What is Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader? Or Clarice Starling without Hannibal Lecter? The answer is, well, not much. We only care about a Protagonist when they are faced with an opposite and more imposing force, the Antagonist. So here is the list of my five favorite TV Antagonists. Movie characters and those on paid-channels such as HBO and Showtime aren’t included here.
This list includes Antagonists that I look forward to seeing, sometimes almost as much as I enjoy watching the main characters. Also, anti-heroes such as Dexter, Vic Mackey and Walter White may do terrible things, but they are technically still Protagonists. So here is my list.
5. Professor Joseph “Joe” Carroll
Who is he? Joe Carroll is the main antagonist in Fox’s The Following. He was an English professor obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe turned diabolical serial killer. He is responsible for creating a cult of serial killers via the cyber library and through visitations at the prison where he was being held. He was caught by FBI Agent Ryan Hardy and enjoys playing mind games with him.
Why him? While Joe Carroll is psychotic, he’s also highly intelligent and puts together a very intricate plan. Also, similar to Charles Manson, Joe is able to build a cult of devoted followers that are willing to kill for him, and he does it from prison no less. His mix of intelligence and charisma make him a fun character to root against.
4. Niklaus Mikaelson (Nik or Klaus)
Who is he? Niklaus Mikaelson is the main antagonist in Seasons 2 & 3 of The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and the main character in the spin-off series The Originals. Klaus is the Original hybrid, a mix between both werewolf and vampire. He is part of the Original family, or the first vampires that are responsible for the lineage of all current vampires. He frequently can be seen with his half-brother Elijah and his half-sister Rebekah, although he doesn’t seem to completely trust either of them.
Why him? The fact that there is a spin-off series based entirely upon Klaus and his siblings should speak for itself. Klaus may be a manipulative back-stabber, but that doesn’t make him any less likable, which is a feat in itself. He may be evil, but he knows it and frequently owns up to it. There are also some glimpses of humanity in him, especially with his interactions with Caroline Forbes, a newly-turned vampire who he obviously has feelings for.
3. Boyd Crowder
Who is he? Boyd Crowder is the often-at-times antagonist of FX’s Justified. He is a career criminal from Harlan County, Kentucky. He begins the series as a bank-robbing white supremacist, but redeems himself after getting shot and going to prison. This doesn’t last long, however, as he re-emerges as a criminal, albeit one who is less malicious. Raylan Givens, the Deputy US Marshal that shot him, often clashes with Boyd. He has saved Raylan’s life a few times, but is so morally grey that Raylan cannot trust him. This makes him one of Raylan’s best friends, but also one of his most often recurring enemies.
Why him? A big part of what makes Boyd Crowder so awesome is actor Walton Goggins’ portrayal of him. Boyd’s character was supposed to have met an early demise after the Pilot episode, but Goggins was too good and the character was so well received that he stayed for the long haul. Raylan Givens may be the main character, but I tune in each week to watch Boyd’s criminal exploits. Even though his character often commits crimes and murders, there is almost never a time when the audience isn’t rooting for him. The relationship between Boyd and Deputy US Marshall Givens is the most complex friendship on TV, because even though they are on opposite sides of the law they always seem to have each others backs in the end.
2. C.G.B. Spender (The Smoking Man/ Cancer Man)
Who is he? The Smoking Man is the primary antagonist of Fox’s The X-Files. Although he utters only four audible words in the entire first season of the show, the Smoking Man eventually develops into the series’ primary antagonist. He’s revealed to be a powerful man working for the powers that be and a key member in a government conspiracy that is hiding the truth of alien existence and their plan to colonize Earth. His power and influence remained strong throughout the show. The Smoking Man is later revealed to be FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder’s biological father.
Why him? The Smoking Man is different than every other character on this list, mainly due to the fact that much of his influence happens behind the scenes. He is a mysterious character who seems to have his hand in several conspiracies that confound Agents Mulder and Scully. Like other characters on this list, his initial role was small but given more significance based upon his popularity amongst fans. The Smoking Man is even later revealed to be Mulder’s biological father. Hell, TV Guide even included him in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.
1.Philip Blake (Brian Heriot/The Governor)
Who is he? Philip Blake, better known as “The Governor”, is the main antagonist of Seasons 3 & 4 of AMC’s The Walking Dead. He is a survivor of the undead apocalypse, who was in command of the fortified town of Woodbury, after the outbreak began. He was a smooth talker, easily able to talk his way out of situations using his “charm”, and was able to use his manipulativeness to coerce others into doing his own bidding. He was obsessed with having superiority, and viewed any of those unwilling to follow him as enemies. He kept his zombified daughter in a closet and had fish tanks filled with walker and human heads. After his zombie daughter is destroyed, he goes crazy and kills many of his followers. Afterwards, grief-stricken over his massacre, the Governor has lost his drive for revenge and wanders alone for seven months. He becomes a little more kind when he reluctantly joins his “makeshift family”. It’s obvious that he’s repented for his previous actions, but the verdict is still out on whether he will return to his old ways or not.
Why him? The Governor, after last weeks episode of The Walking Dead, was my inspiration for this list. Before losing Penny, the Governor was a concerned and protective father. Once he lost her, he tried to hold on to her despite her death. Before he lost his mind and turned against his followers, I actually thought in some ways The Governor was a better leader than Rick. The fact that the writers focused on making him sympathetic and also showed how he does have a conscience, adds a dimension to his character that most Antagonists lack. Humans have a capacity for both good and evil, and the Governor is a perfect example of this. If you put yourself in Phillip Blake’s shoes and you lost your only daughter and the world has gone to shit, what would you do? As Norman Bates once so famously said, ‟We all go a little mad sometimes.‟
So there’s the list of my top 5 favorite TV Antagonists. Any TV characters that I left out and you think that I should have included? Leave all of your comments down below.