The Sociopath / Live-Action TV


  • American Horror Story has a lot of these. From the first season, Tate is the most prevalent example, though he might not be a complete sociopath. Season 2 has Bloody Face (aka Dr. Thredson), Leigh Emerson, and the Devil himself. Season 3 had Delphine LaLaurie. The fourth season had Dandy Mott and Stanley.
  • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger: A borderline case is Dr. Mikoto Nakadai, the man is a super smart surgeon who was so bored with his life, that when he became Abare Killer he joined the Evolians and use his powers to what he consider as good use. In which case he formulate his own evil plans that are close to working and make the old villains look comical. It doesn't help the fact that he had a shard of the Evolian god Dezumozorlya.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Todd Alquist is an almost perfectly textbook example of Antisocial Personality Disorder. He appears to be polite and charming but its mostly just because he's emotionally hollow. He murders a kid in "Dead Freight", later describes it as "shit happens" and doesn't seem to understand everyone's objections. He shows a similar lack of empathy or even caring when he murders Andrea in "Granite State" and tortures Jesse in "Ozymandias".
      • He later develops some kind of close relationship to Lydia, who seems considerably more intelligent and with slightly better social skills, but also has a very weird detachment from the literally dozens of murders she is ordering while simultaneously seeing herself as an ordinary businesswoman.
    • The Cousins are emotionless hitmen who kill everyone in their way, including innocents who didn't need to die, without flinching.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Angelus, described by one of the most ancient, powerful and evil vampires (Buffy's season 1 Big Bad The Master) as "The most vicious creature [he'd] ever met," set the gold standard for evil in the Buffyverse. For centuries he was the scourge of Europe, with countless murders, rapes and torture to his name. When he returned home, fresh from the grave, his little sister who opened the door remarked that he "had returned to her an angel." After slaughtering his family, he adopted the Latinate of angel (Angelus) as his name to mock that comment. Refusing to kill a longstanding nemesis vampire hunter, Angelus contented himself by murdering the man's wife and baby son, turning his young daughter into a vampire to force her own father to destroy her. His self-admitted masterpiece was seducing Drusilla, a pious, tormented girl with psychic powers, murdering her family and driving her to a convent before slaughtering everyone in the walls and turning her into a vampire to preserve his insane, broken work of art forever. When his soul is lost again, Angelus delights in psychologically tormenting his former beloved Buffy's friends and family out of disgust for the human feeling Buffy gave him. The ultimate culmination of this was his brutal murder of Jenny Calendar, leaving the corpse for her lover Giles to find in a parody of a romantic rendezvous. Angelus's evil extended to his hope of awakening a demon to suck all of humanity into a hell dimension for eternal torture, solely for the fun involved.
    • Adam, to the extreme. His one and only purpose in living is to make sure that he causes as much death and destruction as possible, for both his allies and his enemies. He's got the narcissism part down-pat too, claiming to be "more aware than any human or demon that has ever existed".
    • Glory is another example. So much so that even after she involuntarily starts to become nicer near the end of the season, she's still totally unbothered by the fact that her plan would result in every other being in every possible reality dying in the best-case scenario.
    • Warren Mears, who decides to become a super villain mostly out of boredom. When his ex-girlfriend Katrina points out to the Trio that Warren's mind-control was essentially an Attempted Rape, Jonathan and Andrew seem genuinely disturbed by the realization, but Warren is unbothered and just kills her to prevent her from telling anyone. After he accidentally kills Tara and nearly kills Buffy, he seems to honestly not understand why their friends would want to get back at him.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Encounters a "pure psychopath" about once a season. Interestingly, despite the hundreds of cases the BAU have investigated, only 9 characters have been listed as genuinely sociopathic/psychopathic. They are Adrian Bale, Nathan Harris (who was not actually a criminal), Frank Breitkopf, The Boston Reaper, Ray Campion, Raymond Donovan and Sydney Manning, Danny Murphy, and Greg Phinney. Of these, The Reaper is probably the worst, being an utterly amoral psycho who killed people for no better reason than a desire for fame, and went after the police when they dared to try and stop him.
