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12 Fake-Out TV Deaths That No One Bought For A Second

November 11, 2020 406 votes 107 voters 9.2k views12 items

List RulesVote up the TV 'deaths' you knew weren't for real.

When it comes to “fake-out” deaths on TV, it’s pretty hard to fool story-savvy fans these days. With a few shocking exceptions that actually went through with the kill, television writers in recent years have opted to have fun with dramatic demises, using the device to bring complexity to series narratives - and, of course, to shock us and shake things up. This gimmicky move has upset fans at times, but when it's done with lead characters and cast favorites we all know couldn't possibly be kicking the bucket, it can be a delightful diversion - something to contemplate and invent theories around until the writers inexorably explain the character's return.

This list examines TV deaths and cliffhangers of main characters that we all pretty much knew would definitely live another day sooner or later. Sadly, some of these famous fake-outs have, in fact, now perished for real (characters and real-life actors). Vote up the most memorable fake-outs you saw through all along.

  • A title character death fake-out is the hardest to pull off, and even though Buffy the Vampire Slayer often took chances with some odd storylines, nobody bought this one for a minute. 

    Knocking off our heroine (Sarah Michelle Gellar) at the end of Season 5 made for a dark and dramatic moment with tears all around for the Buffy gang. But the sorrow didn't last long, as we saw the stake-toting star come back to life via some strange magic at the start of the following season, ready to slay on.

    Obvious fake-out?

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  • Sherlock Holmes ('Sherlock')
    Photo: BBC

    One of the more clever fake-out TV deaths in recent memory came in BBC's Sherlock, in which the eponymous detective (Benedict Cumberbatch) appears to jump off the roof of St. Bart's Hospital in the show’s second season finale. It made for quite the cliffhanger and led to a slew of anything-but-elementary theories about how the show would bring its star back.

    Taking their cues from fan fiction-esque guesses on the web about how he'd return alive, the producers offered a central explanation concerning an illusionist, but had some fun suggesting more outrageous theories as well.

    Obvious fake-out?

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  • Jon Snow ('Game of Thrones')
    Photo: HBO

    Game of Thrones had no trouble offing regulars in barbaric ways throughout its run, but when it came to the untimely demise of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), fans knew/hoped it had to be temporary. In Season 5, the GoT favorite is left lying on ice like a popsicle after having been brutally stabbed by the fellow members of the Night's Watch.

    But when Season 6 of the smash-hit HBO show finally arrived, we were all relieved to see him come back to life thanks to the Red Priestess’s resurrection ritual. The character had already survived a lot by then, and we all kinda knew Snow wouldn’t perish in the snow, however fitting it might have seemed.

    Obvious fake-out?

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  • Brian Griffin ('Family Guy')
    Photo: FOX

    When Family Guy killed off its beloved pooch Brian, and he seemed to stay dead for a few episodes, a lot us wondered if Seth MacFarlane was serious with the decidedly dark storyline. 

    Could another dog take his place? The family did bring another canine into the fold, after all. But it was only a matter of time 'til the talking tail-wagger was back for more banter - thanks to baby Stewie, who did it with a time machine.

    Obvious fake-out?

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