Possibly the three scariest words on American television: the Emergency Broadcast System, complete with one of the most unnerving sounds on American television (and, thanks to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, one of the scariest ones in American video games).
The 7 Yüz episode "Eşitlik" deals with the fallout of having a sex tape uploaded to the internet, where it becomes the subject of local gossip. In the episode, an intimate video from the protagonist's past is uploaded and viewed by millions, including her colleagues, and places her personal and professional reputation on the line.
Angel does a pretty good job of this as well: it's bad enough when people are trying to get at your child before he's even born; it gets worse when he ends up in the hands of the enemy after being kidnapped (albeit with the best intentions) by one of your best friends. And when he finally comes back, you've missed his entire childhood and he's now a certifiable psychopath conditioned to kill you. This eventually forced Angel to cut his throat. He was saved by a timey-wimey Deal With The Evil Law Firm and given a normal life in which he had not memory of Angel, and just when Angel was coming to terms with that returned to Angel's life, having no idea who Angel was and then being forced to fight an extremely powerful demon while having no idea how to fight. That's just the big things.
The A-Team: Mentioned early on in the episode "Fire"; when Kelsey's men stop them on their way to a fire, Sanders snaps that it may be an abandoned warehouse today, but what it later a house full of children is burning down? Later, the team keeps Kelsey's men from stopping them again; this time, it's a house with a boy in it, and B.A. tells Hannibal that the boy would have died if the antagonistic fire department had succeeded in stopping them.
Being Human uses this in one episode, when Annie sees her mother for the first time after dying. There are two points that stand out in particular. The first is when Annie is too shocked to say anything, and the medium who is speaking on her behalf has to tell Mrs. Sawyer that there isn't anything he's being told. Mrs. Sawyer says that she hopes he's lying, because she can't stand the thought that her daughter could communicate through him freely, but can't speak to her own mother. The other is when Mrs. Sawyer breaks down and confesses that she feels she failed her daughter and that if she was a better mother, she would have known that her child was unhappy and alone.
Black Mirror. GOOD GOD, does this show employ this kind of fear effectively.
Black Mirror: Be Right Back: Your partner just pops out to the shops for a minute and they die suddenly in a car accident on the way there.
Black Mirror: Playtest: A Nice Guy named Cooper undergoes an experimental play test for a survival horror virtual reality sim: at first he's amused by the Jump Scares in the haunted house, but then the game starts employing deeply personal Psychological Horror to freak him out, culminating in him entering a fake-out of leaving the game and returning home to America to his mother only to find she has Alzheimers just like his father did and she doesn't remember him. Then it turns out that the whole experience was a Dying Dream, as the machine malfunctioned immediately into the experiment from his cellphone ringing. Poor Cooper died alone and being psychologically tortured with his worst fears in an engineered Ironic Hell. From Cooper's mother's perspective, there's the horror of your child going off into the world alone and not returning to contact you, and then you accidentally and inadvertently killing your child, also qualifies.
Black Mirror: USS Callister: Daly was able to break Digital!Walton by creating a digital copy of his son Tommy and then throwing the screaming, terrified boy out of the airlock, then vowing to bring Tommy back to kill him in front of Walton again and again in worse ways as many times as it took to get Walton to comply with the game. The Digital!Nanette has to blackmail her real-life counterpart with nude photos to get her to help steal back the crew's DNA so Daly simply won't bring them back if they escape, and Real!Nanette has no idea who's doing the blackmailing. Plus, at its heart, the premise of the episode is a terrified woman trying to escape the grasp of a man with a serious abusive streak and the things he'd do to her if she stepped out of line.
Breaking Bad- in "Ozymandias", we have Skyler pulling a knife on Walt after finding out he killed Hank (one of the few crimes Walt was actually not guilty of, which he had no way to prove, itself a bit chilling), which escalates into a full out fight between the couple as Junior watches helplessly and Holly cries in the background, culminating in Junior wrestling his father off his mother, and calling the police on him with one hand while the other is flung protectively in front of Skyler. Then, Walt steals Holly from her crib and drives off with her, with Skyler running after the car screaming.
An even more chilling example comes right on the next episode: Skyler, completely alone at home but under police surveillance, enters Holly's room and is surrendered by a masked man while two others watch over Holly's crib. Turns out it's Todd and his gang, threatening her not to say a word about Lydia's involvement in the Heisenberg case. Under Lydia's orders, even.
Really, the whole show is founded on Adult Fear: the fear of getting a fatal illness before your time and leaving your family with nothing. All the dark paths the show takes begin from that fear.
"The Body". Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch. Buffy, a girl who fights vampires and demons, is reduced to a near catatonic state clearly wondering how long Joyce had been in the house and if she could have been saved. It gets worse several episodes later when, despite the Scoobies' best efforts, her sister Dawn is still captured.
MS. KROGER: I think I've seen enough. BUFFY: No, actually, I really don't think that you have. It's just ... it's been kind of, kind of a, a bad time. MS. KROGER: It's been a bad time now for a while, hasn't it, Ms. Summers? [...] BUFFY: But there—there are good reasons. MS. KROGER: Oh, I'm sure there are. But my interest is in Dawn's welfare. And the stability of her home life, something I'm just not convinced that an unemployed young woman like yourself can provide. BUFFY: I can. I, I do! MS. KROGER: Well, we'll just have to see about that then, won't we? Oh, and I'm, uh, going to recommend immediate probation in my report. BUFFY: What does that mean? MS. KROGER: It means that I'll be monitoring you very closely, Ms. Summers. And if I don't see that things are improving, well, I'll be forced to recommend that you be stripped of your sister's guardianship. BUFFY: You can't do that. MS. KROGER: I do what is in Dawn's best interest ... as should you. Have a nice day.
The second Christmas special of "Call the Midwife" has a painful sequence of Adult Fear. Shelagh and Dr. Turner are preparing for their wedding, at which young Timothy Turner will be the best man. While she's at the bridal store and he's visiting a patient, Timothy is shining his father's shoes and trying to iron his shirt while drinking a cherry soda. Then Shelagh comes home, sees soda all over the floor, and finds her stepson unconscious on the couch, having been stricken with polio. The sight of Dr. Turner, usually a calm, collected professional, frantically running through the halls of the hospital — to find his son in an iron lung, no less — while Shelagh loses all her vaunted composure and sobs hysterically outside Timothy's room is absolutely heartbreaking.
Castle faced Adult Fear in the two-parter "Target" and "Hunt", when his daughter Alexis was kidnapped. Any parent could relate to the terror Castle felt; even Captain Gates, Castle's most vocal critic among the precinct, put aside her dislike of Castle during this case and told Beckett, "Do whatever it takes to get his little girl back."
