Dec. 27, 2011 at 2:44 PM ET
This year on TV, anyone could die at any time. (Warning: Lots of spoilers for TV shows that aired in 2011 ahead. And double warning: Some of the video clips are quite graphic.)
When we look back at the big moments on scripted television this year, many of them involve characters dying suddenly and shockingly.
Those who followed "Game of Thrones" not just on HBO, but via George R.R. Martin's books, knew this already. Even the most beloved characters aren't safe in the cruel world of Westeros.
One of the most shocking deaths, which has strong reverberations through all the books to come, happened this year on the series' first season. Ned Stark, loyal fighter and beloved father and husband, loses his head under the order of cruel, creepy kid king Joffrey Baratheon.
But there were plenty of other disturbing deaths on the small screen. Here are just a few, in no particular order.
1) Charlie Harper on "Two and a Half Men." He died offscreen, but it sounds like a bloody affair. According to his eyewitness and possible murderer, when hit by a Paris subway, his body exploded "like a balloon full of meat." But it couldn't have been as bloody as the offscreen drama involving Harper's portrayer, Charlie Sheen, who was replaced by Ashton Kutcher.
2) Kemal Pamuk on "Downton Abbey." All hail the writers of this juicy, sudsy British costume drama. The handsome Turkish attache was only in one episode, but he managed to threaten to blackmail a gay footman, sneak into eldest daughter Mary's room and convince her to give up her virginity, then die during the act. He's gone, but the drama he stirred up lives on. (The death, and the lengths Mary and her mother must go to to hide it, is reportedly based on a true story.)
3) Gus Fring, "Breaking Bad." No death was more visually shocking. The tables were turned on the drug king when Hector suicide-bombed his own wheelchair while Gus was in his hospital room. But even if you knew nothing about the show and what this meant for the plot, you had to gasp when Gus emerged from the room seemingly fine, then revealed that exactly half of his face was a melted hole.
4) Sophia Peletier, "Walking Dead." Once Sophia ran off into Zombieland, she became a bit of a plot joke. The hunt for her kept the characters trapped at Hershel's farm much longer than many viewers would have liked. And those who read the "Walking Dead" graphic novels may have assumed she was going to be fine on the TV series, as she remains in the comics. (In fact, according to the "Talking Dead" show, the crew shot the scene two different ways -- once with Sophia alive and emerging from the barn healthy, and the second where she comes out as a zombie.) It's always hard to see a child die, but give "WD" credit, they stayed true to the nightmare of their setting. Zombies don't ask for age verification before they infect their victims.
We're not even going to pretend to list all the TV deaths this year. (Entertainment Weekly's list also includes deaths on "Big Love," "Boardwalk Empire," "American Horror Story" and more.)
Charlie Harper? Ned Stark? Tell us on Facebook which TV death was most shocking.