Killing a beloved TV character is a cruel, heartless act that drops jaws, splinters fans and often forever changes the course of a television show. But there’s something infinitely worse about inflicting death on a teen drama, and we have a funny feeling that Monday night’s Teen Wolf finale is about to take a life (and who knows, maybe more than one). In order to prepare and remind ourselves that this isn’t the first time a show has thrown such tragic punches, we’re looking back at some of teen TV’s most tragic moments from past and present, where fan favourites faded into the beyond.
Allison Argent, Teen Wolf
Had Crystal Reed not wanted off of MTV’s game-changing scripted spooker (at 29, even we have to say that she was outgrowing playing a teenager), Allison would have still reigned in Beacon Hills as Scott’s first (though not only) love. But if the youngest Argent was destined to leave the series, simply writing her off wouldn’t have done her justice. She was, after all, a key hero amongst all the werewolves, banshees, kanimas, and other creatures. In the show’s most heart-wrenching moment to date, one of TV’s most fearless females lays in Scott McCall’s arms, dying just as she lived: fighting.
JT Yorke, Degrassi: The Next Generation
Degrassi has always had its fair share of gasp-worthy drama, but never had its Next Generation series dared to kill off one of the high school’s endearing students. To go in for the kill — literally — is certainly a dramatic twist, but how unfair that it was the show’s most earnest teen? JT will always be remembered as the show’s comic relief, even through his #dark moments as a drug dealer and juggling two girls at once. When Lakehurst bullies took his life, it was a Degrassi moment that shocked every character and viewer alike.
Marissa Cooper, The O.C.
If you weren’t obsessed with teen drama The O.C. (the show that spawned MTV’s phenomenon Laguna Beach), then you have some serious binge-watching to do! The sun-soaked cult hit turned Adam Brody, Ben McKenzie, Rachel Bilson and Mischa Barton into household names—but it’s Barton whose portrayal of Marissa may have had the most lasting effect on the series. We fell in love with bad boy Ryan, but cringed at every rearing of his reckless behavior, having no idea that it would one day lead to the death of the girl he loved. For it to happen moments after their graduation only makes the wreckage that much worse. Watching Ryan carry Marissa’s dead body still makes our tear ducts explode, as The O.C. was never the same—and neither were we.
Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Like many other vampire shows, Buffy got its viewers very used to death by axing plenty of favourites across the series’ seven-season run. Its lead character actually dies twice in the show… and she was supposed to stay that way! The show’s fifth season finale, originally intended to be its final episode, saw our vampire-destroying hero give her own life in order to save the world from yet another apocalypse. Too bad the show was immediately picked up for two more seasons, with Buffy’s resurrection setting off many more rounds of slaying vamps and taking names.
Mona Vanderwaal, Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is a show centered on death: all of its characters are constantly trying to avoid it while searching for answers to Rosewood’s latest casualty. And while plenty of the town’s residents have cycled between being good, evil and everywhere in between, Mona may have been TV’s most confusing bad girl. She was guilty of horrible acts against the Liars, but also a victim of ‘A’s deadly game as well as a girl haunted by her days of mistreatment as a nerdy outcast. It may have been fitting that Mona was killed just when she was rallying against Alison, but once again, ‘A’ had to silence someone who knew too much.
Finn Hudson, Glee
The real-life death of actor Cory Monteith came as an absolute shock to any TV fan, as Glee had catapulted its young stars to the heights of fame. You didn’t have to watch Fox’s comedy musical to know that Monteith was its heart and soul, just like Finn Hudson was the Glee club’s fearless leader. Ryan Murphy and co. could have handled the tragic news in many different ways, but they decided to give the character an emotional, heartfelt send-off that saw the Glee kids — which included his TV girlfriend Rachel Berry played by Monteith’s real girlfriend Lea Michele — pay tribute to a shining hero who only wanted to beat the odds.
Jen Lindley, Dawson’s Creek
A character dying in a show’s final episodes is a tough, bold call: technically, we’ve all made it to the end, so no one has to die, right? Still, Jen couldn’t evade death even at the finish line, as her character was stricken with heart disease that saw her go into the light as the show itself took its final breaths. Dawson’s Pacey and Joey drama set aside, the show’s brilliance in its finale wasn’t just letting her go in peace (unlike some other brutal kills on our list), but giving Jen the chance to speak to the daughter she was leaving behind.
Elena Gilbert, The Vampire Diaries
The CW’s hit vampire drama kills as many supernatural creatures in one episode than most shows do in their entire runs, but in the show’s third season finale, it horrified viewers by daring to axe its main character. It was the show’s most heart-stopping moment yet (and that’s truly saying something) as Elena drowned under the same bridge that took her parents, insisting that Stefan save her brother instead of herself. A crazy twist would allow Elena to return (of course) in a choice that would change the direction of the entire series, but that doesn’t make the moment we saw her die any less haunting.
Scott Scanlon, Beverly Hills 90210
90210 and its spinoffs always had a good dose of drama mixed with an entire bucket of WTF?!, so revisiting the time that one of its lead characters accidentally shoots himselfwhile his ex-best friend watches in horror isn’t as shocking as it sounds for diehard fans of the show. What’s worse, it was at the kid’s birthday party — in this zip code, not even the birthday boy could catch a break. While Scott’s death, as well as his sister’s debut in the following season, would have a lasting effect on BFF David, there was still nothing like this moment gone horribly, totally wrong.
Teen Wolf airs Monday at 10 p.m. ET on M3.