Castle experienced great fear during "Setup and "Countdown" when a terrorist group threatened to detonate a dirty nuke in downtown Manhattan. Castle ends up having Alexis join his mother Martha on a spiritual retreat that Martha was planning, despite Alexis begging her dad to get her out of it at the beginning of the story. He couldn't even tell his mother and daughter why he was afraid for their lives.
One case involved a kidnapped child, whose father came only a few minutes late to pick him up from soccer practice, only to find out he wasn't there. The father didn't even realize he had been kidnapped right away, assuming he decided to walk home on his own. Castle feels uncomfortable about it because the child is not much younger than Alexis. He also reveals that when Alexis was a child, he turned away for a couple of seconds while out shopping, and she was gone. Fortunately, she had just been playing around in a rack of clothes and had fallen asleep.
Cloak & Dagger (2018): A conversation between Tyrone and his mother summarizes the fear black parents have, made more topical by the fact that they already lost Tyrone's older brother to police violence.
Tyrone: It's like you think if I don't do everything perfectly you're gonna lose me. Adina: Oh baby, I wish it were that simple. I'm afraid even if you do everything perfectly I'm gonna lose you.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: In season 3 and season 2 finale, the themes of mental illness and suicide are played very straight, which include:
Everybody scared out of their minds when Rebecca, left at the altar, runs towards a cliff with the intent of jumping from it.
Rebecca's mother notices something strange in Rebecca's behavior. When Rebecca is asleep, she takes her daughter's computer and sees what she's been researching: the quickest and most painless ways to kill oneself.
The fear of a friend committing suicide or of yourself going to a place dark enough that you'd attempt it. The fear that rebecca, while using the toilet, might try to kill herself is enough for her friends to be willing to destroy the door, with Valencia breaking down crying soon after they confirm she is okay.
The NBC series Crisis runs on adult fear. Its basic plot is that the children of some of America's wealthiest, most powerful families get kidnapped, including the son of the President of the United States, and even the government seems powerless to find them.
Crossing Lines Det. Major Louis Daniel and his wife Rebecca Daniel are living this. Louis's backstory and possible motivation for setting up the unit is the murder of his son. The covert side investigation into the boy's death is one of at least 2 arcs in the first season. He has learned the Russian may have planted the bomb that killed his son. The Russian is also running the crew in the 2nd episode.
In CSI, two boys went missing and the main suspect is a pedophile. It didn't help when the team had to enlist his help to try to find the boys and he began to describe in detail to Grissom how he would lure a child to him by gaining their trust. Another suspect was one of the boys' abusive grandfather. Imagine you were the father of that man, forced to leave your son with him because the grandfather was the only one available to look after your son. And failed.
The show opens with Matt Murdock's father finding him lying on the ground at the center of a major traffic accident, his face covered in unknown chemicals. Matt then starts screaming "I can't see!" over and over while his father just holds him, utterly helpless.
James Wesley strong-arms a guard into carrying out a hit on Karen Page by showing the guy a live feed of his daughter sitting in a park...and the assassin stationed not ten yards away from her that they will give the order to if Farnum doesn't do a few favors for Wilson Fisk in exchange for his debts being forgiven.
At the end of "Cut Man", a father is beaten while his child is kidnapped right in front of him by human traffickers who are more than willing to sell the kid once they're done using him as bait for Daredevil.
A season two example: Frank's description of his daughter's death, compounded by the whole thing being brushed under the rug by the DA to save her own career, is prime Adult Fear.
Meat was spilling out of her, Red. The place where her face used to be
The very first episode, "An Unearthly Child", which until the reveal could easily be a story about child abuse and the Subtext is very intentional. Imagine that you are a schoolteacher and in your class there is a strange teenage girl who seems ignorant about some things and very knowledgeable of others, waits in school until after dark before she goes home, works hard in school but never does her homework, and becomes very distressed easily. She claims to live with her grandfather who never comes into the school, and won't talk to her teachers because he "doesn't like strangers". You discover her address on the school's records is fake, because it leads to a junkyard. When you go and investigate an old man emerges, who treats you with disdain, refuses to talk to you about your pupil and dares you to call the police, but then you hear the girl's voice coming from a locked, junked piece of street furniture and realise he's got her locked up in there...
"The Macra Terror" is an allegory for this. Turns out the "happy life" society is set up to brainwash you into thinking you need and enforcing to others is to toil uselessly for decades in a job that benefits no-one except shadowy horrifying masters, slowly weakening and dying in order to afford the privilege of getting a week at Butlin's, listening to foul electronic pop music, and getting some new clothes and haircuts. We know Grand Control is right, and we must obey!!
"Image of the Fendahl". There's a horrible monster, but it's explicitly a metaphor for suicidal ideation.
"Aliens of London": The Doctor accidentally brings Rose back home 12 months after they left, instead of the intended 12 hours. As a result, she was declared missing, and her mother Jackie thought she was dead.
The two-parter "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" turns on the fear of having something terrible happen to your child, something that can't be stopped and leaves them with symptoms that can't be treated. To make matters worse, it's later revealed that Jamie Came Back Wrongbecause of an attempted cure, not for lack of one.
"The Christmas Invasion": On what should be a normal Christmas Day, a mother finds her husband and children suddenly walking out of the house, going completely unresponsive and heading for the tallest building they can find.
Plot holes aside, "Gridlock" becomes very disturbing, in a peculiar fashion, if you start thinking about being stuck in an inescapable traffic jam that will never, ever end (maybe you have to drive into to work to appreciate it).
In "Turn Left", Great Britain devolves into a police state and things get increasingly bleak with economic depression. It turns out it was a parallel universe, a nightmare realm, and Donna manages to return history to its old, proper course. But still.
It's made all the more chilling by the fact that, unlike most depictions of modern fascism, the episode has no evil dictator or extremist political faction to fill the obvious "villain" role. There's just a long series of badly timed disasters the kinds of disasters that the Doctor regularly stops, in fact that robs the people of England of their hope, and leaves them too scared to question their leaders.
It's made all the worse by the obvious Holocaust parallels at one point. The government sends foreigners away to "labour camps" as they're unable to simply deport them. Donna, while agitated, clearly doesn't grasp the situation in full. Her grandfather, Wilfred, lived through WWII and cries as he watches history repeat itself.
Not just the Holocaust there was a very disturbing 9/11 parallel as well, with the mushroom cloud rising above London, while people look to the distance and can't quite believe what is happening.
In "The Stolen Earth" there is quite a bit of fear, naturally, when the Daleks appear and had seemingly left Earth with little chance to contact the Doctor, but most heartbreaking was Sarah Jane crying that her adopted son, Luke, would die so young.
