Following the fantastic two-part finale of US drama series Elementary, it’s rather a good time to bring together a list of television’s greatest schemers, masterminds, and all round villainous antagonists you love to hate. Good versus Evil is one the oldest cultural tropes; every great hero needs an even better villain to stand against, whilst the rest of us run away to hide in fear.
This list is by no means definitive, nor does it need to be a countdown, but a chance to take a look at some of the best on-screen bad guys (or evil ‘groups’) that recent television has to offer. *Spoilers afoot*
10. Angelus – Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
Throughout the seven series of Buffy and the five series of Angel, the one villain who kept reappearing to cause mayhem and wreck emotional havoc on our heroes lives was Angel’s soulless alter-ego Angelus. From his remorseless murder of Jenny Calendar and his plot to destroy the world in season two of Buffy, to his recurrence in multiple episode arcs of Angel, this character proved himself to be a calculating and unpredictable villain. Special mention goes to Spike too, but he was just too loveable to make this list!
9. The Master – Doctor Who
The Master has been a constantly recurring presence in the Doctor’s life since his first appearance in 1971. A great antagonist, The Master is just as brilliant as The Doctor, though instead of using his vast intellect to save others this foe would rather cause as much chaos as possible. The Doctor, despite his penchant for adventure and larking about, still seeks to uphold a sense of social responsibility that the Master subverts in his despotic search for power.
8. Katherine Pierce – The Vampire Diaries
Klaus from The Vampire Diaries almost made the list, but his recent escapades have seemed more whiny child than nefarious mastermind. Instead, Katherine Pierce takes the spot. Katherine’s antics have been impressed upon the show’s storylines since day one even though she only made her entrance in the final episode of season one (and what a bloody great entrance it was!). Though there are hints of a sensitive soul beneath her sneering, manipulative surface, Katherine remains a perfect example of an evil schemer acting only for herself. Following her last moments in Season 4 however, it will be interesting to see where Julie Plec et al. decide to take this character.
7. Russell Edgington – True Blood
Russell Edgington hardly needs an introduction at all. A 3000 year-old Druid vampire with a Mississippi drawl, this character was a superb addition to the True Blood cast, injecting much-needed fresh blood (pun intended) into the show. Regardless of his despicable misdeeds and murderous sprees, the King of Mississippi was always brilliant fun to watch – viewers savoured his scenes as much as he revelled in being evil. Even though his most villainous moment was plucking out a poor news anchor’s spine on television, Russell’s best moment, by far, was his drunken partying with newly turned vampire Steve Newlin in Season 5. That was some great television.
6. The Trinity Killer – Dexter
The Trinity Killer was a terrifying character, whose psychopathic nature was hidden beneath the guise of a wholesome family man named Arthur Mitchell. Introduced in Season 4 of Dexter, John Lithgow played this menacing figure incredibly well. He was a despicable character you couldn’t wait for Dexter to get rid of, but was such a great figure for Dexter to play off of – certainly the show’s greatest antagonist. His final murderous act of killing Rita and leaving Dexter’s son in its gory aftermath, closed off the season with a heart-stopping, emotional and bleak end.
Find out our top 5 TV villains on the second page.