Villains tend to make or break shows. Whether you love to hate, hate to love, or just plain love them, they just have a special way of making our protagonists’ lives hell on Earth.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and worst villains of the fall TV season.
Obviously, the best villains are the ones who provide the most entertainment value and are engaging in some way – but they’ve also got to pose a significant threat to our heroes and serve a purpose other than sneering menacingly into the camera.
Rowan Pope, Scandal
Anyone who watches Scandal knows Rowan Pope is one evil, sadistic motherfucker. Here’s a “short” list of grievances against him: he’s the head of a government assassin branch called B613. He gave the order to shoot down a plane with over 300 passengers in it. He’s an emotionally abusive, manipulative control freak, particularly with his daughter Olivia Pope (he nearly killed Olivia’s fiance once to force her to break off the engagement!). He also stuck Huck and Jake into The Hole and tortured them for ages, then later got a murder-addicted Huck to fall off the wagon. Most recently, he “recruited” (read: manipulated) another of Olivia’s friends into joining up with B613. And this is all within season three!
This guy gets shit done, and as despicable a person as he is, we can’t stop watching to see what hell he’s going to rain down next.
Fiona Goode, American Horror Story: Coven
Jessica Lange plays sometimes-coked-out Supreme witch Fiona Goode to utter, campy perfection on American Horror Story: Coven. Fiona is just so deliciously bad. Not to mention she delivers some of the best one-liners (“Who’s the baddest witch in town?”, “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme. It needs a new rug.”). In the very first episode of the new season, Fiona digs up the body of murderous racist Madame Delphine LaLaurie, based on a real woman, so she can learn the secret of LaLaurie’s immortality. Right away, that should tell you all you need to know about Fiona. But the buck doesn’t stop there. Through flashbacks we learn exactly how Fiona came to be the Supreme of her coven, and one of the girls at Miss Robichaux’s Academy learns firsthand what Fiona thinks about being replaced.
Her most recent transgression involved manipulating Gabourey Sidibe’s character into framing, and subsequently burning one of her rivals at the stake.
Headless Horseman, Sleepy Hollow
It doesn’t get much better than a headless mercenary from the 18th century, especially when that headless mercenary turns out to be Death itself, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Besides looking pretty tricked out in his Revolutionary-era uniform and atop his pretty white red-eyed horse, the Horseman’s villainous exploits around Sleepy Hollow include going around decapitating people (cause he’s obviously got a complex about his own looks) and wielding a M16.
In the latest episode of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman was captured by Abbie Mills, Ichabod Crane, and Captain Irving with the intent of figuring out how to stop him permanently. They called upon an undead Andy Brooks, played by John Cho, to communicate with Death. Turns out the Headless Horseman has got serious beef with Ichabod Crane… and boy is it personal.
Jamie Moriarty, Elementary
We definitely haven’t seen the last of Elementary‘s hybrid version of Professor James Moriarty and Irene Adler – Jamie Moriarty, played by Natalie Dormer. She was arrested at the end of season 1, after we found out that Irene Adler was just an alias she was using and that her true identity was that of Moriarty – quickly turning from damsel-in-distress to world-renowned criminal mastermind before our very eyes. When Sherlock asks about the man posing as Moriarty over the phone, she explains that he is one of her lieutenants and that, “He has over the years played the role repeatedly, and with great conviction. More often than not he’s done so to protect my identity – other times because I suspected a potential client might struggle with my gender. As if men had a monopoly on murder.”
This season, Natalie Dormer appeared in a voice over as Sherlock read a love letter that he’d received from Moriarty in prison. Dormer is expected to reprise her role this season.
Councilman Jamm, Parks and Recreation
Councilman Jeremy Jamm, played by Jon Glaser, always shows up to make Leslie’s life a little bit miserable, like spearheading the recall campaign against her or sabotaging her wedding to Ben. He lives to annoy Leslie and Ron, so we have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the character. He’s downright hilarious in small doses (we certainly don’t want him cropping up in every single episode). Despite his best efforts, he always gets his comeuppance in the end, like the time Tom pushed him into a pool or when Leslie dumped a margarita on his head.