    • Jeremy from the Season 6 episode, Safe Haven is a 13-year old "budding psychopath", with severe attention deficit problems and antisocial tendencies. He can't pay attention to anything for more than a few minutes, has a serious lack of impulse control, lies complusively and convincingly, killed his neighbour's dog, regularly tortures his little sister, and tried to poison his entire family with rat poison in the Thanksgiving turkey. After being abandoned by his mom he goes on a cross country killing spree as he attempts to return home and murder her, killing entire families and torturing the mothers. He has no real emotions (as is repeatedly demonstrated), but fakes them incredibly well, and at one point expresses a very creepy sexual interest in a girl who can't be much more than ten. Rossi suggests that they should keep him on file for a reason.
  • CSI: Had a few of these as killers of the week. One possibility is the teenage killer in "Unsual Suspect" and "Goodbye and Good Luck". Another appeared on an earlier episode, and it was even lampshaded how she could switch personalities on a whim.
  • CSI NY: Had one, possibly two of these. In one episode, a young woman manipulated an older guy into killing a woman at a French Revolution themed party. Stella is annoyed that they can't prosecute the girl, because she didn't commit any actual crime, she just pulled the strings to get the other guy to act.
  • The Master from Doctor Who is a classic example, although he will generally stop bothering with the suave act and just enjoy himself once he no longer needs to. He fits all traits, and as such, makes an interesting Foil to the show's Bunny-Ears Lawyer protagonist - Both of them are eccentric geniuses with a childish streak and a love for intellectual challenge, but there is one thing that sets them appart: While the Master can be very charming and suave, he has a complete Lack of Empathy. The Doctor, by contrast, has No Social Skills but is generally well-intentioned.
  • Dark Oracle: Omen appears to be one of these initially, but his genuine liking of Cally and slow development of human emotion keeps him from falling fully into the trope. Villain of the Week Claudia, who believes "if it feels good, do it," might well be a low-functioning sociopath. And then there's the comic book characters, Blaze (a hot-tempered Jerk Ass who has no qualms about breaking a fellow student's arm), Violet (a Manipulative Bitch who enjoys scaring the crap out of her victims), and comic!Sage (who plays mindgames with Lance, screws around, and tries to off several girls with a poisonous snake).
  • Dexter: The eponymous Dexter Morgan, the most famous Sociopathic Hero and Serial-Killer Killer on TV, is an example of a sociopath with a moral code his father instilled to direct his murderous urges at other killers. As such, he self-identifies as a sociopath but he usually only lies & manipulates his targets or people who are trying to hunt him down or to maintain a facade of normalcy (he initially gets into a relationship with Rita entirely as a disguise). With his Character Development, he's a hybrid of schizoid and sociopath who displays enough guilt, love and empathy to qualify as a reformed sociopath, though it's dubious whether such development is realistic.
  • Dragnet: As a cop show, it showcases a bunch of them. What follow are some examples that stand out.
    • The franchise (apart from missing early radio episodes) is bookended by robbers with itchy trigger fingers.
      • The earliest available radio episode involves a gang of holdup men who shared a brace of guns between them on jobs. One of them, Alonso Jackson, is best known for bursting into a liquor store, saying "This is a stickup!" and then letting the clerk have it immediately (shooting him again in the spine later to make sure he's dead).
      • The final case of the Sixties Dragnet finale, DHQ: The Victims, is the holdup of a mom-and-pop grocery store. When Julio, the husband, implores robber Carl Brooks to leave some dough behind to pay the bills with, punctuates a taunt with three bullets to Julio's stomach. He is completely unmoved later, in the hospital, when Julio's corpse is being wheeled out while his widow is being consoled by the priest who gave Julio his last rites. Both Jackson and Brooks' lives were forfeit, presumably because of the extra meanness of spirit behind the murders.
