As beloved as the fifth season is, it's generally agreed on that the series royally screwed up by killing Michelle and Tony over the course of the season. Tony's exit in particular was given a lot of criticism due to him being arguably the second most important character next to Jack and even being on the show since the beginning but going out with virtually no fanfare whatsoever. This got so bad that the writers had to eventually retcon his death for season 7... though his treatment there has a particular Broken Base, with some fans actually wishing he'd stayed dead.
The deaths of Curtis Manning and Renee Walker in seasons 6 and 8 respectively have also have generated a lot of controversy (especially Curtis). Curtis was a character that many fans felt as a worthy equal to Jack Bauer when it came to working in the field, and were none too happy in the much maligned-sixth season where he suddenly gave up all his principles to try and settle an old score forcing Jack to kill him less than a quarter in. In Renee's case, a lot of fans feel that her death was specifically done as shock value just to make Jack miserable again. However, at the same time, a lot of them also wind up appreciating the Fallen HeroRoaring Rampage of Revenge storyline it gave Jack as a result of her death.
That's because J. Michael Straczynski hates cute in general. To give you an idea, one episode of Babylon 5 had a teddy bear with the initials "JS" on its shirt that got a bridge dropped on it. That bear was given to him as a prank. His putting it into the episode like that was his counter prank.
Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): The death of Galactica mechanic Jammer. After several episodes of development, Jammer becomes a Cylon sympathizer during their occupation of New Caprica. He is one of the few people to survive a suicide bomber's explosion in the third season premiere, and later tells Cally to escape when a number of civilians are sent to be executed by firing squad. Despite this, he is cruelly airlocked by Starbuck and several other Galactica crew members while begging for his life in the teaser for the episode "Collaborators", and never mentioned again. Worst of all, Callynote who should have known it was Jammer who saved her life, seeing as how he worked with her for a long time and she knew his voice conveniently forgets about the person who saved her life.
Also the death of gunnery sargeant Erin Matthias due to an accidental ignition in a Heavy Raider's fuel system. Starbuck gives a speech afterwards about how death is meaningless, stupid, and random.
Blade The Series: Agent Ray Collins, a recurring secondary character who is slowly discovering the world of the vampires. Finally, in a late-season episode, he is paired up with Blade to hunt a pureblood vampire... and gets bitten by her when he lets his guard down. Blade is forced to stake him.
Blakes Seven: Killed regular character Cally out of shot in an explosion during the opening seconds of the fourth season, with only a dubbed-in scream reused from an earlier episode to indicate it. This was reportedly because the actor had left it until after the previous season had been completed to announce that she wanted to leave. (Although that was mainly because the BBC waited until after the previous season had been completed before announcing they wanted another one.)
Burn Notice: Anson Fullerton is introduced as the series Man Behind the Man to every previous villain on the show. In his introductory appearance, he arranges the death of Larry Sizemore, perhaps the series' most popular recurring villain. He frames Fiona for murder and has her sent to prison. He's revealed to be the man who murdered Michael's father. And to top it all off, he's the only Myth Arc villain to get through a season finale alive and free. This guy is the biggest, baddest...wait, just when he is about to be captured, we hear a shot and then see his dead body. The importance of his death is entirely ignored in favor of that of Michael's brother Nate, who was collateral damage in the crime. This is undoubtedly due to the audience's affection for Nate and the loss of the character.
Charmed: At the end of Season 3 ("All Hell Breaks Loose"), the eldest sister Prue is Killed Off for Real by a Monster of the Week. Prue had somehow lived through two deaths and bigger bads before, but this is what seemed to trump her in a quick one second death that could have been easily avoided.
It is rumored to be a backlash of McLeaned, as the actress who played Prue, Shannen Doherty, did not get along with the rest of the cast.
Cheers: Eddie LeBec, one of Carla's most recurring love interests then husband. Though never being a cast regular, he was permanently written off the show when he (offscreen, of course), was run over by a Zamboni trying to push a fellow cast member of the ice show he worked at out of the way. On the very same episode, it was revealed he had a mistress whom he also got pregnant and married (despite already being married to Carla obviously), leading an enraged Carla to reuse the name Tortelli. The producers of the show explained this turn of events at the time as test audiences not likingCarla being married, until almost two decades later, both Jay Thomas (who played Eddie) and one of the writers revealed this was actually the result of the former being fired due to making an insulting remark about Rhea Perlman (who played Carla) on live radio (while Rhea happened to be listening, no less).
Choujin Sentai Jetman: Gai Yuuki/Black Condor survived the whole ordeal against the Vyram and made it out of the final battle. Then 3 years later, he's stabbed by a mugger, managed to attend his friend's wedding enough to give them his blessings, then dies. No one, not even his friends, seemed to notice. Many Sentai fans argued how his death's handled, some say it's a refreshing change of how Toku heroes can die out of normal circumstances; some say it's badly handled for the sake of tributing Joe the Condor (who also dies in his series).
