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Anti Villain / Live-Action TV

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  • One of the memorable twists in the final season of 24 was having Jack Bauer himself become one in the final episodes of the series. Although he has a mostly noble goal in mind ( exposing the conspiracy regarding a foreign President's murder that current U.S. President Allison Taylor is covering up after undergoing a Face–Heel Turn), they are tainted by the desire for revenge after he finally gets screwed over for the last time, leading him to pull some pretty terrible acts even for him that not only cross the line, they double over it.
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  • On The 100, everyone is just doing what they believe is necessary to keep their people alive; while our protagonists are usually more sympathetic than their antagonists, they all have good reasons for doing the things they do. Even Murphy, who started as an asshole who only cared about himself, gets better as the show goes on until the point where he is willing to risk his life for others.
  • Arguably, Babe Carey, from All My Children, circa 2003-2007. She never wants to do bad things and is usually, in some way, pushed into doing the wrong thing (for the right reasons) because of the effects of others' actions. She doesn't want to be bad and, in ideal circumstances, she would even be good. She strives and wants to be good. However, she is not strong enough to rise against her circumstances.
  • Holtz on Angel was a revenge-maddened vampire hunter back in the 18th century, when Angelus was racking up a body count. He only became a villain when he arrived in the 21st century because he continued to seek revenge against Angel, who was now ensouled and fighting for the good guys. Had he been willing to look past his desire for revenge and do the right thing, he could conceivably found reason to fight alongside Angel.
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  • Once it kicked off, most of the villains on Arrow fall into this, to the point its probably easier to count the ones who don't. Deadshot, Huntress, Malcolm, Deathstroke, even Oliver's parents all count as this. It generally falls into the show's theme that anyone can be corrupted, and no one is irredeemable.
  • Raymond Reddington, the Villain Protagonist of The Blacklist is a solid type III. He usually has decent or even noble motives when getting involved with the FBI and is completely polite to everyone, but is bluntly honest about his nature as an often very brutal criminal. He is absolutely ruthless towards those who wrong him or someone he cares for but is also very reasonable and has a strong sense of honor, often helping bring down other criminals that cross the Moral Event Horizon. Summed up well in the first episode:
    Liz: Can I trust you?
    Red: (bluntly, while chuckling) Of course not. I'M A CRIMINAL.
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  • Nucky Thompson, the main character of Boardwalk Empire. Yeah, he's a corrupt Sleazy Politician who started looking into becoming a kingpin of the illegal booze trade the moment Prohibition started, but he's also often a genuinely kind man with good intentions, has much more enlightened views on women and minorities than his peers, has some genuine Freudian issues going on, and seems positively cuddly when contrasted with the Ax-Crazy Al Capone or the icy pragmatism of Arnold Rothstein.
  • The Borgias:
    • Rodrigo Borgia genuinely wants to strengthen Rome as pope. He even takes an interest in alleviating poverty in the second season, and has always loved his family, perhaps to a fault. He also, however, blackmails/tricks virtually everyone he works with, orders a few assassinations, and is quite the lech. Like most Renaissance-era fathers, he also has very little regard for his daughter's freedom and will marry her off to whoever he wants, though he is trying to make sure she doesn't get a bad husband... this time around. Overall, he's still one of the least villainous members of his family.
    • His son, Cesare, was at first a sort of anti-villain — the majority of what he did was for the good of the family. However, he really didn't have much pity for anyone beyond his family, and remained ruthless, cynical, and fairly cold-blooded. Nowadays, he's in solidly Villain Protagonist territory. What with murdering his brother and all.
  • Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. He says that he's the bad guy, yet seems to have more moral fiber than anyone else in the drug business. Walter White qualifies for this too, as a Villain Protagonist trying to make sure that his family are provided for after his death.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Mayor Wilkins. Whilst unquestionably evil (his ultimate aim seems to be to grow into a big demon and eat a few dozen teenagers), he has a genuinely fatherly love for Faith. So much so that, even when she's on the other side of the Heel–Face Revolving Door, he's still the person she remembers with the most fondness, judging by her interaction with the First.
