10 TV Characters Who Went Through Hell To Win (And Died Anyway)

Sometimes you have to go through Hell to come out the other side—and die an episode later...

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You hate to see it—a character we’ve grown to love fights through no end of torture, losing friends, minds, and sometimes even limbs to finally claim bitter victory, only to end up offed, often offscreen, to no fanfare an episode later. And we really mean it when we say you hate to see it, to the extent that a lot of viewers never make it to the end of acclaimed shows such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad because of sheer frustration with the constant stream of near-misses and brutal defeats which rain down on the ostensible heroes.

Some shows are so unrelentingly bleak that they’re never even given a renewal (sayonara, Low Winter Sun), whilst others assume a shocking death will reignite viewer’s interest instead of leaving them too exhausted to invest further attention (nice try, Dollhouse). But even well-loved shows can sometimes misjudge a character arc badly, leaving us with a list like this.

These are the characters whose stories we followed, desperate for a little light at the end of the tunnel, only to find that after their eventual success their only thanks was an ignoble death thrown in for sheer shock value.

10. Mike - Breaking Bad

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Okay, so including Breaking Bad on this list is a move so obvious it feels like cheating. The show made a twisted point of ensuring viewers were invested in characters both heroic and villainous only to off them in underwhelming circumstances every other week, as if attempting to prove that subversions can be as frustrating as they are sometimes fun.

Remember the endless journey those two suited assassins made, across various episodes, in pursuit of Heisenberg? Remember how they ended up shot to bits in a Walmart car park without ever getting near him? Textbook Breaking Bad.

However, no character got it in the neck, figuratively and literally, as badly as Mike Ehrmantraut. After three seasons of fraught collaboration with Jesse and Walt, it seemed as if Mike would finally be able to sell his shares in the pair’s meth production operation, give the proceeds to his granddaughter, and escape the whole mess unscathed.

Until Walt intercepted said cash and pulled a gun on Mike, threatening to off him unless he named his in-prison associates so Walt could tie up loose ends. Of course, this being Breaking Bad, it was only after firing that Walt remembered he could have just quizzed their mutual acquaintance, leaving Mike to plead that the murderous sad sack leave him to die in peace. Satisfying stuff!

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Cathal Gunning hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.