In "The Eleventh Hour", the then-seven-years-old Amelia Pond is clearly frightened of a crack in her bedroom wall, which she can hear voices out of. When the Doctor meets her, he even notes that she's quite brave and that the crack must be extraordinarily strange to scare her so much. It's also shown that Amelia's aunt her only guardian not only doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the crack, but is often not home to care for her. It turns out that the "crack" is an opening to a parallel dimension, which an alien prisoner escaped from. Because the Doctor jumps through time 12 years instead of 5 minutes, Amelia unknowingly spends most of her life living with an alien criminal hiding in her house, creating a mental link with her to steal her form. While this obviously plays off of a child's fear of things like the bogeyman and seemingly mundane details, there's also the parental fear of danger coming to a child because of not taking their worries seriously.
It gets worse at the end of the season. Remember how the crack erases people from existence? It got Amelia's parents. They are removed from reality itself. Their own daughter won't remember that they ever existed.
At the end of "The Almost People", Amy suddenly, with no mental preparation, has gone into labour and must now give birth in front of a terrifying woman who is going to do something horrible to the baby.
"A Good Man Goes to War" has an even worse one for Amy and Rory. Not only does their baby get kidnapped, when it seems like they've saved her it turns out that the bad guys swapped her with a flesh copy that literally dissolves in Amy's arms. And it gets worse; Amy & Rory don't see their child again until she is already an adult; an adult deliberately raised to be a sociopath and Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb.
"The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" pretty much invokes this your children are lost in the wilderness, with a very strange man you don't trust, and now people are telling you that the whole area is about to become horrifically dangerous and anyone within is doomed. When Madge pulls a gun on them, the workers don't believe for a second that she'd use it. Until she says the words "I'm looking for my children". Then they know she is very serious.
"Dark Water" has a simple setup dripped in Adult Fear. Clara is talking over the phone to her lover when he suddenly stops talking; Danny Pink just died after getting hit by a car.
One episode in Elementary deals with children being mysteriously abducted and their bodies would be later found. The latest victim was a little girl who was taken from her own bedroom.
The horrifying scene in the Emerald City episode "No Place Like Home" when the Wizard shoots Sylvie right in front of Dorothy and orders his soldiers to massacre the witches, the eldest of whom are only in their mid-teens. Granted, they all come back to life shortly afterwards, but it's still hard to watch.
ER: Many scenarios feature patients facing job loss due to illness, injury, or simply having to take time off work to come to the ER in the first place. Elderly husbands or wives watch their spouses of many years succumb to stroke, heart attack, or any of the many other ravages of old age. Parents agonize as their sick or injured children are treated; some parents have kids with chronic or terminal illnesses that can never be cured. The main cast themselves experience all of these and more; specific examples include (but are certainly not limited to):
Mark receiving word that his wife and daughter have been involved in a car accident;
Leading to yet another Adult Fear—this is how he discovers that she's been having an affair and intends to leave him for the other man.
Mark later suffering from a brain tumour (this happens twice), the consequences of which lead to Corday losing her husband.
Susan losing her niece, whom she'd been raising as her own, in a custody battlethe episode in which this is finalized features several flashbacks which are (perhaps deliberately) framed in such a way that it looks as though the baby is lost and crying for Susan while Susan, also in tears, demolishes her apartment trying to locate her;
Jeannie contracting HIV from her husband;
the premature birth of Benton's son, who remains in fragile condition for several weeks;
the stabbings of John Carter and Lucy Knight, and Lucy's death;
Mark being violently assaulted and nearly killed in a random attack in the hospital men's room, with no motive ever given and his assailant never identified or brought to justice;
Weaver watching her mentor Dr. Lawrence start to decay in the first stages of Alzheimer's, and both of them coming to realize that Lawrence will eventually succumb to full dementia;
Mark getting word that his daughter overdosed on amphetamines... then walking into the trauma room to find that it was Ella, not Rachel;
Weaver facing the possibility of ostracization and loss of her position at County when she is outed as a lesbian, and later fighting with her deceased partner's homophobic parents to retain custody of their son.
In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray and Debra go on a routine shopping trip and, in a relaxed and laid-back mood, are flirting and fooling about in the supermarket. Until they run into Ray's parents. And the realisation dawns that they've left the kids at home, unsupervised, having completely forgotten about them. note More than that, Debra's even deeper fear - of giving her formidable mother-in-law another reason to deplore her shortcomings as wife and mother - is played upon, big-time. Fortunately, daughter Ally has realised the problem and has risen to the task of supervising her baby brothers in a most mature way. Which still doesn't prevent parents and grandparents panicking and fearing the worst on the drive home...
The Finder has a main character who's wife and daughter were poisoned with meat containing E. Coli. On top of that, the company that sold the meat knew that it was contaminated - and got away with it!
It posits the very, very real fear that your children could be targeted by a variety of threats, including rapist pirates and the government - which also brings up hefty fears of government repression and regulation.
There's the fact that the Tam siblings are forced to become outlaws because their own parents would turn them back to the Alliance, despite the clear evidence that the Academy was doing horrible things to River. This plays off of the fear of child abuse and children being unable to rely on their parents for sufficient protection.
River had been recruited by a prestigious school because she was gifted. Why? So she could be abused, tortured, and experimented on. It gets worse... she was regularly sending back perfectly innocent and happy letters in her own handwriting so all this happens without you ever suspecting a thing.
Joe West wants to keep Iris and Barry safe but due to the nature of his job and circumstances, he often fails.
Barry went into a coma for nine months and during that time, Joe could only helplessly watch whenever Barry kept flat-lining and going into seizures and none of the doctors could explain why.
And as bad as it was for Joe, imagine what it must be like for Henry—in prison for a crime he didn't commit, then this happens, and he can't see or help his son. Really, anything bad that happens to Barry while Henry is in prison is Adult Fear in one way or another.
The Reverse-Flash threatens Joe to stop his investigation by invading his home and warning him if he continues, he will kill Iris.
Years earlier, he comes home to find his wife passed out from an overdose again and little Iris near an open flame on the stove. And this was after Iris called 911.
Someone you love and trust turns out to be much more dangerous, violent and desperate than you thought, and you find this out at the worst possible time. Half of the hostage takers in the show are people desperately trying to get their friends and loved ones to stand down before they get themselves or others hurt.
A young girl is kidnapped from a playground despite her mother attentively watching. To make things worse, there was a recently paroled sex offender taking pictures of little girls in that playground from his car.
One particularly vile kidnapper weaponized this, convincing his increasingly senile employer that her granddaughter is being used and abused by her estranged daughter, and the only way to save her is a kidnapping. When the SRU show up, she's confronted with the fact that someone she trusted has put both her relatives in mortal peril to extort her.
Freaks and Geeks: Gloria's breakdown when Bill eats a peanut as the result of a bullying prank.
