15 Unforgettable TV Scenes That Left Us Reeling

I'm definitely a “TV show” person versus a “movie” person because I love the opportunity to grow and develop with the characters over an extended period. 

For people like myself and others who enjoy the ride, certain scenes have hit harder for that very reason. The following list of scenes have stuck with viewers in one way or another, to the point that they became discussion-worthy on an online forum dedicated to pop culture and TV. 

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S5, Ep.16, “The Body”)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Series
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

In this episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy discovers her mother's lifeless body on the living room sofa. This scene is deeply impactful due to its raw and unflinching portrayal of death and grief. The absence of music and the long, silent moments capture the overwhelming shock and sorrow, resonating with viewers by depicting the profound emotional impact of loss in a way that felt incredibly real and relatable.

2. The Haunting of Hill House (S1, Ep.8, “Witness Marks”)

Kate Siegel in The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Image Credit: FlanaganFilm.

In “Witness Marks,” spectators focused on Theo's breakdown as the part that bothered them the most. As a character gifted with psychic sensitivity, her breakdown is deeply connected to her ability to feel and absorb the intense emotions and experiences within Hill House. It unfolds in poignant moments: absorbing Nell's death, an angry outburst, and a confrontational exchange with her father. These scenes expose the emotional toll of her psychic abilities, which had become overwhelming.

3. Stranger Things (S4, Ep.4, “Chapter Four: Dear Billy”)

Stranger Things S4-Ep4 21 Laps Entertainment Sadie Sink
Image Credit: 21 Laps Entertainment.

“Dear Billy” focuses on Max Mayfield's battle with inner demons while facing Vecna's threat. It garnered critical acclaim for its standout qualities, including Max's character development, the impactful use of Kate Bush's “Running Up That Hill” in a climactic scene, and the carefully explored themes like depression and taking one's own life. Plenty of commenters said they have experienced this kind of moment of triumph when you decide to push through despite difficult circumstances. For this reason, this scene was deeply engaging. 

4. How I Met Your Mother (S6, Ep.13, “Bad News”)

How I Met Your Mother TV Series
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

Having expressed his concerns to his parents about possibly being unable to have children, Marshall is waiting to hear about his test results. After an anxiety-filled day, he gets an unexpected dose of good news about his fertility. However, the happiness is short-lived as he tries to reach his father but learns he had a fatal heart attack. Lily breaks the devastating news, and a shocked and grief-stricken Marshall breaks down in her arms, expressing his unpreparedness for the loss. It was so touching, especially for those who have lost a parent before. 

5. Game of Thrones (S3, Ep.9, “The Rains of Castamere”)

Game of Thrones TV Series
Image Credit: HBO Entertainment.

In the GOT episode, “The Rains of Castamere,” the Red Wedding begins with the shocking murder of Talisa, shattering Robb Stark's hopes for a peaceful future and disrupting his family's legacy. Simultaneously, Catelyn witnesses her last living son, Robb, meet a tragic end. This pivotal scene immediately alters the series, reshaping character fates and the power dynamics among Westeros' noble houses.

The Red Wedding's shock emanated from its unexpected nature, as Robb's seemingly stable alliance with House Frey crumbled abruptly. The brutal betrayal, accompanied by the unexpected deaths of Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn Stark, was particularly noteworthy due to the show's history of killing major characters, leaving viewers shaken.

6. Schitt's Creek (S6, Ep.8, “The Presidential Suite”)

Schitt’s Creek
Image Credit: Not a Real Company Productions.

Ted's return to Schitt's Creek marked a significant moment. Throughout the season, viewers witnessed Alexis and Ted's individual growth and saw their relationship evolve, making viewers root for their love story. The pair professed their love, but they amicably decided it would be best to break up, considering they were heading in different directions with their respective dream jobs.

The breakup, while bittersweet, showcased the realization that sometimes, love and personal aspirations must coexist. It also sparked a debate about whether it was the right thing to do when choosing success over love.

7. Mad Men (S7, Ep.13, “The Milk and Honey Route”)

Kiernan Shipka in Mad Men (2007)
Image Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC/Weiner Bros. Productions.

One user summarized the impact of this episode perfectly. She said it was heartbreaking to watch the relationship between the two characters shatter because of cancer. It really hits home when you allow yourself to feel what the character was feeling, and it's something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. 

8. ER (S6, Ep.13, “Be Still My Heart”) 

Noah Wyle and Kellie Martin in ER (1994)
Image Credit: Constant C Productions.

This episode of ER was meaningful to fans for various reasons. For many, it highlighted a rare and unexpected side of Romano's character. Known for his arrogance and abrasive personality, this episode presents a more likable and relatable version. The scene where he and Corday desperately try to save a patient is particularly heartbreaking, as it shows their vulnerability and dedication as medical professionals in the face of a challenging situation.

