Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had formerly been an easygoing and cheerful person until a mission in Bahrain where, in order to save a S.H.I.E.L.D. team, innocent civilians, and herself, she was forced to kill a young girl who had mind-control abilities and had fallen into an A God Am I complex. Afterward, she became cold and emotionally distant and had refused to go back into the field until Coulson recruited her or rather, Fury had recruited her to watch Coulson. Working with the team gradually starts bringing her back, but she remains maintains a generally unemotional demeanor, so much so that when she's laughing and flirting while undercover as a trophy wife, it freaks the others out.
Oliver got broken to an apparently stoic and vengeful killing machine on the island and everywhere else he was for five years.
Thea didn't fare too well in her brother's absence, thinking him dead and rebelling in any way possible.
The fact that Oliver cheated on her with her sister meant that Laurel was quite bitter, especially since said sister died "with" Oliver and she couldn't mourn properly. And then Tommy's death brought her down to her lowest.
Sara circa season two (and now again) is the epitome of this trope.
Dig, while arguably one of the most well-adjusted characters, is dealing with his own past in the military (including a murdered brother). Andy's return and HIVE connection isn't helping.
Bates Motel: Norma Bates, mother of Norman Bates. Alex Romero, being the town's sheriff, becomes determined to get Norma to confess to Norman's crimes. During a confrontation, he really goes for it, eventually pinning her to a wall and barking at her to confess. A massive teary explosion and a subverted Slap-Slap-Kiss follows.
Dr. Temperance Brennan has been shuffled through a dozen or so foster homes from age 15 on (after both her parents went out shopping on Christmas Eve and never came back) This doesn't do nice things to one's psyche, to put it nicely. It's no wonder she deliberately acts as emotionlessly as possible as an adult.
It's also worth noting that she was put in the foster system because her big brother, who she looked up to, abandoned her. Also, before and after her time in foster care, she was bullied by the other kids at the high schools she attended; prior to being abandoned, she wasn't smart or pretty and had no friends. Later on, when her intelligence and lack of emotion kicked in, she became the weird girl no one wanted to be around.
Agent Seeley Booth, Brennan's eventual husband, grew up with his little brother, Jared, in an abusive home. One night, his mom got sick of her husband's abuse and ran out, leaving her children behind. Booth took the brunt of the abuse to protect his brother, and it was made worse by the fact that he remembered how his father was before becoming an alcoholic. They eventually escaped once their grandfather wised up about his son's behavior and took them away. He became an army sniper but was heavily traumatized, as he did not take claiming lives lightly. He had a son after leaving the service, but his child's mother wouldn't marry him and only gave him vague parental rights; he later struggled with gambling problems and needed professional help. If anything, it's only actually gotten worse over the seasons. In season nine, he was thrown in jail after being framed by the government he was dedicated to protecting. After he is finally freed, he is treated with suspicion. Soon after, he is traumatized when a younger co-worker (who looked up to him and Brennan as both parental surrogates and adopted siblings)is murdered and dies in his arms. Following those traumas, he doubted his religious beliefs and had trouble trusting people for months and ends up relapsing into gambling during an undercover investigation He eventually gets help and is able to reconcile with his family but witnesses his brother being killed and is forced into hiding. Although, thanks to Brennan and his three kids, he seems to have become well adjusted.
Dr. Lance Sweets, a young psychologist and profiler with the FBI, was bounced around the foster system since he was born, and was eventually adopted by a man who mistreated and brutally beat him (he still has the scars). Luckily he got up the courage to tell on his adoptive father to the police and was happily adopted by an elderly couple who became his "real" parents. Unfortunately, they died right before he came to work with the FBI; he eventually latches onto Booth and Brennan as surrogates, despite the fact that they initially disliked him.
Agent James Aubrey, who took over Sweets' spot as a field agent after his death, shows shades of this, despite being an extremely positive Manchild with a sweet tooth. As a child, his father was an investment banker who scammed his clients and then fled arrest with the money, leaving Aubrey and his mother penniless. A few years later, he helped land his father in prison. Years later, he still hates his father and is severely biased and mistrusting of anyone and anything to do with banking and money.