    • Before becoming an Anti-Hero, Spike was this for his single appearance in Season 3. He was just too heartbroken to go all-out with the evil.
    • The General is in between Type III and Type IV.
  • Caprica
    • Sam Adama is a ruthless gangster who genuinely cares about and is fiercely protective of both his family and his culture. That Taurons are a minority on Caprica that suffers a great deal of prejudice also factors into this.
    • One could say that Zoe, in all her incarnations, is this, given that she willingly associates herself with monotheistic terrorists. She only wants to make the world a better place, convinced that society's grown morally directionless and soulless. Similarly, Daniel Graystone could be considered an Anti-Villain. After all, he created the Cylons and is generally a fairly cold and calculated businessman. However, he has moments of softness and seems to have genuinely loved his daughter, even if he has issues relating with her or her robotic copy. Given that Caprica is set in a universe with Gray-and-Grey Morality, this is to be expected.
  • Brother Justin Crowe on Carnivàle. His character development is given equal screen time as the Designated Hero, and (especially in the first season) he's presented as genuinely wanting to do good, but being somewhat hampered by the fact that he's, you know, The Antichrist; it takes some rather extreme measures on the part of his Knight Templar of a sister to get him to stop worrying and love the dark side.
  • Gideon, one of the Elders and headmaster of the Magic School in Charmed, went from Well-Intentioned Extremist to this as his plans to prevent Wyatt from becoming the cause of a Bad Future (which Chris had travelled back in time to prevent, himself) progressed. To prevent the sisters (who are Wyatt's mother and aunts) from finding out, he allows at least one innocent to die (which, in an earlier episode, he established to be so unforgivable as to move to close the Magic School when an entity from there killed a random petty criminal), personally vanquished his friend Sigmund when he threatened to expose Gideon's plan out of concern, and even collaborated with his own evil counterpart from a Mirror Universe (which threw off the cosmic balance between them, something that he actively wanted to avoid).
  • El Chompiras and El Botija in Chespirito are a couple of thieves trying to succeed in their different criminal schemes, often failing and ending in prison or some other form of punishment. Obviously, albeit criminals, they were popular among the audiences for their quirks. Reason why at some point Chespirito thought that they where a bad influence and gave them a Heel–Face Turn abandoning the criminal life and becoming honest citizens.
  • Kiera Cameron from Continuum is a type III, anti-villain protagonist fighting a group of type IV and V anti-heroes. Initially she is depicted as a "good" police officer from 2077 idealistically opposing the terrorist organization Liber 8. It quickly becomes clear that the future society in which she lives is a high surveillance corporate police state and the terrorists she is fighting against are freedom fighters who are trying to tear down the police state and bring back democracy, human rights, corporate accountability, etc. Kiera's primary goal is to stop Liber 8, protect the future that she knows, and get back to her family, even though this means occasionally using very brutal tactics and ultimately protecting the police state that has enslaved most of humanity. Despite all of this she cares about protecting the people and puts her own future at risk in trying to stop the deaths of thousands of innocent victims. The audience can sympathize with her as the protagonist because she idealistically believes that the future she is trying to protect is truly the best option for humanity and she doesn't recognize herself as a villain (the extreme violence of Liber 8 also makes it easier to sympathize with Kiera as a protector of the people). This is lampshaded in "Second Time" when Travis says to her, "When are you going to wake up? You're the villain in this tale."
  • Adelle DeWitt of Dollhouse started off as this, but seems to have blossomed into an Anti-Hero via Character Development.
  • Enos from The Dukes of Hazzard is only really a villain by virtue of being an upstanding deputy sheriff and on the side of the Law, and thus antagonistic to our less law-abiding heroes. While he is willing to stand behind most of his corrupt boss' schemes, he is too righteous to be a part of them. He is the one lawman the Dukes have any respect for, and they have said as much in public.
    • His superior Rosco started out as one. Before the series, he was an honest cop until his pension got revoked, forcing him to join in on Boss Hogg's scheming or retire penniless.