"Last time he ate a peanut, he was in a coma for days. The doctors said he almost didn't make it."
Most of the events of Fringe occur because scientist father Walter Bishop watched his only son die of a childhood illness and couldn't bring himself to let it happen again in the parallel universe.
Game of Thrones: Families trying to protect their own is a major theme in the series. When they fail, it's this trope.
Catelyn Stark comes to believe her entire family has been lost. Her husband is executed, one daughter forcibly married to an enemy, and all the others are presumed dead except Robb — he is murdered right in front of her.
The death of Joffrey Baratheon as his mother looks on helplessly.
In the season two premier, Joffrey orders all for his father's bastards to be killed. What results is several children being murdered by the goldcloaks while their mothers are Forced to Watch.
In Season 3, it's easy to empathize with Gilly's fear for her son who is slated for a Human Sacrifice.
In "The House of Black and White", Cersei and Jaime receive an implicit threat to their daughter Myrcella, who is far from home and surrounded by people who want revenge on their family. Cersei also brings up the fact their eldest child was murdered right in front of them and their youngest child is betrothed to a woman they can't trust.
In "Kill the Boy", Maester Aemon laments that the only remaining scion of House Targaryen besides himself is in huge trouble across the world and he's powerless to help.
Part of Jon's appeal to the wildlings in "Hardhome" is that their children will not live to have children of their own if they don't come south. Later in the same episode, the chieftain Karsi is shown sending her children ahead to the boats and is visibly horrified by the sight of child wights.
Despite her Abusive Parent relationship with Shireen and her adamant faith, being forced to watch Shireen burn at the stake forces Selyse into a full-on Villainous Breakdown as she attempts to stop it.
Discussed in "Mother's Mercy" when Sam says he'd rather face an army of White Walkers than watch Gilly and Little Sam die knowing he failed to protect them.
Myrcella collapses from poison in her father's arms.
It turns out that Old Nan's great-grandson Hodor was once a boy of normal intelligence named Wylis. One day, while simply standing around in the castle courtyard, he suddenly dropped to the ground convulsing from some kind of seizure, as Nan and the rest of the household looked on in helpless horror. Ever since her great-grandson was reduced to the mind of a child and couldn't say anything other than "hodor".
Ellaria Sand in "The Queen's Justice" is faced with her daughter Tyene being threatened by a vengeful psychopath who fully intends to kill her, and is reduced to desperately and futilely begging for mercy for her child from a woman who will show her none (as well as being faced with the knowledge it's her own fault her daughter is in that situation in the first place). Afterwards, she is left chained and gagged inches out of reach from her fatally poisoned daughter, left with the knowledge that Tyene will die but not when, powerless to say or do anything to help or comfort her daughter in her final hours. It's made even worse by the terrified, plaintive whimper of "Mama!" that Tyene lets out when she realises what Cersei has done to her; she's a terrified child begging for reassurance from her mother and there is nothing Ellaria can do to comfort her, a fear any parent can relate to.
Ghost Writer has a story arc where people, including one of the team, are getting sick seemingly randomly; the culprit turns out to be toxic waste dumped in the community garden. It's horrible enough for kids, but even worse from an older perspective; being a parent of one of those kids, finding out that the community garden that was thought could only be a good thing is actually poisoning their children. The member who was a victim was Gabby, at the time the youngest team member. Seeing the normally high-energy Gabby being unable to do more than weakly protest being forced to eat soup, while her older brother is obviously petrified to the point of treating her like a china doll, is heartwrenching.
The 1988 TV movie God Bless the Child provides a very depressing scenario: a woman is deserted by her husband, and evicted from her apartment. She and her daughter are homeless and have to go on welfare. She is unable to get a job because she is homeless, and has limited experience, having been a homemaker. Although the state agency finds her some low-income housing, it is infected with rats; when she complains to the health department, the landlord evicts her in retaliation. Eventually, her daughter gets an infection, and, while she recovers, her mother sees no other option but to turn her over to foster care.
The Handmaid's Tale: Trying to escape an oppressive regime with your family, then having your husband seemingly shot, daughter taken, and made into a sex slave... Before that, having your baby kidnapped in the hospital.
Handmaids are forced to bear children, but have no legal rights to those children. Janine is clearly heartbroken over the fact that her newborn daughter was handed over to the Commander's Wife immediately after birth.
The flashback of the regime taking over is disturbing. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, all the women find that their rights have been cut off; losing access to their money, being fired from their jobs, being monitored by heavily armed men.
Finding out a friend and colleague is not only dead, but murdered because he was gay, while knowing you may be next as a lesbian. Then being forcibly separated from your family when trying to flee into Canada, since the government no longer recognizes your marriage and wants your healthy ovaries as a breeding slave.
Happy! Amanda Hansen's situation throughout the first season. Her daughter, Hailey, was kidnapped when Amanda lost track of her during a crowded public event. The police don't take her seriously and she's forced to rely on the help of her ex-husband's former partner, who said ex-husband had an affair with. It eventually turns out that Hailey was kidnapped by Human Traffickers and almost becomes one of their victims before she's rescued.
Outliving One's Offspring is a recurring fear throughout the series. Hercules and later Jason witnessed the deaths of their children and were driven to the brink by it. Guest characters were not immune; the mother in "Under the Broken Sky" was racked with guilt for her sons dying of sickness, an old man in "Hercules On Trial" laments the deaths of his sons in a war, and Gilgamesh becomes a Fallen Hero.
"Twilight" addresses the death of a parent for an adult. There is no villain or spell behind it, so all Hercules can do is watch as his beloved mother dies of natural causes. As he says, he's never felt more useless and powerless.
The episode also features flashbacks to Herc's first war experience. Alcmene says she prayed every day for him to return home safely. She and Hercules also discuss how parents hold on to the illusion that they can protect their children from all the evils of the world and learn the hard way that they can't.
Also, Lily dumping Marshall to go to San Francisco. Not the event itself, but the fallout that pops up in the episode Unpause. Turns out that Marshall still carries resentment over it and legitimately asks Lily whether her life with Marshall is a consolation prize, and whether or not she would have even come back had her bid to be a successful artist actually panned out in San Francisco. Adult Fear for Marshall, who after seven years still has that very scary thought in his head that he and his son are a Replacement Goldfish for the life his wife actually wanted - and Lily, whose love of her life is legitimately and truly questioning her devotion to him years after for the same offense.
In episode "Nobody's Child", pregnant Harriet Sims accidentally gets to see crime scene photos of the corpse of a brutally murdered girl and freaks out. A few episodes later in "The Adversaries" she sees the dead girls identical twin sister and gets flashbacks of the photos.
