Television is a means of escape for some people – to get away from their daily routine and be sucked into another world that, understandably, isn’t their own. But there are times when that particular new world is almost too real to witness, too cringe worthy to even watch without feeling a rush of some type of negative emotion, whether it be sadness, disgust, horror, or anger. Sometimes, it can ruin the entire show for you, or make you reflect on your own life in some existential haze. Either or, at the end of the day, scenes from shows like the ones that are listed are necessary to both our imaginations and our realities because they allow a rare glimpse into a particular pain we would never wish to go through ourselves. As much as we like to use these outlets to escape from the real world, there are certain moments in this imaginative world that bring us back to reality because of how serious or how real the situation is.
15 Hannah Baker's Suicide (13 Reasons Why)
Netflix’s drama 13 Reasons Why appears to be a catch 22 these days: while it’s informative, some say it glorifies suicide. The show, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, revolves around high school junior Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and her untimely death. She leaves behind cassette tapes of her dictating the reasons why, and people who, she believes led her to commit suicide. Ignoring the fact that she seems to be seeking out revenge from beyond the grave on these particular people (including her crush Clay, who is played by Dylan Minnette and serves as a protagonist of sorts), her actual suicide felt as real at it can get. She gets fully clothed into her bathtub and slits her wrists vertically. The intense pain slaps her in the face after she does her first wrist and she has to work through feeling her blood gush from her body before she’s able to do the same with the next wrist. After Hannah is gone, her mother (Kate Walsh), a woman who was Hannah’s best friend, finds her and instinctively grabs her and starts rocking her dead daughter, simply saying “it’s going to be okay”. It’s as if this horrific scene hasn’t hit her mother just yet and she’s simply picking up her daughter after falling down. It’s soul crushing.
14 Poussey Washington's Death (Orange is the New Black)
When Orange is the New Black killed off fan (and Litchfield) favorite Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), it was during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Poussey was participating in a peaceful prison protest against the guards, some of who were physically harassing the inmates, and other guards who were allowing it to happen. Some of the inmates had simply taken to standing up on the cafeteria tables and refused to move. Finally, it comes to all out showdown and one of the guards (played by Alan Aisenberg) simply grabs Poussey in order to restrain her and kneels on her back too hard, ultimately crushing her chest against the floor. Not only does she die right there in front of nearly the entire prison, but her body is left on the ground for an entire day as the prison scrambles to work up an explanation on why she died the way she did. Critics and fans alike felt that her death was a representation of innocent people dying at the hands of law enforcement, and I have to say I agree, as hard as it was to watch.
13 Shireen Baratheon Is Set On Fire (Game of Thrones)
With all the horrific deaths that take place on HBO’s Game of Thrones, I have to admit that this particular death was just a (and pardon my phrasing here) d!*k move. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), a man who believed he was destined to rule over the Seven Kingdoms, chose to sacrifice his sweet little daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram) at the request of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), who believes that the girl needs to be burned alive at the stake in order to save Stannis’s people from freezing to death. Both parents agree and Shireen is led outside by her father under a ruse, but emotions don’t hit until Shireen realizes her fate and begs her parents to save her as she’d tied up to the stake by guards. Her parents stand stone-faced as the poor girl screams and cries before the fire is lit. As soon as the fire starts to consume the child and her screams become more high pitched, her mother (Tara Fitzgerald) has a change of heart and attempts to save her daughter. But, since this is freaking Game of Thrones, she can’t and the little girl burns to death.
12 When Marshall's Dad Dies (How I Met Your Mother)
Remember when How I Met Your Mother was supposed to be a fun little comedy about a guy who tells the longest story ever of how he met the mother of his children? And then remember when it completely ripped your heart out by killing off certain characters and you were both pissed and emotionally stunted for the next couple weeks (I still hate the showrunners for the ending of that show the way they did)? When the show killed off Marshall’s beloved and goofy father, audiences were taken aback. Not just because they killed him off, but the way the scene where Marshall (Jason Segel) finds out unfolded. Segal himself knew what was going to happen, but he chose not to read his show wife Alyson Hannigan's (who played his wife Lily) dialog when she informs him that his father had a heart attack. Marshall had just left the bar to go call his father to give him some good news and instead sees Lily emerge from a cab. She delivers the line of the aforementioned heart attack and then utters the line “He didn’t make it.” Segel then breaks down and grabs Hannigan in order to pull her into a bear hug before uttering “I’m not ready for this”. The entire scene was brutally emotional.