Chuck: Emmett the Buy More assistant manager in the Season 3 opener being shot in the head at point blank range despite being no threat at all to the enemy agent. An Asshole Victim for sure, and there are many who would quickly say that he deserved what he got, but others think it was a bit shocking given that, by and large, the Buy More crew was a separate world from the the Spy world and any danger to them was usually done for slapstick. The flippant way Casey covered it up while pressing the Reset Button was a bit callous, even for him.
Community: Subverted hilariously in Episode 13 of season 1, "Investigative Journalism", as the first Spanish class of the new semester features a memorial for Seņor Chang and a new teacher explaining he had an unfortunate moped accident during the break. Seņor Chang then enters the room, dismisses the teacher, saying she was a professional actress to teach the class that "[he] can never die".
But then by season 3, the show does it for real with Starburns. Surprisingly subverted in the season finale, the character turned out to be studying Faking Death 101.
CSI: Miami: Rory Cochrane's character, Tim Speedle, also died nastily after Cochrane asked to be written out of the show. The writers really did a number on him, making Speed out to be careless with cleaning his weapon, which subsequently jammed during a shootout and resulted in his untimely death. Considering his status as a much-loved character, this quite literal character assassination might drive some to accuse the writers of dropping a bridge on the fans instead of their intended target. Making this all the more implausible was that in a previous episode, he had almost been killed when he gun jammed for EXACTLY THE SAME REASON - wouldn't he have learned his lesson?
Jesse Cardoza only lasted 25 episodes before being the lone casualty of the gas attack against the lab.
Degrassi Junior High: A literal bridge dropping happens to Shane. While a bridge fell on Kirk, Shane falls off of it while tripping on LSD. Shane survives but is brain-damaged, his parents pull him from the school, and the kid who gave him the drugs (and watched him fall off the bridge, doing nothing) suffers no consequences. Shane is basically ignored and forgotten by the rest of the cast, and the show implies that this is poetic justice for how he (mostly) ignored and forgot a girl who he got pregnant. In Degrassi The Next Generation, his daughter tracks him down, and it turns out that he spent the rest of his life in a wretched sanitarium for the mentally retarded, abandoned by his family, and weeping over the girlfriend and child he never did enough for and never got to see.
Degrassi The Next Generation: Actor Ryan Cooley, who played student J.T., wanted to leave the show to attend post-secondary education, so the character was written out. He was stabbed by a student from a fellow school, at the end of an episode revolving around a drunken house party, with no buildup whatsoever. Not only that, but his best friend, Toby, makes a move on the girl he used to date. Everyone pointed out how senseless it was. Compare to Rick Murray, the school sociopath whose death was simply epic.
Desperate Housewives: After Karl Mayer was killed by a crashing plane the next episode had Susan and Bree have 'what if he lived fantasies' in which he ended cheating on each of them without remorse. As if to make sure the got across the message that it was a good thing he died the show avoided showing his presumably devastated daughter reacting to his death by having her make only a blink and you'll miss it appearance at the end of the episode.
In Season 5, Edie Britt drove her car into a pole, but survives just long enough to be electrocuted just to be certain she was gone for real this time, not just Put on a Bus.
Aunt Joan on Doc Martin. Killed off offscreen with a heart attack in her jeep, which was found crashed into a gorse thicket.
Doctor Who: Near miss: The show is known for changing its lead actor every few seasons by having an experience that would otherwise be fatal trigger a regeneration, resulting in a new body and changed personality. In most cases, this is due to the lead actor voluntarily choosing to leave the series, usually providing the production staff with sufficient notice to craft a story around the regeneration. In one case (the transition from Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy), the lead actor was fired (Colin Baker, understandably had absolutely no interest in returning to film a regeneration scene), and so without warning an episode began with the Doctor regenerating for a trivial reason, with McCoy playing the Before version (lying face-down and wearing an obvious wig) as well as the After version (briefly becoming The Other Darrin). Although the character didn't exactly die, a bridge was definitely dropped.
For the exact details, here's a quote from the factfile books. "Hitting his head on the TARDIS console". To be fair, the TARDIS was being shot down by the Rani at the time.
The Seventh Doctor's own death also qualifies. After being depicted for most of his era in different media as the biggest Chessmaster of the lot, he dies by being gunned down semi-accidentally by a bunch of Gang Bangers, after stepping out of the TARDIS without apparently checking the scanner or noticing the firefight going on outside.
The character of Romana underwent a surprise regeneration in Destiny of the Daleks, as actress Mary Tamm quit the series at the end of the previous season, and was replaced by Lalla Ward. Tamm had offered to return for Destiny of the Daleks in order to film a regeneration; she wasn't invited back and so Ward was introduced in a wacky sequence that remains a thorn in the side of some fans 30 years later.
Another character had a bridge dropped upon them in the 1980s. Kamelion was supposed to be a companion for the 5th Doctor who could change his shape into other humanoids. For some reason, the robotic form of Kamelion was portrayed by... a real robot. Problems arose when the only person on the planet who knew how to operate the blasted thing died without telling anyone else how to work it. This bridge was more out of necessity than anything else, but the fact that he barely shows up for two episodes and was cut out of another makes him a victim of a forgotten bridge at that.
