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Monday, 14 March 2016

Editorial: 5 Great Villains (In Live Action TV)

Editorial: 5 Great Villains
(In Recent Live Action TV).

Originally, this was going to be a 'top five villains on television' editorial, until I realised that a) I might very well have done that as an editorial before, and b) I'm just not willing to make that kind of commitment, taking every villain in all of television and going 'yes, these are the five best, absolutely.' 

So instead, here's a showcase of five villains which might not be the best, but are certainly pretty great, from recent-ish television shows.

What can I say, it's been a weird few days.

5. Deucalion, Teen Wolf.

About 20% of the reason why I decided to write this editorials was that the most recent episode of Teen Wolf, showcasing Deucalion at the height of his manipulativeness, reminded me of how much I loved him as a villain.

He was, at best, a secondary villain, an obvious and open antagonist to provide the protagonists with something they could actually fight in a series where the more shadowy, hidden threat of the Darach was the real villain, but he played that role with aplomb and came across as a genuine threat, one that could do serious damage, both physical and mental, to the protagonists if they weren't careful.

The fact that he was played by Gideon Emery, a master of being smoothly menacing, certainly didn't hurt. To this day, Deucalion sticks in my mind as a great villain in what was arguably the best series of Teen Wolf to air yet.

4.  J, Bloody Monday.

We are very much stretching the definition of 'recent' now, I realise. But recent-ish. Recent enough that it could pass as a television show currently being made, at least.

J, the initial primary antagonist (and later secondary antagonist, and then tertiary antagonist slash vaguely antiheroic character, and then just out and out antihero slash antivillain if we're counting the second series) is a Mathematics genius and the leader - sort of, at least - of the terrorist bad guys of Japanese espionage drama Bloody Monday.

Nearly totally amoral (and seeming to not even understand conventional morality), with a distorted view of affection and a near obsessive need to please his absolutely crazy family, J is cheerful, playful and, ultimately, a fairly tragic figure, with only his equally warped sister K being more tragic.

He's compelling in a way a lot of the characters on this list aren't, because ultimately every horrible thing J does is because he thinks it'll make his family happy, and because he genuinely doesn't understand why that's so wrong. Which is all well and good, but I still probably wouldn't invite him round for dinner.

3. Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones.

Tywin Lannister isn't 'the' villain of Game of Thrones, or even necessarily 'a' villain, since it's not a show that really has villains and heroes in the traditional narrative sense so much as it has people occupying varying points on a scale of awfulness. He was, however, a genuinely terrible person.

Played by the inimitable Charles Dance, Tywin wasn't the worst person on the show (hello Ramsay) nor was he even the most brutally pragmatic, but his status and power meant that every terrible thing he did had a ripple effect that impacted every other plotline in the show, making him possibly the single most influential character in the storyline up to that point.

It was interesting that when he eventually died, it was at his most undignified and petty, as if the show was stripping him of all his glamour before eventually subjecting him to what must have been a pretty painful death - but one that he doubtlessly deserved.

2. Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne, The Flash.

The biggest flaw with Harrison Wells as a villain is that, while it was meant to be a shocking reveal halfway through the series that changed the way we saw the series and character up to that point, it was abundantly obvious from his three second appearance in the very first trailer that he would turn out to be evil.

Tom Cavanaugh, it turns out, is very good at playing that kind of subtly unsettling evil where you know the person in question is a wrong'un, and you're ninety-nine percent sure that they would wear your spine as a scarf if it helped their plans to do so, but you still can't entirely help but like them.

In every respect other than 'ability to hide villainous intent', however, Wells was a villain that put nearly every other Arrowverse villain to shame, combining a keen intellect with super speed, and having a relationship that was both antagonistic and familial with the protagonists.

What sold him, however, was Cavanaugh's understated, charismatic performance - and other people attempting to play the role, such as Matt Letscher, haven't quite lived up to that.

1. The Nogitsune, Teen Wolf.

Not only another villain from Teen Wolf, but another villain from the same series of Teen Wolf - well, technically, at least - the Nogitsune arc stands out to me as easily the best arc of the whole show, and its villain, a cunning and ancient arch-manipulator possessing the body of one of the main characters (who himself was no slouch at cunning plans), is a large part of that.

Much of what made the Nogitsune terrifying is that for a fairly long time, the show didn't make it obvious, instead teasing with little clues like Stiles wearing different shirts and suchlike (it - it was better than I'm making it sound), all while throwing the main cast up against seemingly immortal shadow monsters.

But even when the Nogitsune was revealed, the show played its cards close to its chest for a pretty long time, having its influence mostly felt in the form of the terrifying tricks and the cruel jokes it played on Stiles and others - all of which meant that by the time Dylan O'Brien started playing the Nogitsune outright, we were hyped to see what he was like.

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