Julianne Simms from Breakout Kings. She is extremely shy and awkward, and although a large part of this is due of mental health issues like social anxiety, it is revealed in season 2 that she still harbors guilt from her childhood, when she witnessed her cousin get kidnapped, presumably to be murdered, and couldn't do anything to stop it. It makes her character seem even more damaged than before.
Detective Kate Beckett in Castle, who has had to live with both her mother's brutal murder and, due to what she considers the lack of imagination of the investigating officers, the fact that her killer was never caught. She gets better after the man who ordered the hit is finally brought to justice, and also with the help of her partner and love interest Richard Castle, with whom she finally ties the knot.
Downplayed with Sarah Walker on Chuck. While she is more emotionally well-adjusted than Casey, Sarah has a laundry list of issues getting in the way of expressing them, particularly where her family is concerned. (parents divorced, her father an unreliable con-artist who used her in many of his scams, while she had to cut off contact with her mother entirely to protect her from her rogue former handler Even more recently is the pain over the apparent betrayal and death of her ex-partner and lover Bryce Larkin. A substantial part of her character development is breaking down the emotional barriers she's established.
For a single episode, one of the characters in CSI: Miami, Phoebe Nichols, definitely counts. She wanted to be a pop star because she loved singing... unfortunately, her mother was a Stage Mom who wanted to live comfortably from her success and her manager was only interested in his own career. She was forced to adopt the stage persona 'Phoenix' and had everything controlled by her manager who drove a wedge between her and her mother to have complete control over her life as well as suffered a massive Creator Breakdown where she wanted to just abandon the music scene entirely. Then she's kidnapped and drugged by a Back-Alley Doctor hired by her manager while one of her backup dancers starts masquerading as her so that Phoenix becomes a legacy character, only for that to go south when a Loony Fan set fire to Phoenix while she was performing a secret concert, killing her successor. Luckily she gets saved from her prison and goes back to living with her mother... only to learn that her mother placed a tracking chip directly inside her without her knowledge because she was afraid of losing her daughter... as well as convinced the Loony Fan to murder her successor. She only truly starts getting better when she starts singing in bars under her real name.
Sue Ellen Ewing of Dallas; even if she hadn't married JR she probably would have ended up that way. But the cheating, drinking, and emotional abuse over the course of two insanely dysfunctional marriages seem to have done the trick.
Daredevil (2015): Karen Page heavily implies that she came from a very rough past, the details of which are somewhat unclear because she's only ever let slip little tidbits to Matt and Foggy. She also says right before she empties a gun into James Wesley that he's not the first man she ever shot.
Most of the female characters on Deadwood are at least slightly crumpled around the edges — rather understandably, since the show's set in a frontier mining camp where about 98% of the women in town are prostitutes. Special mention has to go, though, to Joanie Stubbs — suicidal, lesbian incest survivor/brothel madam whose first tentative attempt at independence ends up with three people dead after her business partner sells her out — and Calamity Jane, a self-destructive, alcoholic fuckup who's an outcast in a town made up almost entirely of self-destructive alcoholic fuckups. (Incidentally, the two wind up together.)
Ace seems to fit this well as part of the badass type. That girl had issues. And guidance counsellors.
"Last of the Time Lords": Lucy Saxon has become one of these over the past year; she is noticeably skinnier and hardly talks. Considering that she has seen the end of the universe firsthand, as well as the most-likely-disturbing creation of the Toclafane, plus a year of her husband slowly grinding Earth under his heel while systematically slaughtering the population, can you blame her? She also sports bruises from implied Domestic Abuse.
One of the many interpretations in the fandom of why Amy Pond acts how she does is that she's one of these. Though let's be fair, you'd be broken too if your parents had been erased from existence and even from your memory, except you had a constant nagging in your head that you can't remember who they were or how you lost them. If Amy really was a Broken Bird, by the end of series 5, she's definitely fixed after having her parents restored. And then she was broken again in Season Six when she was kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, tortured, separated from her newborn daughter and later discovered that she could no longer conceive the children she knew her husband wanted. In her mind, she was doing Rory a favor by divorcing him; he may have been the Boy Who Waited, but she was convinced by this time she wasn't worth the wait.