And then there was the galaxy-scale bridge dropped on the Time Lords (including Romana, presumably) before the new series. It doesn't stop them from returning in The End of Time. Then a bridge is dropped again. Sort of. Or it's the same bridge that they're sent to. Wibbly wobby... timey wimey..
Dollhouse: Has this happen to Bennett. Then later to Paul Ballard. Big ouchies on both of those, as neither of them had any warning or buildup.
Downton Abbey: They dropped a bridge, I mean a car, on poor Matthew. This was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as his actor wanted to leave the show, and since he'd already married his Will They or Won't They? partner Mary, the only choices were to break them up or kill him. Fans would never accept the former after they went through so much to be together, so the latter it was.
Another example is the death of KemalPamuk, who suddenly dies after spending the night with Mary. There is no explanation as to why he died or any foreshadowing (not even the Incurable Cough of Death) and he even seemed to be very healthy man (he went out hunting the day before he died!)
EastEnders: Den Watts had a dramatic death in 1989, then came Back from the Dead in 2003. Amid complaints from fans that his return was unbelievable, the actor was involved in an internet sex scandal, and so Den's estranged wife walloped him over the head with a doorstop, the end.
ER: Romano. After getting his lower arm sliced off by the tail rotor of a helicopter in the previous season, the character dies when another helicopter goes out-of-control, explodes in midair, and lands on him. Ladies and gents, this is overkill at work. Although, it could be a writer's interpretation of karma or an ironic twist. Also somewhat lampshaded by Pratt suggesting that he must've done something awful to a helicopter in a previous life.
Forever Knight (1989-1996): The characters of both police Cpt. Amanda Cohen and police detective Don Schanke in this Canadian TV series were unceremoniously killed off off-screen in a plane crash, in the first episode of the series' last season, despite the fact that Schanke had been a long-time friend and colleague of protagonist Nicholas "Nick" Knight, the titular vampire police detective (night shift). Schanke was replaced by a new (female) partner for Nick, and the department's captain replaced with an African-American male actor. The same year, Nick's vampiric lover Janette also left Toronto without explanation, came back as a human, was shot and turned into a vampire 'again, only to leave the show forever. Actually, all but one of the main characters (the villainous LaCroix)may or may not die at the end of the series, including possibly Nick himself.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: A sort of inverse. In this case a character was killed off after he dropped off a bridge. Hilary's anchorman boyfriend Trevor decides to propose to her while bungee jumping on live television. Unfortunately his bungee cord was a little too long.
Friends: Offers an in-story example: Joey falsely brags in an interview about how he writes his own lines for his character, Dr. Drake Remoray, in the show Days of Our Lives. This irritates the writers, who have his character walk into an open elevator shaft, giving him brain damage that only his character could have repaired.
Eventually undone when Joey lets go of his ego and begs the producer for another chance. He doesn't get the part of Drake's twin brother Striker, but Striker turns out to be a doctor capable of fixing Drake's brain damage.
Fringe: Charlie Francis was killed off in the season 2 premiere in a rather insultingly anti-climactic fashion - especially when one considers an entire season 1 episode was devoted to saving his life. As usual, Executive Meddling is to blame. Between seasons 1 and 2 on , Charlie is killed only to be replaced by a shapeshifting imposter.
Bioterrorist mastermind David Robert Jones is killed off in an absurdly anti-climatic Portal Cut in the last episode of the first series ("There's More Than One of Everything"). It's even worse that he was physically displaying his immunity to bullets in his showdown with Olivia at the portal only a few seconds ago. Though that one's later reversed by a handy timeline change.
Gossip Girl: Bart Bass is hit by a car offscreen. To add insult to injury, he was on his way to try and reconcile with his wife, Lily.
Grey's Anatomy: Guess it seemed like having George Put on a Bus wasn't enough for the showrunners, so they decided to throw him under it as well. Literally. Didn't see that one coming.
And how about poor Lexie. Getting crushed by plane debris, in the middle of a forest, right after Mark confesses his undying love for her. Real nice, Shonda.
Hancock's Half Hour: Parodied in the episode 'The Bowmans'. Tony Hancock's character, Joshua Merryweather, has been written out of the eponymous soap but overwhelming public reaction forces the producers to bring him back. Tony Hancock accepts only if given full script approval; and the next episode features every other character walking across a field and falling down an abandoned mine shaft.
Heartbeat: Pick an Aidensfield GP. Any Aidensfield GP. One drowned after wandering into a river to retrieve a fishing rod. One burnt to death after running into a burning building to save a boy who'd already been rescued by someone else. One fell off a horse she was trying to save from rustlers who'd have been arrested anyway if she'd just stood there and done nothing. One was blown up by a schoolboy who was upset because his dog had been run over. Only Kate Rowan's failed battle with leukaemia managed to be a genuine Tear Jerker. (There was another one who bucked the trend by staying alive long enough to be Put on a Bus.)