  • While Scorpius of Farscape is absolutely a Magnificent Bastard, his motivation behind revealing his Freudian Excuse to John seems (at first) to be an attempt to paint himself as an Anti-Villain. While he has some villainous motives and does some truly unforgivable things, he honestly thinks he has worthwhile motives: defeating the bad guys. John (and the audience) doesn't really buy it until he actually meets said bad guys and concede that he at least has some semblance of a point.
    • Crais very early on enters into the anti-villain mode, and much of what he does is driven by simple revenge for the death of his brother. (That said, he still indulges in some straight-out villainous behavior, such as snapping the neck of a female subordinate.) Later in the series, he moves beyond anti-villain into Anti-Hero, if not full Heel–Face Turn territory, particularly after the birth of Talyn.
  • Firefly: Had Harken, an alliance commander who arrested the whole team after finding them stealing from a damaged ship. He spent much of the episode grilling them, while searching the ship, and he has them detained after his men find a brutally mutilated survivor and he assumes the team had done it. When the survivor escapes and goes on a killing spree, his first order? Reinforce security at the nursery, and then he leads a team, and Mal, to stop the man when he gets back on Serenity. At the end, after Mal saves him, he releases the crew and drops the charges, though he does confiscate all the stuff they stole, because it was Alliance property.
  • Walternate — Dr. Walter Bishop's alternate universe counterpart — is the closest thing Fringe has to a Big Bad, but he's not evil by a long shot. He's trying to stop his universe from being completely torn apart as a result of the actions of the prime universe Walter, who abducted Walternate's son and, in doing so, caused the laws of physics to start breaking down in both universes. As viewers are keen to point out, the only reason we root for the prime universe is because we've been seeing things from its perspective.
    • This changed in the "6:02 AM EST" episode, when Walternate revealed that he was willing to kill his son in order to save his own universe. Contrast this with our Walter, who has always been trying to find a way to save both universes.
      • In the same episode, Walternate also captures the mother of his grandchild and locks her in a cell when his disregard for his own son's life causes her to attempt a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • As long as you don't challenge his power, Khal Drogo is a Reasonable Authority Figure... in charge of a Barbarian Tribe that revels in Rape, Pillage, and Burn as well as slavery.
    • Jaime's characterization in the first two seasons. He is a man who doesn't hesitate to kill a child or a kinsman for his own benefit but does possess some sympathetic traits like a Big Brother Instinct.
    • The Hound does terrible things in service to the Lannisters, but at least has the decency to acknowledge them as such and express a distaste for pointless sadism. He also demonstrates both compassion (primarily towards Sansa) and honour. In Season 3, this is further emphasised by his defection from the Lannisters and his willingness to bring Arya back to her family for a ransom reward despite their mutual hatred.
    • Mance Rayder leads a barbarian horde featuring some pretty reprehensible characters in an invasion of the Seven Kingdoms because he wants to save his people from the White Walkers and he knows the Night's Watch will never just let them through.
    • The High Sparrow is religious fanatic, a homophobe and a misogynist, but he sincere and legitimate in his attempt to fight for the poor and downtrodden against the corruption of the highborn.
    • Rickard Karstark, of the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety. His villainy is the result of his grief over the deaths of his sons.
    • The Smalljon doesn't seem particularly fond of the Boltons (on the contrary, it's evident he despises them). His primary motivation is protecting the North from Wildling invasions.
    • Stannis becomes one due to him having fairly noble goals, yet he still sacrifices Shireen to R'hllor to ensure his victory over the Boltons.
  • Glee's Sue Sylvester occasionally edges towards this trope, as her Morality Pet moments with her sister, Jean, have been expanded into a real relationship, her positive treatment of Becky has continued, and she has genuinely attempted to help Kurt deal with both a situation that verged on religious harassment and serious bullying - to the point where she resigned her Principalship in order to be able to help him better.
  • Heroes has a couple.
