Ever since the dawn of comics, death has been a constant threat for the heroes and villains. Whether it’s as part of an origin story or a turning point for another character, many heroes and villains have died as part of a grand moment on the page. So it’s only logical that many of these deaths have been translated onto the TV shows adapted from those stories. Whether it’s a faithful adaptation of a famous storyline, or as part of a villain’s dastardly plot, it seems that superheroes can’t exist without some meaningful death to push them forward in their fight against evil.
Not all TV deaths are violent and gritty, instead focusing on the emotional moment between a hero and his friend or loved one. But there are those that play into the shock factor, allowing for geysers of blood to flood the screen. We’ve included some superhero TV killings that came as a surprise and some that were expected from as soon as the series started. Now that most publishers are exploring different ways of bringing their characters to life, there’s plenty of shocking deaths to choose from. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead. Here are 15 brutal TV superhero deaths that broke your heart.
15 OLIVER QUEEN
Arrow was the show to kickstart an entire television universe. Spawning The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow before it later crossed over with Supergirl. It’s an impressive feat. What’s more impressive is that the writers legitimately killed Oliver Queen in the third season. It’s shocking, because the audience has been tricked by years of movies and tv shows always keeping the hero alive. So when Ra’s Al Ghul runs Oliver through with his sword and flings him off of a mountain top, everyone was completely surprised.
It’s an incredibly bold move to kill of the main character. But what made it worse was that he’d been allowed to spend one night alone with Felicity, where they completely gave over to their feelings about each other. Obviously, there was a way of resurrecting Ollie, but let's not get into that right now.
14 TULIP O’HARE
Preacher has been one of the most underrated comic book shows of the past few years. A bold storyline, incredible characterization and a bloody way of exacting vengeance that was fantastically entertaining, and this was largely down to the cast. The chemistry between the main trio was fantastic, that is until it was no more.
In the final episode of the second season, Tulip is shot by a Grail spy in the building they’ve been living in. And it turns out that Jesse’s Genesis power isn’t working, she dies. It hurts Cassidy because he knows he could keep her alive by turning her into a vampire, but Jesse outright refuses. They both have the power to save the girl they’re in love with, but can’t for different reasons.
13 EDDIE THAWNE
So right from the beginning of The Flash the Reverse-Flash aka Eobard Thawne aka Harrison Wells, was plaguing Barry Allen. But he wasn’t the only Thawne causing problems for the speedster, Eddie Thawne was in a relationship with the love of Barry’s life, Iris. And to be fair to Eddie, he wasn’t a bad guy, he didn’t mistreat Iris and he just wanted what was best for Central City.
But when he found out that he was the ancestor of the Reverse-Flash, he took matters into his own hands. Eddie shot himself so that they could stop the Reverse-Flash from ever existing. It was a drastic action, but Eddie saved the day. Iris held him as he died, giving an emotional goodbye.
12 JONATHAN KENT
Smallville literally grounded Clark Kent, he wasn’t allowed to fly in the series and we never saw him in the full costume. But there’s another integral part of his journey to becoming the Man of Steel that had to be included in the series’ mammoth ten season run. During the 100th episode of the show in the fifth season, Clark had to deal with something terrible, the death of Jonathan Kent.
What made it worse, is that he’d already gone back in time after Lana had died, knowing that someone still had to take her place in dying. After Lionel Luthor hints to Jonathan that he knows what Clark can do, Pa Kent begins beating him. After he walks away and his family find him, his breathing becomes extremely heavy and he has a heart attack. Knowing that he willingly turned back time and allowed this to happen crippled Clark.
11 HOPE SCHLOTTMAN
Jessica Jones just doesn’t have a good track record with keeping people alive. Whilst under Killgrave’s influence, Hope brutally murdered her parents at the beginning of the series. She even had an abortion after becoming pregnant by Killgrave. Her character arc was one of the most tragic in the series.
When she’s finally released from prison, Killgrave takes her prisoner with Jessica’s four friends stood about to hang themselves if Killgrave tells them to. But as the villain gloated, Hope smashes a glass and stabs herself in the neck, freeing her of Killgrave’s influence and meaning that Jessica could kill him. Jessica saves her friends from hanging themselves before trying to patch Hope up, but she inevitably dies. It’s the sacrifice of one to save the many, but it still doesn’t make it any easier on Jessica or Hope.
10 H.R. WELLS
The entire catalyst of The Flash’s third season was that Savitar was going to murder Iris West. We’d been shown it when Barry accidentally traveled to the future. He holds her mid-air and impales her on one of his retractable blades. And on the whole, this premonition becomes true, except when it doesn’t.
Let’s explain. Before Savitar could grab Iris, H.R. Wells (from Earth-19) uses a visual scrambler so that he looks like Iris, fooling everybody including Barry. Savitar murders him by shoving one of the blades through his back, thinking he’s Iris and that he’s dealt a crippling blow to Barry. Ultimately, it’s an incredible gesture from Wells, because it still means that Barry won’t go down a dark path. Meaning that Wells not only saved Iris, but Barry too.
Marvel’s Netflix series have given us a gritty and grounded take on some of the most popular street level heroes that the comics have to offer. One of those, is Private Investigator, Jessica Jones. One of her neighbors, Ruben consistently tries to get to know her and offers her kindness in times when she’s not exactly in the best mood.
But with the threat of Killgrave looming over Jessica, the people in her building become part of his plot. Jessica wakes up in bed to the body of Ruben with his throat cut. It turns out that Killgrave forced him to commit suicide. Ruben’s death really hits home when we see how his sudden disappearance affects his sister Robyn. Especially when she sobs about remembering him ordering things online. It’s a reminder to Jessica just how dangerous Killgrave is.
