On most TV dramas, death is something to be saved for sweeps or season finales: a jarring event that makes viewers ponder the fragility of life, how much these characters mean to all of us, and the importance of haunting, acoustic reworkings of classic songs. But not in the world of crime-procedural shows. There, death happens every single week. Sometimes those deaths are standard-issue stabbings, shootings, and poisonings. Sometimes they are very brutal stabbings, shootings, and axings. Sometimes they are played for laughs (note the dead raccoon on the dead man’s face at right), and sometimes they are played to make you sick to your stomach (see the “enucleating” episode of Criminal Minds — slide No. 7). We sorted through the hundreds of murders committed on this season’s CSIs, NCISs, Law & Orders, and franchiseless procedurals to provide you with this slideshow of the ten most memorable and gruesome murders of the 2009–10 season, plus one bonus non-murder/ horrifying sex crime. Be warned, those reading while snacking at their desks: When we say gruesome, we mean gruesome.
The Crime: This is the body of Gomez, a short-order cook who got so tired of not getting credit for his delicious ribs, he killed his boss and fed him to his customers. Unfortunately, the boss man had hepatitis, and soon, so did all the people who ate him. But people who force people to eat people get what they deserve: Gomez burned himself to death while trying to catch a raccoon, who got petrified to his face.
Gruesome Factor: 2. Sure, cannibalism is creepy, but what’s played for laughs in Fried Green Tomatoes is never going to freak us out. Besides, Gomez died because of the raccoons, not the cannibalism, and the raccoon pictured is not that scary looking.
The Crime: The best Punky Pong player in the world winds up in a fast-food restaurant’s grease receptacle, after the father of the actual best Punky Pong player in the world, an autistic boy who was robbed of credit, puts him there.
Gruesome Factor: 3. That body probably wasn’t even the grossest thing in that dumpster.
The Crime: So, that’s not a worm, that’s a piece of linguine. It was found on the body of a businessman who likes “food splooshing parties.” (You know, where people have sex while rolling around in food. Duh.) Of course, being turned on by a good ol’ spaghetti bath is not why this young man died: Rather, he lost all of his clients’ money, and one of them poisoned him because of it.
Gruesome Factor: 3. Downgrade because we feel the show only half-committed to addressing two major topics in one episode: splooshing parties and Bernie Madoff. Had they made the victim older and more clearly Madoffian, the score would have been higher.
The Crime: A lingerie model is murdered, and she doesn’t have any underwear on! Turns out she is part of a “panty-sniffing” scene — though ultimately it’s her security-guard boyfriend who killed her.
Gruesome Factor: 4. Oh, CSI, we can’t believe you waited ten seasons to do the panty-sniffing episode.
The Crime: A dead millionaire with a love of band camp winds up in a washing machine after being bludgeoned to death with a really nice guitar.
Gruesome Factor: 4. Lots of spatter came out of that appliance, including the victim’s fake testicle. That said, a dead guy also showed up in the laundry on CSI: Miami this season, and on Castle last, so it’s obviously commonplace.
The Crime: A graduate student studying the “sociology of sexual bondage and domination” is found strung up in the park, handcuffed, and covered in caramel. Despite her involvement in an S&M ring for “research,” it’s her roommate who killed her.
Gruesome Factor: 5. All the laughs of Castle and all the caramel sauce in the world can’t really make this any less sordid.
: We’ve mentioned this Juggalo-centric episode before
. In it, a fan of a band a lot like the Insane Clown Posse kills a family of four because he’s suffering from PTSD.
: 6. It’s a family of four, he has an axe, and Juggalos are invoked.
The Crime: A serial “enucleator” is killing people and surgically removing their eyes. Because he is a taxidermist. Using those eyes to sub in for animal eyes.
Gruesome Factor 7. Would be higher, but there is worse to come.
The Crime: Though it initially appears that this shirtless young man brutally axed four people, he was really just cowering in a bathroom tripping on acid while they were hacked to death by a drug-dealing baddie.
Gruesome Factor: 8. We would run screaming into the street if we came across those bodies too.
The Crime: A crooked corporal working for a drug cartel slaughters a biker gang and cuts off their feet as proof. Then he gets killed and has his feet lopped off, too.
Gruesome Factor: 9. Give the guy who made those stumps a raise.
The Crime: This person has not actually been killed, but we are making an exception because it is a disabled mute woman who has been raped.
Gruesome factor: 10. A perfect score. What’s the opposite of “congratulations”?