WARNING: You can't recount the year's most shocking TV events without going into a lot of detail, so … loads of spoilers ahead. Really.
Oh, Opie. And Lane. And Lori. And Owen. Yours were the most shocking deaths of primetime during 2012, but far from the only shocking moments we experienced while channel surfing this year.
Arresting developments, vampire evolutions, and one man's life-changing trip to the bathroom also factor in to what were the most exciting, game-changing, and just plain jaw-dropping occurrences in TV land this year.
And again, we have to issue a final warning: big, BIG spoilers ahead:
"Sons of Anarchy," Opie's Brutal Death
His wife and father had already been killed by his fellow SOA brothers, and he thought his best friend, and the new SOA president, Jax, had betrayed him. In short, a dejected Opie had serious questions about this group he and his father had pledged allegiance to, which made it all the more tragic and heartbreaking that he died -- via a brutal pipe beating that was horrifying even for a show that opened the season with Tig watching his daughter be burned alive, so his MC brethren could live.
Ryan Hurst (Opie) talks to Russell Brand about his character's death:
"Homeland," Carrie Arrests Brody
Did Carrie still have feelings for Brody, the man she'd pegged as a terrorist, or was she craftily toying with his emotions so she could nab him? We couldn't tell, and with good reason: It was both. She was, and is, in love with the former POW turned congressman, but that didn't stop her from arresting him (and enjoying it) for his traitorous misdeeds. It was an initial shocker that primed us for the rest of the show's sophomore season, in which the two would reunite for a complicated relationship that promises to continue to be tumultuous.
[Related: 8 shocking moments from 'Homeland' Season 2]
"Mad Men," Lane Commits Suicide
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partner Lane had been heading down a pretty pathetic path all season, from trying to foist himself on Joan and tangling with Pete to that weird phone flirtation and embezzling from the company. So when Don fired the proud Brit, it was clear he would slide quickly down the shame spiral. But his bumbling, almost comical, attempts to end his life in that fancy Jaguar (which, in a "Born Loser" comic come to life, wouldn't start) made it truly shocking when his lifeless body was found hanging in his SCDP office.
Go inside the "Mad Men" episode "Commissions and Fees," where Lane dies:
"Breaking Bad," Hank Flushes Out Heisenberg's Real Identity
Mike Ehrmantraut's death was disappointing, but certainly not unexpected, during the first half of "Breaking Bad"'s fifth season, since the storyline had dictated a Walter-or-him showdown. But when Walt's DEA agent bro-in-law, Hank, went into the little boy's room, picked up that book of Walt Whitman poetry from the back of Walt's crapper, and slowly realized that the inscription inside pointed to Walt as the elusive Heisenberg Hank had almost died trying to find? Not since a certain White House intern was gifted a copy of "Leaves of Grass" has Whitman been involved in an incident so shocking.
Watch the shocking "Breaking Bad" scene:
"Gossip Girl," Dan Is Gossip, Uh, Girl
No. No! You did not see this coming. No one saw this coming. It was supposed to be Gossip Girl. But we'll give the show's writers and producers props. Aside from curiosity about which couples would end up together, we'd kinda given up on the CW drama a couple of seasons back and assumed the title character's big reveal would be a bit of a snoozer. We were wrong. Never suspected it was "Lonely Boy," as Gossip Girl, er, guy, had nicknamed himself.
Watch the series finale of "Gossip Girl," where Dan is revealed as Gossip Girl:
"Boardwalk Empire," Owen Comes Home in a Box
Can it ever end well for a mob boss employee who sleeps with and impregnates the boss's wife and plans to run away with her? Let us answer: It cannot. Still, were we prepared for Nucky's driver, Owen Sleater, to be murdered and shipped to Nucky's Ritz-Carlton suite in a box? We were not.
Watch the shocking scene (Warning: This clip contains adult language):
"Scandal," President Fitz Gets Shot
One minute you're watching the story of voter fraud in Defiance, Ohio, unfolding, and the next minute President Fitz is getting shot. The question of who tried to kill him wasn't exactly on the level of the classic "Who shot J.R.?" storyline on "Dallas," but it was a huge mystery that continued to evolve in a twisty plot that revealed the shooter to be Huck … until yet another twist revealed Huck had been set up. By his girlfriend.
Watch the scene:
"The Vampire Diaries," Elena Becomes a Vampire
Yes, the vampire blood Meredith gave Elena to save her life after a car accident does mean she is now among the undead. On the plus side, she's no longer the mortal in the middle of a vampire-bro-love sammich, so, she's got that going for her.
Nina Dobrev talks about Elena's transformation:
"The Walking Dead," Lori Dies While Giving Birth
As if Shane's death last season didn't seal it, Lori's crushing death -- while trying to stifle screams as her baby was literally cut out of her stomach -- proves it once and for all: No one is safe on "The Walking Dead." Oh, and in a spinoff shocker, her murder left no doubt about one other thing: her son, Carl, who had to put a bullet in her head to keep her from turning into a zombie? That is going to be one seriously tortured adult someday.
Watch the scene:
"How I Met Your Mother," Barney Is Marrying … Robin?!
Whuuut?! It was a setup? An elaborate ruse? A page from Barney's playbook, one called "The Robin"?! Well, given that the entire series is one long (and soon, too long) game of trying to figure out who the titular mother is, fans probably shouldn't have been so surprised that Barney actually devised and played out a fake relationship in an effort to win back and propose to Robin. Because we love the Barnacle so much, we'll buy the contrived re-romance, but here's hoping the eventual conclusion to the Ted storyline is less surprising and more satisfying.
See Barney's proposal:
"Fringe," An Observer Kills Etta
Harsh. That's the only possible reaction to the death of Peter and Olivia's daughter, Etta, who, after having her last happy memory of her parents (that day in the park blowing dandelions before she was nabbed) read by an Observer, was shot and killed by Windmark. Her death juiced up the show's final season, in the episode appropriately titled "The Bullet That Saved the World," but coming on the heels of a too-short-lived reunion with her family, it was just … harsh.
Watch the scene:
"Dexter," Deb Kills LaGuerta
With Deb finding out Dexter is a serial killer, Dexter finding out his adopted sister is in love with him, Dexter falling in love with fellow serial killer Hannah, and LaGuerta hot on Dexter's trail, it was a pretty safe bet that at least one of those Miamians wasn't going to make it out of Season 7 alive. And while it did seem inevitable that LaGuerta was going to meet an unhappy ending, we still didn't imagine Deb would be the one to off her, even as Dex's sis was standing there in that storage cargo with her gun pointed at her boss.
Watch the scene (Warning: This clip contains adult language):