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8 TV Big Bads It’s Impossible Not To Root For

By / 01.07.14

boyd crowder

Justified is back.

Oops. I got that all wrong: JUSTIFIED IS BACK. *does happy Kermit the Frog dance* Tonight’s episode is spectacular, because all episodes of Justified are spectacular, but this one’s especially spectacular, diving right into the season-long arc while both introducing a new group of characters and catching up with old favorites, like Dewey and Wynn. The first episode feels like a midseason episode, which bodes (boyds?) well for the entire season.

Which also means TV’s slickest villain is back. It feels wrong even calling Boyd Crowder a bad guy, but heroin distributors who carry guns the way us normal people do cell phones aren’t exactly model citizens. All the credit in the world goes to Walton Goggins then, who inspires as much loving devotion as “hero” Raylan Givens. In honor of JUSTIFIED IS BACK, here are 10 TV villains you can’t help but root for.

1. Silvio Dante (The Sopranos)

Silvio Dante

Who he is: mobster.

Why we root for him: the pop culture-spewing Silvio is the most likable member of the Sopranos crime family, which is to say, he didn’t beat up a woman in a parking lot or get addicted to heroin or EAT ALL THE F*CKING GABAGOOL. No, he prefers to do his murdering in private, like in, say, the forest or on a boat. While the rest of the group explodes, the even-keeled Silvio keeps calm, killing only when he “has” to. He’s also achingly human: when Tony’s in the hospital, Silvo sits at “the big chair,” only to have his reign end when his asthma kicks in and he himself ends up getting looked after by the doctors. But mostly, it’s the hair. For bad guys, it’s always the hair.

2. Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal)

mads hannibal

Who he is: law-skirting cannibal.

Why we root for him: we know what’s going to happen to Hannibal, eventually. That’s a part of the show’s appeal: learning how Mads Mikkelsen becomes Anthony Hopkins. It’s up for the rest of the show’s universe to catch up. So a part of what makes Hannibal, both the show and the titular character, so delicious to watch is seeing the likes of Will Graham putting the pieces together; the other major part is how effortlessly charming Hannibal is, as a psychiatrist, as a host, as a cook. THOSE MEALS. I would let Hannibal cook my best friend if it meant I could indulge in one of his dishes. I mean, sure, there COULD be human mixed in there, too, but I take that risk every time I eat at Chili’s.

3. Clay Davis (The Wire)

clay davis

Who he is: two-timing politician.

Why we root for him: There’s no one true villain on The Wire. That’s kind of the point of The Wire. For instance, while you might not think of Omar Little as a bad guy, he’s not exactly a hero, either; reduced to a single-sentence description, he’s a “stick-up man, frequently robbing street-level drug dealers,” and that comes from no less an authority than WIKIPEDIA. Omar lives outside the law, but he’s honest, which is why he’s arguably The Wire‘s most popular character: he sticks to a moral code…unlike Clay Davis, who’s a money-hungry bad guy in a position of power that’s meant to do good. And yet, because Isiah Whitlock, Jr. plays the crooked Clay with an irresistibly light touch, with a non-threatening voice that sounds like Stringer Bell on helium, he inspires YouTubers to spout, “Lmfao….great character! Clay Davis was hilarious in this series.” Well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit.

4. Ben Linus (Lost)

ben linus

Who he is: worst father ever

Why we root for him: Because he’s creepy and manipulative and mysterious and an egomaniac, and yet:

ben linus ham

HE’S SO ADORABLE. Can’t argue with that.

5. The Mayor (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

the mayor

Who he is: SNAKE DEMON

Why we root for him: Angel and Spike, two of the most popular characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, were, at one point, terrible people, minus the “people” part. But over time, they softened, assuming they hadn’t just had sex, which is a different kind of soft. That’s why every season, creator Joss Whedon and his writers introduced a new Big Bad, from the wimpy Master to the mashup First. Their greatest creation came in season three, in the form of Richard Wilkins, the mayor with a reptile smile that threatens to swallow Sunnydale whole (literally). He was a man of fascinating contradictions: he hates swearing, but he wants to take over the world; he’s a family man, but he wants to take over the world; he’s a goofball, but he wants to take over the world. The Mayor is your overly polite dad, with an unexpected dark side. Plus, he’s not Adam. F*ck Adam.

6. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)

gus fring

Who he is: drug kingpin who slashes and poisons those who get in his way.

Why we root for him: mild-mannered Gus is so prim and proper and gracious, he’s able to hide in plain sight. He’s a well-respected businessman, who takes time out of his busy schedule to support local law enforcement, even as they’re the ones unknowingly trying to track him down. Before he met Walter White, and even for a little time after, he was brilliant at what he did, and we respect someone who’s impressively adept at their job. On a show filled with larger-than-life scumbags, like Tuco Salamanca, the calculated Gus tries to keep his secrets and plans packed as tightly as his ironed shirt in his pleated pants. Then he stops listening to his own advice, and takes a risk on Walter White. His predictably made him a great character; his unpredictably made him a great villain.

7. Lucille Bluth (Arrested Development)

Lucille Bluth

Lucille Bluth has two things going for her: 1) For years, she pulled the family’s financial strings without anyone realizing it was her, and 2) she’s a fantastic drunk. And who doesn’t love a fantastic drunk?

8. Everyone on Justified

wynn duffy

Who they are: Nazis, drug dealers, racists, murderers, etc. etc. etc.

Why we root for them: No show on TV has a deeper reserve of charismatic villains than Justified. The Crowders, the Crowes, Wynn Duffy, the Bennetts, Ellstin Limehouse, Robert Quarles, the Tonins, as well as the all various one-shot characters Raylan has, well, shot over the years. It’s unfair to the rest of TV that they have to compete with Dewey’s kidneys or Wynn’s pun-tastic winnebago or Boyd’s hair. See? It always comes back to the hair.

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