American Idol: The critiques, especially from Randy Jackson, after Haley Reinhart's first performance in Top 4 week of Season 10. It goes downhill after the round was over and Ryan Seacrest called the four finalists out for an overall Round 1 assessment. To top it off, they ruined the surprise of what she was wearing for her second performance (which epitomized Crowning Music of Awesome and showed that the "breaking" didn't quite work). Nigel Lythgoe couldn't have scripted it better...oh, wait...he admitted that he DID script it that way!
Inverted with Fred: She was introduced as a broken cutie, then was unbroken back into a confident, capable, monster-fighting, and fun-loving young woman. Then her body was taken over and soul devoured by an ancient über demon. Ouch.
Arrow: In flashbacks Laurel is shown to be sweet and a little naive. By the time the series starts she's understandably bitter about how her sister, Sarah, died while sleeping with her boyfriend, Oliver. She does forgive Oliver but she is still very changed by what happened.
Boomer is a naive young rookie pilot whose parents supposedly died in an accident when she was younger, which left her with a bad case of survivor's guilt nearly leading her to wash out, but for Adama's kindness. Her fellow crew are her family, Commander Adama's like a father, and Starbuck's like a big sister. She's having sex with the chief of the deck and thinking she's getting away with it, and she takes in one of the kids orphaned by the Cylon attack for a time. Then it turns out that she is a Cylon sleeper agent implanted with hidden programming that makes her zone out and commit acts of sabotage she can't remember, and everything goes to hell. She finds herself shooting her beloved commanding officer against her will, gets broken up with by the Chief, lied to, encouraged to suicide, confronted by creepy loving clones, violently interrogated, publically hated on, shot, resurrected among the creepy loving clones, convinced to be a leader in a peace movement that fails miserably, and rejected by her clone's daughter (whose father is her own former co-pilot). Oh, and for a time her face is on the shooting range targets. Athena, her genetic twin, was the one who got the chance Boomer never had and crossed the finish line. Not only did she win acceptance from those who were aware of her true nature, but she got the guy, the kid and the life Boomer wanted. Oh, and Athena also earned the respect from her model number for being the first Cylon to overcome her programming. No wonder Boomer is so bitter. And now, she does some very, very vile things on board Galactica, possibly breaking Athena as a result. Then, in the finale, she finally returns the kid to Athena and is thanked with gut bullets.
Athena did break. A big part of Athena's motivation was that she didn't want to be a Cylon. By Season 4, she had convinced herself that she was human, hence her increasing animosity towards her own people. When Boomer had sex with Helo while she was tied up and forced to watch from the locker, it shattered that viewpoint into a million, tiny pieces: Her own husband can't tell her apart from other individuals of her model number; She's not human and she never will be human, no matter how much she wants to be. Not only that, but Boomer kidnapped Hera, which means Athena had to go through the pain of losing her child a second time. She breaks down completely near the end of the episode. The next one shows that she has completely closed herself off to everyone, including her husband.
Felix Gaeta was initially an earnest and contentious guy with a case of hero worship (or more) on Gaius Baltar. Then saw his expectations betrayed by New Caprica, the occupation by the Cylons, got himself ostracised, tried and nearly killed for Collaboration despite the part he took secretly in La Résistance. Then lately he lost his leg to friendly fire and gangrene during a mutiny situation. He certainly grew more bitter and sarcastic until he finally broke in the last season. Dee's suicide and his "efforts" on New Caprica being revealed to him as making things worse were the last straws, and he went into a full-blown Face–Heel Turn, leading a mutiny on Galactica. The mutiny failed, and he was executed, along with his co-conspirator.
Dee. Losing Billy after turning to Apollo, marrying the latter, having their sham of a marriage wrecked by Starbuck/Apollo, and then Earth's turning out to be uninhabitable was just too much. It didn't help that she was Adama's right-hand during the first three seasons: it's easily one of the most stressful and burdensome jobs in the fleet, and in fact she described it as getting harder, not easier, in one second-season episode.
Blood Ties: "Heart of Fire" is a good example of this: the ultra-handsome, charming and quirky Henry Fitzroy is physically tortured by a mad priest, who beats, drains and starves the vampire into confessing his sins so the priest can kill him. The priest also enthusiastically Breaks the Cutie by showing him videos of his ex-girlfriend betraying him, trying to get Henry to suck dry his love interest Vicki, and twisting a device that is LODGED around Henry's heart with metal spikes. As the final Break The Cutie moment, he even kills a cute little rat that Henry had spared despite his desperation for blood.
''Blue Bloods: Jamie Reagan suffers from this in season three. First he experiences his first kill in the line of duty that turns out to be suicide by cop. Then in the season finale he and his partner Vinny are lured into a trap where Vinny is shot and dies in Jamie's arms.
Bones: Zack. He was an Adorkable kid who was very socially awkward, but overall well liked and definitely a cutie. Then, we find out that he's the apprentice to a cannibalistic murderer, and he confesses to murdering somebody (although we find out later that he didn't actually kill the guy). He is then sent to a mental institution. Definitely qualifies as breaking the cutie.
Boy Meets World: Shawn Hunter started out as out with a fairly upbeat attitude despite his dysfunctional family and life in a trailer park. Then his mom abandons him and his dad leaves to chase after her. His dad keeps extending his absence and ends up being gone a whole year. Eventually he gets both of his parents back, but later on his mom leaves again, his mentor and substitute parent Mr. Turner goes into a coma after being in a motorcycle crash, his dad kicks him out of the house (for Shawn's own good) and stays distant for a while. About a year and a half later his dad returns and promises he will stay this time, only to promptly die of a heart attack. At this point Shawn goes into a full-on Heroic B.S.O.D., though he is able to get over it and by the end of the series he had grown into a well-adjusted young man.
Breaking Bad: Several characters, but most notable among them Jesse. While he didn't exactly start as the most idealistic person, he was getting by making sub-par meth and his worst experiences were a few arrests. Since agreeing to partner with Walt, however, he's inadvertently gotten his girlfriend hooked onto drugs again, leading to her death; seen several other people die in front of him, most of them pretty brutally; and killed a decent man in cold blood on Walt's orders to prevent Gus from killing Walt. At times it seems the writers' main goal is to come up with new ways to break Jesse even further.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This is part of the dangers of living over a Hellmouth, and the entire purpose of The First Evil.
Buffy herself entered the series only slightly dented, and slowly bent to the breaking point, most notably during Season 6, where she spent most of her time in a depression after being yanked out of heaven. It took a full season to put her back together.
Even Faith can be put into this camp. A street kid, pursued by the hordes of Kakistos, desperate for someone to trust, constantly betrayed by Watchers and others until she had nowhere to turn when things went wrong, and then ruined by a father figure who got her to commit murders for him. After she came out of her coma, she was in such bad shape that she tried to commit "suicide by vampire".
Over 7 seasons, Willow loses her first lover to the curse of lycanthropy, loses her new lover to a brainwipe, gets her lover back, watches her best friend die, loses her lover to her obsession with magic, gets her lover back, and just as they've finally reconciled loses her lover to a random gunshot that wasn't even intended for her. Bad Things ensue, and the primary focus of her arc in the next season is just putting her back together.
Drusilla, who Angelus considered to be his finest work. His methods of torture included taking advantage of the fact that she was psychic by pretending to be a priest during confession, saying such things as, "It is God's plan for you to be evil, so why not give in to His desire?" Also included was killing her entire family, sending her very nasty gifts and, when she went to a convent for sanctuary, he and Darla killed every nun in the building then had sex on the altar in front of her. Finally, when Drusilla was utterly traumatized, Angelus turned her, leaving her utterly insane for the rest of her existence.
Tara is first introduced as shy and insecure with no social contact at all until she meets Willow. Then we learn that Tara's mother died when she was 17, and she needed to deal with all her family's problems while being psychologically abused by her father, who convinced her she was a demon. Just as she finds a sense of belonging and grows happy in her relationship, she is mentally violated by a hell god that steals her sanity. She is cured later on, but then further manipulated by her lover, who takes her memories. Worst of all, as she begins to reconcile she gets shot and killed off for real. Break the cutie indeed, as well as break the fanbase.
