TV might love the bad boys (and bad girls) but it loves something else even more. While nothing can be beat a good villain, there is something special about a good character turning bad or doing bad things on TV. Sometimes they do things just to survive, sometimes they are backed into a corner and sometimes they just like a straight-up prick. Here are some the most famous examples of good characters being bad on TV.
Clarke Killing Mount Weather, The 100
The theme of The 100 can be summed up by Bellamy’s line to Clarke, “Who we are and who we need to be to survive are two very different things.” The characters of The 100 have made some tough, morally questionable calls for their survival. Clarke is the hero of The 100 and like most heroes she tries to do the right thing. Clarke preaches about the sanctity of life, doing the right thing and trying to protect her people. Clarke’s decision (with Bellamy) to exterminate every man, woman and child inside Mount Weather was awful no matter how you look at it.
Rumple Becoming the Dark One, Once Upon a Time
Rumplestiltskin was a coward but at his heart he was a good man. Rumple loved his son and tried to be a better person for him despite his cowardly nature. This all changed on Once Upon a Time when he accepted the power of the Dark One and became the ultimate source of evil in the universe. Rumple has done a number of terrible things over the years on Once Upon a Time but it can all be traced back to this one event.
Angel Setting Darla and Drusilla on Fire, Angel
Since Angel was an evil vampire with a soul, his spin-off series was constantly about the internal struggle with his nature. Angel was pulled to do both good and bad in equal measure. Angel tasked by the Powers That Be was on a mission to do good and save everyone possible in LA. In season 2, when Angel came face-to-face with a woman from his past he went full on bad. The grand climax of Angel’s evil turn in season 2 was when he literally set Darla and Drusilla on fire. It didn’t kill them, they were vampires after all, but it hurt like something fierce.
Walt Letting Jane Die, Breaking Bad
The entirely of Breaking Bad, as the name suggests, was Walt turning from mild-mannered science teacher to drug lord. Walt was the blandest of bland guys before the series began. He got into the drug world to protect and provide for his family and he was quickly consumed. However it wasn’t until halfway through the series when Walt committed his most heinous and unforgiving act. Walt broke into Jesse’s house and was present as Jesse’s beloved girlfriend Jane, overdosed and choked on her own vomit. Walt could have saved her easily but let her die for his own reasons.
Castiel Accepting Lucifer, Supernatural
Castiel is a renegade among angels. Among mere mortals though Castiel is about as goody-too shoes as one person can possibly be and still keep living in the real world. Supernatural is full of the Winchesters and their allies making bad decisions for good reasons. Castiel’s acceptance of Lucifer into his body in season 11 was among the most stupid of these decisions and perhaps the worst. Because, you know, it involves letting the literal devil out of his cage and walking the Earth.
Grant Ward Becoming Hydra, Agents of SHIELD
This is less a good character becoming bad and more a bad character revealing he was bad all along. For the majority of season 1, Grant Ward had about as much emotional range and complexity as piece of unbuttered white bread. Ward was the ultimate All-American hero. The guy looks like he belongs on a cereal box. It was revealed that it was all an act and in reality Ward was one of the best and most vicious villains the team ever faced.
Stefan Becoming the Ripper, The Vampire Diaries
Similar to Grant Ward, in the early seasons of The Vampire Diaries Stefan was dull as eggshell white paint. Even Edward Cullen was a little embarrassed by this toothless vampire. Stefan was the poster boy from hunky good guys. It turned out that Stefan was purposely trying to be dull because if he drinks human blood he becomes the very definition of the monster. There have been multiple times that Stefan has reverted to his ripper self but when Klaus forced it to happen for the first time was easily the most horrifying.
Theon Greyjoy Taking Over Winterfell, Game of Thrones
Theon Greyjoy started on Game of Thrones as kind of a jerk but overall nice guy. Theon was Robb Stark’s right hand man in the war. He was effectively his brother in arms. It wasn’t until he went to go meet with his birth family that he became a villain on par with Joffrey Baratheon. Though originally working with Robb Stark, Theon took over Winterfell and the results were disastrous. It greatly affected the power of the Starks and Theon, himself, ended up the torture slave of Ramsay Bolton.
Carol Killing Karen, The Walking Dead
Hands down, Carol is the best character on The Walking Dead. Carol has moved from an abused wallflower to a compelling and complicated zombie apocalypse survivor. She’s also the most morally complex. Carol has taken harsh measures to ensure her survival. In the early season of The Walking Dead Carol was abused and frightened woman trying to provide for herself and her daughter. The apocalypse forced Carol to change and not necessarily for the better. Carol killing Karen to prevent the infection was one of the worst thing she ever did, mostly because it was completely useless. The infection spread and Carol killed an innocent woman for nothing.
