The following contains mentions of suicide.
- Character exits should be handled with respect, but many shows fail to do so, leaving characters with frustrating and unrealistic departures.
- Some shows don’t give proper explanations for character departures, leaving fans unsatisfied.
- Characters should stay true to their established personalities and relationships when they leave, but some shows make them act out of character for the sake of the plot.
An actor’s exit is a sensitive topic, and it is important to treat their character with respect until the very end, which is often not the case. The reason for the cast member’s departure from the show can play a big role in how their character is written off. If a conflict has led the actor to quit or be dismissed, the character might end up getting all the heat. However, even without any disagreements, the character can get the short end of the stick, and that was how Seth Green’s Oz left Buffy the Vampire Slayer in season 4.
When the character receives some sort of wrap-up of their storyline, it might not be ideal, but it is an explanation nonetheless. Sometimes, shows don’t even do the character the courtesy of giving a reason for their departure until it doesn’t matter anymore. For instance, John Oliver’s Ian Duncan left Community twice — the explanation for his first exit wasn’t exactly in-character, and his second one was left for interpretation. Unfortunately, many shows are guilty of sending off their characters into the sunset in the most frustrating ways possible, and these departures remain a sore point to this day.
8 Best TV Show Character Returns, Ranked
One of the core cast members may quit the show long before its conclusion, but sometimes they can come back for an episode or even a season.
10 Eric Forman
That ’70s Show
That ’70s Show
- Topher Grace , Laura Prepon , Mila Kunis , Ashton Kutcher , Wilmer Valderrama , Debra Jo Rupp , Kurtwood Smith , Danny Masterson
Eric left That ’70s Show after season 7, and while it was a long overdue plot twist, it wasn’t handled very well. In season 7, Eric was struggling with his college options, so he decided to teach in Africa for a year because this job would grant him an opportunity to attend college on a scholarship. However, Eric spent the entire show making sure that he would be as close to Donna as humanly possible, and his decision to go out on a limb and head to Africa, leaving his almost-wife behind, didn’t seem particularly believable at the time.
9 Fiona Gallagher
- William H. Macy , Jeremy Allen White , Justin Chatwin , Ethan Cutkosky , Joan Cusack , Emmy Rossum , Emma Kenney , Cameron Monaghan , Noel Fisher , Steve Howey , Shanola Hampton
Fiona was the clay that held Shameless together for nine seasons, and the show was the same without her. She was far from perfect, but if there was one admirable quality about her, it was that she was devoted to her family. Fiona took care of her siblings to the best of her ability, and she tried to raise them to be respectable people, although she wasn’t exactly successful. Fiona deserved a happy ending more than anyone, but she would never abandon her family the way she did in season 9, no matter how messed-up she felt.
8 Dr. Alex Karev
- Kelly McCreary , Patrick Dempsey , Kevin McKidd , Chandra Wilson , Jesse Williams , Jake Borelli , camilla luddington , Ellen Pompeo , Chyler Leigh , Eric Dane , Caterina Scorsone , Giacomo Gianniotti , Anthony Hill , Kate Walsh , Justin Chambers , Sarah Drew , Greg Germann , Martin Henderson , Katherine Heigl , T.R. Knight , Sara Ramirez , Jerrika Hinton , Richard Flood , Sandra Oh , Kim Raver , Jason George , Tessa Ferrer , Isaiah Washington , James Pickens Jr. , Gaius Charles , Chris Carmack , Brooke Smith , Jessica Capshaw
Grey’s Anatomy has long overstayed its welcome, and that is mostly evident by the way it has to deal with the actors leaving. Alex underwent significant character development during his time on the show, and his departure was as confusing as it gets. Alex Karev’s exit from Grey’s Anatomy was controversial because it undid seasons of growth — Alex wasn’t the person who would leave Jo for Izzie, especially not without a face-to-face explanation. What could have been a beautiful ending to Alex’s complicated story instead turned into a nightmare that damaged the character beyond repair.