During the show's last two seasons, Harm became the legal guardian for a teenage girl named Maddie, who was abandoned by her father, who was driving when her mother died in a car accident(it was later revealed that her father was sober behind the wheel at the time). During the show's final season, Maddie was badly injured in a bi-plane crash and faced paralysis. Although Harm was being reassigned to London during the show's finale, he promised that he and Maddie would be together and that he would help her rehabilitate from her injuries.
Jam relied heavily on this. The "Plumber Baby" sketch is possibly the best-known example, with other sketches focusing on paedophilia, child murder, sexual assault, Out with a Bang ("Gush") and more.
Putting aside the mind control element, Hope Schlottman's situation in the first episode is terrifying. Imagine your daughter has abruptly cut off contact with you while in another state, and all evidence points to her having been taken in by someone with ulterior motives. Imagine finding out said man raped your daughter, and all to get back at someone you don't even know. This would be bad enough on its own, but when you include the mind control, said man has manipulated your daughter into murdering you against your will, again, all to get back at someone you've never met. Now Hope is in prison for their murders, and her brother is completely alone as far as the audience knows.
Speaking of Kilgrave, he later mind-controls a man into abandoning his own son on the side of the road. While the kid is okay in the end, the man in question is arrested for child endangerment and ends up losing his wife and son. From the husband's perspective, he's been forced into hurting his child against his will and lost everything because some selfish prick wanted to use him as a chauffeur; from the wife's perspective, her husband abandoned their child and disappeared for at least a week without saying a word to anyone.
Similarly, Kilgrave forced a couple to neglect their children while waiting on him hand and foot. The children were forced to stay in a closet the entire time he was controlling their parents. Presumably they were physically alright after Kilgrave left, but now that family has to deal with the fact that the parents almost let their kids starve because a stranger told them too.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit centers on Ripped from the Headlines plots, doesn't hesitate to whip out the truly alarming statistics on domestic abuse, sexual assault, incest, and child molestation. In one particularly upsetting-for-grownups episode, a little boy goes missing at a birthday party and is found dead shortly afterward. The security tape from the party shows him holding a balloon as he walks out of the camera's viewpoint only for the balloon to roll by it without the boy only seconds later. The big kicker? He was killed by another child. An adult might have a healthy suspicion of other adults around their kids, but who would ever question another kid at a birthday party?
Used to particularly horrifying effect in The Leftovers. As among the departed were children and spouses. The episode "The Garveys at Their Best" takes it up to eleven when it is heavily implied that Laurie, who was receiving a pregnancy ultrasound at the time of the departure, had the fetus disappear from her womb.
The season 1 finale of Lost has Michael's son Walt stolen right out of his hands and abducted by the Others for unknown purposes, before they torch the raft to ensure they can't be followed.
In season 5 Kate loses track of her infant son in a grocery store after looking away for two seconds. He soon turns up, being helped to the check out by a kind customer, but the sight of Kate frantically running around the store looking for him are sure to strike a chord with any parent or guardian whose child has wandered off in public.
First off, the idea of you and your kids being trapped on an unknown planet with nobody else around. But it only gets worse.
Being forced to watch, helpless, as your child suffocates to death.
Getting separated from two children at the same time and having to choose which one to help.
Having to choose, again, between rescuing one family member and getting the rest to safety.
Being told, point blank, by your child that bringing them on the trip was a mistake because they're to blame for everything that went wrong.
The Method practically runs on this trope, with every other case either having a child as a victim or collateral damage. And this is a series about a Serial-Killer Killer overflowing with Gorn, we must add, which almost never plays Infant Immortality straight. To elaborate:
Don't trust your children's teachers, but trust the guy running the local Scouts Club? Do you really know what he does there in the woods with his charges? Nothing. What he does with them while off-duty is the scary part.
You do know that children still talk to strangers if they're starved of attention? It's one thing when it's a jerkass detective trying to make a point, but when there's a serial killer in the area...
What's worse than a child being the victim of a serial killer? Howzabout becoming an accomplice of one in an attempt to find understanding and company when their own family has failed to provide them?
Discussed in the pilot of Millennium. The investigative team have just rescued a kidnapping victim from having been Buried Alive in the woods. Frank Black's partner later admits that it's the scariest thing he has ever seen, and asks Frank what his moment was. Black's response:
"You've ever seen your daughter lying in intensive care?"
All terminally ill children would fall here, but one of them stands out as particularly scary. Dr. Napur meets a young family in a coffee place and she compliments the parents that they have a cute baby girl. She's two months old and keeps smiling and almost laughing all the time. When the parents tell Dr. Napur that she's always this happy, she knows that something is very wrong and sends them to hospital immediately. It turns out that Chloe has a tumour in the vital part of her brain, and surgery on a baby this young is extremely risky.
A couple loses their child — a teenage daughter — during minor surgery to remove some scar tissue behind the ear. What was supposed to be a simple operation went sour when the nurse accidentally mixed a lethal dose of adrenalin (it should have been far smaller) with the anaesthetics, which went unnoticed by both the anaesthesiologist and the surgeon. This happened at very fancy hospital with stellar reputation.
What's more, the surgeon responsible is fired. Think about what goes into being a doctor. Deciding from a very young age that this is what you want to be. Working your ass off in high school to get into a good college. Working your ass off in college to get into a good medical school. Working your ass off in medical school to get into a good residency. Working your ass off in residency—and in certain specialties, like the one this doctor was in, the training is especially intense and grueling. All to earn a well-deserved reputation as one of the best doctors of your kind, only to lose it all in one instance because of a mistake.
Motive has, among others, a father be confronted with the fact that his daughter had killed a family friend over a mess that he had a big part in, a desperate single mother resorting to extremes to keep her child, and an old woman discovering that her son falsely confessed to a murder she'd committed. The biggest was in the season 4 episode 'Interference' where a workaholic husband returns from a business trip to learn his wife was murdered and his son kidnapped - and then learns that his wife had been poisoning his son for months and had already killed another child.
Elliot has a severe mental disorder that causes him to hallucinate and forget large chunks of his life, including the existence of his own sister, who is distraught to find out her brother has forgotten her. Anyone with a mental disorder knows how terrifying not having control over your own mind is, and anyone close to a mentally ill person knows what it's like to see your loved one suffering and be completely unable to do anything about it.
When Elliot was eight, his father accidentally pushed him out a window during an argument. During a flashback to the incident, you can hear the panic, fear and guilt in his voice as he desperately apologises to his bleeding, unconscious son.