Slade Wilson Becoming Deathstroke, Arrow
The reason that Slade Wilson is widely regarded as one of Oliver Queen’s greatest foes is because they started out as friends. The two men helped each other survive on a stranded island and became close as brothers. Slade taught Oliver how to be a hero every bit as much as his friends Felicity and Diggle. Yet, thanks to the death of a loved one and some mind altering drugs, Slade Wilson became a complete murdering psychopath driven by misguided revenge.
Mike Lying About Being a Lawyer, Suits
Mike lying about his law degree was the entire premise of Suits. It didn’t change the fact that it was wrong and illegal. Mike’s intention were kind of pure. He isn’t a selfish person and often does right by his clients. Mike is about as pure-hearted as a tough business lawyer can be no matter how he got the job. The lie didn’t catch up with Mike until season 5 when it got out, he was arrested, the entire firm went down with him and he was sentenced to jail. Suits presented the worst case scenario for lying on your resume.
Elliot Starting the Economical Apocalypse, Mr. Robot
Sure, it’s kind of what the character was planning to do all along but it didn’t make it less horrifying. In the beginning of Mr. Robot, Elliot was a sheepish stereotypical nerd. Inside Elliot there was literally a monstrous and ruthless anarchist. Mr. Robot season 1 told the story of Elliot Alderson’s way to hack into a better world by collapsing the world economy. In the end he did it but the world Elliot created was a lot more scary and dangerous than he imagined it would become.
Michael Killing Two People, LOST
Michael Dawson was one of the most moral castaways on the island in the beginning of LOST. He was little boring but ultimately just a good guy trying to be a good father. It all changed when he ran into the Others. Michael was being blackmailed into saving his son but he still pulled the trigger. LOST saw a lot of good characters turn bad like Claire who became borderline feral by the end of the series. Locke’s body was taken over by the villainous Man in Black. Michael murdering Ana Lucia (on purpose) and Libby (by accident) somehow still seems like the worst thing a good character on LOST ever did.
Willow Turning Into the Ultimate Evil, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The ultimate villain of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6 was depression. Since it is kind of hard to dramatize a psychological condition on a supernatural series, the show figured they needed an actual villain for the finale. This is where Dark Willow entered. Buffy’s best friend, Willow is the epitome of the good girl. Willow is sweet, helpful and dorky in the best way possible. Willow turned herself into the ultimate evil when her girlfriend Tara was killed in front of her. Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned.
Piper and her Panty Business,Orange is the New Black
You could argue that the act that landed Piper in prison was a moment of a good girl turning bad. It’s arguable though because Piper was still pretty naive when she initially committed her crime with Alex. For the first couple of seasons of Orange is the New Black Piper was still trying to maintain that she didn’t “belong” in prison. There is no getting around the fact that Piper knew better and didn’t care by season 3 of Orange is the New Black when she started her illegal panty selling business inside the prison.
Ted Mobsy Being Insufferable, How I Met Your Mother
When How I Met Your Mother began Ted was a likable and romantic hero. By the end of the series he was essentially a garbage person. Ted was the ultimate romantic hero in the first few season of the sitcom. Ted was everything a romantic should be and rarely is in a romantic comedy. The longer How I Met Your Mother went on, the more terrible, desperate and conceited Ted became until it became hard to imagine how anyone could love them. Somehow though he had two perfectly amazing women like Robin and Tracy love him and want to spend their life with him. The pinnacle achievement of Ted’s douchebaggery was probably when he broke his ex-girlfriend Victoria’s wedding and knew they had no future.
Don Leading Lane to Commit Suicide, Mad Men
Lane Pryce was in a bad way in season 5 of Mad Men. Don Draper might not have put the rope around Lane’s neck but he might as well have with his lack of caring for Lane’s obvious downward spiral. Don did a lot of terrible things during Mad Men‘s run like firing Sal, cheating on Betty, cheating on Megan and being jealous of Peggy. Don always felt kind of guilty about these things and tried to do better. Don is the hero of Mad Men and he is flawed hero but still a hero. There’s nothing remotely heroic or sympathetic about Don indirectly causing Lane’s death.
But what do you think? What are your favorite moments of good characters turning bad? Are there any that we missed?
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Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.