Even more awkward is the handling of Richie Ryan's death in the fifth season finale 'Archangel'. Richie had spent the past season or so Taking A Level In BadAss after a close call when a temporarily-insane Duncan nearly took his head. He is shown to triumph over a few Immortals, and is said to have slain a number of other enemy Immortals off-screen. And he tells Duncan that he's prepared just in case Duncan were to go crazy again. However, all this is forgotten in 'Archangel', where Duncan, being tricked into seeing images of his old enemies by a Zoroastrian demon not previously known to exist in the Highlander universe accidentally takes Richie's head when Richie (who KNOWS something's not right and something's causing Duncan to see things that aren't there) just walks in on the scene and gets his head cut off. This was considered the show's Jump the Shark moment by a number of fans.
Homicide: Life on the Street: When Jon Polito's character Steve Crosetti was written out of the show at the behest of the network, who wanted another female character in the show, the producers promised him that they would write the character back in later in the season. Not believing them, Polito went to the newspapers and slagged off the production crew for bending to the network's wishes. As a result, his character committed suicide offscreen - the one thing he had asked the producers not to do. However, he mended his bridges and returned as an afterlife spirit in the Homicide TV movie that wrapped up the series.
Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.: Lieutenant Bracegirdle in the series. A fairly major character in Series 1, disappears for Series 2 but is reintroduced as an important character for the third series ... only to have the boat he was in get hit with an exploding shell and kill everyone on board.
House: Kutner was found Killed Off for Real because Kal Penn joined the White House staff and asked to quit the show. While the characters death is presumed to be suicide, House has his doubts and the producers are planning to craft a Story Arc out of this until the end of season 5.
Later in the season, House starts having hallucinations of Amber. In the season finale, he hallucinates Kutner as well.
Somewhat averted (or at least not as bad as it could have been). Executive Producer David Shore said, "this was the story that allowed us to really have the greatest impact on House in particular.... If Penn had come to us and said, "I've been offered this great part on 'CSI' ... then it would have been autoerotic asphyxiation or something like that."
The IT Crowd: Parodied a couple of episodes into the latest series, on a non-returning character: "Whatever happened to Richmond?" "He... got... scurvy."
Played straight when Denholm Reynholm tosses himself out the window in the first scene of a season 2 episode when the police come to talk to him about "irregularities in the pension fund."
L.A. Law: The character Roz steps into an elevator. The elevator isn't there and she falls down the shaft to her death. The end.
Widely noted by the press at the time as Diana Muldaur, the actress playing Roz, "getting the shaft". Perhaps a lampshading?
Las Vegas (NBC): Had a tendency to kill off the Montecito's owners at a rate of about one per season, but none quite so bizarrely as when Monica Mancuso was carried off of the roof of the casino by a strong gust of wind.
Law & Order: Alexandra Borgia's death reeks of this trope. Her character was kidnapped, beaten, and stuffed in a car trunk and abandoned in the woods, where she choked on her own vomit. Her brutal murder drives the last half of that episode, and then she hasn't been mentioned since (two seasons and counting). The trope is counts double, if one believes the rumors that her unusually brutal death was a result of Borgia's actress (Annie Parisse) spurning the romantic advances of the show's head writer.
Annie Parisse left to pursue a movie career. Apparently, Dick Wolf told her, "Oh, thank you for coming in early. You don't mind if we kill you, do you?"
There's also Max Greevey, who died offscreen in the cold opening for the 2nd season premiere after George Dzundza left the show. Adding insult to injury, it wasn't even Dzundza we see fall - it was a body double.
Total inversion with Claire Kincaid, in an episode without any investigation, but following the actions of the four leads after having witnessed an execution, Kincaid offers a ride home to a very drunk Detective Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). On the way there, her car is struck by a drunk driver and she's killed. Briscoe survives, and the shock of the event is enough to get him sober and in AA.
Lexx: Zev. In the second episode of the second season, the lone female on the Lexx spacecraft is caught on a medical station when her friend and captain, Stanley, has to go for an operation. She is tortured for the majority of the episode by a doctor who is trying to steal the Lexx's activation key from her, but she escapes and sacrifices herself seconds later to save the life of the undead assassin, Kai, with whom she is deeply in love. She ends up as a pile of goo, and eventually reforms into Xev (played by Xenia Seeberg). Eva Habermann (who played Zev) wanted out of the show due to wishing to persue other projects, but her death scene was a particularly mean-spirited way to go.
LOST: Ana Lucia, Libby and Mr. Eko. In the latter's case, they actually Dropped The Smoke Monster On Him.
And then there's Daniel Faraday, one of the most interesting and plot-relevant of season 4's new characters, unceremoniously shot by his own mother. It Makes Sense in Context, but still sucks.
The death of Ilana in season 6.
The deaths of Dogen and Lennnon in season 6. Then again, Ilana, Dogen and Lennon kind of had no point being there in the first place.