When Riley is introduced, he is happy with his job at the Initiative and thinks they're doing good work, and all in all is a pretty normal guy, 'cept the whole demon-fighting thing. Then he falls in love with Buffy, who his boss and mother-figure tries to kill; he then learns that Maggie created a Frankenstein-like monster who will take over the world, and Riley is meant to become like the monster too. He gets discarded from the Initiative and loses his faith in what they did, and two people he cared about are turned either into zombies or Adam Mk. II by Adam. He then goes through horrible drug withdrawal from all the chemicals the Initiative pumped into him to make him into a Super Soldier. After that's all over, he comes to realize that no matter how much he loves Buffy, she doesn't feel as strongly about him and never really will. All these issues, especially Buffy's lack of love for him, lead to him masochistically paying female vampires to suck his blood, and eventually he leaves town completely.
Years before Stephanie Meyer put pen to paper the show was dedicated, committed, even obsessed with breaking Dawn. It starts with Dawn finding out that she's the Key — as one fan put it, take your average teen identity crisis, and multiply it by about 3,000. Just as she recovers from that, her mom dies. Then Tara is attacked, injured, and driven insane by Glory because she thought Tara was the newest thing in Buffy's life and therefore the Key, which Dawn blames herself for. When she's captured by Glory, it seems that she's going to die. She's rescued seconds too late, and her sister/guardian has to sacrifice herself in order to save Dawn and the world.
In season 6, she's dealing with all the grief, until Buffy is resurrected, only to spend the season ignoring her, finally culminating in attempted murder (while Buffy was under the effect of a demon that made her hallucinate). In the episode "Villains", Dawn comes home from school to find nobody there... only Tara's body. She sits with the body for probably three hours, not willing to leave her alone.
Anya spends most of her time on the show as the perky and bubbly comic relief. Then Xander leaves her at the altar. She reacts to this by returning to vengeance. She finds herself unable to do it properly at first, but when she does get back into the swing by slaughtering ten frat boys who humiliated a girl, she suddenly realizes what she's done and plunges into Death Seekerdom. When she begs D'Hoffryn to undo it—the price of which would be a life and soul—he instead kills her friend Halfrek in front of her as the payment. He follows this by saying, "Haven't I taught you anything, Anya? Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain."
Criminal Minds: This seems to happen to Spencer Reid a LOT. His dad abandons him and his mom when he's ten and he has to put his schizophrenic mother in the asylum when he turns 18. He gets kidnapped by a multiple-personality serial killer (Tobias Henkel) and is beaten and drugged and is forced to dig his own grave. Then he is moody and irritable for most of the rest of the season, even bitching at his teammate when she legitimately is just trying to help with the case, and in "Jones", we finally figure out why: Henkel got him addicted to drugs. He kicks the habit by himself, but then his new father-figure and mentor cracks under pressure and abandons his team, with the only note of explanation being addressed solely to Reid. Then Reid is held hostage in a cult with another team member (the same one he was bitchy to, just to mention) and when the cult leader threatens to shoot him for being FBI, the other team member falls on her sword and gets the crap beat out of her for it. Cue guilt. And then, if he wasn't damaged enough, he gets anthrax poisoning.
Before he put his mom in a mental institution, he had to live with her for 8 years having psychotic breaks from reality. It was so bad, one of the MANY times he was picked on in high school (he was 12), he was led to believe a pretty girl liked him only to be ganged up on by the football team, stripped naked, and tied to a goal post. If that wasn't bad enough, when he finally got home (he's by himself, in Las Vegas, at midnight), his mom was having an episode and didn't even realize he was late. It's amazing he can function as well as he does.
He also starts getting really bad migraines that last for days at a time, thinks his one of his best friends is dead for 10 weeks, and when he finally gets a girlfriend and falls in love with her, they can only communicate over the phone because of her stalker- and after finally meeting her face-to-face for the first time, he has to tell her he doesn't love her and then watch her die right in front of him because he couldn't talk down her stalker. Then he gets shot in the neck.
The Reaper arc in season five is dedicated to doing this to Hotch at warp speed. After Gideon's abandonment of the team and Hotch himself getting almost-blown up (and failing to save the life of another agent) in "Mayhem", he finds himself the target of the serial killer known as "The Reaper" (aka George Foyet, magnificentbastard). Hotch turns down the deal offered by the Reaper (stop hunting the Reaper, and he'll stop killing people), and every subsequent murder (and there are a lot) is on Hotch's conscience. Then, in "Faceless, Nameless", the Reaper attacks Hotch in his home and stabs him nine times, and possibly rapes him. He then drops Hotch off at the hospital, saving his life, only to notify Hotch that he's going after his ex-wife and son next. Hotch must continue to try and hunt the Reaper while his family is in Witness Protection, and he cannot have contact with them, and due to the stress, he is asked to step down from his position as Unit Chief. Morgan takes over, temporarily. All the while, the Reaper is toying with Hotch, letting him know just how easily he's gotten to Hotch. Finally, in "100", Foyet ups the ante by killing the agent assigned to Haley and Jack's detail, capturing Haley and Jack, and shooting Haley while Hotch listens over the phone. Hotch goes understandably apeshit and beats Foyet to death with his bare hands. The rest of the season seems to be devoted to exploring if Hotch can balance single-fatherhood with the BAU.
Half of the more sympathetic unsubs are Broken Cuties, also, an excellent example being Jonny McHale. If you really want to see something sweet, memorize exactly where his flashbacks of his life before his psychotic breakdown are, in which he's a successful graphic novelist in a blissful relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, who he gives an overjoyed impromptu proposal to after she tells him she's pregnant (and oh god the look on his face when he realizes what she says). Stop before the part where they're ambushed by thugs who savagely murder and presumably rape her while he's Forced to Watch before they move on to him and leave him nearly disemboweled. No wonder he went completely off his rocker and started hacking their ilk to pieces as a Vigilante Man while too deep in spells of PTSD to even realize he's doing it.
Amber Canardo from the episode "The Perfect Storm" comes pre-broken. She was beaten and raped by both her father and her brother throughout her childhood, and her mother covered it up for them and told the police she was lying when she went to them. She ends up becoming a serial killer herself who does what she suffered to other women, presumably to achieve a sense of fairness. Then there's Samantha Malcolm from "The Uncanny Valley" who was also raped by her father, who bribed her with toys to keep her quiet and tortured her with electric shocks, with Samantha finally snapping after walking in on her father, a psychiatrist, giving away her toys to a patient.
In "Lucky", Garcia is shot by her new boyfriend. The following episode, "Penelope" shows the Team's efforts to track him down and stop him.
Dance Moms: Over the course of the show's run, it's highly speculated that as a result of the flanderization of Abby (the dance teacher), turning her from a loving and assertive teacher to a ruthless and almost villainous one, this has happened to Abby's students. Three members of the original junior elite team, which the show is based around, leave during season four, unable to cope with Abby. The members have become more withdrawn, and one member has even come down with an anxiety disorder while another shows signs and symptoms of an impending one.
J.T.: Plucky Comic Relief for most of the series, he gets his girlfriend pregnant in season 5. After much debate, they decide to keep the baby, but they don't have the money no matter how hard he works (and he works hard), at which point he gets convinced to sell drugs he stole from the pharmacist (one of his jobs) as it's the only way to get enough money. His girlfriend finds out, his employer is pretty obviously about to find out, the drug dealer he's selling drugs to refuses to let him go, and eventually he tries to kill himself. He fails, his girlfriend dumps him and puts the baby up for adoption against his will, he's obviously still in love with her, and just before they're reunited, he's killed by a random psycho.
Darcy: Starts off sweet religious girl, but she's drugged and raped at a party in the season 7 premiere, and... she kind of loses it.
This seems to be the entire point of the character of Campbell, he is frequently referred to as a lost or sad puppy by fans. He is severely depressed, homesick and seems to have anxiety issues as well. Though he is the star of the hockey team, most of the team torments him and he has admitted to Maya that he doesn't even like hockey. He has been shown to at least be tempted to self-harm and he threw himself off of a ledge in order to injure himself enough that he wouldn't have to play hockey any more. Eventually he commits suicide.
The Master does this a lot in the Series 3 finale. By the beginning of the final episode, by which time he's been in control for a whole year, he's done heavily implied squicky things to Jack and chained him up in the basement of his airship, which is only made more disturbing by the fact that Jack's immortal; done heavily implied squicky things to Martha's family to the point that, just before the cavalry arrives, they're sitting in a circle fighting over who gets to kill him; aged the Doctor's body, done heavily implied squicky things to him, aged his body again, and locked him in a birdcage; and turned his formerly happy (albeit mostly trigger-happy) wife into a battered slave.. Although the Doctor recovers, these effects are explicitly NOT reversed by the Reset Button at the end of the episode.