Elliot's father and Angela's mother died from leukaemia when a gas leak at the company they worked for released toxic chemicals in the air. The company was aware of the dangerous toxicity levels of the facility, but hid it from the employees as it "would not be cost effective to retool the current systems in place." Elliot's father lost his job because of his medical leave, while Angela's father was left drowning in the debt left over from his wife's medical bills. Worst of all, a lack of direct evidence meant that no one was ever brought to justice over it. Cases like this have happened numerous times in real life, and the the fear of being killed or having your life ruined by corporate greed and corruption is very real for many people.
Elliot's mother was a cruel, bitter woman who took her anger out on Elliot and Darlene both physically and emotionally. After Elliot's father died, there was no one left to protect him from her. She was probably a big contributing factor to Elliot's many mental problems later in life.
JAG spinoff series NCIS has Gibbs, whose wife and daughter were killed by a Mexican drug cartel while he was serving as a Marine sniper. Their deaths still haunt him to this day.
In Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves Rasmus' parents are more than a little worried that their son might contract AIDS. For the main characters AIDS is a brutal, unmerciful disease that takes them one by one and they don't know what causes it. The title of the series comes from how the medical personnel were so afraid of falling sick themselves that they didn't even dare to dry their patients' tears without wearing gloves. It may seem harsh given what we know today but in the eighties nobody knew how the disease was spread so it's hard to blame them for being scared.
Jane Harpers disappearance, and subsequent prostitution as well as the revelation during the denouement that she (inadvertently) slept with her own biological father, Alex Wells.
Child abduction is also repeatedly touched upon; Jane and Della Wells are swapped at birth by Danny Dexter, who also later shows up at a zoo when the girls are seven years old, and uses balloons and ice-cream to temporarily lure them away with him.
NUMB3RS, like many police procedurals, has this in abundance.
"Better or Worse": Not only are a mother and daughter kidnapped, but it turns out the husband/father was responsible.
"In Plain Sight": A mother finds out that her husband is molesting their daughter and has been keeping her (the mother) addicted to drugs so she wouldn't catch on. She forces herself to quit the drugs cold-turkey and tries to get her daughter away, only for the husband to turn around and accuse her of abuse, putting the FBI on her tail so he can get his daughter back. If it wasn't for the fact that the father was also a cop-killer, it might have worked.
Mentioned in "Provenance" in reference to a Holocaust survivor. One day you're just a normal six-year-old, and the next, everything you knew is destroyed or taken from you.
In the pilot, Regina's adopted child seeks out his biological mother who he claims is his real mom and who he immediately loves and prefers over her. Most of the first season is driven by Ragina's paranoia that Emma is trying to take Henry from her.
Also in the pilot, Snow and Charming having to send a newborn Emma to a place they know nothing about, with the only other choice being allowing Regina to murder her.
Near the end of Season 1, Emma's son, Henry, makes a Heroic Sacrifice for her by eating the turnover that Regina has made from the poisoned apple, leaving him in a coma-like state. Emma's reaction when Henry collapses onto the floor after eating the turnover, and when she finally realizes that Henry was right about the curse in Storybrooke, makes this a pretty good example.
Regina, who happens to be Henry's adopted mother and whom she truthfully loves despite what Henry thinks, when she realizes that he ate the turnover instead of Emma, and it is all her fault.
When Regina reveals that magic is unpredictable in Storybrooke and that there is a possibility that Henry can actually die from eating the turnover. Henry almost almost does die but is saved by Emma when she kisses him goodbye.
There's Rumplestiltskin whose son, Baelfire, was about to be drafted into a war. He was all Rumple had, and Rumple was so desperate to save his child from the horrors of war that he became the new Dark One.
Bae runs away after Rumple breaks his word to give up his power. Rumple's agony over losing his son is palpable.
Gets even worse when he can't save his son from Zelena and watches him die in his arms.
In season 5 he's hit with it again when his pregnant wife places herself in the equivalent of a coma to ensure Hades doesn't steal their baby
Jefferson remembers his past life with his daughter, yet has to watch her be raised by another family. She is Happily Adopted so Jefferson can't bring himself to destroy her world.
In the season 2 episode "Welcome to Storybrooke", Regina becomes fixated on a child who stumbles across town with his father just after the curse is unleashed, and tries to force them to stay with her, even using her mind control against Graham to keep them in Storybrooke, having Kurt arrested and forced to be separated from his son, making him an orphan.
In season 3, the Charmings, along with Regina, and Henry's father Neal, frantically search for Henry after he's been kidnapped by people they thought were friends.
Later, Snow and Charming's infant son is kidnapped just moments after birth. Fortunately, his family eventually gets him back.
Elsa spends much of the Arendelle arc fearing for Anna's life when Anna sets out for the Enchanted Forest to learn the real reason for their parents' ill-fated ocean voyage.
In flashbacks, when Ingrid has Anna imprisoned and Elsa interrogates her, Anna is crushed by the prospect that she may have lost her sister's love and trust. Once Elsa dismisses the guards and assures Anna that the interrogation was an act and she wasn't taken in by Ingrid's accusations against her, the relief on Anna's face is palpable.
Olivia having to deal with the fact that her parents were deported. The Martinez family lets her stay with them, but she laments that her family will have to miss a lot of the important milestones in her life.
The first season ends with Ruby and Olivia getting shot during Olivia's quinceañera in front of their friends and Ruby's parents.
Orphan Black makes heavy use of this by showing how much potential danger the family members of the main characters would be in.
In episode 1.04, the police interview a woman who woke up to find her son covered in blood. Not his blood, he wasn't injured, but there had been a murderer in her home with her child while she was asleep.
In the climax of episode 1.08, Kira gets taken out of the house by a known serial killer. She walks onto the road without looking first and gets hit by a car. Fortunately, she makes a quick recovery. Later, as part of the Season 1 cliffhanger, Sarah returns to Mrs. S.'s house to discover it's trashed and both she and Kira are gone.
In 2.09 Kira is kidnapped again, and in the next episode Sarah is forced to go through all kinds of degrading rituals in order to recover her. If not for outside intervention she would have been a de facto prisoner of Dyad indefinitely.
A running theme is Sarah doubting her ability to be a good parent and worrying about not be able to provide a safe, stable life for her daughter.
Alison descends into alcoholism after letting her best friend die. Her husband had to force her into rehab by threatening to take the kids.
Cosima develops a terminal illness and slowly wastes away over the course of season 2. Jennifer's illness also inspires this Cosima and Delphine.
Ethan Duncan's wife was murdered in an arson attack, his daughter was kidnapped, and he was forced to fake his death and hide for 20 years. He eventually reunites with his daughter, but that actually makes things worse; his precious little girl grew up to be a cold, amoral Manipulative Bitch with little, if any, capability to feel love or empathy. Then he commits suicide right in front of her.
The children in the Prolethean nursery are being raised by an abusive cult that will undoubtedly brainwash them as they grow up.
Mark has to watch the girl he loves be abused by her parents. He eventually stands up to her father on her behalf.
