Top 5: TV Protagonists Who Were Actually Villains

Published on January 14, 2020

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of this list, there are several spoilers to various TV series and their respective villains. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Hey man! Did you catch that episode of Breaking Bad last night?”

“You mean the one where Walter White brutally kills two guys and tries to dissolve their corpses in acid?”

“Yeah! Wasn’t it bad-ass?”

“You bet! He’s Awesome!”

You all should be ashamed of yourselves…. What have our parents been teaching us since we were kids?

  • Be good to other people.
  • Revenge is bad.
  • Don’t sell/do drugs.
  • Associate ourselves with good role models.

As a society, we are collectively taught by our parents that in order to be good people, we should surround ourselves with good role models who inspire us to do good in the world.

Well, not only are these individuals that I’m about to list the complete opposite of a good samaritan, we as a society actually cheer these people and completely overlook their flawed morals and ethics. But you know what? That’s the great thing about television. The limitless amounts of creativity that people can produce for our silver screens can either appeal to the good samaritan in us or the dark side of us. These folks that I’m about to list appeal to the latter.

Here are the top 5 TV protagonists that are actually the villain. Remember, you guys cheered for all of them. You might want to see someone about that.

#5: Dexter Morgan, Dexter

Your favorite serial killer and mine, Dexter Morgan comes in at number 5 for the sole reason that he is aware that he has a problem and has instilled a set of moral principles in order to harness his thirst for blood.

This set of moral principles known as the Code of Harry, is a list of rules that Dexter follows before killing a fellow human being. It’s a really long list, but three of the biggest rules were:

  • Targets must be killers who evaded the law.
  • Every kill must have a purpose.
  • Never kill an innocent.

Even though the Code of Harry shows that Dexter isn’t PURE evil, we still have to include him on this list. After all, the fine folks here at Grit Daily have a strict moral stance against vigilante justice. In addition, there are actually instances where Dexter (albeit accidentally) kills innocent people. At least his heart’s in the right place.

#4: Walter White, Breaking Bad

It’s a classic underdog story. Average chemistry teacher leading an average life gets diagnosed with cancer, and then cooks meth with a former student in order to support his family. Sounds like a common archetype right? The craziest thing about Walter White is how quickly he turns from a man who was dragged into the illegal drug trade out of necessity, into a ruthless drug kingpin who was capable of doing unspeakable cruelties. In just 5 seasons, Walt’s rap sheet includes but is not limited to:

  • Letting Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend overdose on heroin and choke to death on her own vomit when he could have easily saved her.
  • Kidnapping his own daughter.
  • Orchestrating the killings of ten people in a matter of two minutes.
  • Intentionally poisoning a child.
  • Handing Jesse Pinkman into meth making slavery.

Somehow, out of all the heinous acts that Walter White has committed, we still all tuned in to see what he would do next. He did things that made us sick but we still loved to hate him and that is a protagonist villain done correctly.

#3: Neal Caffrey, White Collar

A more light hearted entry on this list, Neal Caffrey is for intents and purposes a good person deep down. His profession however, is what still lands him on a list of villains (even though the rest of these guys make Neal look like a saint). Neal Caffrey is a con artist. His good lucks and charm help him con and lie his way out of any situation. Given that you just read about Walter White’s hideous deeds, it would be easy to dismiss Neal as a true villain. However, he is still far from morally perfect and that still lands him on this list.

#2: Negan, The Walking Dead

Honestly, the fact that he is seen as somewhat of a good guy nowadays is still angering to me. Does anyone remember Glenn? Sweet lovable Glenn? All he wanted was to live with his wife Maggie and live happily ever after in a post-apocalyptic nightmare? Negan made his debut on the TV series “The Walking Dead” by bashing in sweet Glenn’s skull with a barbed wire baseball bat named Lucille. Many viewers couldn’t quite erase that gory display from our minds. It’s been almost 4 years since I watched it and I still remember it like it happened yesterday.

Since Rick Grime’s departure from the show, Negan has transitioned from main bad guy to one of the protagonists of TWD, but guess what Negan. I still don’t forgive you. Glenn was the homie and you should be ashamed of yourself.

#1: Joe Goldberg, You

If you were to take Dexter and amp up the creep factor by a good 75% and then add severe mommy issues, we have Joe Goldberg the main character of Netflix’s newest series “You”. Joe is a complicated man. It’s not that he’s soulless or incapable of loving people, it’s just that when he does latch on, he loves you a little bit too much.

In just 2 short seasons we’ve seen Joe throw on his favorite trucker hat and find himself peeping through the windows of two of his female love interests. Past all of that however, Joe also has a mean kill count. While some may be seen as defensible (such as when he killed a pedophile and a mobster), Joe’s first kill is where we run into a morally grey area. He literally killed a man because he thought he was a bad boyfriend and didn’t want him running to the cops…..that’s it. No moral reason whatsoever. He also pushed somebody off a ledge in an attempt to defend his girlfriend’s honor. However, Joe’s personality is rather likable and he has since gone from killing 5 people to only killing two. You know what? That is progress and I’m proud of you Joe. Maybe next season, you’ll take less hostages and only kill one.

Related: Netflix Announces Original Movies for 2020

David Wee is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Michigan, he covers entertainment, music, and fashion. He is also an up-and-coming musician.

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