Yes, Jamm is the worst, but what makes him such a great villain is his sheer ridiculousness. He’s even got a catchphrase – “You just got Jamm-ed.”
What makes a a bad guy The Worst, you ask? Well, it’s difficult to pin sucky villains down to only one or two character traits, but here’s what our selections have in common: uncompelling, wishy-washy, and/or overly cheesy.
The Red Queen, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland
Both the Red Queen and Jafar (what with the ridiculous Jeri curl and metaphorical mustache twirling) kind of suck. In this case, the Red Queen might just take the cake as the ultimate worst – only because we’ve got a soft spot for Sayid from Lost, aka Naveen Andrews. She’s got some of the worst outfits in the entire OUAT franchise. Isn’t it bad enough that her, er, voluminous lips are horribly distracting?
Her backstory isn’t all that fascinating, either. The Red Queen is really a commoner named Anastasia; she and her former lover, Will Scarlett aka the Knave of Hearts, ran away to Wonderland to start a life together. Wonderland was far from the paradise that Anastasia hoped it would be, unfortunately. Circumstances eventually led to Anastasia marrying the king and taking up as the Red Queen. Yawn.
Jafar, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland
Okay, so we couldn’t resist adding Jafar to this list, after all. Can you blame us? There’s only so much cheesiness we can take in a character who’s supposed to be a nefarious baddie, and this guy takes the cheese-cake. He inspires more eye-rolling than boot-quaking. Here’s a gif that sums up exactly why Jafar is one of the worst villains on TV. Enough said.
Rumplestiltskin, Once Upon A Time
This guy keeps popping up in every single fairy tale, from “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” to “Peter Pan”. He’s the fairy godmother who helped Cinderella get to the ball, he’s Belle’s true love, he’s the crocodile who took Captain Hook’s hand, and his father is none other than Peter Pan himself (WTF!). All these crossovers have gotten a little too tedious for us. Now it’s just expected for Rumpelstiltskin, or The Evil Queen for that matter, to be involved in every fairy tale in some form or another. We wouldn’t be surprised if Rumpelstiltskin showed up in an episode as Mrs. Doubtfire, as well.
The Governor, The Walking Dead
After massacring a bunch of Woodbury citizens – his own people – and then disappearing at the end of season 3, we learned in “Internment” that The Governor is very much alive. And before that, he was killing soldiers to steal their supplies, abducting Glenn and Maggie, threatening the latter with sexual violence, attempting to kill Michonne (and this was before she took out his eye), kidnapping Andrea and holding her hostage in his torture chamber, and leading a raid on Rick’s prison.
The most recent episode of The Walking Dead, “Live Bait”, was Governor-centric and meant to fill us in on what this deranged maniac has been up to this entire time. By showing the Governor befriending a family of four living in an apartment, the episode attempted to humanize the former leader of Woodbury. Unfortunately, the episode was one of the weakest yet – and we can’t quite bring ourselves to care much about The Governor’s antics in season 4. The character is long past his expiration date.
Inspector Shine, Ripper Street
If we were basing this list purely off of villainous acts, then Inspector Shine would probably count as one of the better ones simply because this guy is absolutely evil. After all, his introductory episode had him betraying a woman he claimed to love right after she killed her brother to save his life, and then going on to murder a fellow police officer (and attempting to pin the crime on someone else.) He also killed one of the second series’ nicest and most innocent characters, Joseph Merrick, for witnessing said crime.
The reason why Shine gets lumped in with the “worst villains” is because he’s not at all compelling to watch. Even hating him is a drag. For all the evilness that oozes out of his pores, Inspector Shine comes off as a boring, cardboard cutout copper-gone-wrong Big Bad. At this point we’re waiting for his inevitable takedown just so the guy can disappear from our TV screens forever.