Cal is forced to watch as his girlfriend is kidnapped at gunpoint and the perpetrator makes it clear he's coming back for their daughter as well.
Another running theme is having to struggle for control over your own body. Sarah, under the guise of Beth, learns that Paul would let people into their home to monitor and experiment on Beth in her sleep. Cosima's girlfriend goes behind her back in administering treatments for her respiratory disorder that Cosima doesn't approve of. Rachel learns that she was made infertile because her father didn't want her having children. Helena and Gracie are forced into an incredibly squicky Medical Rape and Impregnate plot. Sarah is made to sign away her medical rights, and is wheeled away without warning for a procedure she didn't agree to.
Rudy holds Kira at gunpoint while interrogating her mother.
For Bonnie, coming home from a trip to learn that her home burned down, her husband died, and her daughter ran off with a military spy.
Seeing the tiny coffin of Abel Johanssen, who died in infancy.
Almost everything that happens to Gracie in season 3. She learns that her husband lied about who he really was, she suffers a miscarriage, her mother disowns her, and she gets infected with a pathogen that leaves her infertile.
A season 4 episode has a pack of prehistoric creatures loose in a school during Saturday detention. A parent who sent their child off to do detention in an empty school and find out that there is some kind of wild animal or dangerous person on the loose. To make matters worse, the teacher is the first to die leaving the students alone. To make matters even worse one of the children wanders off and gets eaten before the team can save her.
A season 2 episode has a little girl and her dog disappearing through an anomaly. The girl in question had lost both her parents and was being taken care of by her neglectful older brother. And she was outside and found the anomaly because he wouldn't play with her. Imagine having someone in your care lost somewhere where they can't get back as a result of you neglecting them.
Rescue 911. Usually about Once an Episode they'd feature a true story about a kid getting wounded in some horrible way or another.
Roots and its 2016 remake exploit the fear of not being able to protect your children from being abducted and sold as slaves. Viewers also get to watch Kunta Kintes daughter being raped by a racist and self-aggrandizing psychopath.
Of particular note is the episode where we're led to believe Luke isn't an alien created Artificial Human after all, but had been a normal human boy experimented on and kidnapped from his family, and thus unwittingly kidnapped by Sarah Jane. So we have your child being taken away from you, being accused of kidnapping because of what's basically analogous to an administrative error in adoption records/your adopted child's "real" parents coming out of the blue demanding "their" child back, believing you've been a good parent only for someone to say you've psychologically damaged your kid, having to give your child up despite loving them very much and your child not understanding why they have to go, and sending your child somewhere because you believe it's the right thing to do only for them to be mistreated. It's a really dark set up.
Riley's backstory is drenched in this. After going into labour in the middle of a blizzard her husband tried to rush her to the hospital only to lose control of the car. Her husband was killed in the crash, leaving Riley to give birth completely alone in the overturned vehicle. Riley managed to climb out of the car and started to hike to safety, only to have her newborn daughter freeze to death in her arms before a rescue party could find them.
Will's situation in season 2. From his father's perspective his son up and left the country one day without saying a word about where he was going or why and disappears for months without making contact. When Will finally reaches out he's clearly in trouble but refuses to say where he is or what's happening to him. Will's side of things gets worse when his father is injured by a fall and ultimately dies of complications before Will can return and see him again.
After seeing an eight year old Clary almost get eaten by a monster while playing in the park, it's not hard to see why Jocelyn would want to keep her away from magic.
Clary overhearing Luke saying that he doesn't actually care about her or her mother. Then coming home to find the house an utter wreck and her mother gone.
Both Lightwood siblings have pretty heavy conflicts. For Alec, it's having to choose between being out and proud and living for himself and staying closeted and retaining his parents' hard-earned approval. For Isabelle, it's forcing herself into a repressive persona to take the brunt of her parents' attention off Alec so he has a chance at happiness.
Simon's mother becomes increasingly worried about him after he gets involved in the Shadowhunter world and eventually becomes a vampire: strange, erratic behavior, never answering his phone, going missing for days at a time.
With many of its episodes being Very Special Episode, Sisters churned out plenty of these. Teddy's daughter Cat is brutally raped and beaten by a boy she's rejected. While at the episode, Teddy and Alex (another sister) wonder why they've never discussed this, as aside from being the parents of daughters, they themselves are women. Alex's own daughter Reed gets drawn into a cult, while she herself battles breast cancer, and Teddy herself lives out the worst nightmare of anyone married or related to a cop—her detective husband is murdered. Georgie's son also has cancer, while her other son falls into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse, culminating in him slapping her and then running away from home, resulting in months of her not knowing if he's even alive. From this, she develops such crippling depression that she nearly kills herself. Meanwhile, matriach Bea, having already lost her first husband, now has to watch the second one succumb to Alzheimer's.
The science-fiction series Series/Sliders was naturally filled with these. In one episode, there is a parallel universe where kids rule and adults are bossed around and have curfews.
Sons of Anarchy season 6 periodically follows a young kid walking around without saying a word. He's seen writing in his notebook, kissing his mother goodbye, and just touring the town. Then he goes back to his school and pulls up his sleeves. We see he has a cutting problem before he writes something down in his notebook, then reaches into his backpack and pulls out a KG-9 with an extra clip. As he walks into his school, we get a glimpse of his book, filled with disturbing images and notes such as "God doesn't like bullies." We hear gunfire and screaming as blood spatters the window. Cut to the police, the ambulance, and students and teachers broken down and traumatized by what just happened. The ringer, we see the boys mother worryingly staring at her clock, probably wondering where her son is.
Sending your child to live with family, and learning that they died/were severely hurt under the care of the people you entrusted your baby with.
Space Sheriff Shaider. Be careful of your children. A cult might brainwash them into committing unspeakable acts.
In "The Assignment", O'Brien's wife Keiko gets a bad case of Demonic Possession from an ancient being called a Pah-Wraith. The Wraith demands he make certain modifications to the station, or it will kill Keiko via a massive stroke... and it's quite happy to cripple her if he starts looking disloyal. Perhaps the creepiest scene in the episode is when the Wraith calls O'Brien to remind him of his rapidly-approaching deadline, whilst combing their daughter's hair just roughly enough to make its point without raising undue suspicion.
In "The Reckoning" Sisko has to choose between allowing the Prophets to complete a ritual battle that may kill his son or stop the battle and doom Bajor to suffering.
A subplot in the "Homefront/Paradise Lost" story is Benjamin trying to convince his aging father Joseph to slow down and actually take his medicine after Joseph has already had a heart attack—and then he has another during Ben's time on Earth.