    • Noah Bennet (a.k.a. HRG) began as an agent of the evil Company, who hunts down those with superpowers and either captures them or kills them. Bennet quickly gained sympathy due to his genuine love for his family, especially his adopted superpowered daughter. It was also revealed that many of the people he captured were given training to keep their powers under control and offered a chance to use them to help others (in the case of Isaac and Eden), and the only superpowered people he killed were those who used their powers to hurt people. He quickly moved into Anti-Hero/borderline hero territory at the end of Season One, after he joined forces with fellow Company prison escapees Matt Parkman and Ted Sprague in order to shut down the mechanisms The Company was using to track all the people they caught and released.
    • Season 3 gives us Daphne Millbrook, a professional thief who works for and with other villains, but is clearly disgusted by most of them, never kills anyone herself, and is eventually revealed to have been working with Pinehearst because its leader would otherwise take away her superspeed, which is the only thing stopping her from being crippled by cerebral palsy. Most of her villainy seems to have been born of guilt and self-loathing for how she treated her father and (especially) her dying mother. When Matt helps her come to terms with her past and reunite with her father, she does a Heel–Face Turn and literally helps save the world. Unfortunately, Daphne is shot while attempting to rescue specials kidnapped by Emile Danko, who later removes her from the medical facility, thus causing her wound to become septic and, ultimately, fatal.
    • For most of Season 3, there was also Sylar, who wants to be good but worries increasingly that he's irredeemable because the superpower that allows him to analyze and understand anything also giving him an unquenchable ''Hunger'' to cut superpowered people's heads open in order to learn how their powers worked. Eventually, he learned that he could copy their powers without resorting to murder and it was revealed that he could have gone on to be a nice, normal, productive member of society, had The Company (Noah Bennet in particular) not pushed his buttons so they could analyze how he was stealing powers.
      • And then, after they established all this, Sylar changed his mind, murdered his girlfriend, and decided to fully embrace the Total Bastard lifestyle, despite being capable of satisfying The Hunger without killing.
      • In all fairness, Sylar is a lot less of a villain than he used to be. In fact, in Volume 4, he's had at least one "Big Damn Heroes" moment (saving Luke from the fascist agents under the employ of the psychotic bigot "Bastion" wannabe Danko), spared Luke's life on 3 separate occasions when it would have been easier to kill him, and spared the life of Luke's mother despite the fact that she was a potential witness. He's only killed so far when it was kill or be killed, or plain, old-fashioned revenge (to quote Anti Villain supreme Captain Cold).
      • And now he's gone back to being an unrepentant brain-eater, by joining forces with The Man, just so he can have access to a never-ending all-you-can-eat buffet of powers whenever they kill any harmless individual with a cool superpower. End of Season 4, he seems to be rehabilitated...again. Mostly because Matt Parkman trapped him in a nightmare where he was the only person in the world, which was messed up by Peter Petrelli borrowing Matt's power and following him in after he had a dream that Sylar would save Emma, a friend of his. Which... Sylar does, with a Funny Moment when he tied up Puppeteer Doyle like...a puppet.
  • Jason Winkler from the first season of House of Anubis. He was only really a villain by way of being a member of the Secret Society and betraying Patricia. He was always more interested in his teaching job and the students, and even after betraying Patricia, still clearly cared about her. In the finale, he attempted to get Victor and the other teachers to help Sibuna, who were trapped with Rufus Zeno. It was then revealed that the only reason he joined the Society at all was because the elixir of life, which makes one immortal, would have saved him from dying of his degenerative illness. In a deleted scene, he even got to talk to Patricia one last time before disappearing from the show. He was never at all a bad guy, he had just made the wrong choices.
    • Victor fell into this, too. Despite doing everything in his power to prevent the students from finishing their quest, he follows Even Evil Has Standards and really does care for the kids despite what he does, to the point of sacrificing the tear of gold he'd been searching for all season to save Joy's life. He also has a sympathetic reason for what he does, in being a "Well Done, Son!" Guy who is working to finish the quest his father couldn't complete, despite his father being long dead and a bit emotionally abusive.
      • This changed during Season 3. While his goal had changed from being after immortality to trying to awaken Robert Frobisher-Smythe, he became very focused and serious about it, and treated the students much harsher than he used to. It definitely went away when he was a sinner and set up a guillotine in order to stop Sibuna. However, in The Movie, he went back to being much more sympathetic and even ended up helping the Sibuna members for the first time.
