Most Upsetting Character Deaths, Ranked

In The Rookie, deaths and other tragedies are to be expected, as these elements are part and parcel of any police procedural drama. The Rookie protagonist John Nolan has managed to come out of each shift relatively unscathed, but not everyone in the cast has been so lucky, whichever side of the law they may serve. Many of these deaths are shocking plot twists that no one saw coming, and each packs an emotional punch.


Indeed, while not too many characters from The Rookie cast die throughout its five seasons, this only makes each of The Rookie‘s deaths all the more upsetting, crushing, satisfying, or a mix of both. Moreover, certain deaths have left a bigger impact on viewers than others, leading to memorable moments in the long-running TV series.

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8 Caleb Wright

Caleb Wright pointing at gun at Lucy in The Rookie.

The protégé of Rosalind Dyer, Caleb Wright had an extremely quick run on the show, appearing only in two episodes of The Rookie season 2. Under the guise of dating Lucy Chen, Caleb drugged and abducted the rookie officer, and then buried her alive at an unknown location. When John Nolan and Nyla Harper finally found Caleb, Harper fatally shot Caleb through a window. What made this one of the most upsetting The Rookie deaths is that, at the time, only Caleb knew where Chen was still buried alive.

This is why Caleb’s death was both satisfying and distressing, a memorable fate despite the character appearing only briefly in The Rookie. Nolan and the others eventually found Chen despite Caleb succumbing to his injuries. However, this takes nothing away from how Caleb managed to cause so much distress in so little time, especially in the moments immediately after he died. Rosalind certainly picked the right man for the job.

7 Rosalind Dyer

Rosalind Dyer in The Rookie.

Intelligent, beautiful, and extremely cunning, Rosaline Dyer was a cold-blooded murderer in the vein of Hannibal Lecter. Rosalind herself was responsible for several onscreen and off-screen The Rookie deaths, and she was inarguably the single most despicable person in a show filled with violent criminals. However, whether she’s helping the police find the bodies of her own victims or verbally sparring with John Nolan, Rosalind filled the screen with her gentle but dominating cadence, presence, and body language. It was clear that Rosalind was one of the most intelligent The Rookie characters.

Though Rosalind’s death in The Rookie season 5 means the world is safer, it also took away one of the most beloved villains in crime series history. It’s even more upsetting that John was about to arrest Rosalind when she was taken out by a sniper, as John clearly had the right idea. Apart from how taking her back to prison would’ve given Rosalind her due karmic punishment, there was also clearly more vital information to be gleaned from her criminal knowledge. Moreover, as the last character played by the great Annie Wersching, Rosalind Dyer remains deeply embedded in viewers’ minds.

6 Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong at the stadium in The Rookie.

It’s hard to think of Amrstrong’s death as heartbreaking given that he was one of the most powerful and major antagonists in The Rookie. Yet, his death still manages to come as a disappointment in The Rookie season 3, episode 1, “Consequences.” Armstrong spends the entirety of The Rookie season 2 convincing both Nolan and the audience that he can be trusted. He made a few questionable decisions when he was first introduced, but his actions were easily explained away and disregarded. Armstrong accomplished so many noble things, that in some ways, it’s hard to believe that he’s been a villain the entire time.

Nick Armstrong’s kindness was clearly a way of diverting suspicion, but he also traded his life for Lucy’s when she’s buried alive. If Armstrong’s truly as focused on self-preservation as he’s later revealed to be, his sacrifice in The Rookie season 2, episode 11, “Day of Death” doesn’t make much sense. While Armstrong’s murder inadvertently saves Nolan’s life, it’s not unreasonable to mourn for the character viewers thought he was.

5 Erin Cole

Erin Cole in The Rookie

Erin Cole isn’t in the series for long, but her murder is especially disheartening due to the circumstances that led to it. As one of the rookies who trained with Nolan, Lucy, and Jackson in the academy, she shares a special bond with the main characters. In face, even though she was actually working with Armstrong, this only ultimately gave Erin Cole one of the most upsetting The Rookie deaths.

