Mandy the assassin. In her very first appearance, she blows up an airliner full of civilians, then follows it up by attempting to kill President Palmer (and almost succeeding) at the end of the second season. Then there's the video game, where Tony Almeida watches as she slashes the Governor of California's throat and walks off. She then goes on to execute a CTU field agent (and blow up an innocent couple in their car) in the fourth season before being subdued by Jack Bauer. Better yet, the government knows about all of her past crimes...so, what do they do? Give her full immunity for revealing Marwan's location. She gets to walk away scot-free. By the end of the series, she is the only recurring antagonist to remain at large.
Jonathan, the assassin from season one. He's last seen fleeing the scene after Jack wrecks the initial attempt to kill Senator Palmer, and never mentioned again.
How about Miles Papazian in season 5? Not only did he impede Jack and Chloe several times and get Bill Buchanan fired from CTU, but he eventually switched sides to work for Charles Logan and helped him destroy evidence proving him responsible behind David Palmer's death that Jack had spent several episodes struggling to get, meaning he'd done it all for nothing. Miles then gets transferred to a nice new government job and the worst he gets is a slap in the face from his disgusted now-ex partner Karen Hayes.
Accused: Kenny's friends were equally guilty, but the only evidence against them is Kenny's confession, so the jury acquits them. Alison's husband isn't arrested for raping her, as she didn't report it, but is for other crimes. Tina's rapist is also not arrested for the same reasons.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ian Quinn appears to be becoming one of these. Last seen escaping at the end of the first season with his prized gravitonium, he has not been mentioned since, and it seems unlikely that he will return to face his comeuppance.
Mr. Sark. Every other villain on the show eventually either dies or suffers a Fate Worse Than Death, but the Distant Finale shows him still on the loose and still pulling capers, with no suggestion that he'll be stopped any time soon.
Olivia Reed never faces any consequences for her actions on screen, though one could argue losing her daughter could be one of them.
Ernest T. Bass in The Andy Griffith Show was this - for example in the episode "Ernest T. Bass Joins The Army", he throws a window-smashing temper tantrum after being turned away by the U.S. Army (because they met him), breaking out of jail several times in the process. In the end his punishment for this is... Andy discovers the reason he wanted to join the Army was to impress girls with a fancy uniform, so Andy gives him one of Barney's spare uniforms and sends him on his way. Ernest got this treatment whenever he appeared, really. Basically, he was good enough at picking locks to break out whenever he was put in jail, a skilled enough fighter that going hand-to-hand was never a viable option, and at the same time he wasn't evil enough to justify just shooting him. As a result the usual method of dealing with him was just to give him what he wanted so he'd go away.
Russell Winters in the pilot "City Of..." openly brags about being a Karma Houdini who can, as he puts it, "do whatever I want". Then Angel asks him "Can you fly?" Unlike some movie vampires, he can't, especially not in the sunlight.
Despite the horrors Wolfram and Hart commit, the Armageddon they have planned, the misery and devastation they have sowed, all of the team's efforts are only enough to inconvenience them, leading to a Bolivian Army Ending. To be clear, this refers to the Senior Partners and the organization as a whole, not individual employees. Almost every single evil employee ended up paying for their actions in one way or another.
Gunn's old gang, from the episode "That Old Gang of Mine". After murdering a good amount of completely innocent demons, ransacking a completely innocent demon bar where the demons inside can't even fight back, terrorizing a mentally ill girl and her friends, and still thinking that Angel is the evil one, what happens to them in the end? A few of their members get eaten in the climactic fight, and the rest just walk away to go kill more demons, with nary a "Reason You Suck" Speech from the main cast.
Arabela: Princess Xenia takes advantage of her father's absence and forces the idyllic and bucolic Fairy Tale Kingdom to modernize by building factories with the help of her magic ring, forcing everybody to work in them and live in apartment blocks, regardless of how they feel about it. It doesn't help that she doesn't understand things like pollution, so she cheerfully requests that the beautiful forests and waters of the kingdom be filled with trash, and even has a factory specifically designed to convert perfectly good objects into trash. The fairy tale denizens are extremely unhappy with this, to the point where a couple of them attempt to steal her ring. They fail, and she is about to have the thieves' hands chopped off when a mob gathers in front of the palace. She angrily uses her ring to transform all of them into cars and leaves them to rust in front of the palace while she heads to the human world to eat at a nice restaurant. When her father returns, he uses the magic ring to bring everything and everybody back to normal, but does not say anything to Xenia. She doesn't get a single slap on the wrist for what she has done. And she's next in line for the throne.
Arrow: Senator Joseph Cray stages a hostage situation to assure his ascension to president and then attempts to kill his hostages after the Suicide Squad mistakenly attempts to rescue him. When his plan is thwarted, he simply bribes the hostages to remain silent and has Floyd Lawton, who sacrificed himself to save everybody, framed for what happened.
Malcolm Merlyn is the king Karma Houdini and overall Magnificent Bastard over the first three seasons of Arrow. In the first season it's revealed he orchestrated the death of Robert Queen and Oliver's subsequent 5 year exile on Lian Yu, AND the death of Sara Lance and all the other people that were on the ship when it exploded. On top of this, he attempts to level the glades using man-made earthquakes, something that ends up killing his only son and many innocent civilians. And despite being exposed as the culprit, he gets away with it.
In season three he returned to prominence after training his biological daughter Thea Queen, brainwashing her to have her kill Black Canary (Sara Lance). He is caught by the league, but still survives when Oliver sacrifices his own freedom to resurrect Thea after she is killed by Ra's al Ghul (indirectly thanks to Malcolm having had her kill Sara). At the end of season three Malcolm is shunned by all the protagonist, but ends up becoming the new leader of The League of Assassin's without any sort of comeuppance.
Babylon 5: The Vorlons and the Shadows spent thousands - possibly millions - of years manipulating the younger races into fighting their ideological war. Both were willing to (and did!) wipe out entire planets of civilians just to marginally weaken the other's position. And in the end... they get to leave the galaxy and happily reunite with the other First Ones. And they don't even have to clean up any of the messes they made first!
Gaius Baltar manages to avoid paying for numerous crimes, notably his part in the complete destruction of the Twelve Colonies. Throughout the show he continuously acts in such a way that ensures viewer fantasies about pummeling the shifty little bastard, and has an implausible amount of sex with practically every woman in the show (Laura Roslin being an honorable exception) despite being an all-around weasel. He then manages to become the president of the fracking colonies despite the extremely noticeable handicap of wandering the halls talking to himself. Plus the religious cult set up around him by, you guessed it, hot young women. He even manages to get a Happily Ever After with Caprica!Six in the Grand Finale.
Caprica-Six deceives Baltar, who initially only thinks he's letting a hot blonde illicitly poke around in the Defense Mainframe to give her company an edge. She's fully aware her actions will lead to untold deaths (and was obviously conflicted, as shown by her mercy-killing a baby in the marketplace) but goes through with it anyway. Her attempt to make up for it failed spectacularly on New Caprica, leading to even more human suffering, though Cavil and Tigh shoulder a lot of the blame for that. She gets to spend life on Earth as a farmer with Baltar and his dreamy hair.
Cavil/One is personally responsible for eradicating two Cylon lines: Daniel/Seven out of jealousy and D'Anna/Three because one of them was too close to remembering who the Final Five were and his role in why the other Skinjobs didn't remember. He instigated the Colonial Holocaust out of a twisted sense of justice for his Cylon ancestors, plus everything he did to Ellen and Saul Tigh. His fate? Goes the gun-in-mouth route when an attempt at a truce goes pear-shaped, with only Ellen explicitly knowing the full story. And she never tells anyone else, on screen.
Kara "Starbuck" Thrace in Season 4 causes Gaeta to lose his leg via Anders' gun because of a Leoben-inspired head trip, painting pictures on the bulkhead while the crew mutters mutinously behind her. She never seems sorry about the event, not even visiting him in sickbay. But then again, almost no one does). She even mocks him about it later (though in her defense, Gaeta instigates the argument).
Sharon Agathon regarding her murder of Natalie(odd, given the character's history). She does spend about an episode and a half in the brig, but that's hardly adequate punishment for the cold-blooded murder of an unarmed person.
Blackadder II: Prince Ludwig the Indestructible gets away with at least two counts of rape by deception, kidnapping Edmund and Melchett for ransom, killing the entire main cast and overthrowing the throne of England.