    • During his villainous phase in Season 1, Jerome fit this. He was working with Rufus out of jealousy and loneliness rather than a desire to do harm, and then ended up only helping him out of fear for his life until he got the chance to join Sibuna.
    • Jasper, The Mole who was working for the Collector in the second season, is also a very light gray villain. Despite working for a dangerous villain and causing trouble for Fabian (his own godson) and the rest of Sibuna, he did it due to being blackmailed and threatened with harm on Fabian's life. So he wound up hurting Fabian in an effort to help him.
  • JAG: Colonel Matthew O’Hara is a Marine Corps legend who earned the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, but he’s grown tired of American degradation of society with street crimes and corrupted politicians, so he and a few other Marines snatches the Declaration of Independence transported in a mail truck on its back from a restoration job. What no one knows at the outset is that the Colonel is the uncle of Major Sarah Mackenzie.
  • From Justified, we have Boyd Crowder, who keeps shifting between this and Anti-Hero.
    • Then there's Mags Bennet, who is a clearer Anti-Villain, committing crime, but only in the best interest of her kids and grandkids. It helps that she has a Morality Pet in the form of Loretta McCready.
  • While the Showa era of the Kamen Rider franchise is not known for providing the most nuanced interpretations for its villains, they do occasionally appear, especially in the Heisei era of the franchise.
    • in Kamen Rider Ryuki, Shiro Kanzaki's motives are sympathetic enough that much of what he does in the series is understandable, if not condonable. To elaborate: The events of the series are set up by him in order to sacrifice all thirteen Riders to revive his sister.
    • In Kamen Rider Decade, implied to be this for Taurus Ballista in the Agito Arc. He says that the reason he's attacking the Riders is because he fears that humans could be consumed by their desire for power and that they should leave the Grongi fighting to the Lords.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim has its fair share of these, most of them filling the position of Big Bad during various arcs:
      • Takatora Kureshima, AKA Armored Rider Zangetsu, who's the major antagonist at the outset of the series. In particular, he curb-stomps protagonist Kouta so badly that the poor kid spends a whole episode too terrified to leave his room. Shortly into the show, we're told that his corporation plans on sacrificing the majority of humanity in order to fight the Forest of Helheim. However, not long after that we learn the truth: Takatora is actually a noble person, but his corporation can only save about one-seventh of humanity at best, so he's forcing himself to be ruthless in order to carry it out. When Kouta discovers new information that could potentially save everyone, Takatora gladly joins forces with him and switches from Anti-Villain to straight-up Hero.
      • Mitsuzane (Armored Rider Ryugen) does a flying swan-dive off the slippery slope, becoming a long-term antagonist because of his love for one person and his desire to save her. Unfortunately, he makes a lot of terrible decisions and gets manipulated by more ruthless people in pursuit of that goal, and by the final arc he's reduced to a weeping shell of a man. However, the final episode gives him a chance at redemption, which he gladly takes.
      • Kaito (Armored Rider Baron) flip-flops between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain several times over the course of the series, as his goals alternately coincide and clash with the heroes'. In the end, he's just a guy who had a terrible childhood and wants to create a world where the powerful can't oppress the weak, so nobody will have to go through what he did.
      • Roshuo, leader of the Overlords is another example; he has a power that could potentially save humanity, but keeps it to himself because he doesn't believe they're capable of using it responsibly. He does eventually hand it over after DJ Sagara calls him out, saying humans deserve a fair chance. In the end, Roshuo just wanted to be reunited with his dead wife and was manipulated by others because of it, but he dies hoping that humanity will succeed where his people failed.
    • The Heart Roidmude from Kamen Rider Drive is a good example, as he would have been a full blown hero were it not for the fact he is fighting against humanity. He deeply cares for his own race, the Roidmude and feels genuine sadness when one of them is destroyed by the Kamen Riders. The only reason why he fights against humanity, is because he sees humanity as a real threat to his species, which kind of mirrors why the Kamen Riders fight against the Roidmude, as they are a threat to humanity. Another thing that sets Heart apart from other villains is that he fights with a code of honor that prevents him from using underhanded methods, such as killing an untransformed Rider.