Aside from humanizing a typically disliked character, it evoked empathy for the doctors' emotional struggle while dealing with a life-or-death situation.

9. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (S4, Ep.24, “Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse”)

Will Smith and James Avery in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)
Image Credit: Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment.

If you grew up in the 90s, there's a good chance you heard about the infamous “dad” episode from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will's father, Lou, who had been absent for 14 years, shows up and spends quality time with him. Will is overjoyed by this unexpected reunion, cherishing the time spent with his dad. However, the heart-wrenching moment comes when Lou abruptly decides to leave again, devastating Will. Will's famous line during this scene is, “How come he don't want me, man?”

This powerful line adds to the impact of the moment, bringing to light the emotional turmoil of abandonment and the painful realization that Will's father has once again let him down. Uncle Phil's comforting presence brings even more depth to the moment.

10. One Tree Hill (S3, Ep.16, “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept”)

Sophia Bush in One Tree Hill (2003)
Image Credit: Tollin/Robbins Productions.

Shockingly, the high school faces a crisis when a student brings a gun to school, resulting in a lockdown. While the whole episode is trying, the scene that sticks out is that intense moment when Keith is trying to talk Jimmy down from taking his own life during the shooting. Jimmy opens up about his pain and the desire for acceptance. It's clear that what he did was wrong, and there's no excuse for resorting to violence, even if he felt mistreated. Still, his words hit me hard, and Keith's tragic death added to the emotional impact of the scene.

11. Boy Meets World (S4, Ep.21, “Cult Fiction”)

Anthony Tyler Quinn and Rider Strong in Boy Meets World (1993)
Image Credit: Michael Jacobs Productions.

As a fan of Boy Meets World, which was an excellent sitcom that explored life as a teen, complete with drama, comedy, and more, it's hard to forget when Shawn gets involved with a cult. The Matthews family tries to rescue him, and there's a pivotal moment when Cory comes in, and he pulls Shawn into a hug and says, “This is a hug. This is what you do when you care about someone.” It's such a touching scene that shows the importance of love and friendship, making it a memorable and heartwarming moment in the episode.

12. The West Wing (S2, Ep.21, “18th & Potomac”)

Kathryn Joosten in The West Wing (1999)
Image Credit: John Wells Productions.

The choice to write off Mrs. Landingham had a deep impact on the fanbase, leading to a strong and lasting negative reaction. Devotees of The West Wing found it difficult to accept the departure of this cherished character, known for her sharp humor, kindness, and unwavering commitment, which had endeared her to a vast audience. Sadly, her character's demise occurred off-screen as she was involved in a collision with an intoxicated driver while returning to the White House. Not only were we NOT ready for that, we missed her dearly.

13. Grey's Anatomy (S5, Ep.24, “Now or Never”)

Ellen Pompeo and T.R. Knight in Grey's Anatomy (2005)
Image Credit: Shondaland Entertainment One.

As an avid Grey's Anatomy lover, this one was almost too much to bear! In the scene “Now or Never,” the unidentified patient known as John Doe manages to trace the numbers “007” on Meredith's hand. This cryptic reference harkens back to George O'Malley's nickname from the show's first season, earned after he froze during his initial surgery.

Meredith has a sudden realization that John Doe is, in fact, George. She hurriedly informs the other doctors, and they rush him into the operating room. Tragically, despite their efforts, George succumbs to brain swelling and passes away, marking an unforgettable moment in the series.

14. This Is Us (S2, Ep.14, “Super Bowl Sunday”)

Mandy Moore in This Is Us
Image Credit: Rhode Island Ave. Productions.

In “Super Bowl Sunday,” the heart-wrenching scene unfolds as Rebecca briefly leaves the hospital room to deal with logistical matters. During her absence, Jack experiences a sudden and fatal “widowmaker” heart attack. The doctor delivers the devastating news to Rebecca, who initially goes into shock. 

Upon seeing Jack's lifeless body, she conveys the heartbreaking news to Miguel, Kate, and Randall, before letting out a scream alone in her car.

15. Dexter (S4, Ep.12, “The Getaway”)

Michael C. Hall in Dexter (2006)
Image Credit: Clyde Phillips Productions.

Dexter contemplates quitting his murderous ways, driven by a desire to be a better family man than his nemesis, Arthur. After convincing Rita to leave town, Dexter captures Arthur, emphasizing their differences. Before Dexter kills him with a framing hammer, Arthur cryptically tells him, “It's already over.” 

Source: (Reddit)