Game of Thrones fans—you remember your reaction to the Red Wedding, right? The dropped-jaw utter shock as you were left staring at the screen, unable to believe what you had just seen?
Fans of Breaking Bad might recall the devastating end of Ozymadias, where the entire audience was blown away by just how dark a mainstream story could get despite sharing a massive portion of the audience. There are times when an intensely dark turn can be of great benefit to a popular show, and the sudden shift in tone can leave viewers amazed by how daring the creators were during production.
However, just as often a show can blindside you with an out-of-nowhere death or a pointlessly cruel moment, leaving the preceding show ruined and viewers with a sour taste in their mouth. In cases like this, it sometimes falls to the much-maligned networks to rein in creator’s darker urges and temper their bleaker instincts.
With this in mind, and a rare apology to executives—usually we’re right to hate you, but in these cases, you were on the money with your notes—here are 10 TV moments which were almost far, far darker than what we got.
10. Dexter’s Death - Dexter
Dexter wasn’t a show wanting for dark content, given
that its smooth-talking charmer of a protagonist was, well, a serial killer who
targeted other, more depraved serial killers. That’s pretty much as dark a pitch
as any television writer could conceive, but the show nonetheless managed to
close on a bizarrely cheery note, with the titular protagonist evading responsibility
for his actions and no one in his life ever being the wiser.
Remember Lumberjack Dexter? What a time to be alive, real Dex-heads recall pulling their hair out in frustration.
If it feels jarring compared to the rest of the show’s tone, that’s because it is. Original showrunner Clyde Philips, who brought the show to life, had envisioned Dexter not only caught but sentenced to death for his years of gruesome crimes. He had hoped to end the show with a ghostly group of Dexter’s victims watching him die via lethal injection, a sombre note which would have made far more sense given the dark tone of the show itself.
However Philips exited the show after its fourth season, leaving the series to end on this unexpectedly upbeat note and leave fans furious.