Bea Klugh. Built up as a mysterious, high-ranking Other in late Season 2, is absent for the first few episodes of Season 3, and then dies in the very next episode she does appear in. She's shot swiftly by an ally on her command, and never even mentioned again.
Matthew Abaddon. Had an uber-creepy first appearance where it was clear he knew more than he let on. Had a few more appearances where he seemed to be important, and had even orchestrated certain events (namely, sending Locke to Australia, leading to him crashing onto the Island). After not many appearances, he's suddenly shot dead by Ben, who claimed he was dangerous. We never do find out what his motives were.
M*A*S*H: The death of Lt. Colonel Henry Blake. After getting to go home, the last line of the episode announces that his plane has been shot down, with no survivors.
However, this is a total subversion of the trope: even though it was a senseless death, it was perfectly in line with everything that the show was meant for, i.e., war is hell, and people die indiscriminately, regardless of whether they are important people or not. So his death, though anti-climactic in theory, was not inappropriate or unsatisfying, but very appropriate, well-done, and respected by viewers. Of course, it wasn't respected by viewers in the '70s when it actually happened, but that was because it is the Ur Example of this trope in TV comedies.
McMillan and Wife: After Susan Saint James left, it was continued for one season as McMillan with the explanation that Sally had died in a plane crash, along with their infant son (who was himself mostly a plot device to explain Saint James' pregnancy a season earlier, and never seen). Aside from one or two dialogue swipes at recovering from grief and getting back into the dating game, Mac didn't seem too shook up about the whole 'lost the True Love that propelled the entire series' thing.
Merlin: Poor Lancelot. At first the writers gave him a pretty great death: he willingly sacrifices himself by stepping into the spirit world in order to save Merlin's life and fulfil his vow to Guinevere to keep Arthur safe from harm. Arthur subsequently has a memorial service in which he is remembered as the best and noblest knight of Camelot. Unfortunately, the writers couldn't leave well enough alone, and Lancelot is resurrected by Morgana in order to stir up trouble between Arthur and Guinevere in the lead-up to their wedding. This Zombie!Lancelot is a slave to Morgana's will who exists only to do her bidding, and after Mind Raping Guinevere with an enchanted bracelet, he ensures that Arthur catches them making out, leading to the dissolution of their relationship and Gwen's exile from Camelot. He is then ordered by Morgana to kill himself, and does so in the grimy prison cell into which he's been thrown, to be remembered not as a hero but as a traitor, whose last act on earth was to destroy the life of the woman he adored, and who died not out of love for his friends, but because Morgana told him to. For a man who was characterized as the epitome of honour and self-sacrifice, it's probably the worst imaginable way they could have killed him off.
Lancelot is a deliberate case. Even Morgana, the instigator of the whole affair, notes at one point that she feels almost sad to be doing this to him. Made all the more worse by the fact that only Merlin attends his funeral, where it's hinted that he was aware of what he was doing and was powerless to stop it. Ouch.
Agravaine is a non-deliberate case. His death scene is a dramatically staged moment that was a important point in Merlin's character development... but he was killed off without anyone ever learning why he was a villain in the first place and his death scene wasn't so much about him dying as Merlin realizing just how strong he is.
The series finale killed off quite a few of the main characters, but Morgana's death was particularly anticlimactic. After learning that Arthur has been mortally wounded and Merlin intends to heal him at the lake of Avalon, she sets off to stop him. When she finally catches them, she throws one spell at Merlin and then says a couple mean things before he skewers her with Excalibur, and she dies without affecting the main plot at all. It was as though the creators wrote the episode, realized it was the last one and then squeezed in Morgana's death at the last minute because they wouldn't have a chance to do it later. Particularly egregious because in series 4 Morgana had a vision of her death which was much better -Her wounded and slowly dying on the field of a fiery battle (presumably Camlann) while Old Merlin delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her. Most of the other prophetic visions in Merlin came true, and trying to avert this one served as Morgana's main motivation in series 4 and 5, so you really have to wonder what they were thinking when they didn't use it.
Neighbours: The three members of the Bishop family were the only casualties of a crashed plane, which they only boarded at the last minute. Their family and friends took about three days to get over the loss.
Also Connor, who was either killed by Paul Robinson's crazy son or went on a Long Bus Trip overseas. (He eventually turned up for a four week guest stint six years later where the question of why he abruptly disappeared without contacting anyone was given an appropriate Handwave.)
Bridget Parker's death fills the 'awkward' part of this trope: She died as the result of a mysterious rampaging white horse running out in front of her car and causing it to crash. The horse is never seen, heard of or mentioned again. (Considering her family were in the car, you'd think they would have looked into that; possibly even sue the owner of the horse for negligence causing death?)
Speaking of horses, they killed off Libby Kennedy's husband Drew Kirk by having him fall off a horse shortly after her marriage. They also had Toadie's first wife Drew Bliss die in a car crash shortly after their marriage - Neighbours writers don't seen to like people living happily ever after...
