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
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.
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!