11 Walter White's Cancer Escalates (Breaking Bad)
Over the course of five seasons, Breaking Bad took fans on a roller coaster of emotions, especially when it came to protagonist-turned-antagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his diagnosis of stage four lung cancer. In the first episode, Walt has an intense coughing fit while working at a car wash, a second job he picked up because his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) is about to have a baby and his science teacher’s salary can’t support his growing family. When the coughing fit hits, viewers can’t help but cough themselves because Cranston looks like he actually can’t get air and may drown in the blood he is coughing up. Walt has coughing fits like this throughout the series until the cancer goes into remission. Eventually, as we all know, the cancer returns and is literally the only thing that can take him down. Even just reading this we bet you can't help but feel the need to cough yourself!
10 Will Smith's Father Speech (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
This happens to be one of most iconic, and unforgettable, moments in TV history. As we all know the synopsis of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, young Will (Will Smith), a troubled youth living in West Philadelphia, is sent by his single mother to go live with her sister and family in Bel-Air, California in order to keep him out of trouble. Will’s father (Ben Vereen) returns after a 14-year absence in order to spend some time with his son, and Will, of course, is beyond thrilled. When his father ends up breaking his heart and bailing on him yet again, Will turns to his uncle Phil (the late James), the only true father-figure in his life, and fleshes out a tearful, and powerful, performance that ends in uncle Phil sadly pulling Will into a hug in order to console the damaged teenager. Ugh such a sweet moment honestly, we are tearing up remembering this moment.
9 Jesse Shoots Gale Boetticher (Breaking Bad)
Breaking Bad will go down as one of the greatest shows in all the world (most likely) thanks to its genius creator, Vince Gilligan, and its amazing cast of actors. One of which is Aaron Paul, who played former junkie turned Meth Kingpin protégée Jesse Pinkman. Unfortunately, Jesse was often used and abused by Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and still treated as if he was using (he was during a great deal of the show, but even when he would clean up, White would still treat him like crap). In order to save his boss, poor Jesse was sent to kill the innocent Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), a puppy-like character who was hired by uber bad guy Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to take over their illegal business once Walt was dead (Gale was led to believe that Walt’s cancer would eventually consume him, not that Gus was planning on murdering the former teacher). Since Gale was the only one who could easily duplicate Walt’s recipe, he had to go. Jesse was charged with the task. He went to Gale’s apartment and stood toe-to-toe with the very scared scientist and shot him in the head. The pain comes from Jesse understanding that this poor man is just a casualty of a bitter war and from the fear in Gale’s eyes. After Jesse kills Gale, he starts to spiral out of control from guilt.
8 Lane Pryce Hangs Himself (Mad Men)
In the few seasons that Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) helped run 1960’s advertising agency Sterling Cooper (and then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) on the drama Mad Men, he managed to nearly cripple the agency financially. Lane ended up forging a check in Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) name in order to get back in the red with his own finances, and when Don found out, he demanded that Lane resign. The scene where Don confronts Lane is emotional, but when Lane successfully hangs himself in his office, it’s pulverizing. It’s the partners who end up finding his already bloating corpse hanging on the back of his office door after they fail to get in. The scene is hard to watch due to the reactions of the actors when they have to peek into the window of the office next to Lane’s in order to see what exactly is blocking the door. And when they do, it’s gut wrenching, especially for Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) who had a special (but odd) bond with Lane.
7 Hannah Baker's Assault (13 Reasons Why)
While a majority of the scenes in 13 Reasons Why are graphic and hard to watch, it was Hannah’s (Katherine Langford) assault scene in episode 12 that struck a nerve with viewers. The gut-wrenching and graphic scene shows Hannah being physically assaulted by classmate Bryce (Justin Prentice) in his hot tub following a party. Jay Asher, the author of the novel the series was based on, told Buzzfeed that he felt the gritty scene had to be as graphic as depicted in the book in order for viewers to feel the rawness of what Hannah was going through. “It’s uncomfortable, and that’s OK,” Asher said during the interview. “If we’re doing this, it can’t be something that you can look away from or just gloss over in your mind. You have to be uncomfortable when you’re watching it, otherwise, you’re not in her mind. In a way, it’s disrespectful if we say, ‘We know this stuff is happening, but we don’t want to be made uncomfortable by it.”
