'Homeland,' 'Family Guy' and More Surprising TV Deaths

PHOTO: Surprising TV Deaths
Kent Smith/Showtime/AP Photo

When a beloved character on a television series is killed off, some fans feel the loss almost like a death in their own family.

But for a show's creator, eliminating a main character can help shake up a show and generate new interest.

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Take the latest surprising TV death -- Sunday's third season finale of Showtime's "Homeland." (Spoiler alert. Stop reading now, if you don't want to know the ending.) One of the show's two main leads, the Marine-turned-terrorist Nicholas Brody played by Damian Lewis, was unceremoniously hanged to death while staring into the eyes of the woman he loves, CIA agent Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes.

Brody may have been the sacrificial lamb to remedy the show's floundering ratings this season. After winning back-to-back awards at the last two Golden Globes, the show and its stars were shut out of last week's nominations. But Brody's death, not to mention Carrie being four months pregnant with his child, may help turn things around next season.

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Not every TV death is greeted favorably, however. Click through to learn about other beloved TV characters who bit the dust.

PHOTO: Surprising TV Deaths
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Brian the Dog

"Family Guy" fans were up in arms when the beloved family dog Brian was killed by a car last month. After an online petition to get him back went viral, Brian was resurrected from the dead Sunday night. In the episode, baby Stewie Griffin used a Christmas wish to go back in time and save Brian by pushing his four-legged friend out of the way just in time to avoid the speeding car that would have fatally wounded the dog. After the show aired on the East Coast, creator Seth MacFarlane tweeted, "And thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash."

PHOTO: Surprising TV Deaths
Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television
Matthew Crawley

"Downton Abbey" fans were stunned when leading man Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens, was killed in a car crash, just after the birth of his son, in the final seconds of the season three finale. For British viewers who watched the jaw-dropper on Christmas Day, his death was especially hard to swallow. Stevens, who was leaving the show to pursue other opportunities, later apologized. "I am sorry about that! I think what emerged is that it's an unwritten rule that you're not supposed to die on British television on Christmas Day," he told Britain's Radio Times.

PHOTO: Surprising TV Deaths
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Lt. Col. Henry Blake

Like Stevens, McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake on the first three seasons of "M*A*S*H" on CBS, left a successful series to pursue other opportunities. To address his character's exit, producers planned a sendoff in the final episode of the 1974-75 season with Blake saying his good-byes just before boarding a plane for home. But unbeknownst to Stevenson and the rest of the cast, except star Alan Alda, producers saved one last scene for the end, in which the character Radar delivered the news that the colonel's plane had been shot down and there were no survivors. Blake's surprising demise drew hostile reactions from fans.

PHOTO: Surprising TV Deaths
Mario Perez/ABC
Charlie Pace

Unlike the days of "M*A*S*H" when fans sent in hundreds of angry letters, today's fans can voice their outrage in more immediate ways through the Internet and social media. Such was the case when the ABC drama "Lost" had main character Charlie Pace, played by Dominic Monaghan, drown while trying to save his friends during the season three finale. "We thought people would be shocked, but we were unprepared for that level of anger," Producer Carlton Cuse told The New York Times." Fortunately, fans still got to see Charlie in seasons four and six thanks to the show's non-linear storytelling.

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