    • The Big Rod and The Big Accident both feature remorseless hit-and run drivers. In the former episode, when the grieving widower tells the culprit to be glad the Police got him [the hit-and-run driver] first, because "I would have killed you," and all the culprit can say is "Pretty upset, isn't he?" In the latter episode, the hit-and-run driver tries to take solace in the fact that they elderly couple probably wouldn't have lived much longer anyway. In both cases, a disgusted Friday reads them the riot act.
    • Mister Daniel Lumis is not a killer, but easily the biggest asshole in the entire franchise. He leaves a trail of kicked dogs everywhere he goes, and then expects the cops to respect his my-wants-trump-all attitude, and to excuse without punishment his wronging of everyone around him.
  • Galavant has Madelena, the innocent peasant girl forced to marry the evil king, who upon being granted a position of power immediately abused everyone she could and schemed for more. When she and Galavant have a long song together she says that she loves him "as much as someone like me can love anyone", only mentioning sex and how well they look together as why.
  • Game of Thrones: Quite a number of these characters crop up, including (but not limited to) Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, King Joffrey Baratheon, Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton.
  • Glee: Has Alpha Bitch Kitty Wilde. Sue Sylvester has done worse things, but is more Comedic Sociopathy as it's being Played for Laughs or Crosses the Line Twice; Kitty's actions don't fall under comedy, however.
  • Heroes:
    • Has a few among its villains, like Arthur and Sylar. Elle Bishop was actually diagnosed as a sociopath and displays extreme aggression coupled with no empathy:
    Elle: The shrinks diagnosed me as a sociopath with paranoid delusions, but they were just out to get me because I threatened to kill them.
    • It's also heavily implied that she wasn't naturally a sociopath so much as driven insane after her father had used her in various experiments relating to her power. She seemed to be growing out of it but never got the chance for redemption.
      • Bob Bishop most likely is one. Letting a sociopath raise a child to become a sociopath...
    • Sylar's own father is a case. When asked why he murdered Sylar's mother and sold him to another family, he replies that he doesn't even remember because "it didn't matter to me."
  • House: A memorable patient in one episode is identified as a Sociopath, by both the short hand and proper medical categorization. Notably 13 only recognizes her as such because she's terrified of her, with House saying it's a survival tactics, implying a common association with sociopaths to predator animals. Ultimately it turns out her apparent sociopathic behavior was actually a side effect of some other unrelated medical problem, and she "reforms" by the end of the episode.
  • The Sinners from House of Anubis, as a result of being The Soulless and having no conscience. They are manipulative, chaotic, completely uncaring of who they hurt (and do it often just For the Evulz) and determined to get their way. They even seem to have no emotion beyond amusement and anger.
  • iCarly: Nora Dershlit. The only thing she cares about is to make friends, but her perception of what counts as "friends" is so horrifically skewed that she believes locking the iCarly gang in her basement against their will qualifies, ignoring their repeated expressions of the fact they don't even like her, believing she can force people to be her friends. She has absolutely no remorse for holding people against their will and outright tries to murder Gibby when he comes to save the iCarly gang. In her second appearence, she once more holds them against their will by holding Spenser hostage and torturing him on a giant wheel to keep the iCarly gang under control, even implying she can and will kill him if it comes to it. She also shows the Manipulative Bitch qualities of the trope, feigning remorse for her actions to trick the iCarly gang into agreeing to release her from prison and luring them into her trap again. She's also confirmed to be a sociopath In-Universe, even referring to herself as one:
    Carly: Nora... You're a nutcase!
    Nora: The correct term is disturbed, lonely sociopath.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • Every character is a sociopath. They're frequently doing things that are unethical if not illegal, stabbing each other in the back, and no one in the gang is able to stick to a plan.
    • Dennis deserves a special mention. Some of his actions even leave the rest of the depraved gang disgusted. In one episode, Dennis accidentally admitted that he has no feelings.
      • He also shows more of the symptoms then the rest of gang. For example; Dennis has the superficial charm, fans sometimes comment on how he seems the most normal yet turns to be the most depraved of them all, plus he's good at getting chicks sometimes. He also seems a very cold calculated yet shallow understanding of human emotion. For example, Dennis' technique to get women (the D.E.N.N.I.S. system) is very cold and calculated but also very unsympathetic and fails to work at the end of the episode. Dennis also has the grandiose sense of self-worth that is a symptom of sociopathy.