Stranger Things runs on this trope, what with the main focus being a missing kid. And that's before we get to an older kid going missing in similar circumstances, teenagers risking their lives to find the two, a newborn baby being kidnapped and passed off as a miscarriage, and the younger missing kid's friends being caught up in a conspiracy and having to run away from home for their own safety.
Supernatural: A moment that could fill any parent with terror was in the first season, when a toddler is tempted into climbing inside a fridge which then closes. Cue mother looking for child, and taking a looong time to find that child. (The child survives, but still...)
Later seasons get less and less quick to enforce Infant Immortality, and children are more often either possessed, hurt, used, or more than one of the above. Several episodes have dealt with what happens when the child itself is a danger, such as with the need to kill or scar one's soul for life. Why? Because the universe doesn't care about age.
The series is built on this from the first episode. Imagine walking into your infant's room late at night and seeing a man standing over his crib. You assume it's your significant other, only to walk away and realise that your husband is downstairs and you have no idea who is in the room behind you or what they're doing with your baby. If that wasn't bad enough, when you run back into your child's room you are pinned to the ceiling and forced to watch as this unknown assailant corrupts your child before slowly killing you and burning you alive... all as you can't help but stare straight down at the baby you were unable to protect.
Dean is terrified of turning out like his abusive father. He ends up striking his honorary son Ben during his brush with imminent vampirism, which was the last nail in the coffin for his and Lisa's relationship.
The season 3 episode "The Kids Are Alright" revolves around this concept as children are kidnapped by creatures known as Changelings and replaced by them to feed on their parents while the actual kids are held by the Changeling Mother. This comes to head when a mother realizes the change in her daughter and practically drives the car into the lake with the creature taking her child's form inside.
In "Something Wicked" there was an outbreak of incurable pneumonia only affecting children, which turned out to actually be a monster disguised as a pediatrician who sucked the life out of children after sneaking into their bedrooms at night. The victims all fall into comas they won't wake up from and the "illness" spreads to all the children of a family, starting with the youngest.
In Teen Wolf, Sheriff Stilinski's reaction and horror at Stiles' kidnapping is a very accurate portrayal of every parent's worst nightmare of losing their children.
The Torchwood five-part story Torchwood: Children of Earth Children of Earth]] features the kidnap of children to send to the 456, at the approval of the government. At the conclusion, one child is sacrificed horribly to avert Infant Immortality. That child is Jack Harkness' grandson. And Jack had to use the machine to kill him. With vibrations. Over the course of several agonizing minutes. All while listening to his daughter screaming for her son
And this is just after Jack's lover, Ianto, was killed due to Jack's mistake in confronting the 456 without any real plan or safety precautions.
The Twilight Zone was full of this in addition to more supernatural threats. The episode "In Praise of Pip" shows a bookie receiving news that his son Pip has been seriously wounded in The Vietnam War and is possibly dying. The rest of the episode revolves around the man hallucinating(?) that Pip is a ten year old boy again while he is dying of a gunshot wound. In what is a massively sad scene, he begs his son not to die and apologizes for not being a better father and role model to him while promising to do better even though he realizes it may be too late for both of them.
"How Much Do You Love Your Kid?" from The Twilight Zone (2002): Your child may be kidnapped, and the police won't do a thing about it, because it's for a perfectly legal TV show. And there's the implied threat that if you can't find your child in an hour, you'll never see them again. And your own husband was the kidnapper, and thinks that doing it all was a favor.
Twin Peaks, the disappearance and murder of Laura Palmer, and the subsequent disintegration of her parents' lives.
Discussed in Underground. Ernestine, Rosalee's mother, states that she never understood true fear until she brought children into the world. She worries about her sons being worked to death and her daughter being sexually abused by their master. Also, Mrs. Macon subtly threatens to have one of her sons sold off. Then in the episode "Graves", her eldest son Sam is lynched for trying to run away. Her horrified scream when she discovers his body is gut-wrenching and she has to be physically dragged away from the scene.
V (1983): The dream sequence that opens The Final Battle is a rather literal visualization of a parental nightmare. Mike Donovan's son has previously been abducted by the aliens to be preserved as food. In the dream Mike and his son try to flee the ship as they're pursued by enemy soldiers. Sean is blasted to death in front of Mike and he screams in horror before he wakes up.
"Bully and Billy": Bogg's situation throughout the episode should seem pretty notable to someone who's worried about their child's physical or moral well-being after the child falls in with the wrong crowd.
Outlined in one first-season episode of The West Wing, as Bartlet tells his youngest daughter elaborate detail about how if anything happened to her, it would essentially bring the government to its knees, as "we wouldn't have a commander in chief anymore; we'd have a father who's out of his mind because his little girl is trapped somewhere in Uganda with a gun to her head!" Becomes even worse after the end of Season 4, when Zoey's French Jerk boyfriend slips ecstasy into her drink and she ends up being kidnapped, and her father has to invoke the 25th Amendment and temporarily leave office, handing over power to the Republican Speaker of the House. (The only real difference is that she isn't being held in Uganda; she's found somewhere in Virginia if I remember correctly.)
"Oubliette" features a child molester who kidnaps little pre-teen and teen girls and keeps them locked in a creepy basement. Amy, his victim, tried to escape but he caught her and dragged her back, and then denied her even water as punishment. She cried and begged him to let her go home to her mother. Oh god... Finally, when he realized he couldn't have her, he tried to drown her in a river.
The Family That Slays Together might have been a bit exaggerated, but otherwise, such a nasty family of people who keep to themselves might exist. Abuse, incest, pain, filth, murder... For them, it represents their strength and unity.
There was a horribly deformed baby with every genetic defect imaginable. Agent Scully expressed her own uneasiness and anxiety over the issue.
"Imagine all a woman's hopes and dreams for her child and then nature turns so cruel. What must a mother go through?"
"Sein und Zeit" had a Serial Killer who was taking children from their beds, but tormenting their parents and the police with notes about what he's done, which all end with "NOBODY MESSES WITH SANTA CLAUS!" He also made the parents themselves be suspected of the crime.
Doggett's backstory is full of Adult Fear. His 7-year-old son, Luke, was riding his bike around the block on afternoon while his mother sat on the porch counting his laps. On the seventh lap, he doesn't come back around. He was kidnapped. No witnesses, no ransom, no suspect. Three days later, Doggett and Reyes discover Luke's body in a field, with a bullet in his back. It haunts then both relentlessly through seasons 8 and 9. Reyes describes the case as "stealing-into-the-bathroom-to-cry-my-eyes-out kind of hard." Doggett eventually finds Luke's killer and gets closure, but kids are forever his Berserk Button.
Even worse, the time he loses his memory, then gains it back, and having to relive the pain all over again.
Then there was "Fire" from the 1st season... Namely the children being trapped in a burning building twice!