Blackadder the Third. Unlike the first, second, and fourth incarnations of him, he rarely gets the punishment the world's biggest Jerkass should. He often takes advantage of his boss and the Prince of Wales, George, to escape karma at the last minute, even going so far as assuming his identity in the season finale. The modern and distant future Blackadders take after the third.
Blackadder Goes Forth: Whilst not exactly a villain, nothing at all happens to General 'Insanity' Melchett after all the other major characters (including Smug Snake Captain Darling) die in another attempted push.
Black Scorpion: Mayor Worth is a political example. Despite being the cause of most of the city's problems and the reason for most of its super villains, he remains free and the mayor. It's even lampshaded.
Darcy: "Doesn't matter what happens, he always survives."
At the start of the eleventh season of Bones, a newly retired Agent Booth gets involved in a multimillion dollar heist in order to protect his brother from the latter's gambling debts. There are several murders at the scene and later deaths, and Booth ends up in the hospital (again. With a bullet wound. Again.) The episode ends with both Booth and Brennan realizing that they are simply not built for retirement. For Brennan, this isn't really a problem, but Booth ends up back in his old job at the FBI without any questions asked about his role in a series of felonies.
Harmony, the soulless vampire has killed people, and betrays Angel in the end. But since she was so predictable about it and useful in an Affably Evil way, he not only let her go but types up a written letter of recommendation (she was his secretary). In Season 8, this is even more pronounced. She outs the existence of vampires, becoming a worldwide celebrity and making vampires seem like good guys while the Slayer Organization was made out to be a Nazi-like group attempting to destroy the misunderstood demonkind. But because of Harmony's status, Buffy orders her army not to try and kill her, out of fear of making her a martyr, which essentially gives her a free pass to do whatever she wants.
A far worse example would be Drusilla. Even after killing slayer Kendra and forcibly turning Darla into a vampire again, she was never staked and is still at large as both series closed.
Willow - she murdered Warren by skinning him alive, tried to kill Andrew and Jonathan despite them not being involved in Tara's death, as well as casually killing a warlock who sold her magic, then tried to destroy the world. She was being influenced by dark magic at the time, but then, she absorbed it on purpose. Her punishment? A couple months in England learning to better use her world-destroying powers. Although her time in England was no vacation (intense therapy and formal training) and when she returned she is the first suspect when flaying bodies appear.
The First Evil. Being incorporeal and essentially a force of nature, it actually cannot be defeated. The only thing the Scoobies were able to do was to destroy the Hellmouth, eliminating The First Evil's army, but not The First itself. Oh well.
Spike is more popular than the rest of the characters combined and people tend to forgive him everything, but he is arguably the most blatant example of this trope in the entire Buffyverse. Even before he was chipped Buffy let him walk away a few times for no reason (like in the episode "Halloween"). Then he gets chipped and everyone is suddenly trusting this chip with their lives, never mind that the organization that made it soon proved to be both evil and incompetent. Willow actually comforts Spike for his "impotence" - i.e. the inability to kill her! He starts killing people once more (against his will) in Season 7
The protagonists go through considerable trouble to make vampire Willow into one of these. Even after she tries to murder dozens of innocent people succeeding with few, the Scooby gang just let her leave back to her own world, even giving goodbye hugs and advice "try not to kill people". The hand of karma is swift in her case, as she gets staked seconds after her return, but not for the lack of trying.
Joyce, in "Dead Man's Party", when she all but shrugs off the role her ultimatum played in Buffy running away in 'Becoming'. A revolting moment for a likable character. Yes, Buffy bears responsibility, even most of it. But to verbally crucify Buffy in front of people she can't talk about Slayer-stuff in front of, and give her own stupidity a pass? It helps, though, that afterwards, Joyce did try to be supportive about Buffy being the Slayer (even if Joyce wasn't always successful at it.)
In the season 2 finale, Willow asks Xander to tell Buffy to buy some time while fighting Angelus, so that Willow can do the spell to return Angel's soul. Instead, when Xander catches up to Buffy, he says Willow's message is: "Kick his [Angelus's] ass." Buffy ends up having to kill a re-ensouled Angel to save the world, which leads to a major Heroic B.S.O.D.. Xander's actions are only brought up once, years later, and even then he never suffers any consequences for not giving Buffy false hope.
"Once More With Feeling" has Xander (more through foolishness than malice) summon a demon that danced several people to death and caused several unwanted confessions.
Halfway through Season 7, it is revealed that the First's attack on the line of Slayers is possible because the spell to bring Buffy back from the dead (ie from Heaven) upset the natural order. This fact is never mentioned again, meaning Willow and Xander, the main instigators of the spell, never even find out that the multiple deaths are their fault.
Anya lampshades this when complaining about Buffy's treatment of her in a season 7 episode, pointing out that Buffy's entire team was evil at one time.
Spike also lampshades this, pointing out that almost everyone has been evil at one point and that most of them get away with it after he starts Becoming the Costume in a season six Angel comic.
Burn Notice: In season 2, an episode revolves around trying to extradite a criminal bastard in exile back to Haiti so he can answer for his crimes. He looted the nation's treasury and fled into hiding. Halfway through the episode, we learn that his dead father, also a criminal and a thief, is nowhere near as dead as suspected, but also escaped into hiding. While the target is apprehended and shipped off to Haiti, his equally guilty partner stays in hiding in the states and the best the heroes can do is try to point the authorities in the right direction so they can eventually do something about the situation.
Chuck: The Big Bad for the last quarter of season four, Vivian Volkoff, is this. She's told she can meet with her father if she helps with a mission, but in the end Beckman doesn't hold up her end of the bargain. Most people would be pissed. Most people would also agree that taking over her father's company, hiring someone to blow up Castle, manipulating the team into retrieving a deadly weapon for her and then leaving them to die is a slight overreaction. After being told Chuck's parents were responsible for her father becoming Volkoff, she tries to kill Sarah to hurt Chuck. She hands over the cure in the end, but only after Chuck gives her a blank identity so that she can start a new life, meaning she not only suffers no retribution from Team Bartowski, but is guaranteed not to have to deal with any consequences from anyone else, either.
The Closer: Bill Croelick is a particularly odious example. He's a Sociopath with a Dark and Troubled Past who's sexually aroused by burning women to death, but gets off for a variety of reasons: first the only witness against him ODs, then in both the cases where he's a suspect, the real murderer turns out to be someoneelse. He's also a Manipulative Bastard who loves to harass Brenda and company while staying just within legal bounds. At least Brenda gets him to leave her jurisdiction and never return.
Cold Case: Very rare, and when it does occur, it's almost never the main perp. Examples are few and far between, but include the second killer in "Late Returns" (his devoted sister took the rap for both murders even though she only committed one), the victim's pedophile dad from "Fly Away" (statute of limitations was up, and while he appeared to have become The Atoner over the years, the dude still gave his eight-year-old gonorrhea), the crooked nun who sold babies on the black market in "The Good-bye Room" (only evidence against her was the tape-recorded testimony of a dead woman), and the black widow from "The Runaway Bunny" (the only person who could prove she did it, her stepdaughter, was being hidden away for her own safety; the woman even gives Lilly a wink and a smug grin as she leaves the station, knowing she's untouchable).
Averted in the show in general, since the protagonists live to defy this trope, 99% of the time; the main UnSub of the episode has gotten away with it a grand total of once. Occasionally played straight with minor characters only tangentially related to the crime, however, a good example being the General Ripper responsible for the unsub's Start of Darkness in "Dorado Falls."
This trope is acknowledged in the episode "To Hell And Back." The FBI discovers the killer is a quadriplegic who manipulates his autistic brother into murdering people for medical experiments, and acknowledge this will sound like nonsense to a jury. Unfortunately for the killer, the brother of one of his victims, assisting the investigation, overhears this, grabs a shotgun, and blows the guy's head off as he lies bedridden and helpless.
A pair of Black Widows who worked as a tag-team; one would marry a rich man and get in the will, then the other would poison him; they'd then move on to a new state and switch roles. They destroyed all the physical evidence, leaving investigators with only the word of the other as to which one did it, so the DA didn't even bother filing charges.
A man who murdered a woman who looked almost exactly like Sara; this one rankled Grissom quite a bit.
A serial rapist who murdered his last victim so she couldn't identify him, then fled the state.
A Serial Killer who managed to convince the jury she was only an accomplice; she did five years and was protected by double jeopardy. To make matters worse, the father of one of her victims goes to jail for beating her to the brink of death - one only wishes he'd gotten the chance to finish before the cops pulled him off her.