While Erin is responsible for her own actions, Armstrong has a way of manipulating others and backing them into a corner. Erin is clearly going through an internal struggle, as she even points the gun at herself in one of the best The Rookie episodes, “The Q Word.” Regardless of her begrudging alliance, Erin didn’t deserve to die, regardless of how Erin herself decided how she would go.

4 Chris Rios

Chris in a competition with Jackson in The Rookie.

Like Erin, the rookies befriend Chris Rios during their time at the Academy. Chris also wasn’t too heavily featured in the show, since he’s assigned to a different division, but he quickly became a likable character in The Rookie. Truthfully, the show didn’t suffer that much from his death, as Chris wasn’t someone that viewers had time to form an emotional attachment with. However, it still remains among the most distressing of The Rookie’s deaths, mainly due to the impact it had on Jackson.

Jackson and Chris were in constant competition with each other, yet it clearly all came from a place of love. The two were portrayed to be close, and Jackson was devastated by the loss of his friend. Moreover, in one of the most heartbreaking scenes of The Rookie, Lucy laid beside Jackson in bed and held him while crying.

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3 Evelyn Nolan

Evelyn Nolan in The Rookie

John Nolan’s mother, Evelyn, was a known con artist who excelled not only at deception, but also at making her son’s life more difficult. Evelyn appeared in only two episodes of The Rookie, and this doesn’t even include the episode in which she died. In The Rookie season 5, episode 14, “Death Sentence,” John spent an entire day ignoring his mother’s calls and demands to get paid for staying away from his wedding. When John answered a call from a different number, he was informed that Evelyn Nolan died of a heart attack.

Evelyn’s passing was unique amongThe Rookie deaths for how it made such a huge impact even though it happened completely offscreen. Adding insult to injury was how John later found out that Evelyn was dealing heroin using shampoo bottles. In the end, the bank foreclosed on her house, and John had her cremated in a brief non-ceremony. Not since the death of Captain Zoe Andersen has John Nolan been so profoundly affected by a death in the family.

2 Captain Zoe Andersen

Captain Zoe Andersen in The Rookie

Because of how it was filmed and addressed by The Rookie, Captain Andersen’s death elicited a devastating and emotional response from audiences and cast members alike. Indeed, Andersen was a well-loved and respected police captain, and she fought to make a real change within the force. Captain Zoe Andersen ruled through compassion rather than fear, yet refused to let her officers take advantage of the power they were given. Few other The Rookie deaths have had as much of an impact as Andersen’s.

While Andersen didn’t hesitate to call people out when they made a mistake, she also made sure to give praise where it was due. Andersen died saving Nolan’s life, and his reaction was gut-wrenching. With heavy hearts, the LAPD saluted their captain as her body was removed from the scene. Undoubtedly, Andersen was the most beloved of the supporting cast members of The Rookie. Nothing was ever the same after Andersen passed, but Tim pointed out that Andersen’s life—not her death—could be used to make them better cops.

1 Jackson West

Jackson in the role call room in The Rookie.

Although it’s a heartbreaking disappointment, Jackson’s death was a plot twist that everyone saw coming in The Rookie. Viewers grew suspicious when Jackson was absent from promotional material, including the trailer and the show poster for The Rookie season 4. Additionally, actor Titus Makin disappeared from social media for months, creating more cause for concern. While the circumstances of his departure remain foggy, this is one of The Rookie’s deaths which wasn’t initially intended to be part of the storyline.

Jackson West is killed off within the first few minutes of The Rookie season 4, episode 1, “Life and Death,” and is only featured from the back due to the actor’s absence. Jackson’s friends watch the surveillance footage as he is fatally shot from behind and stuffed into a trunk. It’s a brutal way for such a youthful and vibrant character to go out, and it’s the biggest loss the show has suffered. Angela naming her baby after Jackson was a heartwarming gesture, yet nothing could fill the hole Jackson left behind.

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