Phoebe had quite a few great boyfriends over the years, although none of them were as great a fit for Phoebe’s quirky personality as Mike. Still, it was painful to see how Gary, Phoebe’s police officer boyfriend in Friends season 5, was lazily written off in a heartbeat. Phoebe and Gary had amazing chemistry right from their meet-cute, and Gary genuinely seemed to get Phoebe and appreciate her for who she was. That’s why it wasn’t feasible that Gary would shoot a bird for chirping too loudly in the morning, as he knew how much Phoebe cared about animals.
6 Yasmin “Yaz” Khan
The way Doctor Who failed the Doctor and Yaz’s romance was heartbreaking to watch since it had so much potential, but Yaz’s dumbfounding departure was the last nail in the coffin. Yaz and the Thirteenth Doctor spent three seasons avoiding their feelings for each other, and once they articulated them to some extent, Yaz decided to leave the TARDIS simply because the Time Lord was regenerating. The Doctor does change every time they regenerate, but they still care about their companions — Rose and the Tenth Doctor’s relationship is proof of that. Yaz saying goodbye to the Doctor made no sense.
5 Dr. Lawrence Kutner
- Olivia Wilde , Jesse Spencer , Lisa Edelstein
Dr. Lawrence Kutner’s death was the most jaw-dropping plot twist in House, M.D., and while it provided a clever story arc for House, it wasn’t believable. Having joined the show in season 4, Kutner was a relatively new member of House’s team, and he had a lot to offer. Kutner was often the fastest to figure out the correct diagnosis, and he was the least problematic doctor on the team. In reality, a person’s suicide may come as a shock to their loved ones who didn’t notice their suffering, but in Kutner’s case, the storyline felt forced and undeveloped.
4 Andy Bailey
- Ed O’Neill , Sofia Vergara , Julie Bowen , Ty Burrell , Jesse Tyler Ferguson , Eric Stonestreet , Sarah Hyland , Ariel Winter , Nolan Gould , Rico Rodriguez
Haley and Andy’s breakup in Modern Family didn’t sit right with audiences, as everything that happened to Haley after ruined the character altogether. Andy always dreamed of working in real estate, and Haley happily helped him prepare for his new job with Phil. Out of nowhere, Andy got a phone call about an opportunity in Utah and eventually left Los Angeles, parting ways with Haley as well. It was understandable why Andy didn’t stay for Haley, but it was baffling that he didn’t stay for his job in California, which would’ve given Andy more opportunities for professional growth.
3 Daniel “Oz” Osbourne
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Oz’s character journey in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was tragic in the sense that he was unrecognizable by its end. Willow and Tara were perfect for each other, but Willow and Oz were a sweet couple as well. The young werewolf loved his girlfriend, and they went through a lot together. Oz cheating on Willow with Veruca, another werewolf, out of the blue and leaving the gang to go on a self-discovery journey didn’t feel like something he would do. Oz treated Willow with respect and admiration, and he wouldn’t have betrayed her in this way.
2 Professor Ian Duncan
Community saw a few exits over the course of six seasons, but none were as perplexing as Ian Duncan’s sudden departures. The character was a chaotic nuisance who occasionally made the study group’s life miserable and stalked Britta, and ye he was a consistent presence in their lives for the first two seasons. However, Duncan mysteriously disappeared in season 2, and it wasn’t until season 5 that his absence was explained — he left to care for his ailing mother. Throughout season 5, Duncan was on the Save Greendale Committee, but in season 6, he was nowhere to be seen again.
1 Miranda Sanchez
- Hilary Duff , Lalaine , jake thomas , Hallie Todd , Robert Carradine
Lizzie and Miranda were inseparable throughout Lizzie McGuire, which is why Miranda’s disappearance in a few episodes of season 2 and the movie was extremely weird. In The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Lizzie briefly explained that Miranda was vacationing with her family in Mexico, but that wasn’t enough. The gang graduated from middle school, and there was no way that Miranda would’ve missed her own graduation or that her parents would’ve taken her on a vacation in the middle of a school year. Miranda was by Lizzie’s side for all the major stepping stones, and graduation should’ve been one of them.