A group of plane passengers who beat another passenger to death for attempting to open an escape hatch mid-flight. While it's true that doing so would doom the entire flight, meaning it was a clear case of self-defense (except for the part where they continue beating on him after he's down), Grissom points out that the man was sick, and none of the passengers or the flight attendants bothered to figure out what was wrong, assuming he was just a crazy jerk. Had at least one person done that, the whole situation would have been avoided. Once again, the DA refuses to press charges, claiming that a jury will never convict so many people.
Partly happens to a casino owner who hired a group of people to steal a valuable collection of Japanese artifacts (all fake) being displayed in his hotel and collect the insurance money. At the end, the CSI team figures out what happened, but all evidence is circumstantial, so neither the owner now his accomplices are arrested. However, when Grissom is telling all this to the smug rich guy, he explains that he's going to turn this evidence over to his insurance company, whose standards of proof are far less strict, so he shouldn't expect a payment. Based on the guy's facial expression, he clearly did not expect this outcome.
Dark Shadows: Laura Collins, a phoenix-like being who appears every hundred years and then burns herself to death, preferring to take any offspring with her. She's prevented from killing her son David, but still presumably goes on to try again every hundred years.
Deadwood: George Hearst is a hair-tearing example of the historical figure type of this trope; he has anyone who stands in his way of obtaining gold extorted or murdered, and forces the town to sell everything to him. He does have a token comeuppance of losing Captain Turner, but he's a pretty heartless prick when it comes to people anyway. His last act is to demand the death of Trixie, a whore who tried to assassinate him. Al murders Jen instead because he loves Trixie and knows Hearst won't be able to tell the difference between the bodies. When satisfied, he rides out of the town that he owns onto his next conquest. Then the series ends.
Degrassi: The Next Generation: In season 2, Paige is raped by Dean. After several incidents where he taunts her about the ordeal, she presses charges against him, but the trial doesn't take place until season 4. However, Dean is found not guilty due to the lack of evidence. Paige gets a small measure of revenge by wrecking Dean's car by deliberately crashing Spinner's car into it. Also, Dean states that he does not get in to a fraternity that he was pledging for because Paige had shown up at one of their parties and screams about Dean raping her. However, no real consequence is ever felt by Dean.
The third season has Art Shepard. Lynette found his basement full of half naked boy pictures. Convinced he's a pedophile, she starts massive demonstrations. Art's sister Rebecca managed to dismiss Lynette's doubts then the latter came back to Art in order to apologize herself. Art confesses to Lynette that he really was a unrepentant pedophile and he was hiding his activities from his sister. At the end of the episode, he just leaves Wisteria Lane for a new neighborhood. Granted, it's not known whether he was telling the truth just then; he could have been lying about that for revenge on Lynette
Orson Hodge stalks Bree and even kills someone in the final season. When she rejects him, he sends evidence implicating her in a different murder (she only helped bury the body) to the police. He then disappears into the wind and is never brought to justice.
In a related instance, a cop who has it out for Bree doctors evidence to make it look like the murdered man was meeting up with her. He never gets his.
Early on in Designated Survivor, in the wake of prejudice due to the recent attack on the white house, Michigan police brutality kills a 17 year old boy because John Royce was indifferent to the extremism he had allowed in the state. He eventually cooperates with Tom to have police stand down and release everyone who was loosely imprisoned, but that does little to make up for the police brutality that killed the boy. At this point, neither John nor the police who were involved in the brutality have addressed or faced the accountability of how their actions wrongly killed an innocent.
Dexter intentionally averts this trope. His victims are would-be Karma Houdinis, except Dexter gets 'em.
Zig-zagged in season 4 with the Trinity Killer. After committing murder for 30 years and never getting caught, in the season finale he robs his family, takes his prized sports mobile, and escapes the police as he drives off into the sunset. Then Dexter captures him and he ends up on his killing table, but still has the final laugh as Dexter has no idea that Trinity had killed Rita earlier that day, making it impossible for Dexter to derive closure or get revenge since Trinity is already dead.
Dexter. While it's all in the service of the community (as he sees it) and while it gives him no end of trouble, he does kill people and avoid getting caught. He even got to pin most of his murders on Doakes. In the series finale, Dexter fakes his death and starts a new life elsewhere, and his dark secrets are never even exposed. Some viewers, however, see this as a fitting Fate Worse Than Death-type punishment, as Dexter has lost everyone he loves and is apparently living in isolation and misery.
Marco Fuentes is still on the run, and Cira Manzon got away with setting Deb up to take the blame for his escape.
Back in the first season, (as in, the first first season) when they drop in on The Aztecs, the Bad Priest ends up in charge and the Good Priest is exiled. Also, the Doctor's fiancée gets her heart broken... Though the story is very aware of this and the story is meant to be a historical tragedy.
Professor Sorenson from "Planet of Evil", a Reluctant Mad Scientist who tried to harvest anti-matter as a fuel source. In the process, he upset an anti-matter creature who wiped out his entire expedition bar him and then most of the rescue team that came to pick him up. He still insists his plan will save his people and make him famous, even though he's been infected by anti-matter and keeps turning into a ravening beast that kills most of the rest of the rescue team that came to pick him up. He pins the blame on the Doctor and Sarah, nearly getting them executed, and breaks a deal the Doctor made with the anti-matter creature by smuggling anti-matter on board their ship, nearly causing it to crash. In the end...he gets cured and gets to go home with the few people he hasn't got killed, with the Doctor setting him off on a different form of research so he'll probably end up famous and celebrated.
In "Let's Kill Hitler" we meet a group dedicated to punishing these. They travel to the end of a war criminal's established timeline and torture them to death. Ironically, they become Karma Houdinis themselves.
A few episodes have had the classic horror-movie "That creature is no threat to us!" character who immediately gets eaten or whatever, but often the Doctor saves the contrarians along with everyone else. The 2007 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" subverts it with a plot where nearly every likable character dies, but rude, unhelpful, selfish coward Rickston Slade not only survives the disaster, but turns out to have financially benefited from it. One character even comments on this to the Doctor, saying it's not fair, but you can't, and shouldn't, be able to choose who lives and who dies.
In "Mummy on the Orient Express", the Doctor solves the immediate problem, but the very ruthless and evil people who set the situation up go unidentified and unpunished. It's possible that this may be revisited at some point.
Ashildr/Me (Maisie Williams) from the Series 9 Story Arc. The Doctor saves the Viking lass from the grave in "The Girl Who Died", but the only way he can do so also renders her functionally immortal. She becomes embittered and occasionally villainous as centuries pass thanks to The Fog of Ages, Who Wants to Live Forever?, and the Doctor's choice not to take her on as a companion lest they both become exemplars of Immortality Immorality, but he works to keep her on the right path, having faith that she isn't completely heartless. In "Face the Raven" (set in 2015) she's a reluctant Anti-Villain who agrees to trap the Doctor under threats from the Time Lords — via a plot that ends up accidentally claiming his beloved Clara Oswald's life, which angers the Doctor even more than the betrayal does; it's only Clara's demands that keep him from destroying her and the trap street then and there. The grieving Doctor subsequently endures more-or-less solitary confinement and torture that induces a Sanity Slippage; he escapes as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds desperate to save Clara's life by any means. In the process, he and Ashildr meet at the end of the universe's existence, she having outlived everything else. He's still bitter, she won't apologize or atone...yet rather than just leave her to die alone, he lets her follow him — with no explanation — onto TARDIS 2.0. In the denouement, the Doctor repents, is mind-wiped of his most important memories of Clara, and left alone with his old TARDIS. Ashildr becomes the now-functionally immortal Clara's companion in the second TARDIS, Clara completely forgiving her actions! Defenders argue she's a case of Earn Your Happy Ending because she was forced to endure The Slow Path for eons thanks to the Doctor's good intentions going awry, but others feel she merely profited off of the Doctor's suffering and loss.
Bonnie the Zygon in "The Zygon Inversion", who leads a vicious Zygon uprising against humanity which leads to the loss of several lives on both sides, but basically gets let go with a stern lecture from the Doctor. She even becomes the replacement second Osgood. This is arguably part of the point of the episode, however; while it might be pleasing to see her get some form of punishment to satisfy some idea of karma and justice, ultimately forgiveness is the healthier option and breaking the cycle of violence, resentment and retribution that the characters had all become locked in has to start somewhere.
