23 most shocking and devastating character deaths in 2023

As 2023 waves us a fond farewell, it's that time again to cozy up with a cup of your beverage of choice and reminisce about the year's cinematic and televisual rollercoasters.
The Last of Us. Photograph by Shane Harvey/HBO.
The Last of Us. Photograph by Shane Harvey/HBO. /
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The Last of Us Episode 3 /

3, 4) Bill and Frank

Bill and Frank had a story that tugged at everyone's heartstrings in a way that's very hard to forget. These two, living in a world turned upside down by a creepy fungus that turns people into horrifying creatures, found something incredibly rare — a genuine, deep love in the midst of chaos.

Their bond was a beautiful contrast to the bleakness around them, making their time together a beacon of hope and warmth. But the way their journey ended was absolutely heart-wrenching. It's like someone took a favorite heartwarming movie and turned the ending into a tear-jerker, and not in a good way. The moment of their departure, with both Bill and Frank overdosing on medication after realizing Frank would never recover from his chronic illness, was crafted with such emotion and care that it left viewers with a lump in their throats and an ache in their hearts. It wasn’t just a goodbye to characters; it felt like saying farewell to dear friends.

Their death was a poignant reminder of the fragility of happiness in their harsh world, making it a moment that was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking — but it was a different story in the video game.

The Last of Us Episode 5 /

5, 6) Sam and Henry

These two deaths were truly dark moments that genuinely devastated viewers. I knew it was coming, and I still had to take some time to recover because of its sheer brutality.

Sam, a brave and spirited young character, had quickly won over the hearts of many despite his short appearance in the show. His infectious energy, the bond he shared with his brother Henry, and the way he bonded with Ellie added layers of depth to the story. When it is revealed that he was bitten and turns into a fungus-infested monster overnight, it is a stark reminder of the merciless world these characters have to live in.

The scenes leading up to his death were a masterclass in emotional storytelling. Watching Sam trying to hide the fact he was bitten from his brother was like a punch to the gut. And then, that gut-wrenching morning after, when Henry discovers his beloved brother had turned and had to make the hardest decision he'd ever have to make, it was impossible not to feel the weight of his despair. The tragedy of witnessing Henry shoot and kill his little brother only to turn the gun on himself and pull the trigger wasn't just about losing two characters — it was about the shattering of innocence, the brutal reality of their fight for survival, and what lengths people will go to protect their own.

In Henry's case, he made sure nobody had to walk away with the weight of having to kill a child, so he took it upon himself and, unfortunately, let it consume him. It was a pivotal moment that left a mark on the audience, showcasing the harshness of their world and the fleeting nature of safety and happiness within it.

The Last of Us Episode 7 /

7) Riley

It's hard not to get a little choked up just thinking about Riley's death and the events that led up to it. Though our time with her was short, we just knew Riley was the kind of character who lights up the screen with her smile and bright spirit. She was a breath of fresh air in a world gone dark and dreary, especially for Ellie. So, when the moment came — the moment we all realized her life and relationship with Ellie would be cut short — it felt like we were losing a piece of our main character.

The way the show handled it was like a beautifully crafted, yet tragic, piece of art. The mix of emotions was intense — there was shock, sadness, and a bit of disbelief. Riley's death wasn't just a plot twist; it tugged at our heartstrings because she represented hope, youth, and all the dreams that could have been. It was the kind of farewell that stayed with you, making you think about life, loss, and the fragile beauty of human connections. Absolutely heartbreaking, indeed, especially if you consider the fact that the way she actually dies isn't explained in either the game or the show... so Ellie could have very well been the one to end her life.