engineer O'Brien is Mind Raped into experiencing a two-decade prison sentence in a matter of hours, leaving him with a severe case of PTSD that leads to his life gradually falling apart. Eventually, after a domestic dispute in which he almost hits his daughter, he walks into an empty cargo hold and places a fully-charged phaser to his head. His best friend Dr. Bashir talks him down, but it's a very close-run thing.
    • In 'The Assignment', O'Brien's wife Keiko gets a bad case of Demonic Possession from an ancient being called a Pah-Wraith. The Wraith demands he make certain modifications to the station, or it will kill Keiko via a massive stroke... and it's quite happy to cripple her if he starts looking disloyal. Perhaps the creepiest scene in the episode is when the Wraith calls O'Brien to remind him of his rapidly-approaching deadline, whilst combing their daughter's hair just roughly enough to make its point without raising undue suspicion.
  • Castle:
    • Castle faced Adult Fear in the two-parter "Target" and "Hunt", when his daughter Alexis was kidnapped. Any parent could relate to the terror Castle felt; even Captain Gates, Castle's most vocal critic among the precinct, put aside her dislike of Castle during this case and told Beckett, "Do whatever it takes to get his little girl back."
    • Castle experienced great fear during "Setup and "Countdown" when a terrorist group threatened to detonate a dirty nuke in downtown Manhattan. Castle ends up having Alexis join his mother Martha on a spiritual retreat that Martha was planning, despite Alexis begging her dad to get her out of it at the beginning of the story. He couldn't even tell his mother and daughter why he was afraid for their lives.
    • One case involved a kidnapped child, whose father came only a few minutes late to pick him up from soccer practice, only to find out he wasn't there. The father didn't even realize he had been kidnapped right away, assuming he decided to walk home on his own. Castle feels uncomfortable about it because the child is not much younger than Alexis. He also reveals that when Alexis was a child, he turned away for a couple of seconds while out shopping, and she was gone. Fortunately, she had just been playing around in a rack of clothes and had fallen asleep.
  • Twin Peaks, the disappearance and murder of Laura Palmer, and the subsequent disintegration of her parents' lives.
  • Crossing Lines Det. Major Louis Daniel and his wife Rebecca Daniel are living this. Louis's backstory and possible motivation for setting up the unit is the murder of his son. The covert side investigation into the boy's death is one of at least 2 arcs in the first season. He has learned the Russian may have planted the bomb that killed his son. The Russian is also running the crew in the 2nd episode.
  • Sonsof Anarchy season 6 periodically follows a young kid walking around without saying a word. He's seen writing in his notebook, kissing his mother goodbye, and just touring the town. Then he goes back to his school and pulls up his sleeves. We see he has a cutting problem before he writes something down in his notebook, then reaches into his backpack and pulls out a KG-9 with an extra clip. As he walks into his school, we get a glimpse of his book, filled with disturbing images and notes such as "God doesn't like bullies." We hear gunfire and screaming as blood spatters the window. Cut to the police, the ambulance, and students and teachers broken down and traumatized by what just happened. The ringer, we see the boys mother worryingly staring at her clock, probably wondering where her son is.
  • Breaking Bad- in 'Ozymandias', we have Skyler pulling a knife on Walt after finding out he killed Hank (one of the few crimes Walt was actually not guilty of, which he had no way to prove, itself a bit chilling), which escalates into a full out fight between the couple as Junior watches helplessly and Holly cries in the background, culminating in Junior wrestling his father off his mother, and calling the police on him with one hand while the other is flung protectively in front of Skyler. Then, Walt steals Holly from her crib and drives off with her, with Skyler running after the car screaming.
    • An even more chilling example comes right on the next episode: Skyler, completely alone at home but under police surveillance, enters Holly's room and is surrendered by a masked man while two others watch over Holly's crib. Turns out it's Todd and his gang, threatening her not to say a word about Lydia's involvement in the Heisenberg case. Under Lydia's orders, even.
    • Really, the whole show is founded on Adult Fear: the fear of getting a fatal illness before your time and leaving your family with nothing. All the dark paths the show takes begin from that fear.
  • Callie and Jude in The Fosters. Their Back Story is that their father drove drunk, crashed and killed several people including their mom. While in the foster-care system, Callie was raped. Call a cab, folks!