  • Most of the bank robbers in The Kill Point are decent people who made a bad mistake and spend the rest of the show regretting it. Except for Mr. Rabbit, who is The Sociopath.
  • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, many defense lawyers are depicted as Amoral Attorneys. Barry Moredock breaks that mold: even though he defends criminals such as white supremacists and unscrupulous pornographers who skirt the letter of the law, he does so because of his personal interest in seeing the American Constitution upheld and because such criminals are less likely to get a fair trial because of their beliefs or professions. He is also on good terms with his former student and prosecutor Alex Cabot, as well as Casey Novak. In truth, he only really qualifies as a "villain" because of his profession, and that changes when he later becomes a judge.
  • Lost:
  • King Uther Pendragon in Merlin tends to come off as one of these. He's a ruthless Knight Templar Jerkass who blindly hates magic, seems to have two forms of punishment for those who transgress against him ("Put them in the stocks and throw fruit at them" or "Chop off their head") with little room in between, and has put children to death for fear of their magical heritage. He also clearly loves his son Arthur, is very protective of his ward Morgana, respects his old friend Gaius, cares about his kingdom, and pets the dog on several occasions. He's a villain, but even the good guys realize things would be worse without him there to keep order — despite his extreme methods.
    • Many of Camelot's enemies are this, too. They're only the way they are because of how their kind has been treated for many years.
    • The series is also notable for its sympathetic portrayal of Mordred, particularly when contrasted with Morgana's sadistic, selfish evil.
  • Neighbours' Paul Robinson. He's an on-again, off-again villain Depending on the Writer.
  • Once Upon a Time. Given the show's optimistic take on a Morality Kitchen Sink (and willingness to woobiefy any character), three of the show's four major villains (Cora being the exception) are leaning this way.
    • Although Regina crossed the Moral Event Horizon during the first season, her backstory has been used to deconstruct the Villain trope, turning her into a Tragic Villain and a Type II Anti-Villain.
    • By the mid-Season 2 break, and especially by "The Cricket Game," Regina very well may have graduated to Type IV. She at least appears to be genuinely trying to become a better person, and in this episode it is mostly the fact that basically nobody trusts her that puts her at all into opposition with Emma and the others. Several times, most recently at the end of Season 2, she fully crosses the line into anti-hero territory, and is actually described as being a "hero" on one of the Season 2 DVD featurettes.
    • Rumple has been similarly deconstructed, not only into a Tragic Villain, but also into the clearest example of a Type II, a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • Hook almost runs the gamut of the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains.
      • Type I: At least on the surface. Hook's very well mannered and claims he has standards, but he's very unpredictable in applying them. Hook does not hesitate to Kick the Dog on his way toward his goals, but he will attempt to set things right in the name of fair play when having kicked is no longer necessary. He seems to be becoming a Noble Top Enforcer in exchange for help reaching his own goal.
      • Type II: He's a would-be Sympathetic Murderer.
      • Type III: The Well-Intentioned Extremist. Not only would many people in this narrative line up and pay to watch Hook skin his "crocodile," they would probably help — even without knowing his motivations. They'd disapprove of who Hook's teamed up with and what he has done to get to that point in the narrative, though.
    • Season 4 gives us two more Type II anti villains: Ingrid, the Snow Queen and Maleficent.
  • Carl Elias from Person of Interest. He served the role as the Big Bad} for a good part of the first season. He's even gone as far to lock a baby in a freezer truck to gain Reese's cooperation, but he's also helped Reese on several occasions. He often shares Reese's goals when up against the Russian mob or HR. This comes to a close in Season 3 when he has Dirty Cop Simmons killed in revenge for killing Carter earlier.
  • The Plot Against America:
    • Evelyn and Rabbi Bengelsdorf spearhead misguided American policies that sound nice, but ultimately hurt American Jews. In their rise to power, they get full of themselves and start abusing their authority over others. In the end, however, they are doing what they think is best for their fellow Jews.