The next two season finales do arguably worse:
In Journey's End, the Doctor has to literally wipe the mind of Donna Noble or risk having the Time Lord thoughts destroy her mind. She is not particularly pleased about this turn of events, and the Doctor is crushed by it too.
Then there's The End of Time. The Doctor is already tormented by the prophecy "He will knock four times". But then the Master comes back, beats him to a fare-thee-well and then forces the Doctor to watch as everyone he knows and loves on Earth (with the exception of Wilf and Donna) is turned into The Master (it's never said, but a foregone conclusion that Sarah, Martha, Tegan, Barbara, Ian, Ace and so on were Mastericized by the incident). Then, the Time Lords return, threatening to destroy all of time so that they can gain apotheosis and finally gain a (pyrrhic) victory in the Time War. The Doctor has to send them — all of them and most likely Romana, amongst others — back to the Time War to be annihilated. And then, he gets to see just who the "he" was who would knock four times, heralding his death: Wilf, who was trapped in a radiation-safety chamber that was about to fail. The Doctor has a Heroic B.S.O.D. of epic proportions before rescuing him, and is pretty much not the same for the last 20 minutes of screen time left in his life, nary cracking a joke or smiling, but instead paying last visits to old friends before regenerating in the most violent regeneration scene in the show's history.
During the more "serious" scenes between the Doctor and the Master, you can see the Master himself suffers this because of the drums. Suffers it horribly, in fact. Which means that everything the Master has ever done was the fault of Rassilon and the Council; he started out as a completely normal child. Poor mad Master.
Pretty much the entirety of "The Family of Blood" is devoted to breaking the character of John Smith (an amnesiac, human Doctor) into teeny tiny pieces after setting him up as a rather lovely bloke (besides some 1913 values) in the prior episode. It's effective.
"Midnight". When a mysterious unseen creature strikes his transport, the Doctor watches helplessly as his "listen to me, I'm clever and I can help" attitude not only fails miserably but starts to turn the rest of the passengers against him and leaves him open to immobilizing Mind Rape, resulting in one of the most intense cases of Humans Are the Real Monsters in the whole series. If you don't find yourself wanting very desperately to give him a hug when it all ends and he's lying sprawled on the floor and clutching his chest gasping "It's gone... it's gone... it's gone..." then I don't know what to do with you.
In "A Good Man Goes to War", both Amy and the Doctor get pretty broken. First, Amy gets her baby taken away, the baby she hadn't even known she was pregnant with until a month before; then, the Doctor saves her and Melody, only to realize that his entire plan has led them all into a massive trap. Melody is not really Melody but is Flesh!Melody, who then dissolves in Amy's arms. Amy, understandably, freaks out. The Doctor tries to hug her, but she won't let him. That broke him, hard. And then, just to pour salt into his open wound, River shows up and gives him an interestingly inverted version of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech in which she tells him he's getting too good at what he does and becoming a mighty warrior, exactly the opposite of what he wanted, and because of this, it's his fault that Melody was taken. Ouch.
There's a subversion with Rory. First his girlfriend snogs another bloke, next they get trapped in some creepy dream world where you can't tell fiction from reality, he discovers the happy home he's been building with Amy is all a big lie and dies while he's there, then he gets killed again before being erased from history, and to top it all off his Plastic Auton self who he somehow remembers being watches over an incredibly powerful reality altering box for two thousand years because his not quite dead yet girlfriend is stuck inside and he wants to stay there and protect her. And yet in spite of all this, he still comes out of it fighting.
The Fifth Doctor was the nicest, mildest, friendliest, most trusting and most pacific of all the Doctors. The death toll in his adventures was horrific and frequently claimed all the non-regular cast; Adric, a long-running companion and only a boy, was killed; Tegan ran away because she'd seen enough death. He eventually sacrificed himself to prevent yet another person dying on him. Poor soul.
If you think Ten and Eleven had it bad, consider Eight, the nicest, most cheerful Doctor in a couple of decades, the guy who started his life impulsively smooching the surgeon who accidentally killed his previous regeneration and dancing with giddy delight over things like how the stars look in the sky and the fact that his shoes fit perfectly. This is the guy who wound up seeing the beginning of the Time War. No one needs to actually see what happened to him or how it affected him. The Fridge Horror alone is chilling enough.
For those of you who prefer your Eight-trauma in a different medium, the books (repeated memory loss, dead companions, horrible injuries) and the audios (dead companions, memory loss, betrayal) fill the San Francisco - Time War gap.
In "The Night of the Doctor" the Big Finish audios were made canonical(ish), and we see their result. It turns out that the Eighth Doctor refused to fight in the Time War. But after all the tragedy he goes through, with Cass refusing to let him save her as she thinks the Time Lords are Monsters, he basically commits suicide by staying on the ship. He is revived by the Sisterhood of Karn and allows himself to be regenerated into a Warrior when they tell him the Universe is being destroyed by the Time War, discarding the title of the Doctor. His Despair Event Horizon is emphasised when he mentions five of his Big Finish companions: the first he thinks he parted from on bad terms and the next three are dead. We don't know what happened to Molly... yet.
This is Victoria Waterfield's entire character arc. In her first story, the Daleks kill her father and blow up her home. Despite this, she's still reasonably adventurous and confident. By the time she calls it a day in Fury From The Deep, she's a nervous wreck who can't sleep for fear of the Monster of the Week.
Ace not only had a less than stellar childhood, with things like seeing a good childhood friend maimed in an violent act of racism, but the Doctor was forced to do this to her himself in "The Curse of Fenric." One of the villains has had a Heel–Face Turn and is prepared to put a stop to the Big Bad, but he is repelled by faith and Ace has nothing but faith in the Doctor. The Doctor is forced to insult and berate her into breaking that faith so his new ally can finish the Big Bad off.
Dollhouse: Fresh example: Sierra. Seems a particularly sweet and cute doll, then there's the time she reverts to her base personality and confronts a man who claims to have put her in the Dollhouse. That's left on hold for a bit, until Topher finds out that he really did put her there against her will, and in a rare act of conscience, lets her base personality loose. Her tormentor gets what's coming to him, and everyone else gets a load of guilt. Thankfully, as Sierra, she won't remember anything. It's less clear whether they were able to purge her memories of when her first handler raped her in the innocent doll state repeatedly.
Dr. Saunders, perhaps? When the show begins, it's bad enough-she's recently had severe facial injuries inflicted by Alpha, a deranged rogue Active. At the end of the first season's aired episodes, she finds out that she's not even 'real'-she's actually Whiskey, an Active who Alpha hacked up because he liked Echo more. She was 'saved' by the Dollhouse (who wouldn't want to waste an asset), imprinted to replace the recently deceased house doctor. Another Active who was attacked by Alpha is granted extensive plastic surgery to repair similar facial damage, which Saunders/Whiskey isn't offered and isn't sure she wants since it's likely that her face being fixed would result in her being put back into the Active pool. She tries confronting her creator, Topher, which only serves to further break her down, resulting in her fleeing the Dollhouse entirely. If that wasn't enough, as of the future world of Epitaph One, she's clearly and definitively broken-she loses her mind, reverting to her base Active state on what appears to be a permanent basis. She is the only Active who never really escapes from the Dollhouse, ultimately committing suicide rather than returning to the world.
Topher! Topher! At first he has few moral but is definitely the cutie. He then develops a set of morals and right and wrong only to have everything fall down around his ears!
How to crush a character in four easy steps: Step One: his first attempt to do the morally right thing results in someone dying; he has to destroy the body. Step Two: shoot his love interest in front of him, with no warning. Step Three: a device he created brings about the apocalypse. Step Four: every day he doesn't create a device that will destroy what little is left of society, an innocent victim is shot in front of him. In a style reminiscent of his love interest's death. All four (except maybe the second) have enormous amounts of guilt laced into them.
Bennett. Discovering that her "best friend" Caroline was only her friend because she was infiltrating the corporation she worked for obviously hurt her, but she was so devoted to Caroline that she actually helped her infiltrate Rossum's facility. Then Caroline detonated some explosives - explosives that left Caroline unharmed but dropped a giant hunk of masonry on Bennett's arm, crushing and paralyzing it permanently - and then Caroline ran off, apparently abandoning her. As a result, Bennett is left bitter.