  • The NBC series Crisis runs on adult fear. Its basic plot is that the children of some of America's wealthiest, most powerful families get kidnapped, including the son of the President of the United States, and even the government seems powerless to find them.
  • V: The dream sequence that opens The Final Battle is a rather literal visualization of a parental nightmare. Mike Donovan's son has previously been abducted by the aliens to be preserved as food. In the dream Mike and his son try to flee the ship as they're pursued by enemy soldiers. Sean is blasted to death in front of Mike and he screams in horror before he wakes up.
  • Discussed in the pilot of Millennium. The investigative team have just rescued a kidnapping victim from having been Buried Alive in the woods. Frank Black's partner later admits that it's the scariest thing he has ever seen, and asks Frank what his moment was. Black's response:
    "You've ever seen your daughter lying in intensive care?"
  • Outlined in one first-season episode of The West Wing, as Bartlet tells his youngest daughter elaborate detail about how if anything happened to her, it would essentially bring the government to its knees, as "we wouldn't have a commander in chief anymore; we'd have a father who's out of his mind because his little girl is trapped somewhere in Uganda with a gun to her head!" Becomes even worse after the end of Season 4, when Zoey's French Jerk boyfriend slips ecstasy into her drink and she ends up being kidnapped, and her father has to invoke the 25th Amendment and temporarily leave office, handing over power to the Republican Speaker of the House. (The only real difference is that she isn't being held in Uganda; she's found somewhere in Virginia if I remember correctly.)
  • Used to particularly horrifying effect in The Leftovers. As among the departed were children and spouses. The episode "The Garveys At Their Best" takes it up to eleven when it is heavily implied that Laurie, who was receiving a pregnancy ultrasound at the time of the departure, had the fetus disappear from her womb.
  • The second Christmas special of "Call the Midwife" has a painful sequence of Adult Fear. Shelagh and Dr. Turner are preparing for their wedding, at which young Timothy Turner will be the best man. While she's at the bridal store and he's visiting a patient, Timothy is shining his father's shoes and trying to iron his shirt while drinking a cherry soda. Then Shelagh comes home, sees soda all over the floor, and finds her stepson unconscious on the couch, having been stricken with polio. The sight of Dr. Turner, usually a calm, collected professional, frantically running through the halls of the hospital — to find his son in an iron lung, no less — while Shelagh loses all her vaunted composure and sobs hysterically outside Timothy's room is absolutely heartbreaking.
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray and Debra go on a routine shopping trip and, in a relaxed and laid-back mood, are flirting and fooling about in the supermarket. Until they run into Ray's parents. And the realisation dawns that they've left the kids at home, unsupervised, having completely forgotten about them. note  Fortunately, daughter Ally has realised the problem and has risen to the task of supervising her baby brothers in a most mature way. Which still doesn't prevent parents and grandparents panicking and fearing the worst on the drive home...
  • "Daredevil" opens with a father seeing his nine year old son lying on the ground at the center of a major traffic accident, his face covered in unknown chemicals. His son then starts screaming "I can't see!" over and over while his father just holds him, utterly helpless.
  • Freaks and Geeks : Gloria's breakdown when Bill eats a peanut as the result of a bullying prank.
    Last time he ate a peanut, he was in a coma for days. The doctors said he almost didn't make it.
  • Night and Day:
    • Jane Harper’s disappearance, and subsequent prostitution – as well as the revelation during the denouement that she (inadvertently) slept with her own biological father, Alex Wells.
    • Child abduction is also repeatedly touched upon; Jane and Della Wells are swapped at birth by Danny Dexter, who also later shows up at a zoo when the girls are seven years old, and uses balloons and ice-cream to temporarily lure them away with him.
  • The Method practically runs on this trope, with every other case either having a child as a victim or collateral damage. And this is a series about a Serial-Killer Killer overflowing with Gorn, we must add, which almost never plays Infant Immortality straight. To elaborate:
    • Don't trust ypur children's teachers, but trust the guy running the local Scouts Club? Do you really know what he does there in the woods with his charges? Nothing. What he does with them while off-duty is the scary part.
    • You do know that children still talk to strangers if they're starved of attention? It's one thing when it's a jerkass detective trying to make a point, but when there's a serial killer in the area...
    • What's worse than a child being the victim of a serial killer? Howzabout becoming an accomplice of one in an attempt to find understanding and company when their own family has failed to provide them?