Dollhouse: Alpha murdered a ton of people, rendered Ballard brain-dead and in the end Echo just lets him walk out? She should have just killed him then and there. That's the last we ever see of him. (Granted they may have been planning to resolve the Alpha plotline at a later time but couldn't because the show got canceled). Echo couldn't bring herself to kill him knowing that he had Ballard inside him. He does show up again in "Epitaph Two: Return", having undergone a Heel–Face Turn, but doesn't receive any comeuppance.
Dragnet In one episode, an apathetic jury acquits a burglar despite his obvious guilt. Fortunately, the burglar's return to LA and some new technology give the law a second chance.
Enemy at the Door: Hauptmann von Bulow, the title character of the episode "The Prussian Officer", is successful in humiliating Reinicke, with terrible consequences for a number of innocent bystanders, and suffers no repercussions, not even a twinge of conscience. Reinicke's attempt at retribution just results in more humiliation for himself and leaves von Bulow even more self-satisfied.
Equal Justice: The episode "In Confidence" sees a completely guilty murderer and rapist go free because of missing evidence, an eyewitness who can't remember what happened, and his attorney being unable to disclose a confession he gave him.
Though Jen Greene commits not one arson, murder, or jaywalking, the controlling harpy of a wife of protagonist Dr. Mark Greene, certainly qualifies. From close to the beginning she makes it clear that it's her way or the highway in the Greene household, threatening to leave Mark and take their daughter when he stands up to her for a little of what he wants. Then it comes out she's boinking her filthy rich law partner—after years of her hypocritically bitching about Mark's friendship with another woman—following which she sues Mark for divorce, marries said filthy rich law partner, and proceeds to live a more comfortable life than Mark could in his wildest dreams. And as the final twist of the knife, it's heavily implied that after Mark's death she gets custody of the aforementioned daughter, whom she had neglected so badly said daughter turned to drugs.
Dr. Romano caught Archie Morris smoking a joint on the job in the bathroom and dragged him out to tell him to wait in a seat and touch nothing - he would be dealt with later. Archie does, but Romano is killed by the helicopter, so no one is there to report Morris' crime.
Kerry Weaver. From Season 6 onward, she began to pull numerous duplicitous stunts in order to advance her career and never once incurred punishment for any of them, eventually becoming Chief of Staff.
Everybody Loves Raymond: This trope is most definitely in play when it comes to the wife, Debra. While it's true that her mother-in-law Marie was smug towards her, there really was no justification for her to treat her husband Ray the way she did, subjecting him to physical and verbal abuse on many occasions in the mid-to-later seasons of the show. On one occasion, she's annoyed at him and shoves him at full force into a bunch of bookshelves, so hard that the books actually fall off the shelves. On another occasion, she's irritated at him for making a joke about her food, so she pours piping hot marinara sauce--right off the stove--onto Ray's crotch. But perhaps the worst was the episode where we learn that Debra actually encourages Ray's own kids to make fun of him behind his back and see him as less of an authority figure. Throughout all this, Ray always ends up being the one to be humiliated in every episode, and keeps coming back to Debra, who maintains a rather smug attitude, bragging about her supposed superiority to Ray on many occasions. If the roles had been reversed, and Ray treated Debra the way she treats him, it clearly would not fly.
Steve's bullies would often get away with what they did to him. And the audience would often even laugh at his misery, like for example that once when someone hung him by his suspenders from a hook on the wall!
In an episode when Laura tries to get more Black History in school, someone not only leaves her a note saying that she should "go back to Africa", but also writes a racial slur on her locker door. As far as we know, the person who did this was never caught.
And in another episode, a gang of girl thugs not only steal Laura's jacket by tearing it off her body and beating her, but they also actually shoot another girl because she refused to give them her new shoes. We never see these girls get any punishment.
They appear again in 3J's debut episode, tormenting Urkel. In this case, however, they actually do get some kind of comeuppance in that 3J gives them a $50 bill he stole from one of the girls' pockets without ever telling them that it was their own money. However, we never find out whether they caught on to this, making it a pretty anti-climactic comeuppance.
Also, Laura has had a string of loser boyfriends, but at least most haven't been disrespectful to her mother, save for one. In one episode, Laura brings a guy-of-the-week to meet Harriet, and he mistakenly confuses with her grandmother. An innocent mistake enough, yet when Laura corrects her, not only does Jerk Ass McNobody doesn't apologize for the mistake, cries out "I'm gonna die!" and runs out the door, but for the rest of the episode, everyone (including Laura) treat Harriet like crap because she's bothered by this guy's comment to the point that she gets an "embarrassing" makeover.
Firefly: Adelai "I Torture People to Death For Laughs" Niska manages to escape from Serenity's vengeful crew in "War Stories", a fact they lampshade with Inara telling Mal, "I just wish you'd killed that old bastard." Of course, it's entirely possible that Joss Whedon intended for Niska to get his comeuppance later, but the show was massively Screwed by the Network before that could happen.
Leonard Snart/Captain Cold seems to be this so far. His introductory episode has him murder two guys in cold blood (not counting one of his partners) and try to kill a train full of people, as well as Barry. He gets to walk away from this with the large diamond he steals, telling Cisco not to push his luck when the latter asks for it. True, him and his new partner Mick Rory/Heatwave are captured at the end of their next episode, only to be immediately freed by Snart's sister Lisa. Next time, the three kidnap Cisco and his brother, forcing Cisco to rebuild their high-tech weapons (and a new one for Lisa), as well as to reveal the Flash's identity. Snart uses the latter to blackmail Barry into letting him roam free, provided Snart uses his smarts not to kill anyone. Next, Barry has to make a Deal with the Devil and ask Snart to help him escort a group of meta-humans to an A.R.G.U.S. plane to take them to Lian Yu (Arrow's island prison). In return, Barry eliminates all evidence of Snart's crimes. Naturally, Snart ends up going back on his word and lets the meta-humans go free, killing one to make a point. He then has the gall to claim that Barry now owes him one for letting him live. Since he's now set to be in the Legends of Tomorrow on the side of the good guys, we can assume he doesn't get his comeuppance either.
General Wade Eiling could also fit the trope. As a Knight Templar, he uses national security as a justification for performing inhumane experiments on both animals and people, as well as the kidnapping and murder of anyone he deems a threat. While it's true that the Reverse-Flash ends up kidnapping him and giving him as a plaything for Grodd, who has a score to settle with Eiling for the above-mentioned experiments, and that Grodd uses Mind Control to force Eiling to rob banks for him, he eventually ends up free of mind control and goes back to his command, albeit as the Flash's reluctant ally.
This show is one of the ultimate sources of this trope; set during the Second World War, many of the murderers and criminals Foyle exposes are also somehow essential to the British war effort, and thus manage to wriggle out of punishment and get away with murder. In some cases, the British government actually actively helps them escape justice. This actually prompts Foyle to quit at the end of the fifth season, frustrated that too many people escape justice and use the war as an excuse.
Neatly played with in one episode - the murderer, a prominent American businessman, manages to escape punishment because he is an essential figure in a movement to eventually bring the United States into the Second World War. Before he leaves for America, Foyle comes to see him off. The businessman gloatingly triumphs over Foyle, but is quickly cut down to size when Foyle informs him that he's only postponing justice, not escaping it; he's free because of the war, but the war will end one day, and when it does he'll still be a proven murderer - and Foyle will bring him to justice then.
And subverted in the first episode, in which the killer expects that Foyle will let him go because his work is essential to Britain's code-breaking efforts. Foyle arrests him anyway, reasoning that this isn't Nazi Germany and he doesn't get to decide who gets away with murder because of how important/vital they are.
Frasier: Blaine, Lilith's brother. Established by Frasier early on as a con-man who has conned his way across several states and stolen from Frasier several times, he arrives in a wheelchair and is now a minister. After his followers give generously and Frasier finally trusts him enough to do the same, he escapes with the cash, leaving his empty wheelchair at Frasier's door as a final mocking sign that it had all been another con job.
Friends: As revenge for a joke Chandler pulled on her in the fourth grade, Julia Roberts's character gets him to wear her panties for a date. She then gets him to strip off in the bathroom and runs off with his clothes - which is the last she's ever heard of. One wonders if Jean Claude had done that to Monica or Rachel, would he get away too?
Several visitors to Gilligan's Island who know all about the Castaways do nothing to help them get rescued, including the Mosquitoes, Wrong-Way Feldman and Harold Hecuba. Hecuba even steals their idea for a musical Hamlet. None of these people suffer the slightest retribution for their callous treatment of the seven castaways.
