All villains are the heroes in their own story, but what does it mean when we also secretly root for them? Let’s check out television’s recent villains we love to hate.
Modern television has complicated the black-and-white villain-hero narrative. Some villains seduce the audience with their charisma, occasionally stealing the spotlight from the hero. When their weakness and vulnerability are revealed, it’s easy to sympathize with them. An undeniable part of us will sometimes root for their redemption.
NoHo Hank – Barry
The Chechen mobster in HBO’s dark comedy series Barry has broken into viewers’ hearts. His warm personality contradicts his cold and heartless line of work. The actor who plays him, Anthony Carrigan, even admits that “he’s not the best criminal.”
He has a more visible soft and vulnerable side, especially with his love for Cristobol and secret admiration for Barry. But his dark side emerges unexpectedly and powerfully when faced with betrayal.
Still, he is a delight on screen and a breath of fresh air from the majority of the show’s gore and drama. Hank just wants to be everyone’s buddy. His bougie style, blunt honesty, and desire to fit into “LA culture”(hence his name that stands for North Hollywood) make you want to grab a slice of pizza with him.
The criminal has been a consistent source of smiles and laughter for three seasons, even though he was initially supposed to die in the first episode. Carrigan won over the show’s producer with charisma and a spot-on Chechen accent.
Villanelle – Killing Eve
Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, is one of the most likable psychopaths and assassins in television. Audiences are drawn to her demented humor and intrigued by her sick enjoyment of killing. We also wait patiently for her rare moments of humanity and mercy, which emerge when encountered with Eve. Eve acts as Villanelle’s kryptonite to her tough exterior, inducing an internal battle with empathy and just simple emotions.
The serial killer has a child-like playfulness that coincides with violent behaviors. Viewers admire her eye-catching fashion, confidence, and unapologetic carefree attitude.
Villanelle’s incredible talent to disguise herself is similar to that of a shapeshifter. She has an impressive knowledge of languages and accents, contributing to her successful career. Villanelle’s twisted charisma and magnetic presence glue people to watch her every move – for their own entertainment…and protection.
Loki – Loki
Tom Hiddleston’s effortless charm is embedded in his portrayal of the God of Mischief, Loki. Fans are mesmerized by his spell, with Marvel dedicating an entire Disney + series to the character.
Loki made his debut as Thor’s jealous adopted brother in 2011. He has since unleashed countless challenges for the MCU heroes, and has an extensive history of betraying his brother and family. But why do we get excited everytime we see him on screen? While we are entranced by Loki’s wit, humor, and unpredictable behavior, he elicits empathy from the audience. Hungry for power and the Asgardian throne, he was permanently hurt by his family’s rejection and favoritism towards Thor.
We constantly find him at the doorstep of redemption – which he quickly abandons, to our disappointment. Fans are intrigued by his dilemma with morality. His series, Loki, humbles him and exposes his humanity. The series unveils the true heroism we knew existed beneath his wicked acts.
Joe Goldberg – You
Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) plays the typical “nice guy” who is also a stalker and murderer on the hit Netflix series You. Joe puts women in a trance through his charm, intelligence, and good looks. After developing an obsession with a woman each season, he kills anyone who would damage their relationship. Joe convinces himself that he kills to protect the woman he loves. But he always kills his new love interest, except when meeting his match, Love Quinn.
Joe narrates his thoughts to the audience, helping us understand his emotions and perspective. A part of us does not want him to get caught. Viewers witness his internal battle with fear and anger as he tries to avoid killing. We also sympathize with his childhood, growing up abandoned and having an abusive caretaker. Joe further redeems himself with his protective instinct toward children. In the end, he is a cold-blooded murderer, where love and obsession overpowers his morality.
Dwight – The Office
Dwight K. Schrute seems like the typical office nuisance. His pretentious attitude and eccentric behavior make you want to avoid him at the water cooler. As the assistant to the regional manager, he prides himself on being one of the best paper salesmen. But his obsession with extreme authority and his desire to destroy the office favorite (Jim Halpert) checks off all the boxes of an office villain.
But throughout each season, the beet farmer’s heart grows stronger. Dwight has good intentions that are difficult to see beneath his nerdy glasses and mustard-colored shirt. He is extremely loyal to his boss, Michael Scott, and has one of the sweetest relationships with another office favorite, Pam Beesley.
Dwight has redeeming qualities through committing multiple heroic and kind acts. His good intentions are clouded by his lack of social awareness. The actor, Rainn Wilson, has been nominated for numerous awards for his portrayal of Dwight for creating a character we love to hate.