5 Villains that Are the Best of the Worst
Everyone loves a hero. They’re benevolent, romantic, have super-human powers, and are beholden to rescue kittens from trees and damsels in distress. They can bench-press eighteen wheelers and usually have amazing hair, i.e. Wonder Woman and Captain America. Big whoop. What about the other guys? What about the bad samaritans, the butchers, and morally conflicted characters driven to violence after a staggering loss? What about the men and women compelled by love and vengeance? What about the villains?
These are the characters that tentatively toe (or boldly step over without looking back) the line between good and evil. And while the world needs heroes, some of our favorite television shows, movies, and video games would have us believe that (sometimes) it’s good to be a little bad. This is the reason Suicide Squad is one of the most anticipated films of 2016, and that Darth Vader and Loki have become household names. But Loki and Darth aren’t the only ones who make being bad look kind of cool. The following is a list of some of my favorite morally conflicted and, in some cases, downright evil characters to keep an eye on.
A brief heads up first: this post has spoilers for Preacher, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Luther, and Game of Thrones. Read on at your own risk.
1. Proinsais Cassidy, Preacher
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the word ‘vampire’? Twilight? How dare you. I have been a fan of vampires and vampire lore since long before Twilight came onto the scene and ruined them for everyone. So when AMC announced that they were turning Preacher, a cult comic from the 90s, into a TV show I was hopeful that maybe, maybe someone would finally make vampires great again.
Preacher tells the story of Reverend Jesse Custer, a small town minister who is losing his faith. When Jesse becomes the vessel for a powerful entity that allows him to control people he hits the road in a cross continental quest for God. In the comic, Proinsais Cassidy is Jesse’s Irish, mulleted, de facto best friend and, incidentally, also happens to be a vampire.
In AMC’s iteration of the story, Cassidy is played by Joseph Gilgun (you might recognize him from the later seasons of Misfits or This is England) who looks nothing like Steve Dillon’s original vision but was clearly born to play the character. There’s something about Gilgun’s scrawny physique, pale skin, myriad tattoos, and maniacal laughter that feels distinctly vampiric on its own. Add Cassidy’s aversion to UV light (Gilgun comically bobs and weaves around rays of sun shining through windows), the fact that he moves into the attic of Custer’s church, and the scenes in which he’s ripping jugular veins out with his teeth and sucking spilled blood up from the floor only make him seem more batty… pun intended. Never mind the fact that he spends most of the show gleefully covered in blood.
What AMC and Gilgun both do particularly well is establish the fact that Cassidy being an immortal bloodsucker is really secondary to who he is as a person. Proinsais Cassidy is, really first and foremost, a survivor and has been doing so for over 100 years. He’s a killer too, although won’t kill those who don’t deserve it, and is the type to hook up with his best friend’s (ex) girl but, insofar as we know, also the type who tries to fix AC units to earn his keep and who shamefully enjoys listening to Justin Bieber. And in a show filled with morally ambiguous and downright bad characters, he stands out as being a voice of reason among them.
Gilgun has been quoted as saying he had no intention of making vampires cool again. I hate to be the one to break it to him, but he’s failed. And not only is Cassidy cool, he’s also the most compelling character on the show.
2. Raphael ‘Rafe’ Adler, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I’ve been an avid fan of Naughty Dog Industries and their award winning Uncharted series since the first game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, was released in 2007. The games are incredibly fun, action packed, and have become more mind-blowingly gorgeous with each instalment. Nathan Drake, Naughty Dog’s roguish, Henley-wearing homage to Indiana Jones, quickly became my favorite video game hero as he discovered lost cities, unearthed cursed treasures, and traversed rocky cliffs with the ease of a mountain goat. But while Naughty Dog’s graphics, use of motion capture, and overall storytelling continually triumphed over the competition, there was a recurrent lack of a villains who were evil for any reason other than absolute power. Enter Rafe Adler…
In a startlingly violent moment for the Uncharted series, Rafe Adler (a treasure hunter and sole heir to the Adler family fortune) establishes himself as the unhinged and unpredictable antagonist that Naughty Dog was missing all along. Adler is arrogant, ruthless, and unlike Uncharted’s past villains, isn’t really interested in power or the fabled millions of Libertalia, the pirate colony that he and Nate are on the hunt for. He has money and power. Plenty of it, in fact, and according to his official Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End bio, “Thanks in no small part to the flexibility and power his wealth affords him, he usually gets what he wants.” But what Rafe truly becomes obsessed with is the legacy that Nathan Drake has made for himself over the years, an impossible dream and one that drives him to lose his mind, and, ultimately, his life.
Rafe’s bad guy looks (think Jake Gyllenhaal circa Prisoners; slicked back hair, designer bags under the eyes, cheekbones sharp enough to cut…) combined with his pitiless personality and Warren Kole’s PHENOMENAL voice acting makes Rafe Nate’s most formidable adversary yet.
In case you were wondering, here’s a picture of Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners:
And here’s another picture of Rafe:
But I digress…
3. Alice Morgan, Luther
If you haven’t heard of or taken the time to binge watch BBC’s smash hit series, Luther, then you’re making a horrible mistake. Starring Idris Elba (who should, by all rights, be the next James Bond), Luther tells the story of a handsome, tortured soul of a detective who solves crimes in the heart of London. Elba’s portrayal of Luther is glorious to watch as he lumbers around London while barely keeping his anger in check. However, it’s Ruth Wilson’s portrayal of the all-at-once terrifying and charming Alice Morgan that makes the show really worth your time.