      • In the episode "Psycho Pete Returns", a psychiatrist diagnoses Dennis with Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious mental illness marked by unstable relationships, inability to regulate emotions, and impulsive behavior.
  • The Kill Point: Mr. Rabbit, who manages to be the Token Evil Teammate of a bank robbing crew. He beats the hostages unprovoked, psychologically tortures one of them for no particular reason, carries around the severed ear of an Iraqi soldier he previously tortured to death, and tells Captain Cali that he considers the hostages "cattle" and "sheep being led to the slaughter." He ends up getting beaten to death by the leader of the team, because Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Kings has Andrew Cross, who makes for an ugly contrast with the narcissists who compose the rest of his family. A bored, listless young man who admits to viewing other people as things (and doesn't seem to understand that this is wrong), Andrew displays a very limited emotional affect, moves impulsively from idea to idea, and has some very troubling sexual urges, as evidenced by his stalking of his aunt, and his leaking of his cousin's nude photos to the press. In the end, Andrew sides with his father's coup, only to betray him to his uncle Silas when it fails, and then, in the closing scenes of the show release Vesper Abaddon from prison with no prior explanation, all with the same perpetual bored look on his face. Whether Andrew has any genuine goals, motives, or loyalty in him, is left in serious doubt as of the end of the show.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • Had a serial-killer prostitute (based on Aileen Wuornos) who displayed the "cocktail personality" where she'd become a troubled mentally-frail patient for the psychiatrist or a seductress for Detective Stabler. Her son was the only thing she cared about and it turns out she killed his mother and kidnapped him as an infant.
    • One doctor did point out that not all sociopaths are evil unrepentant killers, most of them live normal lives like everyone else in their own way.
    • The wiki has an enitre page for listing all the sociopaths that have shown up in this show.
  • Lost: Anthony Cooper, Locke's father, is one of the most chillingly accurate depictions of a sociopath on television. He's a very successful con man who has made an entire career out of manipulating people and then dumping them once he's got what he wants. Sawyer's parents are just two of his victims, and he's not remorseful about that in the slightest. He abandoned Locke at birth, reconnecting with him only to steal his kidney. He has no qualms about murdering anyone who might expose him and even throws Locke out a window for trying to reason with him. He's entirely concerned with himself and shows no regret for any of the many lives he has destroyed.
  • Merlin (2008): There's a good chance that Mordred is one of these. He is a rather unemotional child, seems quite apt at manipulating the adults around him, shows no remorse when he kills several armed men, and responds with anger rather than grief when his father is executed.
  • In the Merlin (1998) mini-series, Mordred is blatantly a sociopath. Outwardly a handsome, charming, charismatic young man; Mordred is actually a callous, manipulative, sadistic hothead who wants to conquer Britain and kill his father. He practices archery on his castle's servants, kills several soldiers while laughing and jesting with them, and laughs when his own mother is murdered in front of him. And he's a Super Soldier with the backing of an evil goddess. Yikes.
  • Once Upon a Time: Emma Swan twice called Regina Mills this, but later episodes show this isn't quite the case. Peter Pan and Cruella de Vil, on the other hand, play it straight.
  • Person of Interest: Root demonstrates all the clinical symptoms of this (pronounced Lack of Empathy, lack of proper understanding of morals, etc.). The scary thing is that she claims that she isn't one, but she wishes she was so that she would have an easier time doing what she's doing. Perhaps the clearest sign she isn't a sociopath was the affection she had for her friend as a child and her decision to take revenge on the man who killed her.
    • Shaw zigzags this, showing no emotion at her father's death as a child, preferring violence to other solutions, and confessing to one PoI that she feels no emotions aside from anger. However in the same episode she clearly begins to empathize with the girl and won't seek medical help until after she's saved her. The girl claims to have figured out Shaw: That she does feel other emotions, but they're muted in comparison to normal people.