That's how the story is told from Bennett's point of view. The viewers get a very different version from Caroline.
This is a show that actually uses the word "broken".
EastEnders: Any number of characters, although Aidan Brosnan (promising young footballer to homeless drug addict) and Zoe Slater (statuesque beauty to murdering drug-addled prostitute) spring to mind. And we won't even mention what they did to poor bloody Joe Wicks.
ER: A number of characters probably qualify, particularly Carter and others who start work with a very naive world view. Probably justified, given the grim/frustrating nature of emergency medical services and the hazards of hospital politics.
Farscape: Poor John Crichton. Red-blooded American astronaut, brilliant scientist, pacifist and optimist when he leaves earth. By the end of the first season alone he's been: Flung across the galaxy and stranded far from home, forced to adapt to completely unfamiliar cultures and technology. Beaten up. Imprisoned. Threatened with dissection and pursued by the brother of a man he accidentally killed. As he later put it, has had "alien creatures in [his] face, up [his] nose, inside [his] brain, down [his] pants." Spent three months marooned on a primitive world thinking the rest of the crew deliberately abandoned him. Died once (he got better). Was tricked into thinking he's finally made it home only to discover it's all a trick to see how humans would react to actual alien visitation. Endures severalMind Screws. Starts to fall for a girl who shares his interest in science and engineering only to be forced to leave her behind to protect her. Gets captured, tortured and brutally Mind Raped by the Peacekeepers. Sees the girl he'd started to take an interest in gunned down helping rescue him. Embarks on a suicide mission to enable the rest of his friends to escape. And it only gets worse in seasons two and three. Crichton's grip on his sanity is questionable at best.
Jubal Early's threat to Kaylee in "Objects in Space." Poor, poor Kaylee...
The first thing the series did was break the cutie. Joss did it to Mal in the very first scene.
Flashpoint: OK, arguably most of the characters get broken, and are various levels of cute, but Spike seems to fit the trope best. The goofiest, most happy-go-lucky of the team has had to deal with the deaths of his best friend Lew, his father, and his mentor, has been held hostage twice himself (including once with his kind of girlfriend), and has been hit with an incendiary device and a smoke bomb. Poor guy.
Frasier: Niles Crane, in stark contrast to his (and Frasier's) frequent, minor, Played for LaughsBreak the Haughty moments, get several of these. Ignoring his Trauma Conga Line of smaller bouts of torture: he seems to already be broken by his mother's death, Frasier's long absence, and a stifling, emotionally-abusive marriage at the series' beginning and gets ground into progressively smaller pieces by the latter during the first two seasons. Then his marriage falls apart and he manages to build himself up again, but Daphne, with whom he is smitten, is utterly oblivious to his feelings and unknowingly shatters his heart over and over. Devastated by this, he eventually gives up and then naively returns to his unstable, Jerk Ass wife after she "promises" that she'll treat him better this time, only for her to turn around and cheat on him with their marriage counselor weeks later. He eventually pulls himself up by the bootstraps, but then, after he rejects his wife's offer to reconcile again, she tears up their unsigned divorce settlement and proceeds to slowly torture and financially ruin him over several months. Then, when he finally gets rescued from Maris by a savvy divorce lawyer and is about to put his life back together, said lawyer immediately starts dating Daphne, and then broken once more, he flees into the arms of a manipulative carbon-copy of his ex-wife...etc, etc, etc...Thankfully though, this all turns out to be an Earn Your Happy Ending, as Daphne falls in love with him, and heals him after They Do.
Phoebe's dad ran off after she was born, her stepfather when to prison, her Mom killed herself, her Evil Twin sold her birth certificate and at 14 she ended up on the streets.
Chandler's parents fought constantly and ignored him, his dad slept with the house boy, his Mom announced their divorce at Thanksgiving dinner, his dad ran off to Vegas to become a drag queen, he was shipped off to boarding school and his Mom contacted him through humilation national television.
Meanwhile Monica's parents blatantly favoured her brother purely for being first-born, her mother emotionally abused her, her Dad was obliviously hurtful at best, she was obese as a teenager and badly bullied as a result.
As it's a usually optimistic show, much of the series is about reversing their backstorys and becoming happier in themselves. Phoebe by the beginning of the show is off the streets and eventually finds a nice, normal guy to settle down with. Chandler and Monica, although they have a tougher time in early seasons fall in love with each other, overcome their shared insecurities and start a family vastly different from the ones they grew up in.
Sam seems to be headed this way, due to Quinn cheating on him with Finn, Santana's consistent insults about his mouth and dorkyness, and just general pressure. Aaaand... now he's homeless.
Kurt qualifies too, I think, after being presented as vulnerable and long-suffering and heavily bullied all through season one, when in season 2 the bullying goes to a whole new level and he spends the greater part of the season suffering fear and intimidation and violence at the hands of a closeted bully.
Quinn qualifies as of the first episode of the second half of season 3. To recap, she gets pregnant as a sophomore and is kicked off the cheerleading squad that she loves (and was the captain of). Even after she gives birth, she's not allowed to return. She's kicked out of her house until her mother finally comes to her senses and leaves Quinn's father. Now, in season 3, while driving to her friend's wedding, she gets hit by a truck and is in a wheelchair for some time (possibly a long time; it's unclear how much the therapy is helping).
Happens and is reversed in the span of one episode of Happy Endings-Penny, the optimistic Genki Girl, is trying to get her even more upbeat mom to face the truth about her not-great career and yet another divorce. Eventually, her mom takes it all way too hard, and then goes around giving demoralizing speeches to the gang, before they all work together in get her back to normal.
Series/Gotham: Throughout the first season, Edward Nigma evolved from an innocent geek to a murderer.
It has not yet broken Hiro Nakamura, but it sure is working on it. It looked like he might finally break, but his reversion to his personality when he was 10 years old has saved him. Hiro Nakamura is Unbreakable.
They're definitely hammering on Claire, too. Season 3 has delivered at least one blow per episode so far. 1) Attacked by Sylar. 2) Lost ability to feel pain. 3) Her "lesson" with Meredith. 4) Being forced into a game of Russian roulette with her birth and adoptive mothers.
It has the interesting distinction of having shown both Claire and Peter as broken cuties in some of its flash-forward episodes, though because of the nature of time travel in the show, it's impossible to say if those fates are actually going to happen or not.
Elle was the one character that was successfully broken.
Midshipmen Archie Kennedy, a pretty teenage boy with Innocent Blue Eyes who looks very upbeat and cheerful, and who talks Horatio ears off in their introductory scenes. In his case, the breaking took place mostly off-screen, at the hands of sadistic bully Jack Simpson. When this nasty character appears, Archie starts having fits and he looks absolutely terrified of him. Then he gets imprisoned for an indeterminate amount of time, including being tortured for a month in an oubliette. Archie seems to have recovered from most of his torments by the second series.
Simpson tries to break Horatio in "The Even Chance". However, Horatio doesn't go down that easily and tries to fight him. Much suffering ensues, including horrible beatings, interrogation, psychological torture and getting him punished by their superiors. Horatio even contemplates suicide, but when Simpson cheats in cards and accuses Horatio of cheating, Horatio takes an even chance and challenges him to a duel, thinking that a death of either of them would free him.
Plucky Middie Wellard takes the baton of suffering in the second instalment ("Mutiny" and "Retribution"). He's as cute as a button with his dark hair, dark eyes and eyelashes but pale skin, laughing and joking with his lieutenants. Unfortunately, their crazy captain takes into his head that he conspires against him and orders him beaten up repeatedly. Later when the captain either had an accident and fell, or was pushed, he's troubled. Especially when Gunner Hobbs suggests it was him who pushed the captain, and because he was drugged with Dr Clive's laudanum, his memory is shaken. He's not sure about his innocence or innocence of his heroes.
House: House spends the majority of Season 7 trying to do this to med student Martha Masters, but fails. What does finally break her? Discovering the Episode 17 Patient of the Week, whose life she just personally saved, is a cannibalistic serial killer wanted for a string of thirteen murders, and she just inadvertently enabled him to escape the FBI. Cue Heroic B.S.O.D..
Kamen Rider Gaim has plenty of this. Especially when it comes to the characters of Kazuraba Kouta and Kureshima Mitsuzane.
