Portrayed by: Nina Dobrev
Dies in: "The Departed" (Season 3, Episode 22)

A key moment in season two of The CW’s highly underrated Vampire Diaries draws the lines clearly: Elena Gilbert may be caught up over two vampires and BFF with others, but she’s got other goals in life besides being an immortal creature of the night, slave to blood like a crack fiend. This is what makes her so much more appealing than other vamp-drama heroines who come up short in the agency department—that and her ride-or-die selflessness for her friends.

Those two traits become her undoing when she sacrifices herself to save her friend Matt, the last relatively innocent person on the series. Elena would rather die than see a friend die for her. It’s dumb, admirable, and also rendered moot because unknowingly, she had vampire blood in her system at the time. Elena survives the accident in the last way that she wanted too, ending that season on a game-changing note that we were sure the series wouldn’t attempt until like, season eight. We’ve never felt sorrier for a character that was, technically, still alive.