Clara Oswald becomes this at the end of Series 8 when her boyfriend, Danny, is killed, causing her to betray the other man in her life, the Doctor, in an attempt to undo this. In the aftermath, her relationship with the Doctor becomes more intense as Clara tries to emulate him more and more. Ultimately, at the end of Series 9, the trope takes on a literal meaning as Clara is killed by an entity that takes on the form of a bird, although the Doctor attempts a similar gambit as Clara did with Danny, with more success.
Farscape: Aeryn Sun has been through dead parents, dead friends, dead ex-boyfriends, torturing people, killing people, being tortured, killing more people, her own people hating her...she's very, very broken. Her repair is fittingly epic.
Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. Being on the losing side of the war has clearly affected him greatly. Adding his Doomed Hometown, it's no wonder he's so emotionally distant.
Olivia Dunham in Fringe for a good part of season 1. The pilot episode sums up why. There's also the experimental drug trials she participated in as a child, and the abusive stepfather she almost killed in self-defense when she was eight years old. She's back to being this as of the season 4 premiere. That is, until the return of her memories from the previous timeline.
Cersei might be a sociopath, but her conversations with Sansa during the siege of Blackwater and her own descriptions of how she once loved Robert show that she's so broken that a lot of viewers are willing to forgive or excuse her actions. She had hoped for real happiness from her marriage, from being the Queen, but is appalled at what a sham it had become and has lost any ideals she once had. First, she was trapped in a loveless marriage with an implicitly abusive man who would always hate her for her family affiliations, she grew up without a mother and with a controlling and manipulative father, and lost all control over her terrifying son years ago. She's not exactly hypercompetent, and a lot of her problems are her own fault, but she just radiates damage and pain and exhibits the emotional detachment and cynicism typically associated with this trait.
Arya's experiences change her from the Plucky GirlTomboy Princess that she was in the first season to a borderline psychotic killer obsessed with revenge on everyone that she feels has wronged her family and friends. As of Seasons 5 and 6, she seems to have started taking a sadistic pleasure in murdering people from her list.
Averted by Gilly, whom Sam notes remains totally unbroken by all the horrible things that have happened to her in her life.
Daenerys' abusive elder brother and burdens as a leader have hardened her otherwise idealistic world-view.
The Handmaid's Tale: Janine starts out as tough and smart-mouthed, but the mistreatment she goes through at the reeducation center wears her down until she snaps. Every Handmaid is like this, to some extent, but poor Janine gets it the worst.
Carrie Mathison from Homeland. Troubled past, due mostly to her mental illness, but also in part to what she went through in Iraq—check. Frighteningly badass, hypercompetent spy—check. Emotional detachment—check. She becomes ever more broken over the course of season one, to the point that, by the end of the season, her life has gone to pieces, even though she has also saved her country.
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries' Barbara Havers had any semblance of optimism ground out of her with extreme prejudice after her little brother's death from cancer tore her family apart and her parents succumbed to mental illness and lung disease right before her eyes. When combined with the fact that she has No Social Skills (which have left her alone and misunderstood her entire life), a Hair-Trigger Temper (ditto), and massive class resentment issues, it's no wonder the poor thing was on the verge of being kicked off the force, Bunny Ears Detective or not, before she teamed up with Thomas Lynley. Although the show proceeds to further Break the Cutie (and also the haughty - her partner isn't spared), she softens and blossoms when paired with the one man who refuses to give up on her no matter how much she tries to drive him away. The result is a far more likable - but still snarky - Havers, in a rare case of a show helping put the bird back together again.
Jessica Jones (2015) has had a pretty rough time. When she was a teenager, her parents and little brother were killed in a car accident that she was partially responsible for, starting an argument with her brother that distracted her father. She was then adopted by an abusive foster mother. When her foster sister convinced her to use her powers to help others as a new superhero, it only served to attract the attention of Kilgrave, who proceeded to mind-control her into a Sex Slave for months, which only ended when he forced her to murder another woman, an act which shocked her out of his control. A year afterward, when the series begins, all of this together has made her deeply cynical and bitter, and given her severe depression and PTSD, only numbing herself with a great deal of alcohol and pushing others away as much as possible.
