Prime-time good guys save the day, but a memorable villain makes it impossible to look away from the on-screen action.
Good thing there’s no shortage of bad guys ready to commit creative acts of cruelty. Well, at least there won’t be until Sunday night. That’s when “True Blood” ends its latest round of jaw-dropping vampire violence in a highly-anticipated and no doubt bloody season finale.
Still, whether on the air, on hiatus or long gone, TV’s assortment of vilest villains won’t be forgotten.
Russell from ‘True Blood’
When viewers last left Russell Edgington, otherwise known as the blood-sucking King of Mississippi, he appeared destined to die (again), but in the days before his moment in the sunlight, Russell brought a level vengeance-fueled iniquity rarely seen in a made-for-TV bad guy.
The small screen may be filled with all manner of killers, but Russell stands out even among his vampire kin. Before a recent bout of rage propelled him into super-villain territory, the 3000-year-old had no interest in playing nice with humans. They are, after all, food as far as he’s concerned.
But once a fellow vamp killed Russell’s consort of the last several hundred years, the regent turned into the sort of must-see mad monster that carries the remains of his lost love around in a crystal compote and rips open news anchors on live TV.
Dexter from ‘Dexter’
Call him a hero or maybe an antihero, but villain seems a better fit when examining both his past blood baths and his constant need to satisfy his Dark Passenger.
After all, if it weren’t for his father’s list of dos and don’ts, Dexter wouldn’t be any better than the murderers he pursues. Given his choice to ignore the code on more than one occasion, maybe he isn’t.
Sue from ‘Glee’
A cheerleading coach seems like an unlikely follow up to a murderous vampire king and a serial killer, but it works when the coach in question is “Glee’s” enthusiastically cruel Sue Sylvester.
Sure, the chief “Cheerio” hasn’t killed in the name of school spirit — well, not yet — but she’s not above lying, blackmailing and bullying to get her way. And if she crushes a few teen dreams along the way, it’s sort of a bonus.
From her pro-littering stance to her knack for using her mother’s “euthanasia” as a punch line, the Regionals winner isn’t just bad; she routinely veers into a cartoonish brand of bad.
Mr. Burns from ‘The Simpsons’
Speaking of cartoonish, few flesh and blood TV villains bring the old school style of wrongdoing better than the animated C. Montgomery Burns.
The morals-free 104-year-old business mogul may be physically weak, but he delights in the power his money gives him. Of course, money can’t buy everything, which is why Mr. Burns also takes joy in the little things, such as literally stealing candy from a baby.
Mr. Burns is so content in his own malevolence, he would twirl his moustache if he had one. Instead he makes do by steepling his fingers and perfecting his vulture-like posture.
Eric from ‘South Park’
Another entry from the animated crowd, just edging out “The Family Guy’s” matricide-obsessed Stewie Griffin, is “South Park’s” resident sociopath, Eric Cartman.
It might be easy to dismiss the whiny fourth-grader decked out in primary colors as more of a humorous rascal than actually wicked, but Eric’s evil resume says otherwise.
As an outspoken anti-Semite, sexist and racist, Eric never grows tired of harassing his friends and enemies alike, though his enemies often wish he’d stop at mere harassment.
In an effort to one-up one foe, Eric murdered his classmate’s parents and fed them to his rival. At least that ultimate act came back to haunt the junior baddie when he learned he’d actually killed his own father. Oops.
Ben from ‘Lost’
Long before Ben changed his bad guy ways and became Hurley’s right-hand island man, he stood alone as the single “Lost” character scarier than an occasionally murderous plume of black smoke. At least with the smoke, it was safe to assume the worst.
With Ben and his powers of deception, there was no way to know what to expect. The man could endure torture with a smile. He could lie with his own life on the line. And his knack for ruses allowed him to pull off the Dharma Purge, killing his own father and causing the deaths of 40 or so members of his own camp.
T-Bag from ‘Prison Break’
Most bad guys have a little bit of goodness left somewhere inside. They may seem irredeemable on the surface, but there’s still little bit of humanity deep down. Well, that doesn’t apply to Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell of the Fox River State Penitentiary.
A one-man mash up of every vile trait conceivable, T-Bag’s long list of crimes included murder, rape, pedophilia, arson, kidnapping and animal abuse, just to name a few.
The one-dimensional nature of T-Bag’s badness is what made him worth the watch. There was no chance of salvation around the corner. T-Bag even lacked a sense of honor among thieves. He could be charming, but he could never be trusted.
Ree Hines gives an honorable mention to her favorite long gone TV villain, the Mayor from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and share you own picks.
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