Kyle XY Achieved this in record breaking time. The main heroine is literally born in an underground fire, afterwards a drunken redneck tries to rape her, which forces her to kill him and soon enough she is attacked yet again and brainwashed by the big bad. All this in the first two hours of her life.Amazingly enough this doesn't break her . Therefore things get much worse for her as the time progresses including abusive fathers,malfunctioning brain and body, attempted suicides, neglectful friends,evil conspiracies,guilt ridden flashbacks and so on. The writers really went all the way and then some in breaking her.
The League of Gentlemen tended to do this to quite a few minor and major characters but did it much more to poor Mr. Chinnery the village vet. He is perhaps the most kindest, most well meaning character in the series, but, due to badly timed events, really bad luck and a unmentioned curse which plagues him so that he kills pretty much every animal he goes near. This includes an exploding tortoise, electrocuted fish and a dog which, due a flatulance problem, burns alive and explodes in his owners fireplace. These events slowly break Mr. Chinnery who is obviously just a well-meaning individual.
Lincoln Heights: Every single child living in Lincoln Heights without ONE single exception. Most of the adults were broken when they were young as well.
Little House on the Prairie: The episode "Sylvia," a special two-part episode, starred Olivia Barash as the title character, a mature-for-her-age 14-year-old girl who is relentlessly sexually harassed at school by the boys, viciously raped by an masked man, impregnated, emotionally abused by her distant father (he later calls her – his own flesh and blood – a whore!) ... and then scandalized by Mrs. Olesen when she claims that Albert Ingalls is her baby's father. In fact, Albert (and Laura and the rest of the Ingalls family, and Doc Baker by extension) are seemingly the only ones on Sylvia's side, but it's no match for the hellacious life she endures. In the end, the trope switches to Kill the Cutie when, after another confrontation with the same rapist who assaulted her before (it was the town's blacksmith, with whom Albert was employed) she tries to escape but falls to her death from a rickety ladder.
LOST: Throughout the first 4 seasons, Hurley was the series' comic relief and all-around nice guy, even though he believes he is cursed and still struggles with his food addiction on the island. Once he gets off the island, however, he starts to become haunted by the ghosts of people from the island, and by the end of season four, he's far from the happy-go-lucky Hurley of earlier seasons. He gets better once he returns to the island, however.
Now we have Juliet, reduced to a sobbing severely wounded wreck by the end of Season 5.
Even Ben, of all people, was a sweet, albeit sad, little kid who seemed like he might turn out alright despite being abused by his alcoholic father... until he was shot by a time-traveling enemy when he was only 14, and then "cured" by a mysterious entity that "took his innocence."
Season 6 Claire, who's become a bit insane after being alone in the jungle for three years. Granted, it all happens off screen, but still.
Happens in a completely mundane, underplayed, and painful way to Peggy Olsen. In the pilot, she's tiny, wide-eyed, hopeful, and naive; since then, she's had a disastrous affair with a Jerkass coworker (which he initiated just days before his wedding), been mocked and sexually harassed on an hourly basis, and gotten pregnant, denied it until she went into labor, been declared an unfit mother, and been forced to hand the kid over. Then her boss came and told her to just go on pretending it'd never happened. Yeah, that'll work. Granted, she's made some great strides on the career front, and become miles more confident than she was in the pilot, but... to sum it up in one heartbreaking word? Playgrounds.
Sally Draper gets a lot of this in season three, most notably when Grandpa Gene, the only adult who really gives her the time of day, dies. Neither Don nor Betty initially take Sally's reaction into consideration and she's left to quietly grieve by herself, followed by an angry outburst at them when she overhears them laughing and thinks they're not taking his death seriously. They, in turn, send her back out to the living room, where she quietly watches news footage of a Tibetan monk setting himself on fire. It probably doesn't come as a shock to most viewers that in the following episode she displays some antisocial tendencies at school. It only gets worse when Betty decides to name her new son, born soon after Grandpa Gene dying, Eugene, which only serves to further traumatize Sally.
Mara Clara: Happens to the two protagonists, as well as a few other characters, in the 2011 remake of the Filipino soap opera.
Clara's (the second half of the titular characters) breaking point comes in the middle of the series, after it was revealed that she and Mara (the first half of the titular characters) were in fact switched at birth and that she was born of a poor family, this would mark her transition into a more antiheroine type character (Clara in the original series is more of a villain). Clara didn't actually start as a cutie but more of an Alpha Bitch. She only becomes one when she became friends with Mara.
Mara's breaking point, on the other hand, comes after being kidnapped and nearly blown to bits, courtesy of her foster father (and Clara's real dad) Gary. In a later episode, Clara actually takes note of Mara's change of attitude by remarking "It seems that you have become cynical, Mara", to which the latter retorts, "I've already learned my lesson, Clara."
Interestingly, series Big Bad Gary (Mara's adoptive, and Clara's real, father) is also revealed (through a flashback to his early teens) to have gone through this when he accidentally killed his own father after seeing him beat up his mother.
Merlin: Guinevere finally gets proposed to by Arthur. Then Morgana raises Lancelot, her old love, from the dead. Gwen manages to resist whatever feelings she still has for him, so Morgana enchants a bracelet to force her old feelings back to the surface. Then Lancelot ensures they are caught kissing by Arthur, who attempts to kill him. Gwen breaks up the fight, and Arthur believes she has betrayed him. He banishes her from Camelot on pain of death. She is utterly convinced all of this is her fault, and even though Arthur has forgiven her, she still hasn't forgiven herself.
Morgana as well, throughout all of Series 2.
They try pretty hard on Merlin too, but he's an Iron Woobie, so he refuses to break. Although with how much they put him through to prove that he's not going to break, that might be even worse.
Aithusa too. Remember that Ridiculously Cute Critter from series 4 who cheerfully healed an injured Morgana? Three years later, someone has locked her in a lightless cell for two years, and she's now emaciated, unable to speak, can't recognize Merlin when he first meets her, and is malformed and flightless.
Mr Lucky: Andamo is the series' Plucky Comic ReliefSidekick whose typical response to traumatic situations is to make jokes. However, in one episode Mr. Lucky's semi-steady girlfriend, Maggie, witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding for her own protection. When Andamo is tricked into revealing her location and she disappears, he suffers a mild Heroic B.S.O.D..
Belle. Though the Queen's claim that she killed herself is a complete lie, it's obvious in the season one finale and in the season two premiere that she not quite the same after being imprisoned by Regina, first in the Enchanted Forest and again during the whole twenty-eight-year span of the Dark Curse.
The commentary on the S1 finale confirms that Belle's unnamed Storybrooke counterpart was deliberately played as broken by Emilie de Ravin. The way the real Belle reacts to Gold's (Rumplestiltskin's) questions about her imprisonment suggests that she retained that break. (Probably due to the fact that she has most likely realized that the only reason she's not dead is because the Queen was keeping her alive until she no longer needed a secret trump card against Gold.)
It got worse for Belle in season 2: In 2.9 we learn that Regina kept her prisoner for three or four years before the curse. Hook at one point arrived and claimed he was going to rescue her, but when she wouldn't betray Rumpelstiltskin to him, he backhanded her into unconsciousness and was going to gut her before Regina stopped him. In 2.11 Hook shoots Belle, causing her to fall over the town line and lose all memory of her fairytale self and be reduced to a terrified girl who has no memories of anything other than twenty-eight years trapped in a cold cell in the asylum.
Mary Margaret (Snow White's Storybrooke counterpart) is broken when Regina frames her for the murder of David (Prince Charming's counterpart)'s wife. (The only reason Mary wasn't completely broken by a conviction was because Gold used his habit- Kathryn was found completely alive, and all of the evidence pointed towards a frameup of Mary by Regina.)
Regina herself goes through this in the Fairytale Land flashbacks. Firstly being raised by her emotionally abusive mother, then losing her true love at the hands of said mother, being manipulated by Rumpelstiltskin into believing that there's no way of getting him back, being trapped in a loveless marriage for many years and slowly succumbing to the dark addictive effects of magic.
Rumplestiltskin, as well, especially as of 'Manhattan.' Raised in the shadow of his own father's cowardice, he's eager to head off to the Ogre Wars to prove he is not his father. Then it all goes downhill. He's warned that his actions willleave his son fatherless, cripples himself to avoid battle, and is branded a coward. His wife runs off with some pirates, leaving him and Bae. By the time we see him in 'Desperate Souls,' he's utterly broken: poor, lame, and friendless, all he has left is his son, and even that is about to be taken away from him. And we knowthe rest...