Played with by the Russian cosmonauts, who were willing and able to help the castaways off the island...and into a Siberian gulag to keep them from telling the West about the Russian space mission landing thousands of miles off target. Probably the one instance where the Castaways worked to keep from being 'rescued'.
Goosebumps: Karl, the villain of the three-part episode "Chillogy". At the end the heroes believe that one of the miniature figures they're burning in the fireplace has to be Karl, but it turns out he escaped the destruction of Karlsville unharmed. The episode ends with him laughing evilly at his apparent luck.
Gossip Girl Every character on fits in some way or another (except possibly Nate) but Dan Humphrey manages to stand out. He's emotionally abusive towards Serena, constantly making her feel like she's a bad person for being born on the Upper East Side, berating her every chance he gets and always reminding her that he is a good person and she isn't. With his best friend Vanessa he sabotages her chances of getting into Tish by falsely accusing her of getting her position by cheating, then cheats on her, dumps her, takes her back just so she will babysit his child by another woman while he runs after Serena and then spends the rest of that season making sure Vanessa knows that she is a bad person who doesn't deserve his friendship. When he's in love with Blair he lies to her and tries to get her to leave her fiancé over a situation Dan knows she's misunderstanding, then he humiliates her at her wedding by posting a video of her and Chuck and then puts the blame on Chuck. Just to name a few selected highlights of his behavior. Then of course the finale reveals that he is Gossip Girl which means he's the person who's been stalking them, spying on them, violating their privacy by posting their secrets on his blog, including humiliating his own little sister by making a splash post about her losing her virginity to Chuck (just to name one example of posts where he screwed his sister over). What happens to Dan in the end? Everyone on the Upper East Side forgives him, welcomes him into their circle and he gets to marry Serena.
Hawaii Five-0: Ultimately subverted in in the case of Malia's brother/Chin's former brother in law Gabriel. Gabriel was a Karma Houdini for a long time after Chin got him out of a grand larceny rap. Malia asked Chin to intervene because she was worried that a record would dog him for the rest of his life, but escaping punishment led Gabriel to believe he was impervious to justice. He soon got away with killing Chin's father in a gang initiation gone wrong, became a powerful underworld figure on the mainland and was never convicted of a crime until 15 years later when Chin tied him to crimes old and new.
Hermes e Renato: The character Joselito in the Brazilian comedy show. He bullies anything that moves (including his mother), but never is punished!
Heroes: Sylar's continued survival defeats the entire purpose of the first season arc. In the third season premiere he obtained Claire's power without killing her - admittedly when Sylar got her power in the alternate timeline of season one's "Five Years Gone" we never saw her dead (and it's not the last time this would happen to someone played by Hayden Panettiere), but it still kind of makes the whole "save the cheerleader, save the world" thing a little pointless.
As of episode "The Wall," we can probably remove Sylar from the Karma Houdini list. Several years (relative time) of complete and utter isolation? When solitary confinement can be used as a means of torture just over the course of days? And when you add in the fact that they listed his single worst fear as being alone forever and then having his arch-rival stuck in his head? Yeah, we can argue Sylar is getting his payback.
There's an episode starring Joan Jett as an immortal named Felicia Martin on the run from a brutal hunter named Devereaux...it later turns out she's a remorseless murderer who, centuries earlier, killed Devereaux's wife and baby son. How does this end? She beheads the guy trying to avenge his family, reveals that to get someone's trust and murder their loved ones to throw them off their game is her MO and fights hero Duncan MacLeod. He wins...and spares her life at his idiot sidekick's request. She lives and we never hear from her again, despite immortals portrayed far more sympathetically losing their heads when they murder just one person as opposed to the hundreds Felicia has presumably slaughtered.
The immortal Kenneth, who appears 9 years old. His MO is getting people to take him in and beheading them when their guard is down. If anyone gets in his way, he murders them, human or no. After betraying everyone and attempting to kill the heroes...he gets threatened by his teacher/foster mother and waltzes out of town, no punishment. Granted, losing her hurts him, but still.
Homicide: Life on the Street: The cops often had to watch murderers they brought in escape punishment. In the finale, another Karma Houdini goes free, and it's the last straw for Tim Bayliss, who resigns his commission and kills the criminal.
House is the poster child. The man can't go an episode without doing something that would cause any normal doctor to get arrested and / or his medical license revoked. That being said, he has been physically assaulted by patients, their relatives, and even his own fellows, and once he was even shot in his office.
The man who shot House was never caught, nor were the real reasons behind it ever revealed.
The cannibal serial killer whom the team treated also escaped punishment and was never heard from again.
Tritter uses a sick and blatantly illegal mixture of bribery and coercion on Wilson and House's fellows, doesn't keep his word regarding a plea bargain, and doesn't even get a slap on the wrist.
Vera, for the villainous example. She did plenty of horrible things, like kidnap Trudy, and many fans were crying out for her karma. In the end, however, she literally was just told to walk offscreen and that was the end of it.
The TV adaptation switches out the book's ending of a redemptive suicide for the Magnificent Bastard Francis Urquhart, in exchange for his murdering the unlikely love interest, and going on to be Prime Minister for two more series.
The author tried again in the sequel; in the novel To Play the King, Urquhart is Prime Minister but is still ultimately defeated at the end. In the TV adaptation, Urquhart comes out unquestionably on top.
And curiously, the positions were reversed in the final installment, The Final Cut; in both, Urquhart is assassinated, but in the TV adaptation Urquhart's fate is portrayed as being entirely out of his hands and stage-managed by his wife and bodyguard, thus rendering Urquhart impotent and powerless against forces outside of his control. In the novel, however, Urquhart is aware of what is happening but knowingly meets his fate in order to secure his enduring legacy, thus proving his Magnificent Bastardness without doubt by allowing him to have the last laugh against his critics and enemies by ending his life on his own terms and, for all his sins, as a much-beloved and admired martyr.
Lily breaks Ted up with numerous girlfriends, and the most she gets is a telling off. Tends to happen whenever she does something wrong.
Also, she racked up a huge amount of credit card debt by compulsively buying designer clothes, forcing Marshall to take a corporate job he hated to help pay off her debt. Everybody (including Marshall) forgave her quickly for this. To make things even worse, when Marshall suggested that Lily sell some of her designer clothes to help pay the bills, she actually had the nerve to get mad at him.
It might be because Ted is the narrator, and is therefore a little bitter, but the impression is certainly there that Tony, the man for whom Stella left Ted at the altar, took the notable points of Ted and Stella's relationship and twisted them to make Ted (or 'Jed') appear a petty, egocentric asshole in his movie "The Wedding Bride". This paints Stella as the houdini as well given that most of the details could only have come from her. In a series that generally gives characters what they deserve, this grates.
In an episode Marshall is tricked by a boy who traps him on the roof and steals his cellphone. So he gives a party in Marshall's house, sexting an oblivious Lily, and at the end, he gets money from her before she discovers what happened.
Intelligence (2006): Lots of characters get away with their evil deeds, but Ted Altman is actually rewarded for his villainy as the series goes on.
JAG: Mostly played straight with Navy lawyer Harmon Rabb, Jr. While he would do several heroic deeds that often passed with little official recognition, just as often he committed many acts that should have gotten him court-martialed or at least ended his military career. One instance had him shoot up the ceiling of a courtroom with a sub-machine gun (an evidence item, no less). This instance saw him getting chewed out by his boss and the judge, but that was pretty much it; he wasn't even removed as counsel. In another example he picked a fistfight with opposing counsel in a foreign country in front of reporters, leading to a major injury to a coworker who tried to stop them. Despite the implications of this significant public embarrassment to the United States, the USN, and JAG corps, his "punishment" was to fight his rival without any interference, which is exactly what he wanted in the first place.