Once Upon a Time: Greg and Tamara, who were the Big Bad Duumvirate in the second half of Season 2, are unceremoniously killed off in the first half-hour of the Season 3 premiere.
The Prisoner: The remake had a little girl and Number Six's love interest fall down bottomless pits.
Reno 911!: They play this for laughs. The deputies are riding on the side of a police car that has been converted into a float, but they are late and speeding so they crash into a building. On the next season opener, Deputies Johnson, Garcia, and Kimball apparently died as a result from "burning up in the fire," but none of the other characters have a scratch on them and Dangle can't even remember their names.
Revolution: Maggie is briefly taken hostage by some random crazy dude who shows up from nowhere, gets accidentally stabbed in the leg, and then she bleeds to death.
Robin Hood: The death of Marian on the BBC's show not only led to so many complaints that the BBC had to resort to automated emails of apology, but also the show's imminent cancellation (despite in-show attempts to set up for a fourth season). In the climax of the second season Marian puts herself between an injured and helpless King Richard and Guy of Gisborne and, after he insists that he will take her by force rather than take her alternative of killing the Sheriff and having her by her consent, begins to shout "I love Robin Hood! I'm going to marry Robin Hood!" Guy, who has been going through significant Character Development for love of her, responds by impaling her on his sword. To make matters worse, to get Marian to this point, the writers first make her act wildly Out of Character by having her attempt to assassinate the sheriff, deprive her of a weapon to defend herself with, and conveniently remove Robin from the scene despite the fact he was right on her tail only a few seconds ago. And why did this happen? According to creators Foz Allen and Dominic Mingella: shock value. Yes, Maid freaking Marian herself was killed off for nothing more than cheap shock value.
You also have Carter, who only showed up in a few episodes but was still a favorite character. He is a master swordsman and archer, rivaling even Robin himself and has been fighting in the Holy Land for awhile. Then he gets stabbed by the Sheriff because he blindly ran into a building without looking first. He literally runs into the Sheriff's sword. He's not mentioned again.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Derek Reese is randomly killed by a newly arrived Terminator early in an episode, with the show's return for a third season questionable. We even get a couple nice closeups of the bullet hole right in the middle of his forehead to make it clear he's Killed Off for Real.
Making this even more notable is that it was just one episode after minor recurring character Charlie Dixon got to go out as a hero, sacrificing himself to buy John time to escape some assassins. In contrast, Derek is just hit rounding a corner, in a moment shot exactly the same way as the Red Shirt death a couple minutes earlier. Quite a few fans have compared it to Omar's death in The Wire mentioned above, as it's clearly meant to give the same message: sometimes even heroes die due to random quirks of fate. Then again, it's hard to take Derek's death close to heart, given that John and Catherine Weever (T-1001 fighting SkyNet) travel to the After the End future shortly after that, and John meets Derek there (it's an alternate future without John Connor to lead the resistance, so Derek was never sent back).
Satisfaction: Similarly, Tippi was Killed Off for Real as the actor was going overseas to pursue other opportunities. This is not the first time this character had faced death; she was nearly killed by a tranquilizer administered by a mortician with a fetish for dead people.
Subverted on Seinfeld. When George's fiance Susan dies of chemical poisoning (thanks to the cheap wedding envelopes George bought), he and the other four main characters react disturbingly callously and unsympathetically. However, in the following episodes, we see her parents grieving her death and even founding The Susan Ross Foundation in her honor.
Skins: Near the end of Series 4, Freddie is suddenly beaten to death with a baseball bat by Effy's crazed psychiatrist, who was introduced in the same episode. Chris's death in the earlier series was actually believing and heartfelt, while Freddie's felt abrupt and mean-spirited. Not to mention that the series ends just after Cooke discovers his death, with no chance to see the others' reactions.
Sliders: Perhaps the most unpleasant example: in a season opener, we find out that the character Wade Wells has been abducted by ugly alternate-dimension aliens... for breeding purposes.
Another unpleasant Sliders example was Professor Arturo; over the course of one episode he had his brains partially sucked out, was then shot dead, and was then left on an Earth which was destroyed by radioactive pulsars. And all this after the character came down with a terminal disease leaving him with months left to live anyway.
Fans insist that the deceased Arturo was in fact his "evil" twin due to the Ambiguous Clone Ending of a previous season's episode in which two versions of Arturo fight and we don't know which one was left stranded and which one ended up travelling with the group. Wade Wells, meanwhile, was written out by being abducted by the evil alien Kromaggs, and eventually returned long enough to be Mercy Killed.
Don't forget the Mallory brothers. Thanks to an experiment by a Mad Scientist, Quinn gets merged with another version of him (played by a different actor), while Collin gets "unstuck" and is forced to travel between worlds for the rest of his life. Throughout the season, there are attempts at separating the Quinns. In the penultimate episode, the same mad scientist tries but reveals that too much time has passed. Only one may survive, so the group reluctantly chooses the new guy.
Sons Of Anarchy: In Season 4, recurring character Kozik had just enough time to say "Shit!" before Land Mine Goes Click and he winds up in about a hundred different places at once.
