One of the greatest aspects of media is seeing the very best, and for that matter discussing who the best actually is. With that in mind, I present to you my personal top 10 televisions villains of all time. Keep in mind, some of these villains may not be revealed as villains immediately in a show, and therefore I must put out a spoiler warning.
(Note: While making this list I tried to keep away from including anti-heroes, and purely stick to those character I felt were true antagonists)
10. Ron Rifkin as Arvin Sloane (Alias Seasons 1-5)- Whether it is as the head of antigovernment group posing as a government organization (SD-6), or as part of secret organization with plans for world domination, Arvin Sloane is a man who stops at nothing to get what he wants. Throughout the show both the viewers and characters seem to be one step behind Sloane. To Arvin Sloane the world is a chess board, he is the player and everyone else are pawns. Never quite aware of his endgame, Arvin uses allies and enemies to his achieve his goals, with or without their knowledge.
9. John de Lancie as Q (Star Terk:TNG, DS9, and Voyager)- As a recurring character through many of the Star Trek arcs, Q is a terrify antagonist, a being with ultimate power and no regard for human life. Q, who is only one of many Q’s of the Q Continuum, is a Godlike being who finds joy in his interactions and the testing of the human race. His interaction with the crew, Capitan Picard in particular, and ability to justify outlandish episodes has made him a fan favorite and staple of the Star Trek universe.
8. Micheal Emerson as Ben Linus (Lost Seasons 2-6)- Ben Linus is perhaps the most well-known character on this list, and with that I wont waste time talking about who and what he is. What I will say is as the world of Lost got more outlandish, Ben managed to remain the most intriguing character on the show. The main reason he sits on this list is Micheal Emerson. I would not be so stupid as to claim he is the best actor on this list, or even top 5, but the creepy and mysterious performance given immediately led me to want to see Micheal Emerson in more things. Unfortunately, since the end of Lost he has not done much. He is currently starring in a serialized crime drama. Luckily I will always have the first few seasons of Lost to look back fondly on.
7. Polly Walker as Aitia of the Julii (Rome Seasons 1-2)- When I have first began watching Rome and realized that Polly Walker was one of the main characters, I was not thrilled to say the least. Flashbacks of her roles in The O.C. and Firefly came to mind, and that kind of acting has little room in the usually brilliant productions that HBO delivers. My hesitations could not have been more wrong however. In a time when the world was ruled by men, Aitia of the Julii uses her ruthlessness and cunning, all the while doing whatever is necessary to gain and maintain the power she has.
6. John Lithgow as The Trinity Killer (Dexter Season 4)- In a similar mold to the aforementioned Polly Walker, I was shocked to hear “that one guy from 3rd Rock” was to be the newest villain in one of my favorite television shows. Thankfully, I’m not the one making the casting choices though, because I was treated to one of the most truthfully realized and frighteningly dark characters I’ve seen on television. In a world in which we are treated to so many different types of monsters, John Lithgow’s portrayal of the Trinity Killer is one of the most terrifying. He molds a character that is sick and evil, all the while keeping him so real he might as well be your next door neighbor.
5. Idris Elba as Russel “Stringer” Bell (The Wire Seasons 1-3)- There are plenty of character from the television show The Wire that could have made it on this list. Gangsters from the inner streets of Baltimore are not hard to come by. Idris Elba is on this list. His character Stringer Bell is one of the most fascinating and well realized characters in television history. Stringer is a hard and ruthless as you would expect any head of a major inner city gang, yet he is also as cold and calculating as a corrupt politician. It is this dichotomy that make Stringer Bell truly special, and earns him his high spot on this list.
4. James Callis as Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica Seasons 1-4)- This list is filled with gangsters, murderers, and other despicable characters who perform horrible and unthinkable actions. So what is it that Gaius Baltar can do to stand out from the rest of the list? How about bring humanity to the brink of extinction. Whether you blame the genius doctor for the fate of the twelve colonies, or think he was a poor sucker who’s ego got the best of him, James Callis’ portrayal of a man struggling between his selfishness and remorse made Baltar the most interesting character in the epic series.
3. Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring (Breaking Bad Seasons 2-4)- I have loved and been a huge Breaking Bad fan since the show’s pilot. It has combined fantastic story telling along with some of the best acting on basic cable. After two seasons I did not think their was anything that could add so much to a show that I thought already had the whole package. Enter Giancarlo Esposito. His cool demeanor accompanied by his pure viciousness made him a great villain from day one. On top of that add a fantastic back story that was delved into in the fourth season and you have one of the most frightening, complex, and engaging characters from any medium.
2. Ian McShane as Al Swearengen (Deadwood Seasons 1-3)- Al Swearengen has done what many televisions characters have done over the years. As the first seasons main antagonist Ian McShane stole the show, and for this got even more prominently featured in the shows final two seasons less as an antagonist and more as the villain that you love to love. What is so great about what McShane and the creators of Deadwood did with this tranisition, is unlike other shows which have seen popular characters change to be featured more prominently in the show, McShane and crew pulled it off by never compromising the personality and character traits set as the foundation of what made him great to begin with.
1. Micheal K Williams as Omar Little (The Wire Seasons 1-5)- “Omar’s Coming” is a phrase that any Wire fan knows. In a city where cops and drug dealers are at war with each other, the openly gay stick-up man is playing a game all to himself. Openly robbing gangster of their stash, he is like a modern-day evil robin hood with his own set of rules and morals. In what is one the greatest shows I have ever had the pleasure of watching Micheal K Williams steals every scene he is in, and that has earned him the top spot on my 10 best television villains.