Haddie is normal, well-behaved, and comparatively innocent when the series began. She experienced severe culture shock once her world-wise cousins re-entered her life (in the pilot, Amber exposes her sheltered relative to cigarettes and illegal drugs almost as soon as they met). Within short order, Amber sleeps with her boyfriend, causing them to break up; younger brother Max is revealed to have Asperger's syndrome, forcing her to adopt more adult responsibilities at home; she dates an alcoholic from the slums; learns her mother has breast cancer — and is trapped in an airport for days trying to get home during a particularly rough spell.
Kristina was a fairly run-of-the-mill soccer mom at the beginning of the series, but is forced to come to terms with her unwelcome limitations when diagnosed with breast cancer. Plus, dealing with a new baby "and" a preteen son with Asperger's while simultaneously undergoing treatment for her cancer is never easy.
Ryan is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan suffering from pretty severe PTSD and carrying an enormous amount of guilt. As if that weren't enough, one of his buddies from his old unit commits suicide.
Party of Five: Sarah (played by Jennifer Love Hewitt) started as a nice, cheerful girl and within 1-2 seasons was as morbid and whiny and angst-ridden as everyone else in the show...
Psych: Serial killers Mr. Yang and Mr. Yin attempt to break Shawn. In the season three finale Yang kidnaps a waitress, and sends Shawn a series of taunting clues warning that is Shawn does not solve them the girl will be killed. Yang then abducts Shawn's mother and straps her with explosives. Shawn realizes that Yang was watching him the entire time and was even in his office, which scares him. In the season four finale, Yang's partner Mr. Yin emerges and sets his sights on Shawn as well. Yin kills two people before kidnapping Shawn's longtime crush Detective Juliet O'Hara and his childhood sweetheart Abigail. Yin arranges for both girls to be killed, and calls Shawn with the information that he has time to save only one girl and that he must choose who means more to him. Shawn chooses to save Abigail; Juliet is saved by Detective Lassiter. When Shawn arrives to rescue Abigail, he finds himself face to face with Yin - he must let Yin go in order to get to Abigail in time. Losing Yin clearly shakes Shawn, as does his guilt at nearly sacrificing Juliet. It's hard to say if this will have any lasting effect, given the nature of the show, but since Yin is still at large Shawn will likely face him again in the future.
Shawn is also shot, kidnapped, and held in a trunk in the episode "Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark."
Queer as Folk: Played with in a season two episode, when they have some sort of annual "fun for the whole family" day at Michael's job, and the newest employee have to stand all day, dressed up as a clown, handing out balloons to the children.
Michael: So who's the victim this year?
Tracy: Sally, the new cashier.
Michael: She's sweet. At least she was until today. Today we drain her of her soul.
Revenge: The flashbacks of young Amanda. As a young girl, Amanda is carefree, loving, happy and adoring of her father. However- her dad is then framed for terrorism by his wealthy neighbors, the Graysons, Amanda is institutionalized (under orders of the Graysons), psychologically abused into believing her father was guilty, physically abused by her malicious foster mother, sent to juvie for a fire set by her foster brother, released from juvie only to learn of her father's death 6 weeks prior, and finally learns of her father's innocence by witnessing the murder of his best friend. Who wouldn't be hellbent on revenge after that?
Jack as well. When Emily first arrives in the Hamptons at the beginning of the series, Jack is a cheerful, optimistic, principled and blissfully unaware of the dangers around him. But after the deaths of his father, dog, wife and brotherwithin the space of roughly a year, he morphs into a vengeful and brooding man with a major vendetta.
On the first day of Christmas My true love gave to me A drunk who drove into a tree On the second day of Christmas My true love gave to me Two shattered skulls And a drunk who drove into a tree...
Twelve beaten children Eleven drive-by shootings Ten frozen homeless Nine amputations Eight burn victims Seven strangled shoppers Six random knifings Five suicides Four beaten wives Three O.D.'s Two shattered skulls And a drunk who drove into a tree.
The Secret Circle: In the past few episodes, Diana found out the man who raised her wasn't her father, her mother cheated on him, and, worst of all, he murdered Cassie's mother. Cassie has suffered just as much, though, what with being manipulated into making Adam forget his love for her and then losing her grandmother, her only blood family aside from her half-sister and their father.
Shōkōjo Seira: Seira. This is a Japanese drama based on A Little Princess. She had always been kind to everyone around her, whether they are poor or rich. But when her father dies, nearly everyone at the school set the wolves on her. From making her into a servant and taking every opportunity to announce her displeasure of Seira (Mimura Chieko the school director) to treating Seira like crap and shooting down every attempt Seira tries to please them (the chef and his wife) to making snide remarks every time Seira was in the same room as her, even going as far as to throw tomatoes at Seira when she was practically on the floor, admitting defeat (Rich Bitch Maria).
Chloe Sullivan for most of season two and three as Clark gets closer to Lana and the temptation of Lionel's offer growing stronger and stronger.
Chloe again, only a lot worse, from the end of season seven to all of season eight, and extending to season nine. She actually had a Lampshade Hanging moment at her birthday party when she recounted some of the things she went through, but it was dropped somewhat by the end of the episode, only to have more of it piled on her. Fired for protecting Clark, wedding ruined by Doomsday's attack, Jimmy being grievously injured, Doomsday kidnapping her to allow Brainiac to possess her, Jimmy making a scene and divorcing her influenced by Doomsday's manipulation and saying marrying her is the biggest mistake of his life, new friend and one ray of sunshine in this mire is a serial killer. At the end of the season she is a frightened, trembling wreck. In a deleted scene in Injustice, she is seen sitting, hugging herself, shivering, in the bathroom when Clark comes in, wraps a towel around her and hugs her.Actually an imposer, but it is a very reasonable guise. In Doomsday, Davis and Jimmy kill each other in front of her and Jimmy dies in her arms. Clark tells her that Clark Kent is dead and decides to sever ties with humanity and walks out of her life, and Lois goes missing. In Savior, a grief-stricken Chloe begs Clark to use the Legion ring to go back and save Jimmy, which he refuses. Chloe tells Emil she has been haunted by her ghosts so much lately she had to carry a gun to fall asleep. She is pretty much broken by now. Here is a rough summary of her many heartbreaks in season eight, obviously with spoilers.
The series began by breaking three year old Lana while in her fairy princess costume. Every so often we hear about the hole in her heart where her parents used to be. However, it is only a one scene appearance and Lana's endless Wangsting ruined the effect.
Stargate SG-1 did this with a lot of its characters but particularly Daniel Jackson and Colonel Sam Carter. However it resulted in them becoming Cool Badasses.
O'Neill losing his son really takes the cake, though.
His "older brother" turned out to be a murdering psycho, he found his long lost father not long before already said father was murdered by psychotic brother. He saw the woman to whom he "lost his virginity" murdered before his eyes for no reason but malice. He had to go to court over his right not to be dismantled, created a daughter who died after they tried to take her away from him and she couldn't deal with the shock. Was kidnapped by some rich guy who drove him to attempted murder (possibly Data's defining Break the Cutie moment), went through the whole Long-Lost Relative plot, tried to kill his best friend under mental coercion (psycho brother's fault again), was possessed a couple of times... Have to say, if he actually ''had'' emotions, they would have screwed him by the end of season 7.
And then he gets emotions in Generations... Frankly, it's surprising how he dealt with that with only one or two guilt trips. The amount of crap he went through wouldn't have been attempted with any other character, specifically because Data couldn't actually be broken. You could kick him around like a football and you're not likely to permanently psychologically wreck him.
Unless you count Descent.
Data's "Breaking moment" is confirmed when Riker tells Data the transporter noticed the weapon discharge, after which Data LIES to Riker by claiming it was a malfunction. Data never lies; especially to a higher-ranking officer.
Alternatively, he was trying to rationalize his breaking moment as a malfunction on his part.
At the start, Dean is pretty happy with his life, comic relief to Sam's big ball of angst, and loves the hunt. Sam starts out as The Heart to Dean's cynicism. They each end up with a hefty Guilt Complex.