Kamen Rider Ghost has a badass variety and firsthand experience through Alain when he is brought down to a normal human. His father gets killed by his own brother right in front of him. And the second being when the elderly Morality Pet who serves him takoyaki passes away in #30, this left him cynically doubting his feelings in that very episode. For an added bonus, this also solidified his HeelFace Turn.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent has Alex Eames, an extremely good police detective who is still suffering from the fact that her husband Joe was killed in the line of duty years before the show began.
Starting in season 4, Grace van Pelt has taken a cynical turn following having to kill her fiance, The Mole for Red John, in self-defense.
Teresa Lisbon lost her mother in a car accident and had to raise her brothers after their abusive and alcoholic father killed himself. She also has major trust issues.
Morgana from Merlin. If she had not been hurt, lied to, and ignored by the people she called friends, then she would not be where she is now. Deconstructed with her behavior with Gwen, a guard and innocent people only (played straight for everything else, mostly in season 4), with which this trope is subverted. While Morgana hurts the poor Gwen, her former best friend, because it is an easy way to attain her goal, Gwen is continuously generous to everyone, and only betrays Morgana after the latter tried to kill her (a thing she suspects because Morgana smiled when she was dragged to the cells where she should be imprisoned by Uther) to save her lover and her buddies. Gwen is tortured/looked down upon/neglected by everyone except Merlin (who remains oblivious to her crush on him), Gaius (who keeps her out of the way as much as Morgana when serious matters concerning her arise that Merlin must resolve), Arthur ( who repeatedly breaks up with her because he thinks he must marry a princess and otherwise a noblewoman and thinks she cheated on him and banishes the poor innocent Gwen) and some minor characters, being lacking power because of her low social status. Yet, unlike initially kind and powerful Morgana, who arguably can only be furious and traumatized because of Merlin, Uther and (indirectly) Arthur, plus two minor characters and punishes poor people who were indifferent/neutral in the conflict, and a guard who probably did horrible things, but was kind to her, she insists that killing Uther would make her as bad as him, even after he menaced to burn her at the stake and condemned her father to be imprisoned.
Mr. Robot: Elliot fits this trope to a T. In the first episode, we learn that he lost his father to leukemia, he and his sister Darlene were abused by their mother and suffers from severe depression, social anxiety, PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. As the series progresses, things end up getting worse for him.
Ziva David has been brought by her father her up to kill people, up to and including directly ordering her to kill her own brother, Ari, which she does, and then never really gets over. Most of her close family members are dead (and not of natural causes), and the two men she's fallen in love with have both died, one of radiation poisoning and one was shot in self-defense by her partner, Tony. Ziva is consistently unemotional: while she does get angry, she is unlikely to show sadness or hurt; this is directly referred to by other characters. She is a skilled assassin and normally shows little or no remorse for killing.
Ducky, the NCIS medical examiner, had an episode titled this, where a painful event in his past is brought up. During the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, he was with the Royal Army Medical Corps and volunteered at a refugee camp on the Pakistan border. Unfortunately, the CIA was using the camp as a way to interrogate people who were suspected of being Soviet spies. One suspect, named Javid, was continually sent to Ducky to patch him up so he could be tortured again. Ultimately Ducky couldn't take it anymore and Mercy Killed Javid with a morphine overdose. Thirty years later, he still feels guilty about it, so he willingly turns himself into the Afghan Embassy in D.C. when Javids younger sister recognized him. Gibbs manages to track down the interrogator and set up an Engineered Public Confession in order to clear Duckys name. During it, the interrogator reveals to Ducky that he knew Javid didnt know anything, he was just using him to psychologically torture Ducky. While the revelation ultimately makes the sister decide to not to press charges against Ducky, he finds no absolution in this action as he still has to spend the rest of his life living with what he did. The episode ends with him breaking down weeping.
Kirsten Cohen is probably the most traditional version, born into a wealthy, emotionally-detached family with a cheating, power-hungry father and an alcoholic mother who dies long before the series begins. She channels this trauma into becoming a Well Done Daughter Girl and eventual Lady Drunk.
Marissa Cooper is a less consistent example, starting off as a privileged do-gooder whose family falls apart, and is then forced to deal with her conniving mother, all of which tracks pretty well. However, her subsequent behavior bounces between lashing out, self-destructing, clinging to any remotely available teenager in a two-mile radius, and generally whining about all of the above. This makes her a little too emotionally spastic to qualify as a true example, though she might work as a teen soap version.
