The ever-evolving story lines of our favorite TV shows call for character deaths and exits every season. Yet viewers can't help but feel a kick in the gut when a favorite character gets the boot.
Here are the biggest TV deaths and casting exits of 2017.
Even when viewers knew Connie Britton signed on for only 10 episodes of the freshly-picked up CMT series Nashville, that still didn't stop the shock and disbelief from seeing the image of country music icon Rayna James lying on her death bed.
Britton and Nashville showrunner Marshall Herskovitz maintain that it was a mutual decision for her to leave the show.
“When CMT picked up the show [after it was canceled by ABC], Connie came to [co-showrunner] Ed Zwick and myself and said that she felt inner conflict. She felt that creatively, she wanted to move on from the show, and she was very torn because she loved the show," Herskovitz told Variety in February. "She loved the people on the show and it was like a family, but after four years, she felt she needed a different challenge, which is something I really understand as an artist. So I really supported the idea that Connie felt she needed to move onto other challenges.”
Martin Henderson was written out of ABC's Shondaland drama in its current 14th season when his character, Nathan, was reunited with his presumed dead fiancée.
Hinton's Stephanie, meanwhile, exited in the season 13 finale after her character was badly burned in a hospital fire and she opted to do something different professionally. At the time, Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter to express her thoughts on Stephanie's departure.
"Actors evolve differently and when an actor like Jerrika comes to me and says she wants to try something new creatively, I like to honor that," Rimes wrote.
"Jerrika has shared so much of herself with Stephanie and I am incredibly proud of the journey we've taken together. While I'm sad to see Stephanie leave Grey Sloan Hospital, I am excited to see what's next for Jerrika," Rhimes said.
All that glitters is not always gold. Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park both proved that when they left Hawaii Five-0 ahead of its eighth season after holding out for equal pay with stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan.
"That was a really important part of my life for seven years, and I'm really grateful to CBS and everyone involved with the show for giving me the opportunity," Kim said. "I know [the CBS execs] and I like them, and I'm grateful to them for the words that they said on the panel the other day. That said, it's possible to be grateful for the opportunity and respectful of the colleagues and the people that I work with and still maintain a steadfast sense of your self-worth."
Kim is now executive producing The Good Doctor, which was ordered for a full season by ABC.
After four seasons starring as Detective Erin Lindsay on the top-rating Chicago P.D., Sophia Bush made the decision to leave the show.
“[It] took me a long time and a lot of hard work to get out of that show,” the actress said of her decision. “I left because I wanted to. End of story.” She has since signed a talent and development deal with 20th Century Fox Television.
Jason Beghe, who portrays Sergeant Hank Voight, recently apologized for "intimidating" and "sexual" behavior on-set, which many speculate was the reason for Bush's exit.
"I am deeply sorry for my behavior, which I know has been hurtful to my friends and colleagues,” Beghe said. “I have struggled with anger issues for some time, and over the past year, I have been working with a coach to help me learn how to mitigate my temper. It’s an ongoing process, and it has been a humbling one.”
Eggold was an original series regular on the NBC procedural whose character was spun off last season before returning to the flagship. His character, Tom Keen, was killed off in season five when he died in a fight with a blacklister. After the episode aired, Eggold looked back on his time on the show with ET.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have played a role with such a uniquely dynamic evolution," Eggold said. "I'm grateful for the time spent working with Megan, James and the entire cast. I'm thankful to the incredibly hard-working crew for consistently making the show better. Sony and NBC have both been deeply supportive, conscientious and adept in managing the show.
"I will miss this TV family immensely and diligently look forward to the opportunity to embody new characters and tell new stories."
Fans may have been previously preoccupied with "Justice for Barb," but following season two of the Netflix breakout, it's all about "Justice for Bob" — Bob Newby, superhero, that is.
The Goonies and Lord of the Rings actor brought nostalgic warmth to the throwback thriller, only to provide the season with its chilliest moment when he was ripped to shreds by monsters from the Upside Down.
"I think Sean, more than anyone else that came in this season, completely shaped this character," The Duffer Brothers, who created the series, told Variety. "It was probably, on the page, the least interesting, and not specifically meant to be as important of a role as it ended up being. What he brought to the performance completely elevated it and inspired us as we wrote."
"We were able to evolve his character as we we went along, and he just ended up being so great," they added.
Sonequa Martin-Green traded in a life living in zombie land to one in space, as she left The Walking Dead to take on the starring role of First Officer Michael Burnham of the Starship USS Discovery in Star Trek: Discovery.
Martin-Green’s Star Trek role was already rumored before her death on TWD, with even the official Star Trek social media accounts describing it as “the worst-kept secret in the universe,” which led to plenty of speculation about the fate of Martin-Green’s TWD character, Sasha, leading into the season finale.
While the CW series dropped many hints about the death of Brett Dier's character, Michael, many doubted the self-deprecating telenovela would actually go through with the death of a major character.
“Playing Michael has been a life changing experience, and I’m so thankful for it,” Dier tweeted after the Season 3 episode aired, calling the cast and crew "the most incredible people" he'd ever worked with.
“This cast and crew, writers and directors I will never forget. You guys are truly incredible people," he added." Thank you Jennie Urman for letting me wear his shoes. So grateful for you.”
The mass exodus of Jennifer Morrison (Emma), Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) and Jared Gilmore (Henry), as well as Emilie de Ravin (Belle) and Rebecca Mader (Wicked Witch/Zelena) were written out of Once Upon a Time for season 7, causing the Disney-themed show to hit the reset button in a major way.
The next season revolved around Regina (Lana Parrilla), Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle), and Hook (Colin O'Donoghue), and added five new actresses to the show.
As part of its second season reboot strategy, Kevin Can Wait fired female lead Erinn Hayes, who played Donna, the wife to Kevin James' central character. On-screen, the network killed off Donna and brought in James' former King of Queens co-star Leah Rimini as the show jumped forward in time.
Gillen's Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish was billed as the person pulling the strings behind the people pulling the strings. And although viewers may have thought the master manipulator in Westeros was safe he was bested by the Stark children he always underestimated.
With allegiances constantly wavering, it's a wonder that Littlefinger made it this far in Game of Thrones. He was one of the most consistent villains in the series, and now he’s gone — so now that the biggest threat from within the North has been eliminated, House Stark should be united against the one true enemy. The Night King is coming. Winter is here.
For those who read the Liane Moriarty novel on which Big Little Lies was based, the death of Skarsgard's abusive Perry Wright wasn't much of a shock. But for fans who first discovered this California thriller through HBO, the death scene capped the end of a ride with enough twists and turns to rival its Pacific Coast Highway setting.
"It was tough. It's a very physical moment," Skarsgard said of filming the death scene. "But it was exciting and fun because we were all together. Up until that point, it had been a lot of separate stories. Those ladies are amazing women and so much fun to be around. So it was a fun two weeks of night shoots with all of them. We were all excited about the ending and how it all comes together."
In true This Is Us fashion, the NBC drama killed off Randall's biological father just after Randall found him and established a relationship with him.
After the season one finale, Ron Cephas Jones told Entertainment Weekly that he learned while playing William that life is "very, very precious."
"That was on my conscience for a long time and it’s still today,” Jones said. “Every morning that I wake up and I’m breathing, I can feel it and take a moment to say, you know, ‘Thank God I’m alive for another day.’ And that’s what that episode and the character and the whole journey of William taught me, and hopefully a lot of other people are feeling the same way.”