Its various methods of bending Dean to the breaking point have included: getting tortured by his possessed father and possessed brother at two different times, making him feel guilty because someone died to save him in the first season and ramping that suicidal guilt up to 100 when his father dies for him in the second season, having hisbrotherdie in his arms, sending him to hell at the end of season three, and having enemies taunt him and allies accost him with how worthless he is.
What happens to Dean in Season 4: clawing his way out of his own grave, being an (albeit extremely pretty) angel's bitch, getting guilt-tripped from victims he couldn't save, going back in time and apparently causing the events leading to his mother's death; getting infected with a ghost sickness that makes him even more of The Chew Toy, remembering all his forty years of hell, breaking after thirty and enjoying torturing other victims for ten, having suddenly to remember the events of "In My Time Of Dying", having to torture Alistair for information and learning that he was the first seal and that his Dad spent a century on the rack but never broke. And most of all, finding out he's the only one who can stop "it", and then discovering this isn't referring to the Apocalypse. Instead, he's meant to let the angels engineer the Apocalypse and then end it by having Michael possess Dean and destroy most of the world fighting and killing Lucifer.
Sam Winchester got broken down courtesy of having a demon infect him with its blood, his mother die because of him, having a crappy childhood/life, his father disown him, his girlfriend die just to set him on the path to evil, having demonic powers, having his father die, and having to watch his brother break down before his eyes and then commit suicide for him and then be killed in a hundred different ways and then get ripped apart by hellhounds. Over half of that was a Corrupt the Cutie plot aimed directly at Sam, which worked—at least to the extent that they managed to manipulatehim into alienating his resurrected brother and doing exactly whatthe bad guys wanted. Then he began a Redemption Quest to prevent Lucifer from razing the world by taking him back to hell, and his brother didn't believe in him. Not that Sam believed in himself either.
It got much worse. At the end of season 5, Sam had to let Lucifer possess himto take Lucifer back into hell's solitary confinement. In season six, when Sam finally got his soul back after being brought back to life, Castiel broke his mind to let the memories of probably 180 years being tormented by Lucifer overwhelm him. In season seven, Sam has been losing his grip on reality at a time when they're facing a threat they can't kill, to the point where he almost dies because a hallucination of Lucifer won't let him sleep. And then has to deal with knowing Castiel sacrificed his mind for Sam's.
John. Once upon a time, he was a naive, innocent, sweet little himbo and look what happened to him. But unlike his sons, who have been broken slowly and horribly over the past few seasons due to numerous events, he just snapped from the one event (his wife dying) and became the borderline abusive, jerkass parent who was so at the end of his rope that he committed suicide for Dean in the most self-righteous way possible.
Castiel. Oh, how cute, a good little soldier angel that loves his daddy (God), gets nervous around whores, thinks humans are God's works of art, and he just made some new friends (Sam & Dean)! Here's what we'll do: Have his brother murder and corrupt his garrison, then turn on him too; rip him out of his vessel so he can be taught a lesson (No, you may not be friends with Dean!); force him to choose between Heaven and mankind; have his brother smite him to death; resurrect him with most of his powers gone (not particularly helpful in the middle of the apocalypse); then he spends nearly a season searching for God (for help, for guidance), only to find out that his daddy doesn't care about him and won't help. Cue Cas drinking an entire liquor store...understandably; then we have Dean surrender to the angels, essentially throwing all of Castiel's efforts and friendship back in his face. Cue Cas beating the living crap out of Dean in a back alley...again, understandably.
In an averted future from season 5, Castiel is a drug-addicted slut with no powers and no glory, but in season seven, Castiel seemed to die after betraying absolutely everyone in a bid to gain the power to become a new God and save the Earth from Raphael's attempts to restart the averted Apocalypse. This unleashed a plague of very smart body-snatching unkillable shapeshifters with excellent organizational structure on humanity. He gave everything he was to the cause Dean promised him was worth it, until there was nothing left of him; and while he did technically save the world twice, it got pretty compromised and pyrrhic.
Even Badass Bobby! He is forced to kill his own wife when she becomes possessed, is trapped in a dream-state pursued by a vision of his alternately evil/crying-for-help wife, descended into alcoholism after someone he loves like a son is killed by hell-hounds, is kidnapped and almost killed by the ghosts of children he was unable to save, is possessed by a demon, left paralyzed from the waist down, and artificially aged 25 years, is forced to kill his wife again after she returns zombified (guess we know what Bobby's vulnerable point is), and finally forced to allow the other person he loves like a son (Sam) allow himself to be satanically possessed on the unlikely chance that Sam will be able to overcome said possession enough to commit suicide. Good plan.
Also, he'd refused to have kids ever just a few days before his wife got possessed, and didn't explain it was because of deep issues going back to when he shot his abusive dad in the head as a kid in the kitchen of the same house he lived in until the Leviathans burned it down a few episodes before he died. This led to a huge fight between Bobby and Karen that they hadn't worked past when she died.
Kevin Tran. Starts as a sixteen-year-old high school student trying to get into Princeton and be the first Asian-American president. Then it turns out he's a prophet. Cue getting kidnapped by Leviathans, being on the run from Crowley for a year with no help, having his girlfriend get possessed and die right in front of him, spending most of his time on a houseboat with almost not visitors overworking himself until he gets a stroke trying to translate the demon tablet so the Winchesters can close the Gates of Hell and he can go home, getting kidnapped again, being told that his mom was dead, and then only learning that she was alive by hearing from other ghosts via ghostly Telephone after he dies. He only didn't break completely because Gadreel killed him on Metatron's orders before it could happen.
In summary, all Winchesters and any longtime associates either come pre-broken or get broken over the series. The customary dying seems to be easier. Unless you're Dean or Sam; then Hell and Heaven are all about this trope.
The fact that Sam and Dean can still get out of bed in the morning after being completely screwed over by Heaven, Hell, their father, most of their human associates (who just happened to find out who started the Apocalypse...), and Castiel, who was like a brother to Dean makes this extremely impressive. I mean, really, why not re-name the series "How to Break the Cutie (Fanservice and Fetish Fuel Included)"?
Switched at Birth: Most of the characters, but especially Daphne. Before the start of the show, she was a well-adjusted and happy deaf teenager. After finding out about being switched at birth (which is a shock on its own), she reconnects with her biological family, though her eager-to-please nature causes some conflicts and tension. Then, she finds out the woman who raised her knew about the switch when she was three, turning her world even MORE upside down. Then, when Daphne realizes that she loves her best friend who's always been there for her, she discovers that the guy is already in love with the girl Daphne was switched with.
Being told by the man thought to be her father that part of the reason for him leaving him was her deafness. Especially after being by Regina told that was the reason him leaving your entire life. Only for Regina to change her views about that to Daphne when Angelo came back.
Derek Hale is introduced as a tough, badass werewolf, an unshakable survivor. Then the show systematically destroys his life until he's the personification of a human disaster. Brace yourself:
Season 1 - His whole family dies in a fire except his sister, who is then murdered; he's unjustly framed for it when her grave is dug up; shot with wolfsbane and almost has to cut his arm off; attacked and tazed by his ex-lover Kate Argent who set the fire that slaughtered his family; finds out his supposedly comatose uncle Peter, now his last remaining family member, is the person who murdered his sister to be Alpha; captured by Kate who tortures him, sexually assaults him, and mocks the fact that she seduced a naive teenager to get to his werewolf family; is hunted like an animal several times; is shot with arrows by Allison Argent; kills his psychotic uncle Peter to stop him from murdering people and to become the Alpha, which he was never supposed to be.
Season 2 - Derek finds out that the first thing he tried to do as an Alpha, turning a fucking teenager because he needs a pack, is going horribly wrong and Jackson is rejecting the bite; the first person he actually manages to turn is arrested for murder on the full moon; is paralyzed and almost drowns; finds out his first beta turned into an evil lizard monster instead of a werewolf; is almost killed trying to save Scott from Victoria Argent and bites her in the fight; his body is used against his will for a second time when he's attacked and his blood used to resurrect Peter; almost killed by the girlfriend of the 16 year old boy he tried to save (Scott) because of misinformation; abandoned by 2/3 of his pack; his body is used against his will for a third time, by Scott to give Gerard the bite; finds out Scott lied to and manipulated him and never intended to join Derek's pack.