Once Upon a Time thrives on this trope. We have Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, Regina Mills/The Evil Queen, Killian Jones/Captain Hook, Zelena/The Wicked Witch Of The West, Ingrid/The Snow Queen, and Cora, in whose lives the Dark and Troubled Past figures prominently and explains their recurrent badassery. Then there's Greg. Everyone who functions as a villain is a textbook example of the badass type of Broken Bird; all of them started out as heroic and/or morally sound people and were traumatized into an endless quest for vengeance. Emma Swan, the heroine of the series is another example of this trope, but strictly the cynical/stoic variety.
In Person of InterestFinch is one of the male examples of this trope. He is constantly paranoid (due to him being legally dead), walks with a limp caused by an explosion which killed his Only Friend, set by men trying to kill them, causing him to also fake his own death, has a major Guilt Complex over the deaths of innocent people which his machine alerts him about, that he couldn't save due to being a cripple, before he could hire John Reese. He lives as a social recluse in an abandoned library (his only friend being the man he hired to save the numbers and a dog. It doesn't stop him being a Deadpan Snarker though...)
Dr. K in Power Rangers RPM. She spent her entire childhood in a government research facility, being told she was "allergic to sunlight" to keep her from leaving, so she could devote her life to doing advanced science for them. Her one attempt at escape worked, but only because she accidentally unleashed a sentient computer virus that nuked the world. For some odd reason, she...doesn't get along with others very well.
Abby Maitland of Primeval became this after spending a year stuck in the Cretaceous. At some point there, she hit the Despair Event Horizon and gave up any hope of returning home. While she was wrong, she retained her new, tougher, colder attitude. The only person she opens up to much anymore is her boyfriend, Connor, who was with her in the Cretaceous.
Lily from Privileged, Megan's younger troubled sister. Over the course of the series, she takes Sage out to a bar, despite Sage being sixteen, steals one of Rose's tennis bracelets (and almost gets away with it, except she wears said bracelet to dinner in a later episode), and ends up spending time in jail because she was set up by her drug-dealer husband. Towards the end of the season, she appeared to be improving, but since the show was canceled, we'll never really know.
Dr. Caroline "Cat" Tyler from Proof. She's a sought-after cardiothoracic surgeon who is still recovering from her son's tragic accident (which happened while she was driving), as well as her strained relationship with her unfaithful husband, who also happens to be her co-worker as well. As a result, she can barely raise her surviving teenage daughter Sophie properly.
Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke, who had been broken ever since her childhood when she was forcibly estranged from her father, went from psych ward to abusive foster home to juvie ward and led to believe her father was a terrorist. Flash forward to her release on her 18th birthday, when she learns her father, recently murdered in prison was innocent via message, and betrayed by many of the people he trusted. Her father urged her to seek forgiveness. Having lost everything she held dear, and true to the series' name, there is only one thing she wants.
Emily's Arch-Enemy Victoria Grayson, who is Not So Different from Emily herself. The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask, Victoria has suffered great heartache and loss, dating back to her childhood with her abusive mother Marion. Marion was more interested in scheming her way into wealth, to the point when after shooting Tom, a wealthy man who she was seeing after he made it clear he had no interest in marrying, she made Victoria the scapegoat. Later, after reconciling with old husband Maxwell, the man is revealed to be a pedophile, and after being caught in Victoria's room, Victoria is blamed instead and kicked out of the house, though Marion believes she will land on her own feet with everything she taught her. Victoria shacks up with a man who treats her well at first but rapes and leaves her pregnant, leaving her the same cold, manipulative mess who ends up leaving her soon to be born child when she is accepted to an art institute in Paris, and later schemes and claws her way up the social ladder, ruling the social circles of the Hamptons as Conrad Grayson's wife. In the series finale, Victoria fully admits that she (figuratively) died years ago, long before Emily/Amanda was born, and that her actual death is merely a formality.
