5. Victoria Grayson – Revenge
This entry is arguable, but there is no doubt that Victoria Grayson is a villain viewers love to hate. She is a villain of the modern age; a member of the 1% willing to injure and control anyone who gets in her way. Her true colours are always left ambiguous, but ironically viewers are left routing for her whether she has committed something morally good or bad. She is a truly fun character to watch when she spars off against anyone, friend or foe.
4. Gus Fring – Breaking Bad
Gus Fring behaved as a sophisticated antidote to Walter White’s craziness. Gus was a businessman not afraid to threaten others and get his hands dirty. Gus’s finest moment was certainly his explosive finale; Daniel Craig definitely got his Bond-swagger in Skyfall’s early action scene from Gus’s tie-straightening composure in the (literal) face of death. Who else could look so suave with half their face melted off?
3. The Cylons – Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica was a superb show, the perfect genre-blender of sci-fi, drama, humour, and epic-ness. In a show about humanity and it’s strive for survival despite the odds, there needed to be a villainous entity for our heroes’ nobility and sacrifice to be set off against. The Cylons, in a devastating attack on the twelve colonies, murdered all but a fraction of humanity, and then systematically sought to destroy the remaining fleet over the following run of episodes. The show’s brilliance lay in its careful treatment of the mythological themes of good and evil; actions were never truly despicable, but pitiable or justifiable, nothing was clear-cut and no one was exempt from tragedy and by the series end, the two species were shown to be crucial to each other’s ultimate survival. Every fan has their favourite cylon, who is yours?
2. Constance Langdon – American Horror Story
The first series of American Horror Story was ridiculously good fun (emphasis on the ridiculous), but its shining star was certainly Constance, played by the always-awesome Jessica Lange. Constance was an audience favourite, a delightfully delicious character embodying both menace and vulnerability as a crafty opponent to the Murder House and its inhabitants. From trying to poison Vivien in the first episode, to the reveal that she killed her adulterous husband and innocent maid, Constance lacked all the virtuous qualities inherent to her steadfast name. Viewers were allowed to feel pity for Constance, especially with the sudden death of her daughter, but overall she remains a great example of a charming villain.
1. Moriarty in CBS’s Elementary and BBC’s Sherlock
Okay, combining these two shows is a bit of a cheat. Both have different portrayals of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, the genius detective Sherlock Holmes. The US version is more of a crime procedural, with an émigré Holmes living in New York as a consultant for the NYPD. Rather a so-so premise, though one that has succeeded in updating Sherlock Holmes for a modern era, and has become compelling viewing over its first season, courtesy of Johnny Lee Miller’s great depiction of literature’s most famous detective and Lucy Liu as the charismatic companion Joan Watson – the undisputed heart of the show. The BBC production is a masterpiece of storytelling and visual creativity, with the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch playing the brilliant British sleuth.
Moriarty in Sherlock is played by Andrew Scott as a lyrically-voiced sociopath, a merciless villain who outwits and outmanoeuvres Sherlock at every turn, forcing our hero to jump off a building to his apparent ‘death’. In Elementary, it is revealed that the criminal mastermind who Sherlock has run up against repeatedly over the season, via Moriarty’s lackeys, is none other than Irene Adler (‘The Woman’ who Sherlock thought was killed by Moriarty back in London, instigating his own descent into heroin abuse). Played by Natalie Dormer, Moriarty is shown to be as cunning and brilliant as Sherlock, “better” in her own words, ruthlessly controlling lives in her meticulously crafted games. Both updates on this famous nemesis are fantastic. The shock of Irene-as-Moriarty is as unexpected as it is refreshing, whilst Scott infuses his Moriarty with a delicious menace.
Honourable mention goes to the entire cast of Game of Thrones (even Arya’s getting a bit shifty nowadays) and the too-soon-yet to include Hannibal. What other shows would you suggest? Heroes, Don Draper perhaps?