The worst instance, however, would have to be the third-season episode "Death Watch." Harm decided to hunt down an officer he believed had killed a friend of his, force him to confess, and kill him in cold blood. Sure enough, Harm finds him, backs him against the edge of a port dock at gunpoint, and gets his "confession." Before Harm can shoot him, however, the frightened officer is startled by the arrival of Mac (whose actress played the victim in the first season) and topples over the edge and is crushed to death between a ship and the dock. The police and others arrive in short order and Mac asks Harm whether he was really going to kill the officer, to which Harm replies that now they'll never know. EXCEPT HE DID KILL HIM. If not for Harm's incredibly illegal interrogation by forcing him into a very dangerous spot in fear of his life, the officer would be alive. Not only that, he was legally an innocent man as nothing had been proven against him in a court of law and his unwitnessed confession at gunpoint means less than nothing. In fact, absolutely nothing Harm (a sworn servant of the law) did was legal, and he had motive, means, clear pre-meditation, and even witnesses to the murder. Even if Harm somehow beat murder charges, and he wouldn't, his career would absolutely be over. Instead, Harm makes out with Mac a little while cops swarm the crime scene, the incident is treated as though the officer died in a freak accident, and the whole thing is never mentioned again.
Law & Order: Several of the defendants manage to wriggle out of well-deserved punishments. Uncoincidentally, most of those who do are filthy rich.
In "Sick", Billy Tripley, a rich pedophile isn't punished because the other villains' actions make the case impossible to prosecute. The episode actually ends with the frustrated squad vowing to get him eventually, but the story was never revisited.
A good (and not rich) SVU example is Darius. He sets up The Plan to seek revenge on his family and ensure that he gets away with at least one murder. He still fully expects to go to jail, but he knows he won't get nearly as much time as he should. In the end he is found not guilty and walks away scot-free. That said, it was a Pyrrhic Victory, as revelations from the trial - namely that Darius was a product of father/daughter rape - left Darius even more emotionally screwed up than before.
Another example is in "Valentine's Day" when the supposed victim is accused of using sex to lure an unsuspecting male into setting up a false kidnapping, so she could collect the ransom money herself. During a break in the court case, we see her approach one of the jury members in a stairwell, and surprise surprise, the case ends in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The ADA subsequently tells the squad that her boss probably won't let her pursue the case any further, as the evidence is a sketchy at best and the defendant is too sympathetic.
A couple's daughter was kidnapped, so they adopted another little girl, dressed her in the original daughter's clothes, dyed her hair, gave her plastic surgery, implanted her with a tracking chip, all in an effort to have Replacement Goldfish that would never leave her mother's sight again. The end of the episode has the SVU detectives bringing the original daughter home, while the adopted daughter is promptly forgotten, still mutilated, and no one cares.
The rapist in "Starved" avoids being prosecuted by manipulating his girlfriend. First into silence then attempted suicide. He than has her taken off life support to collect the insurance money. Not only does he get away with both, he ends up becoming rich in the process.
Subverted in Svengali. When a celebrity serial killer gets an obsessed fan to commit murder for publicity and his sick pleasure he believes he'll get off scot free. He ends up being moved to extreme isolation, unable to communicate with his fans, or leave his cell for more than an hour a day for the rest of his life.
Los Exitosos Pells: The Argentine series had a magnanimous writer: Happy Ending for all. For all the good guys, but also for all the bad guys. The evil assistant who wanted to rule the TV channel got a TV channel for her own, the journalist who wanted to replace the news presenter of the channel is in charge of the new channel news program... and the Corrupt Corporate Executive that was jailed. Last episode, the bad guy has been revealed as such, captured and held behind bars... the end? No! He was freed some months afterwards because of a legal technicism, and began a political career.
Benjamin Linus's body count from "The Man Behind the Curtain" ALONE was at least a couple dozen, shot Locke and left him for dead in the same pit that the aforementioned dead bodies were unceremoniously dumped, and actually KILLED Locke (but he comes back to life). His punishment has been the occasional beating, but he's always been forgiven (somehow).
Principal Reynolds in Lost episode, "Dr. Linus" lets his school fall into disrepair, carries on an inappropriate relationship with the school nurse, and threatens to ruin Alex's future. He's not punished for any of this.
Reese can steal Malcolm’s girl friend and nobody cares but when Malcolm steals Reese’s he’s a horrible person.
The family can get tired of Malcolm and exclude him from their activities but it’s not fair that Malcolm spends more time with his friends and takes their side over his own brother.
Lois forces Malcolm to do multiple extracurricular activities and extra work as well as help his brothers do their work but when all that work takes up his time he gets punished for it.
Lois and Hal agreed to stop smoking together. When she found out that he hid a bunch of cigarettes throughout the house she threatened that if she found any she would force him to eat them. Yet she smokes everyday during her lunch break.
Malcolm was willing to tank his grade despite the fact that Reese viciously beat him.
Married... with Children has a rather fine example in Al Bundy's lazy, whiny bitch of a wife, Peg. In spite of some of the examples of her utter usefulness and horrible acts including ruining her husband's rare moments of joy and success out of spite, jealousy or just plain idiocy, feeding her family toxic food, breaking the law on many occasions (while letting someone else take the fall for her) and being complicit in killing a man, the times she receives any actual karma are few and far between.
Then there's also her mother, the woman who taught Peg everything she knows. As little karma as her daughter receives, she gets even less. Special mention also goes out to Seven, a manipulative brat relative of Peg's that was forced onto the family (and the show itself). Due to Peg's protection of him and the immunity he had for being so young, he never had to answer for any of his actions. Understandably, the fans don't like him very much.
The exit story of Major Frank Burns is so horrible - for everybody save himself. After acting as the ultimate jerk for five seasons, he got promoted and got his own command - stateside!!!
Amusingly, the exit story of Burns in the book and movie is also an example of sorts, in the other direction. After Hawkeye, Trapper, and Duke pester him into flipping out and trying to kill them, Captain Burns gets hauled away in a straitjacket. After that, Colonel Blake calls them in, tells them flat out that he knows what they did, but the only disciplinary action he's going to give them is not making Trapper chief surgeon for another week because it would look bad. Mostly because he can't afford to lose more people who actually know what they're doing, granted...
The Mentalist: Jane himself. In almost every episode, he pulls outrageous stunts that leave Lisbon doing damage control and would be a gold mine for any defense lawyer — but somehow the bad guy never goes free, and Jane is never punished. The worst example to date is Jane's outright murder of Timothy Carter, who he believed was Red John. Not only was he acquitted by jury nullification, he quickly realized Carter HADN'T been Red John after all. It's not a big surprise that this doesn't bother Jane much; what upsets viewers is that Lisbon knows, and it doesn't seem to bother her either.
Mom: The mugger who stole Christy's rent money; Claudia and Butch, Violet's father.
In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Bully", Roderick Brody, the guy who bullied Monk in high school, is rich, successful, having a hot wife, and believes all the cruel things he did to him were nothing more than dumb jokes on his part. And worse of all, he wasn't the killer — though he nearly got framed up by his wife's identical twin.
The Monkees: In the episode "The Picture Frame", the boys get off the hook for the robbery they were Film Felons for, but the real crooks aren't shown getting in trouble for it in the end.
A subversion: While making up for a bathroom robbery, Earl has to work at a fast food restaurant where the boss is a distinct Karma Houdini. He has a successful life, a beautiful devoted wife, a beautiful devoted mistress, many awards, and is successfully embezzling a fortune out of the store, whose employees he routinely tortures for petty mistakes. Earl is horrified that karma has not punished him yet, but is sure it will eventually. When it becomes apparent that karma is not going to punish him and he continues to push Earl's buttons, Earl snaps and punches him in the face, knocking him out. Karma swoops in and while he's in the hospital both women visit him at the same time and find out about each other. The wife destroys all his trophies and awards and in the process finds out about his embezzling and reports it, sending him to jail, and allowing the man Earl was trying to help in the first place, become the new manager and everybody is happy. Debatably, Karma was trying to teach Earl that he can't just rely on karma to fix everything all the time, but the only lesson Earl learned was that karma could use his fist as a weapon.
The episode "Defiance" features a girl who fakes her own kidnapping for complex political reasons—which turns into a real kidnapping/ransom scenario that leaves one of her professors dead. She gets off without punishment because her father is a foreign diplomat who knows which strings to pull.Lampshaded by Ziva at the end.
Nip/Tuck: The Carver, a masked serial rapist who disfigures his victims after raping them, and once kills a woman. Most of the third season revolved around catching the Carver. The Carver's last appearance was lounging around on a beach with his girlfriend/sister, looking for their next victim.
Nurse Jackie follows the life of a nurse coping with situations her drug addiction and professional struggles bring into her personal life. Her amazing ability to maintain the integrity of her relationships despite the chaos in her life prevents her from feeling the consequences of her actions. At least until Season 4, and even then it's not as bad as it could be.
Todd, whose rap sheet includes three separate rapes, multiple kidnappings, a bombing he tried to pin on someone else, setting another bomb at a police station, and baby theft. No, he's not in jail. And he's just got his kids back...