Isabella from Robin Hood. Her parents died in a fire, she was sold to a sadistic rapist at age thirteen, and her relationship with Robin does not end well. (This was a controversial character, considering she was such a sympathetically Broken Bird and yet the writers eventually chose to kill her off as an irredeemable villain.)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Despite the fact that Marguerite grew up alone because her adoptive parents did not seem to want her, her guilt over the death of her best and only friend before she came to the Plateau, her involvement in the war and her dealings with more than shadowy business contacts, she also has never seen her own birth certificate and sports abilities (like being able to read and speak any language no matter how old it is) that she doesn't understand and seem to frighten her.
Kira Nerys grew up under the Cardassian Occupation, witnessed her entire family being killed, and learned that her mother was the (willing) lover of the arch Big Bad in order to keep her family alive and relatively safe. And that's not counting all the crap that happens to her during the series. It's been mentioned elsewhere that while O'Brien had the annual "O'Brien Must Suffer" episode, the writers didn't need a "Kira Must Suffer" Running Gag because something horrible happens to her roughly every other week.
Worf's family was killed when he was a kid and had to live amongst humans, who can't understand him. Then, he kills a boy, since he underestimated his strength. He vows never to lose control again. Then, his family gets dishonoured. His first love and the mother of his son gets murdered. He regains his family-honour just to lose it again. His brother gets suicidal, so they have to erase his memory for good and he loses the last of his family. His son hates him, and his wife and great love gets murdered. Poor guy can't get a break.
On Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchester are variants. They're both such incredible Woobies, but Dean is more repressed, stuffing down his real feelings for the sake of his family and the hunt.
Dean throughout seasons three and four particularly, where he is a Death Seeker with little hope and less of the humor he started with. And no wonder, after learning he broke the first seal for the lead-up to the Apocalypse and being unable to protect his brother from himself. In season five, Dean was seriously considering accepting Michael and becoming a major force in the Apocalypse because he didn't trust Sam, Bobby was crippled and contemplating suicide every morning, Castiel was disillusioned with God and had lost his angelic powers, and Sam was operating under the guilt from giving in to the Dark Side above his brother for a chance to kill the Big Bad that turned out to free Lucifer and start the Apocalypse.
By the end of Season 5, Sam was in a worse condition even though he seemed to be hiding it better than Dean. On top of everything above, the only hope to get rid of Lucifer and prevent the Apocalypse turned out to be for Sam to let Luciferpossess him so he could condemn himself to an eternity in the fallen angel's cage with Luciferduring the season finale, and he had to guzzle gallons of demon blood to do it after resisting his addiction for almost the entire season. And not even Sam believed he was strong enough.
The demon Meg - who hates emotionality and poetry, spent so long being tortured that she lost her humanity, and seems split between being wanting to hurt everybody else and wanting to be loyal- is the key female example, but this is the trope that defines many of the show's female characters (for example, Amelia, Bela, and Ruby). And given how much the show likes to torture all its characters, this is an extremely common trope for males as well as females. Castiel, Bobby, and Benny also fit this trope to a tee. Especially Cas- Watching him get broken over and over again has been one of the show's key advertising draws.
Teen Wolf: Derek Hale. At fifteen he ends having to Mercy Kill his first love. At sixteen he is seduced by a much older woman who uses him to infiltrate his home and murder his entire family save his sister and leaving his uncle comatose. He blames himself for all of this. Six years later his sister is killed leaving him completely alone in the world and as a werewolf being alone means he will slowly go insane and he knows it. He's found by the same woman again and tortured. His every attempt at regaining a pack blows up in his face in part to his extreme Guilt Complex and No Social Skills. The only time he's slightly okay is when he reunites with his long lost little sister who he didn't know survived. Nevertheless, he's the big guy of the group being much more competent and knowledgeable than the rest of the cast at first.
Elena from The Vampire Diaries has been through much pain and tragedy at a young age, especially the tragedy of losing both of her parents.
Veronica Mars is indisputably a Broken Bird, it being the key character point which defines her in the first series - she's cynical about the world and much older in her mind than her seventeen years because her life went to hell within the space of a few months less than a year before we meet the character (her best friend is murdered, her dad (the sheriff) loses his job and they lose their house, her mother leaves her and her father, she is drugged and raped at a party (and laughed at when she reports it), and becomes a social pariah (in a school where money makes the world go round). But she takes the new kid under her wing and maybe it will all work out?