6 Dr. Cox's Breakdown (Scrubs)
A lot like other list mate How I Met Your Mother, the NBC comedy Scrubs had some extremely dramatic moments that made audiences tense up, and this is especially the case of the episode titled “My Lunch” from season five of the long-running series. In this episode, Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) has a meltdown after three of his patients die from rabies. Earlier in the episode, Cox comforts J.D (Zach Braff) after J.D. blames himself for the death of a woman named Jill, who had been suffering from depression. Jill ended up being a donor for three of Dr. Cox’s patients, but Cox failed to find out that Jill had rabies and he ended up infecting the patients that received her organs. J.D. tries to console Dr. Cox the way he consoled him, but after the final patient dies from rabies, Dr. Cox has a meltdown and leaves the hospital, seemingly quitting his job.
5 School Shooting Scene (The OA)
Netflix The OA was a bizarre series as is, but some scenes, particularly the school shooting scene in the final episode of season one, was unforgettable in the worst way possible. The story revolves around a young woman named Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) who turns up after going missing for seven years. Even though she doesn’t tell her adopted parents or the feds where she was and what happened to her, she ends up telling a team of high school boys and an aging teacher her story. In one of the final scenes, a teen comes to the school the group is attending, intent on killing students and teachers who are in the school cafeteria at the time. The scene is heart pounding in a sense that it was molded after real-life school shootings. Prairie’s group of friends attempts to intervene, but it’s Prairie who ends up being rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
4 Michael Scott Crushing Children's Dreams (The Office)
Anyone who was a fan of NBC’s comedy The Office knows that main character Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) is lovably inept and can get on the nerves of most people. But in the episode titled “Scott’s Tots”, he takes it a step too far. In the episode, Michael realizes that he’s going to have to let down (or rather, destroy the lives of) a group of underprivileged children who he promised to provide with college tuition if they succeeded in graduating high school. Turns out, Michael can’t afford to pick up the college tab of all nine kids, so he ends up going to the school to let down the kids in person. He’s greeted with a standing ovation and smiles, which makes it all the more harder for Michael to inform them of the truth. When he breaks the news, the children are noticeably devastated and left in understandable confusion. The acting in the episode is pretty powerful on both ends, from Steve Carell’s performance to the look of heartbreak on the faces of the kids playing the students.
3 ALMOST EVERYTHING (Black Mirror)
For those of you who have no idea what Netflix’s Black Mirror is, it’s best to just check it out for yourself unless of course you have a weak stomach or don’t take kindly to nightmares. The show (which is an American version of the British science fiction show with the same name) is a dark look at the consequences of technology. The American version starts with an episode that looks at an alternative reality where people rate each other using their cell phones, and the higher rating you have, the higher in society you rise. But as soon as your ratings drop, you are quickly cast aside and basically thought of as trash. Another episode is about a kid who is blackmailed with a compromising laptop video that was shot without his knowledge from his own computer. The entire show makes you want to toss your cell phone in the garbage disposal and your laptop off of a 22-story building.
2 Glenn's Epic Death (The Walking Dead)
Talk about eye popping entertainment, am I right? Sorry, I had to. Fans of the zombie apocalyptic show The Walking Dead were understandably devastated when favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) was heinously murdered by villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. The series itself is based on a comic book and fans of both knew that Glenn would eventually be killed off, but no one was expecting the way AMC had his death planned in the show. After Negal ended up picking two people as his victims, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) retaliated by throwing a punch at Negal. In return, Negal made Rick pay by taking the bat to Rick's bestie Glenn’s head. The scene is incredibly graphic and bloody as Negal completely busts in Glenn’s head, so much so that one of his eyes literally starts to pop out of his head. It’s a scene that you only need to see once in your lifetime because you won’t be able to sleep for a long time following.
1 When A Shooter Terrorizes Seattle Grace Hospital (Grey's Anatomy)
ABC’s medical drama Grey’s Anatomy has a plethora of scenes that are extremely hard to watch, especially since creator Shonda Rhimes likes to impersonate George R. R. Martin and kill off a crap load of her characters. However, when Gary Clarke (Michael O’Neil) came to act out his revenge for the handful of doctors who pulled the plug on his dying wife, the events turned out to be catastrophically devastating for fans of the show. The entire two-episode arch of the terrorizing were highly tense as the unhinged gunman stalked the hospital, desperate to track down Dr. Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), Dr. Webber (James Pickens, Jr), and Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), who he believed were responsible for his wife’s death. Along the way, he abruptly shot and killed some pretty pivotal characters, which shocked viewers. Those who were shot but weren’t killed were Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), and Dr. Shepherd. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) even suffered a miscarriage during the entire ordeal. In the end, the shooter ends up killing himself with his final bullet after confronting Dr. Webber.