    • This is later averted with Root, who shows herself capable of regret and love later in the series, just being a very amoral person at the start of the show. Shaw, on the other hand, self-describes herself as this in "If-Then-Else", though whether this is true or not is not shown. If she is, then she's an extremely moral version of one.
      • Root later clarifies that Shaw is a clinical sociopath, having a (presumably diagnosed) Axis-II Personality Disorder. The trick of it is that despite this, Shaw does actually care, enough to give her life for her friends, and nobody really knows why.
    • A better example of this is the head of HR, who shows no empathy for even his closest loved ones and seems incapable of it.
    • Dominic, the head of the brotherhood gang, is another example. He shows no emotion or concern when a good number of his men are killed because "We all die in the end".
  • The Villain Protagonist Jim Profit of Profit is the high-functioning type. He's an amoral and remorseless schemer who manipulates people around him to his own ends (including blackmail and murder) while presenting himself as a charming, likeable guy.
  • Revolution:
    • "Sex and Drugs" has Drexel the drug lord as one. He shows no empathy, he is a Consummate Liar, he has no real attachments to anyone, he is shown to be a Manipulative Bastard and attempts to be The Charmer, he has no impulse control at all, he has an unhealthy need for stimulation, and he most certainly has a Small Name, Big Ego. No Troubling Unchildlike Behavior is ever mentioned, but it probably doesn't need to be.
    • Sergeant Will Strausser, at least as of "Sex and Drugs" is being deliberately set up as one. "Ties That Bind" has Miles Matheson and Strausser discussing the fact that Strausser is one, with Miles pointing out that Strausser was going to be put in a padded room before the blackout happened. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" has Strausser threatening to rape Charlie Matheson to Rachel Matheson's face, and he actually tries to rape Rachel when it's just the two of them alone. Fortunately, Rachel manages to kill him off.
  • Sherlock: The eponymous character's Arch-Enemy, James Moriarty, is this trope played very straight: he has no empathy whatsoever, is a liar, charmer, and manipulator who easily surpasses Sherlock in all three departments, is a criminal mastermind who has orchestrated scores of crimes—up to and including murder—throughout Europe merely because he was bored, and by the end of season 2 has single-handedly wrecked Sherlock's credibility, career and relationships. The difference between the two is probably best underlined when they first meet face to face.
    Sherlock: People have died.
    Moriarty: That's what people DO!
    • Subverted by Sherlock himself. While he identifies himself as a "high-functioning sociopath" and is shown to usually have a lack of sympathy for those around him, he is shown to care for various characters (his concern when Mrs. Hudson and John are in danger, his sadness over Irene's alleged death, and his reaction to humiliating Molly at the Christmas party). Word of God is that Sherlock wants to be a sociopath (because caring about people gets in the way) but isn't.
  • Smallville:
    • If we are to believe Lionel Luthor, his Bastard Bastard Lucas is one of these. Lionel himself, and his son, Lex, both display traits of the disorder as well, but not enough to qualify. A much better example is probably Earth-2's Clark Luthor aka Ultraman. A promiscous Professional Killer and Psycho for Hire, he lies like a dog to everyone he meets, has a violent, Hair-Trigger Temper, and switches between moods quickly enough to give you whiplash. His adoptive father, Earth-2 Lionel is likely an example as well, with a Lack of Empathy that runs so deep it's almost frightening. The same goes for Serial Killer and Torture Technician Desaad.
    • Lx-3, Lex's clone and Shadow Archetype from Season 10's "Lazarus" is a solid example. He spends all his time on-screen committing mass murder, has a Hair-Trigger Temper and a sadistic streak, seems to actively enjoy murder for its own sake, and hates everyone. He tries to kill every person he meets.
    • Bob Rickman, corrupt salesman with Mind Control powers who has no qualms making his enemies kill themselves or brainwashing innocent people to kill for him. His pesticide plants were massively toxic, spreading cancer and environmental damage, which he took delight in being able to get away with thanks to his powers.