Season 3 it just starts getting ridiculous - He finds one of his beta wolves is dead; finds out that his little sister, Cora, is alive except she is completely feral and tries to kill him; barely survives all night nearly being torn apart by two feral werewolves; spends the episode with a pipe shoved through his torso while his sister is forced to watch; falls several stories onto an escalator and drags his broken body across town while everyone thinks he's dead; his body is used AGAIN as an unwilling instrument to kill one of his last remaining pack members; ten years ago Peter manipulated him into getting his first girlfriend bitten, and he has to kill her to end her suffering marking him forever with murderer's eyes; finds out his current girlfriend and the only source of happiness in his miserable existence is an evil druid who's been doing human sacrifice.
In Season 3B Derek (so far) catches a break. Unfortunately, this is because the cutie now getting broken is Stiles. He starts off the season suffering from hallucinations, nightmares and general insanity thanks to the afteraffects of the 3A season finale leaving his mind 'ajar'. Then at some point he gets possessed by the Nogitsune, and proceeds to kill lots of people under its influence. The possession (from is point of view) is depicted as him being trapped in a basement with a bear trap round his leg, being tormented by the Nogistune. Also, he discovers that he is suffering from frontotemporal dementia, the same disease that killed his mother.
Torchwood: Happens in the episode "Adam", the titular memory-changing alien breaks the handsome, soft-spoken, and likeable Deadpan Snarker Ianto by implanting in him false memories of murdering women, but due to the use of Retcon pills none of the characters remember the events of the episode and thus any breakage is temporary.
Gwen definitely falls into this category as she is indoctrinated into Torchwood during the first season (and she is thoroughly broken by the time of Miracle Day).
They like doing this: Ianto gets broken in "Cyberwoman". "Greeks Bearing Gifts" does the same to Tosh. "Fragments" breaks both Tosh and Owen. And in "End of Days," Gwen loses it completely when Rhys gets killed. He gets better.
Esther gets it too over the first half of Miracle Day.
Jack. Series 2, 3 and 4 have been one long Trauma Conga Line. Not to mention the time gap between losing the Doctor and the start of the series.
Caroline. Her character's shown as insecure within the first two episodes. And most of the first season is spent with her being abused by Damon under compulsion. Later on in Season two, she's caged by a werewolf and tortured just because she's a vampire. And to top it off, now in season three, she was kidnapped by her own dad, who tortures her in order to get her to stop feeding on blood (remember: she's a vampire!)
The series does a real work on Elena, which makes us wonder how she got so far without snapping. So far, they've killed Grayson and Miranda, her adoptive parents, John Gilbert and Isobel Flemming, her real parents, Jenna Sommers, her adoptive aunt, and Alaric, her history teacher. The straw that broke the cutie's back? Jeremy, her adoptive brother and the only family she had left was killed, and when she realized he was gone for real, she shattered, to the point that they had to turn off her humanity to keep her going.
Stefan. He was a normal guy until 1864 when he caught the attentions of villainous vampire Katherine, which became a love triangle with him and his brother, Damon, tearing them apart. This ended in them becoming a vampires and Katherine (seemingly) being killed. Damon vowed to make his life a misery since then, as well as the fact that he has to fight a blood addiction that will turn him into a killer. Eventually, he meets Elena, and everything seems to be going well, until Damon falls for her as well. Then, Damon gets a fatal werewolf bite, and the Big Bad is the only one with the cure. The result? Stefan has to become minion of the Big Bad in exchange for the cure to save his brother's life. When he finally gets free of this and returns, he finds that Elena now has feelings for Damon as well. After half a season, she finally picks Stefan, when she gets turned into a vampire and then decides she has stronger feelings for Damon because of this. As of now, her humanity is off off and she doesn't seem to care about either of them. Oh, and Damon killed his uncle, the only family they had left, and his best friend, Lexi.
Bonnie. When she found out she was a witch she wanted to help the vampires but could not do it alone. When her grandmother refused to help her, she begged her, until she gave in. The end result? Her grandmother was killed from overuse of magic. Since then, her mother was turned into a vampire to save her best friend's life, nearly every guy she dated either turned out to be a psycho or was killed off, and her mentor was revealed to be using her for his own nefarious purposes.
Veronica Mars: The title character is shown to have already been broken before the first series begins - the flashbacks show an almost painfully-innocent girl lose her best friend and then all the others, her mother, her home, any social standing and any shred of dignity she might have otherwise held on to, and all in the space of a year. Shortly after the loss of all that, she got drugged and raped at a party, and when she tried to report it, the sheriff laughed at her and mocked her for crying.
Randy Wagstaff. Starts out as a sweet, likable kid trying to make the best of life in his surroundings but gets wrongfully branded a snitch because of Herc's reckless actions. His house is burned down and his foster mother badly burned such that he has to go back to the group home, where he takes numerous beatings from the other kids. By the next time he's seen, he's become mean and violent just to survive.
Bubbles, the homeless addict and lovable police informant. After failing to clean himself up, he's targeted by a street addict who robs and beats him constantly. The police fail to help him out of the mess, so he takes matters into his own hands and plans to use potassium cyanide to kill the man, but Sherrod, another addict who's like a son to Bubbles, falls for the trap instead, mistaking the cyanide for heroine. Bubbles turns himself in for murder, and tries to hang himself with a belt in the interrogation room.
Xena: Warrior Princess: Gabrielle. The loss of blood innocence (killing someone), non-consensual impregnation by an immortal, having to kill her own daughter, domestic violence, killing her daughter (again) and grandson, crucifixion, killing an innocent teenager, and the death of her partner.
24: In the seventh season, Agent Renee Walker meets Jack Bauer. Within 10 hours, she is shot at, betrayed, choked to unconsciousness, wounded in the neck, buried alive, then resuscitated. Besides that, she almost suffocated a man in the hospital, held a woman hostage, threatened that woman's child, then got a different woman killed after she'd promised that woman's sister to keep her safe. Hour 10 had her point a gun at Jack, then later slap him in the face before collapsing into his arms and weeping hysterically. The cutie, she broke.
In the seven hours after that, she: found out the White House was the next target, swam the Potomac, saw a fellow agent murdered in front of her eyes, barely escaped Juma's army, discovered Jack was being held hostage by the dictator of Sangala (who also happened to have nabbed the President), saw a bomb go off in the White House, was told Jack had murdered Ryan Burnett and Senator Mayer, tried to help him, got herself fired, was proved right about Jack's innocence, was reinstated, saw her boss almost die, found out Jack had been infected with a deadly bioweapon, saw him have a seizure right in front of her eyes, and witnessed him refuse the only possible treatment to save his life. Emotional rollercoaster much?
After that, she also got to see her dead boss after Tony Almeida betrayed everyone and killed him. She also got to see Jack having more seizures, the Heroic Sacrifce of Bill Buchanan, and after all that her metamorphesis into the female Jack Bauer was complete when she tortured the Big Bad of Season 7, Alan Wilson in the Season Finale.
And now as of the premiere of Season 8, she has become an Anti-Hero, chopped off someone's thumb, wants to die and was raped while she was undercover with the Russians before the events in Day 7.
President Allison Taylor began her run in 24: Redemption as an idealistic President-Elect who won by a landslide. Since then, her son was murdered, Dubaku corrupted every department of her government, Juma landed on US soil, she was taken hostage, a bomb went off in the White House, her husband was shot and almost killed, the infrastructure of the entire United States was breached, two planes were crashed into each other just outside her window, a biochemical plant was just barely not blown up, her Chief of Staff resigned, she hired her manipulative bitch of a daughter to replace him, her Secretary of State quit, Juma's forces slaughtered most of the Secret Service, Senator Mayer and his traitorous Chief of Staff were murdered (by Jack Bauer, except not), she almost got into a civil war with Starkwood, her daughter also wound up going to Prison for having Jonas Hodges (Starkwoods boss) killed, and her husband divorced her because of it.
In Day 8, a peace on which she had built her entire administration implodes and her own inner circle turns against her, leaving her with precisely two people she can truly trust that aren't CTU - Secretary of Homeland Security Tim Woods and Secretary of State Ethan Kanin. Plus all the other things that go wrong. Poor, poor Allison has had some really awful days in the first 2 years of her administration...
Riley of Girl Meets World gets hit with this hard in the episode "Girl Meets Rileytown" when she's bullied extensively for weeks and tries to handle it on her own, only to end up crumbling under the pressure. First she gets angry and snaps at Maya for a little light teasing, then when Maya tries to talk to her about it she breaks down in tears. Luckily, she's on her way to being mended by the end of the episode.