They’re the fingernails dragging down our heroes’ blackboard, the unexpected hot clove in their creamy masala and the bum note in their otherwise perfect pitch. We want them to get their comeuppance, but when it happens, we’re sorry to see them go.
Our favourite baddies, the ones we don’t only love to hate but find ourselves rooting for because they’re so delicious.
Heroes wouldn’t be nearly so interesting if they didn’t have these adversaries to contend with. Scheming; psychopathic; violent; manipulative. That’s just their good points.
This’ll be easy, I thought, I’ll just list all my favourite bad guys in order of preference. But it wasn’t! I simply couldn’t choose - so I asked social media friends to help, remembering the high regard for these characters during their show’s run.
And the winner, only by a fraction …Jim Moriarty, although Paul Spector ran him close. Both have embedded themselves in the hearts and minds of TV viewers.
“Both are genius psychopaths who didn’t let Stella or Sherlock win, in a way.” - @rainbow_buster on Twitter
They both chose to end their own lives (not that any of us could believe it at first - and we’re still not sure with Moriarty) rather than give Sherlock or Gibson the satisfaction of winning on their terms.
Jim Moriarty (Sherlock)
Considering he only just snuck into 2016 on January 1st, Sherlock’s nemesis is the most enduring baddie. He’s been around for years, but Andrew Scott plays him with such relish and has injected him with such delightful venom, I can’t even remember anyone who’s ever played him before.
“Unreadable, toys with people, utterly dangerous ****up” - Anna, Facebook
“You can’t help but love him for his genius and humour” - Claire, Facebook
“A charming handsome psycho with a twinkle in his eye” - Marilyn, Facebook
“With Jim Moriarty, it’s the script, as you have to admit he’s a very, very funny psychopath. Also sexy wicked hot-as-hell” - Emma, Facebook
“He’s a genius, in a psychotic charming kinda way. Can’t help but love him” - Emma, Twitter
Paul Spector (The Fall)
Similarly to Moriarty’s brief appearance, we never saw Spector in full psycho mode in 2016 until the final episode of the last series, when he realised that Stella had him. We’d feared for his intensive care nurse, the spitting image of his victims, but they were just teasing us. We know he himself was abused and we saw a twisted protective anger on behalf of children when he killed fellow patient Bailey. But there was no way he could be redeemed, however much we’d have loved another series with him.
“Because he can compartmentalise so ruthlessly between torturing and murdering women to playing the loving husband and father. Pure evil” - Kate, Facebook
“I think it was the facets - father, counsellor, murderer, there has been something about his character. Stella feels it too!” - Barbara, Twitter
Matthew (Dot) Cottan (Line of Duty)
At the front of the grid for ‘TV Moment of the Year’, Dot’s ‘Urgent exit required’ text saw Jed Mercurio’s taut interview scenes of the previous hour suddenly explode into the longest foot chase ever on TV. We feared for Kate but there was fleeting redemption for Dot when he saved her, the clumsy attempts at wooing proving there was real feeling there.
“It was knowing he was the villain but his colleagues didn’t see it. Felt so frustrated & helpless watching him stitch Steve up. Also, we knew that he would do *anything* to save himself” - Lorna, Twitter.
“Definitely Dot in Line of Duty (but Joanne Froggatt in Dark Angel turned in a belting performance). There was a moody intensity, very well played, underlying a veneer of charm; it was a shock when he turned out to be a bugger!” - Sylvia, Twitter
Tommy Lee Royce (Happy Valley)
With the promise of a new series, and Ryan’s already-established curiosity about his dad, Tommy Lee is going to be scaring us stupid again, whether from inside or outside his cell.
“Just plain nasty and manipulative. Plays with minds!” - Debbie, Facebook
“Feckin’ awesome. Terrific actor…so so bad he’s freakin’ awesome…I have to admit I feel weird as I am often cheering on the mega sexy beasts. Tommy Lee is so vile but the acting makes the character mesmerising, you can hardly believe he is the Grantchester vicar” - Emma, Facebook
Ramsay Bolton (Game of Thrones)
Probably the most satisfying demise of any character in the history of TV. Jon Snow beating him to death would have been far too easy a way out after everything Bolton did - he’s even worse in the books, although it wasn’t Sansa who suffered there. But, he’s still alive in The Winds of Winter (book 6) so we can look forward to retribution all over again.
“Complete head case, wanted him to suffer more” - Paul, Facebook
“Oh I hate him…..he makes me shout at the telly and hide away. Any actor that can do that is worth my vote” - Melanie, Facebook
Meriwether Compeyson (Dickensian)
The smooth talking shyster wormed his way into Miss Havisham’s life and broke her heart, with many viewers drawing comparisons between his behaviour and The Archer’s Rob Titchener.
“Definitely that Dickensian one. Compeyson. It was the trust in love. He was trusted for the most powerful thing than can grip a human being. She gave him her soul” - Kathryn, Twitter
George Warleggan (Poldark)
In the same vein as Compeyson and Titchener, Poldark gives us George Warleggan. Instrumental in trying to get Ross hanged, Warleggan is all set to make a mother give up her child next year. They don’t all have to be violent to be pure evil.
“Rob Titchener would def get my vote if only you were including radio! Otherwise George Warleggan is right up there with TV nasties” - Sheilagh, Facebook
Negan (The Walking Dead)
Although known by name, his first appearance in the show was in the Season 6 finale, ip-dipping a victim and leaving his deep, deadly mark on Abraham, followed quickly by Glenn, in the Season 7 opener.
“Evil and hot! Oh those eyes, they do a twinkle” - Joanne, Facebook
Richard Roper (The Night Manager)
The eponymous smooth criminal, the “worst man in the world”, responsible for inflicting more terror on innocent people than all the others put together, met his match in Jonathan Pine, for whom he felt a strange affinity that became his undoing.
Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
More than a match for any man, Cersei finally snatched the Iron Throne for herself, but has lost all her children as prophesied. With nothing more to lose, it’s likely she’ll be even more ruthless next season.
Lucien Grimaud (The Musketeers)
The ardent fan base of this show were treated to a near superhuman villain this year, ruthless and clever but with a tragic back story. Much as the Muskies were adored, this was one antagonist we’d have loved to see ride again.
Grant Ward / Hive (Agents of SHIELD)
From his beginnings as a definite good guy, it was a fall-off-the-chair moment to discover he was Hydra all along, and then again when he abandoned FitzSimmons. With the real Ward dead and the even more savage, body inhabiting Hive destroyed at the end of the last series, we’ve lost one of our most charismatic characters.
So listen up writers, if you want to create a memorable and popular baddie, who brings the audience back for more, make them a twinkly eyed, cheeky, sexy, charismatic psychotic genius - and let us know who they are from the beginning. But don’t forget to give them an equal to fight!
Want to chat TV? Find me @Scattyjan on Twitter