Stargate Atlantis: If Carson Beckett's untimely demise doesn't count then nothing does. Some random Alien device that causes anyone affected by it to grow a rather malignant exploding tumor was found and activated by two unfortunate no-names. He died after removing and passing it to someone else, mostly because he couldn't walk away fast enough.
Something similar happened to Janet Fraiser in Stargate SG-1, but it was meant to be a subversion. That season was supposed to be the last one, the writers thought they were writing her out of 2 episodes (the 2-part season finale) and giving the character a respectful death, instead of 3 seasons and 2 episodes and a seemingly insignificant death. Also even though the death seems random it was actually a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save the life of a wounded airmen; the episode was even called "Heroes".
They didn't do a much better job with Elizabeth Weir. Initially she was captured by replicators in a Heroic Sacrifice. Fair enough except that the team knew she wasn't dead only a prisoner. In a wildly OOC moment John, her best friend and epitome of We-Don't-Leave-Anyone-BehindChronic Hero Syndrome, made ZERO effort to go back and save her. She returned several times as a clone and later full replicator...only to be frozen in space in another unnecessary sacrifice. Made worse in that another replicator had previously been frozen in space and the team had resurrected them! Apparently John was too busy drowning in guilt to remember that.
Maybe the writers just don't like doctors? (Although the Bridginess-factor was somewhat mitigated (both times) by excellent building of tension throughout the episode, so that the character deaths were more of a punch to a gut than a let-down.)
Then Carson (actually, his clone) is brought back, and the explosion incident is almost never mentioned again. Also, this Carson is somehow better at using the control chair than the original (he's engaged in a space battle in the series finale between Atlantis and a super-hive).
What about Lord Yu from SG-1? He was quite possibly the most interesting Goa'uld System Lord, and he gets killed off by the Replicators in the first five minutes of one episode.
Though it's of note that Tasha's death was an attempt by the writers to actually subvert a trope... the one that says that it's always the nameless redshirts that are killed as an example of the evil alien's power. Unfortunately, Tasha's death came off as far too senseless (not to mention stuck in a really bad episode) and the fan outcry was such that it had to be revisited.
And later, we learn that Tasha's "do-over" death didn't take; instead she was captured by the Romulans and used as a sex slave for years before finally dying another quite ignominous death. And bizarrely, this was actually the idea of her own actress, who wanted to come back on the show and invented a way that she could play Tasha's Identical Daughter.
Supernatural: Although they didn't actually die, this could easily apply to Lucifer and Michael themselves. After fully two seasons of Apocalyptic build-up, they both get dropped in a hole and left to rot. They never even got to throw a punch at each other, much less have their epic world-ending battle.
One episode features a whole bunch of immensely powerful pagan gods who are pretty savagely slaughtered by Lucifer. Most of them didn't even die onscreen. And while Gabriel's death was a little more dramatic, it was still pretty anti-climatic, all things considered. As with the finale, he didn't even get to throw a punch before Lucifer skewered him.
Avoided in the season 5 finale. Lucifer explodes Castiel with a click of his fingers and then breaks Bobby's neck, but they were resurrected. For a moment though, it looks like the show has just killed off two of its most popular characters in the blink of an eye.
Season 7 has seen this trope rather brutally applied to Castiel - after his big A God Am I moment in the Season 6 finale seemed to set him up as the Big Bad for Season 7, he spends one single episode going kill crazy, starts to worry about his own rapidly deteriorating mental state, releases all the extra power he absorbed, and just when you think he's going to be okay, he promptly gets possessed by the actual Big Bad who then informs Sam and Dean that Castiel is dead. And since this happened, his name has barely come up, despite the fact that he was pretty much the closest and most loyal friend the Winchesters had after Bobby. Of course, fans are adamantly clinging to the belief that he's not really gone and since he's died twice in the past and got better the possibility is there.
"The series also introduced characters like the Kipp family, as well as a completely new incarnation of Anton Arcane played by Mark Lindsay Chapman. A young boy named Jim Kipp, played by Jess Ziegler, was intended to appeal to the young audience. However, after the first 12 episodes, a decision was made to return the series back to a darker theme seen in the original Swamp Thing film. Consequently, the story had Kipp abducted by a South American child stealing ring and never appear again."
Teachers: The end of the third season saw the departure of the last two members of the original cast, who also happened to play fan favourites. As a rather bitter revenge, the fourth season opens on the graves of their characters being pissed on by the school's headmaster.
That '70s Show: When Bret Harrison, who was intended to appear in the last season resigned due to his commitment to Reaper, his character Charlie fell off the Point Place water tower and, unlike every other character who ever did that on the show, died. He obviously was quickly forgotten: in the finale, twenty-one episodes after seeing the death of a new friend, Kelso doesn't hesitate to jump from the water tower again.