    • Charles Lindbergh wants peace in America, which is an understandable goal. He also seems to be making an honest, if misguided, attempt to bring Jews more fully into mainstream American society. But his policies and antisemitic underlings ultimately start turning America into a proto-Nazi Germany.
  • Alex Mahone on Prison Break. An FBI agent gone bad, in Season 2, he's blackmailed by the Big Bad into hunting down and killing the fugitives one by one. While he does so with nightmarish competence, his heart isn't in it, and the conflict with his better instincts drives him to drug addiction and near madness. He also loves his son and ex-wife and desperately wants to return to them.
    • Also, Abruzzi after the incident with the killed child, which gave him nightmares and hallucinations of Jesus. He found faith in Christianity, but, at the same time, couldn't separate from his evil ways and his revenge on Fabonacci. Right before he dies, he actually prays, "forgive me".
  • Scandal: Cyrus, possibly. It's still not clear what his motivations are.
  • Lt. Jon Kavanaugh on The Shield. By all means, he should be the good guy, considering that he's going after Vic and the Strike Team for police corruption and the death of Terry Crowley, but his methods are so thoroughly repulsive and immoral that it becomes impossible to sympathize with him, especially as time progresses and his obsession with catching Vic gets worse and worse. It gets to the point where he's willing to plant evidence in order to frame Vic, which ends up getting him arrested. By the time it's all said and done, he's just glad to be done with the whole thing so he never has to deal with Vic Mackey and his corrupting influence ever again.
  • Smallville:
    • Lex Luthor evolved from an Antihero into an Antivillain in Season's 4 & 5, retaining most of his sympathetic qualities, but becoming directly antagonistic. Eventually, he lost those as well, and evolved into the Corrupt Corporate Executive and sociopath we all knew he'd eventually be. His father, Lionel, evolved the other way. Beginning the series as an unrepentant Big Bad, Lionel became an Antivillain in the later seasons, as his crush on Martha, revelations about his past, and attempts to make up for his many mistakes humanised him. Some would argue that he even managed to become an antihero (Type IV) before his Season 7 exit.
    • Before her Heel–Face Turn, Tess was this, as both a Jerkass Woobie and a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Anti-Villain must run in the Luthor family tree.
    • A non-Luthor example would also be Major/General Zod, in an interesting twist as he's essentially simultainiously given Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Villainy. He ultimately just wants peace, justice, and freedom for the Kryptonians, is a Father to His Men, respects Kal-El/Clark and still holds his former best friend Jor-El in high regard, and while he leads a ruthless coup, he's motivated by the fact his family was killed in the destruction of Kandor, and his plea to clone his son was rejected, pushing him over the edge. However, unlike most depictions, he was almost successful in taking over Krypton, and when he learnt his cause was lost, he decided to destabalize Krypton's core and, essentially, is the one responsible for its destruction. Ultimately, he's just trying to cope with the death of his son, but doesn't do it in a healthy means.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Khan Noonien Singh in his appearance in the episode "Space Seed". Although fandom (and some of the writers of the later series) have made him out to be evil, it's stated that he was the only good dictator in the Eugenics Wars. He was neither bloodthirsty nor a warmonger, and rather than assume a scorched earth strategy when he was defeated, he took his people and fled into space to find a new world. In fact, in "Space Seed" he doesn't even kill anyone (though he does come close in the case of Kirk and at the end, he is actually quite happy with Kirk's suggestion of leaving him and his crew on Ceti Alpha V, since he and his people will finally have what they wanted: a world to themselves. It was only after spending twenty years on a dead rock that he became the monster we saw in The Wrath of Khan.
