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Top 10 Saddest TV Plot Twists

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
Sometimes the saddest TV plot twists are also the most shocking. These expected turns weren’t just devastating, but also had brilliantly buildup that made the moment all the more powerful. We definitely didn’t see these heartbreaks coming. WatchMojo ranks the saddest TV plot twists. Which TV plot twist made you cry? Let us know in the comments!

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We definitely didn’t see these heartbreaks coming. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Saddest TV Plot Twists.

For this list, we’re looking at unexpected turns in TV shows that left us devastated. To be in our list, the moment has to be a real plot twist and not just an unexpected death.

#10: The Ben Reveal
“Scrubs” (2001-10)

“Scrubs” is a show that perfectly walks the line between comedy and drama on a regular basis, but the season three episode “My Screw Up” certainly punched us in the gut with this twist. Played by Brendan Fraser, Ben is a former cancer patient who comes in for routine tests. Later, when a patient passes away in J. D.’s care, Ben tries to persuade the upset Dr. Cox that it wasn’t J. D.’s fault. It turns out however that Ben was actually the patient who died - appearing only to Dr. Cox, who was unable to accept his friend’s death.

#9: Bartlet's Choice
“The West Wing” (1999-2006)

In the very first season of “The West Wing”, President Bartlet describes to his youngest daughter, Zoey, exactly what it would be like if she let her guard down at a bar or party and got kidnapped. Several seasons later, his worst fear comes to pass, leaving him scrambling to figure out her kidnappers’ motivations. While this storyline was shocking and stressful, the truly heartbreaking moment comes when we learn that Bartlet has invoked the 25th Amendment, because he feels incapable of being both the President of the United States and a father.

#8:The Earth Shocker
“Battlestar Galactica” (2004-09)

There’s no place like home . . . but home can change a LOT. “Battlestar Galactica” follows the journey of human survivors from the Twelve Colonies of Kobol as they search for the thirteenth colony, otherwise known as “Earth”. Midway through the fourth season, they finally reach their destination, and the audience is just as shocked as the characters by what they find. Their ancient home has become just as much a nuclear wasteland as the planets they left behind, in a disheartening twist that casts a dark shadow over the direction humanity is heading.

#7: The John Doe
“Grey's Anatomy” (2005-)

The finale of the fifth season of “Grey’s Anatomy” is a doozy, with several dramatic plotlines threatening the lives of core characters. The big surprise though happens when a man is brought into the hospital with severe injuries that are so bad he can’t be identified. While Meredith is caring for him, he keeps trying to write something on her hand with his finger, but isn’t strong enough to speak or hold a pen. Ultimately, she realizes that what he’s writing is “007”, the nickname that George received so many seasons earlier. Almost as soon as they realize that they have one of their own to save, however . . . he dies on the table.

#6: The Train
“House of Cards” (2013-18)

We saw in the first season of “House of Cards” just how far go Frank Underwood was willing to go to advance his political career. In the second season premiere however, his actions become more extreme than we ever expected. The so-called suicide of Representative Peter Russo, who was really murdered by Underwood, raises the suspicions of journalist Zoe Barnes - who also happens to be Underwood’s former lover. So what does Frank do? Well, we knew it wouldn’t be good; but we definitely didn’t expect him to throw her in front of a train and kill her. This move really cemented Underwood’s character, and kept us on edge for the rest of the series.

#5: Violet’s Fate
“American Horror Story” (2011-)

There are plenty of creepy moments throughout “American Horror Story”, but one of the most upsetting took place in “Murder House”, the first series of the anthology. Violet and her family have moved into a house in L.A. with a dark past, and she soon begins seeing ghosts all around her. Halfway through the season, she’s so troubled by this that she tries to kill herself, but is saved in the nick of time by Tate. Episodes later however, Tate shows her her own body, revealing that she did succeed in killing herself, and had been living as a ghost without realizing it.

#4: The Sophia reveal
“The Walking Dead” (2010-)

Much of the second season of “The Walking Dead” revolves around the search for Sophia, a young girl who went missing after being chased into the woods by walkers. Though it seems clear from the get go that there won’t be a happy ending to this tale, we couldn’t have imagined just how bleak it would be. It turns out that Hershel has been keeping walkers in the barn of the farm where they’re staying, and when they’re all released, Sophia comes stumbling out. In a twist as shocking as it is devastating, Rick has no choice but to shoot her - right in front of her mother Carol.

#3: The Bent-Neck Lady
“The Haunting” (2018-)

When “The Haunting of Hill House” debuted on Netflix in 2018, horror fans were engrossed by the intricate plotline. It’s a story full of twists and turns, but no revelations were more upsetting than when we got the episode “The Bent-Neck Lady” midway through the season. As a child, Nell sometimes saw a frightening apparition of a woman with a broken neck, and as an adult, she still wonders what it all means. Eventually though, when she goes back to Hill House, she finds out that the ghost she is seeing ... is actually her own.

#2: The Chicken Wasn't a Chicken After All
“M*A*S*H” (1972-83)

“M*A*S*H” was a show that addressed the experience of war in a way that was often lighthearted and comedic. But in the TV movie that acted as the series finale, there was a moment so dark that it brought us right back to the real horrors of the time. It comes when the sardonic Hawkeye is telling a woman to quiet her chicken as they hide from an enemy patrol; she eventually had to smother it to death to stop it clucking. It’s eventually revealed however that it wasn’t a chicken that the woman was holding, but a crying baby. It doesn’t get much darker than that.

#1: The Red Wedding
“Game of Thrones” (2011-)

Of course, our number one pick had to go to what will likely go down as one of the most shocking moments in TV history. Sure, anyone who read the novels already knew what was going to happen, but that didn’t make it any less horrific. “Game of Thrones” established early on that it was willing to kill off major characters, like when Ned lost his head in season one, but taking out two central characters in one fell swoop, and killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child, was almost too much for viewers to bear. There are many shocking and upsetting twists that take place in this show, but this will always be the one we remember the most.

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