  • Supernatural:
    • Sam Winchester exhibits classic sociopathic behavior when he loses his soul in season six. Though he becomes an example of a pro-social version, as his interest in hunting remains constant, but his Lack of Empathy becomes his defining character trait. He sees nothing wrong with purposefully letting his own brother get turned into a vampire, letting 150 people get turned into monsters because there's a chance it could lead him and Dean to an Alpha, using a baby as bait, working with Crowley or with killing Bobby Singer in order to avoid getting his soul back among other things. It is implied and later shown that he killed innocents and did some things that arguably would make him cross the Moral Event Horizon and even hardened hunters like Samuel Campbell and Dean are horrified by his behavior.
    • This trope doesn't apply to most of the show's monsters or villains... with the exception of the Leviathans. They're a species comprised of nothing but sociopaths. The Alpha Vampire and Crowley both try to ally with them on the assumption that Evil Is One Big Happy Family, but find that the Leviathans see monsters and demons as even further beneath them than they do humans. Even the Alpha Vampire is shocked by the revelation that they plan to kill all other monsters as well as humans. They don't care about their own kind, either; their head, Dick Roman, at one point tries to turn a minion's failure into a "teachable moment" by making him eat himself.
    • Crowley was one for a few seasons. Unlike most demons, he had no devotion to Lucifer and he openly admitted that he wouldn't care if his own son went to Hell. He ceases to be this after getting injected with human blood; while he's still evil, he does unwillingly grow to love his family.
    • Archangel Raphael is a cold, uncaring Omnicidal Maniac. While the rest of the Archangels at least love each other and their father, God, Raphael is indifferent to the suffering of all around him. He appears to show a genuine devotion to God in "The Man Who Would Be King", but his next line seems to indicate that he actually thinks of himself as God.
    • Abaddon was one of the Knights of Hell, demons handpicked by Lucifer to be his strongest and most evil enforcers. She was trained by Cain, the original Knight, but when he fell in love with the human Colette he grew tired of his evil ways and atoned for his crimes. Abaddon tricked Cain into murdering Colette with the First Blade to spite him for choosing a human over her, earning his undying hatred. After millennia of rampaging across the Earth under Hell's banner, she kills a priest in 1958 who was investigating a demon cure before possessing Josie Sands instead of her companion Henry Winchester to infiltrate the Men of Letters. Abaddon notes how Josie is secretly in love with Henry and takes her as a vessel solely to hurt them both. She wipes out the Men of Letters completely in a massacre before traveling into the future where she kills Henry anyway after going back on a deal she made with Sam and Dean. After learning that Hell has been brought under the command of the more pragmatic Crowley in her absence, she sets out to remove him from his position to become Queen of Hell and start a new blood-filled reign of terror on Earth, with torture, murder, and baby-eating in abundance for all her minions. After Crowley regains his human emotions, she kidnaps his son Gavin from 1723 and proceeds to torture him in front of his father. He caves in to her demands and helps her to defeat the Winchesters, but then she decides to kill both Crowley and Gavin anyway.
  • The Wire: Marlo Stanfield. Unusual in a show well-known for it's Gray and Grey Morality, where even the most hardened criminals are capable of kindness and are often shown doing ordinary things. A ruthless drug dealer, Marlo has no qualms, seemingly no moral compass, and the closest thing he has to a personal attachment to anyone is a slight bit of loyalty to his hyper loyal Co-Dragons Chris and Snoop. Anyone else, regardless of how helpful, loyal, or useful they've been to him, is a second away from outliving their usefulness. One of his defining moments is when he was a security guard with a family killed... just because the man dared speak up about the fact that Marlo stole merchandise right in front of said security guard. In another case, based on the simple rumor that another drug dealer had bad mouthed Marlo, Marlo has his enforcers kill the man, his wife, and the couple's children. He is also the most prolific criminal on the show, with at least several dozen murders to his name. His personality is remarkably reminiscent of a Serial Killer, and several of the police trying to bring him down comment on that fact.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/TheSociopath/LiveActionTV