And then there's Cole, who had just barely turned 18 and was still in High School when he got high and caused a car crash that left the son of the police chief and the DA paraplegic (only for a few months, as it turned out) and got a slap-on-the-wrist rehab deal. This kid has a bright future ahead of him!
Oz, being tilted toward the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, had several unrepentant criminals escape any kind of justice for their evil deeds. Notably, Jason Cramer got his murder rap overturned (he'd decapitated his lover and mailed the guy's body via FedEx) and waltzed out of the prison scot-free. Conversely, genuinely repentant Miguel Alvarez runs afoul of the vindictive head of the parole board who tells him to his face that he will never be paroled though they will continue to go through the motions every year.
Demetrius Harris from Playmakers fits the bill. He implicates a person for murder that his friend committed, is a drug addict, dumps a girl at a hospital who is overdosing, and steals pain medication from a cancer patient he is visiting. Yet he never sees the consequences of his actions and his transgressions are overlooked by the team owner, who wants him to be the face of the franchise.
Played straight and inverted almost constantly in The Practice. If the firm is defending a psychopath, they'll almost always get him off; if it's clear someone is innocent, you can bet they're going to jail.
A plot point in the episode "The Lisa Card". Lisa charges over $300 on her father's credit card and spends the episode terrified of how he'll react. He actually takes it fine and doesn't punish her. However after two days of living in fear, Lisa actually begged him to punish her. She ends up having to take a waitress job to pay the money back (and that's after all her clothes have been sold as well).
Zack gets away with a lot of sociopathic behavior. Belding gives him detention for attempting to sell the school to the Japanese.
Kelly has her fair share. On the occasions where she is to blame for her and Zack's ruined relationships it's played straight that what she did was wrong. However when they get back together, it's all white washed.
On Sesame Street, Cookie Monster often eats other peoples cookies (or other foods, and often even eats other people's non-edible property) but rarely gets in trouble for it (aside from sometimes being yelled at or disciplined a little). Rare instances where he does face consequences for his action are times when he was wrongfully accused (such as in The Cookie Thief special).
The Shadow Line: Happens to several major villains. Gatehouse, Patterson, Jay Wratten, Ratallack and Lia Honey not only all remain at large at the end of the series, they're all in better positions than when they started and are ready to start over with a new incarnation of Counterpoint.
For the first six seasons of The Shield, Vic Mackey was a master of this. No matter who he robbed, who he killed, the gang wars he set off, the countless cases he ruined, the innumerable ways he broke the law, he managed to avoid being caught, being found out, being prosecuted and such. In the series finale, it looks like Vic is about to get away with it again as he cuts a deal with the Feds, confessing his mountain of misdeeds without any chance of prosecution and getting a cushy FBI job out of it as well...
And then it's completely subverted: his best friend Shane kills his own wife, son and himself. Vic's wife cuts her own deal to get away from him, filing for divorce and making it clear Vic will never see their children again. And Vic discovers that rather than back on the streets, his job is nothing but an office drone, pushing pencils with his supervisor breathing down his neck every single day for three years (after which he can never be held accountable for his crimes) and quite obviously goading him into doing something to break the deal and get sent right to jail. And if, by some miracle, Vic does last the three years? Then the FBI is going to cut him loose with his record known to one and all, and thus no law enforcement agency is going to touch such an infamously dirty cop ever again. The show ends with Vic, the master of Karma Houdini, stuck in his own private Ironic Hell.
Anyone who is responsible for the Body of the Week is never seen facing any punishment. The worst cases are homophobic teenagers who assault a gay couple (killing one of them), a burglar who shoots the man he is robbing (which was completely pointless, since the victim was tied and gagged, and the bastard could have simply wore a mask to hide his identity), and the Alpha Bitch owning the caretaking company opposing the Fishers, who kills a bystander with a golf ball, without ever noticing it. None of them are seen caught, and just leave the show.
Also Jake, the creepy hitchhiker. Sure, he gets caught, but he traumatized David by beating, drugging, stalking, and almost killing him. For the rest of the series, David is still scattered by the event and even seeing Jake in jail (who doesn’t seem very annoyed by his condition) doesn’t make him feel better.
It looked like Karma had finally caught up with Lex Luthor in Season 8, when Green Arrow blew him up, but as of the Grand Finale, he's been resurrected, regained all his old holdings, and is set to become President Evil at some point in the future.
Oliver Queen; after it is revealed in season 6 episode "Reunion" that he indirectly caused the death of a classmate that he bullied in high school and no one except Lex (who's even more responsible) calls him out on it, not even Clark. He does imply that his crime-fighting career is partly an attempt to atone for this, making this a sort of Self-Guided Karma.
Stargate SG-1: Colonel Maybourne is initially introduced as a corrupt shadowy figure and the primary opponent of the SGC on Earth, he quickly suffered Flanderization and finally, after facing a court martial, fleeing to Russia and leaking information about the Stargate program, being brought back, facing a death sentence, being taken out of prison by O'Neill, being put back, escaping, helping SG-1, tricking SG-1 into taking him off-world, being brought back and then exiled by the Tok'ra... he eventually led a primitive nation claiming to be a prophet. And then, even after his deception was exposed (by SG-1), his people left their "King Arkhan I" in power anyway. To be fair, Maybourne turned out to be a pretty decent king anyways, and he wasn't "exposed" by SG-1; he confessed and apologized for lying. His people still served him because apparently he was a good king, despite lying.
Vulcan ambassador T'Pel who was really a Romulan spy called Sub-Commander Selok in "Data's Day".
Armus' punishment for the murder of Tasha Yar is...being left alone again. (Admittedly, this seems to be hell for him but he's no worse off for his encounter with the Enterprise.)
The episode "First Contact" has Krola, the loud-mouthed, paranoid defense minister who tries to kill himself and make it look like Riker shot him. Unbeknownst to him, the phaser is set to stun. He doesn't die, and while the chancellor knows what really happened, he asks the Enterprise to leave like Krola wanted.
In the episode "The Survivors" it eventually transpires that an immortal superalien named Kevin accidentally, in a moment of pure rage, killed all fifty billion members of the race that killed his (human) wife. He feels bad about it but not bad enough that he doesn't create a fantasy version of his wife to carry on as if it never happened. In the circumstances, though, it's understandable that Picard's response is to go "Yikes" and get as far away from him as possible. At the same time, we are not shown any other superbeings (e.g. the Q Continuum, Organians) punishing him for this.
In "The Mind's Eye", the Romulan Subcommander Taibak suffers no comeuppance for torturing and brainwashing Geordi La Forge into becoming a Manchurian Agent that nearly sparks a war between the Federation and the Klingons.
This seems to be a trait of Romulans: Mirok, the Romulan from "The Next Phase", attempts to destroy the Enterprise, after they've saved his ship, so they don't inform the Federation of the new cloaking device he was testing. He fails, naturally, but by that point he's halfway home and no action is taken against him.
Shapeshifters are good at shifting away from consequences. The ruthless and evil Founders of the Dominion are cured at the end of the series; their power in the Gamma Quadrant is unbroken, and there's nothing to stop them from invading again. Meanwhile, Odo faces no professional consequences for collaborating with the Dominion during their occupation of DS9, and the only personal consequence is a long talk with Kira.
Many of Sisko's choices come back to haunt him, but two of his most outrageous never do. In "For the Uniform", he poisons an entire planet and isn't punished for it. In "In the Pale Moonlight", he tricks the Romulans into an alliance; his original, Starfleet-approved plan is about to fail, but Garak saves it with cruder and decidedly unapproved methods (which Ben should've seen coming a mile away). No punishment from Starfleet here either. Moreover, as far as we know in canon, the Romulans never find out — and they would be livid if they ever did — so the whole Federation is a Karma Houdini on this one.
Intendant Kira, in spades. Throughout her appearances, she's portrayed as a monster who commits casual murder for the flimsiest of reasons, takes pleasure in enslaving other races and generally seeks power for its own sake without really showing loyalty to anyone. She's taken prisoner by both sides at various points but never stays locked up for long. Her last appearance sees her once more escaping unharmed while every other villain is killed or captured. Then again, it is the Mirror Universe, where our rules for karma don't necessarily apply. Or else the creators viewing her as a Villain Sue entitled her to Joker Immunity, even though karma applies to everyone else.