Alice Morgan is a genius, a narcissist, and a murderer. Alice attends Oxford at 13, receives a Ph.D. in astrophysics at 18, and is covered in blood when viewers are first introduced to her. Her mother, father, and the family dog have all been brutally executed and the murder weapon is nowhere to be found. Luther quickly deduces (he’s no dummy himself) that it was Alice all along who killed her parents but, without any hard evidence, fails to charge her with the crime. Nor does Luther seem to want to see Alice locked up and what follows is a tumultuous, will they or won’t they, affair that resembles that of Batman and Catwoman’s. Luther is a man bound by the law and Alice is a woman beyond it.
Elba and Wilson’s chemistry is undeniable and so much fun to watch develop as each season progresses. Alice becomes obsessed with Luther and even goes so far as to kill for him. Luther knows that she’s a maniac and a psychopath but, when Alice is locked up in an asylum with no hopes of escape, he makes sure she gets a key. When Luther is wrongly accused for the murder of his ex-wife, he involves Alice as his accomplice. They’re opposites, and yet, very clearly meant to be in each other’s lives. And the killer (pun intended) is that you’ll be rooting for her the whole time. In scenes and episodes where Ruth Wilson is absent you’ll be shouting “WHERE’S ALICE?!” at the television.
(Alice also has what is undeniably one of the greatest lines ever: “So go on. Kiss me. Kill me. Do something.”)
4. “David”, The Guest
Sometimes a character is just too good looking to trust. “David” is that character.
5. Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
By all rights Cersei Lannister probably should have kicked the bucket back in season one or two of Game of Thrones but here we are, six whole seasons later, with her sitting on the Iron Throne. Like all of the ladies in the world of GoT, Cersei Lannister is a survivor but this does not by any means make her a hero. In fact, she’s been quite the opposite. She is cunning, and vicious, and in case you’re wondering what else makes Cersei Lannister one of the strongest and most compelling villains to grace literature and television in recent years, let’s recap…
Season 1: Cersei and Jaime, her twin brother, meet in a derelict tower in Winterfell and start doing the do (ew ew ew ew) when they’re caught in the act by the youngest Stark, Bran. He’s caught watching by Cersei and Jaime pushes Bran out of the tower window proclaiming “The things I do for love.” When an incident occurs involving Cersei’s horrible son Joffrey (a product of incest between her and her brother) and Arya Stark’s direwolf, she orders the dog to be killed. Arya drives her direwolf off to protect her and Cersei then orders Sansa Stark’s direwolf, who has done nothing malicious, to be killed instead. Later in the season Cersei is shown as being visibly mortified by her son’s decision to have Eddard Stark decapitated but does nothing to stop it.
Season 2: Cersei continues to do a horrible job of governing King’s Landing as Queen Regent and verbally harasses Sansa Stark while her son Joffrey continues to prove that he really is a piece of sh*t. Cersei begins an affair with her cousin Lancel, because one incestuous relationship wasn’t enough apparently.
Season 3: Cersei finally admits that her son is a terrible person but still does nothing to try and stop him. Instead she starts drinking more heavily which only makes her sassier and her eyebrow game even stronger.
Season 4: Joffrey is poisoned and killed at his wedding dinner. Cersei then angrily accuses her brother Tyrion and has him arrested. When she discovers that Sansa Stark has vanished, Cersei begins to suspect her of killing her son as well. Cersei later enlists the help of Gregor Clegane, otherwise known as The Mountain, naming him her champion for the forthcoming trial by combat. Clegane defeats Tyrion’s champion by crushing his head like a grape and Cersei walks away without a scratch. The incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime continues throughout this season, but I won’t get into the details of that because EW EW EW.
Season 5: Cersei becomes more dissatisfied and incensed that the people of King’s Landing prefer her son Tommen’s young wife, Margaery Tyrell. After meeting with the High Sparrow and having him named the new High Septon, Margaery’s brother, Ser Loras Tyrell, is arrested for being a homosexual. The younger queen believes this is part of Cersei’s plan to divide the union with her husband which, even though there’s no hard evidence to pin on her, it totally is. But in this season what goes around finally comes around as Cersei is arrested for her affair with Lancel, who confesses to said affair. When Cersei is eventually brought before the High Sparrow she admits to adultery but not to her incestuous relationship with her brother.
Which FINALLY brings us to…
Season 6: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, and it just so happens that a lot of people die by Cersei’s hand in the finale of season six. On the day of her second trial, Cersei has a large cache of wildfire ignited that she has kept a secret beneath the Sept. The explosion kills Margaery and Loras, as well as the High Sparrow, effectively annihilating her enemies in King’s Landing. Cersei watches the explosion from the safety of her chambers with a sly smile on her face. Almost immediately following the destruction of the Sept, her last remaining son commits suicide and Cersei crowns herself the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Phew. Ok. Still with me? Good.
Cersei Lannister is forced into a marriage with a man who never truly loved her and watches her kingdom fall into the hands of her enemies. She births hell spawn, is stripped naked and humiliated in front of the people of King’s Landing for loving someone she shouldn’t. She loses a daughter and two sons. It’s a lot to be burdened with and a lesser man might throw in the towel, but a Lannister always pays her debts.
What do you think? Are there any villains or antiheroes worth mentioning that I missed? Let us know who your favorites are!