It's lampshaded during the credits of the episode by having the Donna, Fez, and Kelso sitting on the water tower lamenting over Charlie's death. It is mentioned how many times Kelso fell off and what could have happened to him. Kelso responds by saying that they think they're invincible but they really can get hurt. Kelso then falls of the water tower yet again and remarks off screen "Screw that, I'm invincible."
Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day Four, a bridge is dropped on Ianto Jones. He and Jack enact the plan of marching into the alien's base, demanding it surrenders with no bargaining tool, then shooting at bullet-proof glass. The alien then releases a toxic gas that kills everyone in the building (Jack comes back to life in the aftermath).
Two and a Half Men: Charlie's death certainly qualifies as he was killed by a girlfriend pushing him into an on-coming train. It was done between seasons and off-camera. The character's actor was going through a breakdown at the time, and it could be said that he had to leave the show and have his contract terminated on poor terms.
Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps: Jonny is killed off-screen by being eaten by a shark in Hawaii, after trying to jump it (in an entire episode that parodies the concept of "jumping the shark"). This was due to Ralf Little wanting to leave the show to concentrate on his movie career.
A similar stunt was pulled in an earlier season, when Flo is killed off-screen when she gets hit by a truck. Again, this was due to Beverley Callard having to leave the show to return to her role in Coronation Street.
Valerie Harper: She lost her self-titled sitcom when she asked for a salary increase after the first season. The producers responded by firing her, having her Valerie Hogan character die in a car crash, and then having her sitcom family mourn off-screen before Aunt Sandy Duncan took over the motherly duties under the new title Valerie's Family (eventually renamed The Hogan Family). Three episodes into the new season, all signs of Valerie Hogan literally went up in flames as the Hogan house caught on fire. Harper would later get a sizable settlement from Lorimar and the producers for their handling of the situation.
The Vampire Diaries: Poor Pearl. She was such a cool character it's a shame she died like this.
The Walking Dead: Dale was given a rather unceremonious exit after the actor requested to leave.
Oscar dies an even more anticlimactic death. Just a few episodes after the group accepts him, he gets shot dead by one of the Governor's mooks, apparently just to give the incident a body count including a named character.
Also T-Dog, who was a somewhat important character right from the beginning, is bitten by a random walker due to circumstances caused by a character with no other plot significance. His death is completely ignored since a more important character dies in the same episode.
The Wire: A show that had otherwise made a point of giving every major character it killed off a satisfying (if heartbreaking) death, Omar was killed when a ten-year-old kid shot him in the head from behind in a random and anticlimactic scene. His death contrasted jarringly in its randomness and pointlessness with the respect the show gave to the other characters. Notable in that contrary to most bridge-droppings, it was done deliberately to make a thematic point, and it was planned well in advance.
The Bill's makers decided not to renew Jeff Stewart's contract as Reg Hollis, a move that may have resulted in his attempting suicide on set. Hollis, a highly popular character with more than 20 years in the show, gets written out off-screen with comments that he's resigned due to the death of PC Emma Keane. Not only has Hollis been around for every death in the show's history, he's been directly involved in the discovery that Des Taviner was responsible for the Sun Hill Fire and the loss of his girlfriend just as he was to propose to her. A move like that is completely out of character for him.
Wizards of Waverly Place: This is Disney so you can bet they were not actually going to kill someone off (even a vampire) so instead they settled for sending the growing in popularity Juliet to hell.
The problem is they have. On screen. Granted, it's not graphic but people don't usually come back from being frozen and shattered.
Xena: Warrior Princess: When Xena, prophesied to spell the end of the Greek gods' reign, gains the power to kill gods, a group of them led by Athena attacks, and the whole group (except Athena herself, given a decent battle), some of whom were recurring allies or villains throughout years of the show as well as its parent series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, gets taken out more casually and anticlimactically than any Star TrekRedshirt, one after another after another.
There's the episode "Endgame," which killed off the (much beloved) Amazon regent Ephiny two minutes into the opening teaser. Still at least Ephiny died on screen; the following season Amarice, who had been Xena and Gabrielle's companion for a good run of episodes earlier that season, was unceremoniously killed offscreen during the teaser for the episode "Lifeblood" (by then the actress, Jennifer Sky, was starring in Cleopatra 2525, but Amarice's character arc ended with her being happily left with a tribe of Amazons, so mentioning her again just to say she was dead seemed, well, kind of mean and pointless).
The X-Files: In a show notorious for killing off characters, all three Lone Gunmen (Byers, Langley and Frohike) made it all the way from the first year of the show until four episodes from the last, when they were killed off trying to stop the spread of a deadly contagion. The failure of the Lone Gunmenspin-off series perhaps motivated the writers to kill off the characters for good, but the fact that they were Mulder's closest allies throughout the whole show makes this one a bit mean-spirited. (Of course, the episode was called "Jump The Shark"...)
Agent Pendrell of seasons 3 and 4 was killed off in a particularly undramatic fashion, and jarring (if you liked the character). Drunk (out of character), carrying over beers for Scully to celebrate her birthday a night late, he gets shot from behind about one minute after he appears in the episode.