8 THE CASTLE FAMILY
After his appearance in Daredevil season two, it’s really easy to see why Netflix and Marvel decided to pursue a solo series set around The Punisher. His relentless fight against the criminal underbelly of New York in retaliation for the deaths of his family drives Frank to unleash the pain.
But we never properly see the deaths of the Castle family on screen. But we’re told in harrowing detail by Castle himself the horrific scene in which his family are caught in the crossfire between warring gangs. He explains to Daredevil how he cradled the body of his daughter as she bled out on him. It’s heartbreaking hearing this broken father talk about the deaths of his family. But then it makes the audience understand why The Punisher does what he does.
7 TOMMY MERLYN
When Oliver Queen first started his crusade against crime, he didn’t think that his family and friends would get hurt because he was hiding his identity with a hood (yeah, right). So when Malcolm Merlyn made his assault on Starling City, Oliver’s world began to figuratively and literally crumble around him.
Unfortunately, caught in the midst of all the death and destruction was Tommy Merlyn, Oliver’s best friend. He was impaled on a metal rod as a building had collapsed that he had dove into to save Laurel Lance, who he was in love with. So whilst Tommy might not have had his own costume or alter-ego, he was a hero in his own right. And when Ollie realizes that his crusade has gotten his best friend killed -- he breaks down into tears.
6 BEN URICH
One of the most vital elements to the Daredevil series on Netflix was the investigative reporter who worked with Karen to bring the criminal enterprise run by Wilson Fisk into the light. His working relationship with both Karen and Daredevil ensured the discovery of Fisk’s wrongdoing and ultimately led to his arrest.
It’s just a shame that Ben couldn’t be there to see the criminal mastermind put away. Karen and Ben travel upstate to find out more from Fisk’s Mother when they discover where she lives. Before Daredevil managed to defeat Kingpin, Fisk broke into Urich’s home and chokes him to death for speaking to his mother. It’s a slow and unforgiving death, but it drives Karen and Matt forward in their individual quests to bring Fisk to justice.
For some audiences, Luke Cage wasn’t as impressive as Daredevil or Jessica Jones. But for others, it proved that a series about a reluctant hero could have genuine heart and soul within the script. But the biggest draw was the fact it had no qualms in grounding Harlem and making it as real as possible.
But in heartbreaking fashion, Luke Cage’s father figure is caught in the gang violence that constantly hounds him. Tone, a member of Cottonmouth’s crew, decides to take out Pop to strike a blow against Cage. And Pop is riddled with bullets whilst Cage is obviously unharmed. But as Pop dies, tells Luke “Move forward, always”. It’s a motto that pushes Luke to become the defender of Harlem’s streets. Thankfully, Tone gets his comeuppance when Cottonmouth kills him for murdering Pop.
4 HENRY ALLEN
Barry Allen had a difficult life even before he was The Flash. His Mother was murdered by the Reverse-Flash, and his father was put away for her death. And although Barry was happy to live with Joe and Iris West, the internal struggle to solve his mother’s murder and free his father was always there. So when he managed to pull off the impossible and have his father freed from prison, he was ecstatic.
Unfortunately for Barry, this happiness did not last for too long. When Zoom was igniting his reign of terror on Central City, he decided to twist the knife a little further for Barry. He grabbed Henry Allen and murdered him in front of the speedster so that Barry could go through the same trauma that Zoom did. Ouch.
3 MOIRA QUEEN
It seems that in order to be a superhero, you need to have dead parents, and the Arrowverse makes full use of that to push their heroes further in their quest for justice -- Oliver Queen is no different. He’d already lost his father after they’d become lost at sea, so when he returned, his mother Moira became his emotional rock.
So when she ran for mayor, she obviously became a target for the criminal underworld. But the real reason she was targeted was so that Deathstroke could taunt his former protégé Oliver. He forces Thea and Ollie to watch as he executes Moira by shoving his sword through her chest and leaves her to die. It’s a brutal way of killing someone, making their children watch. But that tells you everything you need to know about Deathstroke.
2 JACK MURDOCK
Battling Jack Murdock, as he was known, had a difficult time raising his son all by himself. But he managed to do a good job of being a father and pointing Matty in the right moral direction. Although he didn’t make all the right choices himself, he wound up crossing the wrong type of criminals.
When he doesn’t go down during a boxing match to prove to Matty that he can be a winner, Jack realizes that the criminals he crossed in doing so will be out for him. As he tries to escape, he’s beaten in an alleyway and executed for going against them. The real emotional gut punch comes when Matty finds his body in the alleyway and completely breaks down when he realizes that his dad’s dead. It’s one moment that showed the Daredevil writers could tug on the heartstrings.
1 LAUREL LANCE
Oh Black Canary, what does The CW have against you? It seems like each season, the iconic hero is killed off and brought back in some way. But this time, Sara Lance wasn’t in the black mask, it was her sister Laurel who was helping to protect Star City on Arrow.
But when Damien Darhk was assaulting the city with his H.I.V.E forces, Laurel was brutally stabbed by an arrow Darhk had picked up. She died, but not before telling Oliver not to let her be the last Black Canary. It meant that the name could live on and continue to mean something to the people of Star City. Black Canary wasn’t just one single defender, but a symbol for something bigger. The writers really twisted the knife when she told Ollie she still loved him.
Which of these TV deaths was the hardest to see? Let us know in the comments!