Star Trek: Voyager: The title ship is alone and often outgunned, so sometimes they just can't do anything about the bad guys. Examples:
Both the Akritirians in "The Chute" and the unnamed alien from "Persistence of Vision" come off none the worse for their crimes.
Verin and the other colonists in "Friendship One" get a free radiation-poisoning cure and are left alone... despite having murdered a popular recurring character in cold blood.
The Vidiians get away with stealing Neelix's lungs, abducting three crewmembers, experimenting on one, using them all as slave workers, and murdering one of them (the non-regular). The Kazon are one thing, but Voyager is just no match for these guys — Janeway has to cut her losses.
Partly the case for the two Ferengi, who ended up in the Delta Quadrant by way of an unstable wormhole back in TNG. They set themselves up as the prophesied Sages of a primitive civilization, reshaping it to Ferengi standards and profiting immensely. At the end of the episode, not only do they prevent the Voyager from returning home through that same wormhole, but they end up going through it themselves. While it's true that they want to go back to the planet and rule the people, the people are sick and tired of them and would likely try to burn them at the stake again. Yep, they're alive and get to go home, while the Voyager has to take the long way back. This may be averted, since their entry into the wormhole makes it even more unstable and it isn't entirely clear exactly where they ended up.
Voyager seemingly dooms an alien civilization when they destroy a dangerous energy particle which is also their last hope. They destroy the particles and research, return the scientist and the aliens just give up pursuit and leave.
Star Trek: Enterprise: Silik's boss from the future, who's behind all sorts of mischief, is last seen doing just fine in the Season 2 finale.
Step by Step had an episode, where JT and Cody were tricked into signing over the right to their TV show to a network. But as they had legally signed a contract, they couldn't do anything about it. And to make the whole thing even worse, they were even unable to get any money from the deal!
Survivor: Russel has gone through at least two seasons making Combat PragmatistUp to Eleven. He admits acting the bad guy deliberately. Some of the first few things he did when he originally joined was burn one guy's socks and empty the camp's water supply so that one started to wonder that why didn't they just send him to home after the first chance. They did that to Yau-Man on his second attempt, even though the guy at least had some shades of being nice! Also, Russell is a millionaire who joined because he wanted to practically tell everyone that he's an evil bastard. The only thing that allows us to put a real person here is the fact that we don't really know if he's evil in real life, too.
Denise, the politician who suggested that the elite protect their own and select the lowest achieving schools, gets to be in charge at the end.
The people in the episode "Meat" who were harvesting the meat of a live alien. They cut off slabs of the alien's meat while the alien was still alive just so that they could profit from it. Their punishment? They had their memories erased and were allowed to return to their normal lives. As Jack remarks, what else could they do?
Judith Harper was a complete bitch, who still managed to almost always get what she wanted. The show even started with her getting tired of Alan, despite that he had clearly been a good husband, and bluntly kicking him out of the house, that he alone had paid for over the years. And she was not only allowed to keep said house, but she was also granted an extremely high alimony, leaving Alan to live off his much richer brother Charlie. And still, Judith had the nerve to demand even more money from Alan for her car insurance or their son's class trips, and to start complaining about every woman Alan dated, despite how she herself dated plenty of men. She also helped Alan's second ex-wife to get him screwed in yet another divorce, and when she herself got re-married, she also started treating her second husband like crap when she got tired of him. And despite all this, nothing really bad ever happened to Judith.
Evelyn is a narcissist that abused Charlie and Alan growing up and still abuses them to this day and has caused the death of two of her ex-husbands (One by food poisoning, the other committed suicide) and caused the death of a cockatoo that she owned. She's never gotten any comeuppance for any of this.
Charlie a lot most all of the time too (Well, until he went to Paris, that is).
This was actually addressed in the episode "Release the Dogs" where Alan goes through a lot of stress and angst over how Charlie seemed to have everything easy and coast by in life, never receiving punishment for his terribleness. By the end of the episode, it's hilariously subverted when after Charlie promised Jake the he wouldn't date Jake's crush's mother yet did so anyway, Jake with some help from Rose pours a bucket of slime over Charlie's head, has him jump over the balcony and crash into the beach, and then get chased after by police hounds.
Charlie at the very least has the odd moment as The Chew Toy and is implied to have several psychological dents from his perverted lifestyle.
When Alan runs a Ponzi scheme on his family and friends, he manages to get enough money from Rose to pay everyone back before they find out what he did.
It's heavily implied that Rose murdered Charlie, and made it look like an accident. Alan and Berta both realize this, and Alan casually tells it to several people, but nobody does anything about it. In fact, fast forward a year & not only is Rose still walking free, but it turns out she's started stalking Walden too. She doesn't even have any reason to, she just does it for no reason. It's implied that she's even stalked Jake.
Rose is actually a walking Karma Houdini, given that she stalks Charlie endlessly since their one night stand, despite Charlie having a restraining order against her. She's superglued his testicles, breaks into his house constantly and various other actions and this is all Played for Laughs.
Alan's lawyer in "No sniffing, no whining". Despite commiting malpractice repeatedly when drawing up Alan and Judith's divorce settlement, she isn't even reported to the Bar Association (in Real Life, Alan could sue and report her to the Bar).
Sophie also applies, though by the time the Grand Finale comes along, all those that did bad things have either been punished or they don't have a lot to look forward to as they now live a pathetic existence. Even though Judith has a check from Jake in the finale, she's absolutely alone with nobody in her life. While Sophie becomes a queen in the finale, it's possible that if her husband grows tired and weary of her, he'll have her executed. No one in this show really got off unscathed or scot free.
Vikings has Kenelm, the brother of Princess Kwenthrith who continously raped her when she was 12 year old, and not only wasn't punished for his crime, but eventually he was declared a saint by the Pope. However, since Kwenthrith is not exactly a shining example of mental stability, in this case she may be an Unreliable Narrator.
The West Wing: Jean Paul is introduced in season four as Zoe's new boyfriend from France, he spends a lot of it acting like a smug rich bastard. Things get taken up a notch in the season's second to last episode, when he slips Zoe a roofie after her graduation, either part of his genius plan to date rape the president's daughter, or to aid terrorists that later kidnap her. After he's nearly beaten to within a inch of his life by an enraged Charlie, he's never seen again after, besides a brief mention that he's stonewalling the authorities with info about his dealer, or possible connection to the terrorists. This may be due to Aaron Sorkin leaving the show, and the new producer trying to avoid his old storylines.
The Wire seems to be 50/50 with its Karma victims. While the above is probably the best example for the series, there are numerous other complete bastards (criminal or otherwise) who get away scot free. Life goes on, presumably is the message.
After everything he's been responsible for over the last three seasons, Marlo avoids a jail sentence entirely and gets to keep all his money and connections, with the seemingly minor stipulation that he's not allowed to return to dealing drugs on the streets...but subverted when it turns out that he can't imagine any other life, so this is actually a fitting punishment for him.
Played straight with Stan Valchek, the most useless and venal character in a useless and venal hierarchy. He ends up Commissioner.
Scott Templeton. Even though he fabricated quotes and information about the supposed serial killer roaming around Baltimore in season 5, and though almost everyone involved knows he's lying (McNulty asks how the lie will benefit Templeton in the end, and it's implied the Baltimore Sun brass know what he did but are intentionally looking the other way), he not only gets away with it but receives a prestigious award for his work.
Alex flip-flops around this trope. While in some episodes she escapes retribution, she is punished quite a bit.
Max, on the other hand, is now made of this trope. Hmm... make things harder for your older brother to win the family wizard contest by taking a book with every single type of monster in existence, release all of these monsters into New York City - and when all of the other Monster Hunters are killed by the hordes of monsters (not to mention God knows how many normal people), not a word is said or anything done to Max. Hell, they were going to take away Alex's powers FOREVER for turning her parents and a teacher into guinea pigs... but Max is probably considered not to be in the running for the contest, anyway.
Wonder Woman: In the TV series, this happens a lot. If someone is participating in a crime and seems to not really want to do it, or better yet does anything to thwart the rest of the criminals, they will never be punished at the end for the crimes they committed. Also some villains escaped: Mariposa in Screaming Javelins, Count Cagliostro in Diana's Disappearing Act, and... Gault's brain in Gault's Brain
The X-Files: At least half if not more Monster of the Week villains basically got off scot free even if temporarily thwarted by Mulder and Scully. A common ending was to show the villain in a whole new location with the implication they were still at large and out there. A handful ended up getting their comeuppance in later episodes, but only a handful.