    • The Mirror Universe Spock from the "Mirror Mirror" episode. Pop Culture Osmosis likes to popularize the idea of goatees (Mirror Spock's beard) as a shorthand for Evil Guy. Although he was harsher and colder than his counterpart in our universe, he was still decent enough to warn Kirk (who was posing as Mirror Kirk) that he was ordered to kill Kirk should he fail to carry out orders to exterminate the Halkans. It was Mirror Spock who ensured that Kirk and the other three got back to their own universe. Kirk also convinced Spock to at least think about acting to overthrow Kirk's evil counterpart and make a move towards abolishing the Empire, which Spock logically admits won't last another two centuries. Spock promised to "consider it". In Kirk's words, Spock was "a man of integrity in both universes."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Maquis are Determined Homesteaders with a minor in Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko attempts to anticipate Maquis leader and former Federation officer Eddington's moves by casting himself as the 'villain' to Eddington's 'hero' in the latter's worldview. In this capacity, he performs an act that is rather callous for his character (flooding a Maquis controlled planet with a toxin that makes it uninhabitable to humans, forcing them to evacuate immediately or die horribly), but is still just a very light Anti-Villain to Eddington's self-Designated Hero.
  • Star Trek: Picard: The Zhat Vash is even more immoral, deceitful and ruthless than the Tal Shiar, but its mission is to prevent Ganmadan ("the Day of Annihilation"), which is the destruction of all life in the galaxy. Those who serve this shady organization believe that sentient androids will be the root cause of this mass extinction, so their operatives will do anything (including sacrificing their own lives) to eliminate all Artificial Intelligence that they deem to be dangerous.
  • In Supernatural, Lucifer tries to come off as this, declaring that his "crime" was loving God too much. It doesn't really work, since there are three groups he can give it to: Demons, who hate God and humanity both and would probably be less in awe of him if they knew that was his motivation; Angels, who were all faced with the exact same situation and made the other choice; and Humans, who are going to be wiped out en masse by his war against heaven. In fact, the conclusion most people come to is that he's a bratty child throwing a tantrum and breaking his dad's toys.
    • His brother, Gabriel/The Trickster, does this much better. After it's discovered who he is, it's easier to see why he killed Dean so many times: he was trying to stop Sam from snapping and going after Lilith after Dean dies, therefore trying to stop him from breaking the final seal. He comes across as more the little brother who can't stand his brothers' arguing, to Lucifer's bratty persona. Sadly, in Gabriel's case Redemption Equals Death and he's killed by Lucifer - but not before leaving Sam and Dean a DVD which tells them how to put Lucifer back in his box.
  • The Argent family on Teen Wolf. While their side occupation as werewolf hunters was originally motivated by protecting humans from werewolves, it has developed into full-blown sadism. They are willing and eager to kill werewolves whether they actually pose a threat to anybody or not. The family and their fellow hunters have also expanded their crusade to cover killing any humans associated with werewolves (such as the non-wolf members of the Hale family) or who simply impede their hunting activities. They have also developed a fondness for inspiring fear, and seem to enjoy torturing their targets before killing them. In order for Gerard Argent to take over as principal of the Beacon Hills high school, the Argent's abducted and tortured the current principal, who was wholly unaware of werewolves, just to create a vacancy in the position.
  • John Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth is a meek civil servant doing his best to serve his country — and a corrupt, ruthless government — and thus ordering the deaths of anyone connected to the previous 456 crisis as the new, terrifying one unfolds. For all his trouble, he is at last instructed to give up his daughters to the 456 because they surely can't give up their children, whereupon he chooses to commit Pater Familicide to spare them that fate.
    • Given that Torchwood's parent show Doctor Who is a Long Runner, it's not surprising that the show has had many Anti-Villains over the course of the run. One of the most surprising came in the Tenth Doctor's final adventure, "The End of Time", when The Master, of all people, is revealed to be an Anti-Villain: he was deliberately driven mad as part of Rassilon's Xanatos Gambit. When he finds this out, he is pissed, and he gets a Heroic Sacrifice shortly thereafter.
    • An even more surprising one from the Time War is the War Doctor featured in the Series 7 Cliffhanger and the follow-up 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor". Or is he? Though considered this by the later Doctors (he's not numbered because he violated the promise of the title "Doctor"), they later seem to consider him more heroic; like many of the Doctors he might actually be an Anti-Hero, especially given that he helps save Gallifrey rather than destroy it in the end.
  • Every single vampire on True Blood. While some of them are not unwilling to perform the occasional good deed, by and large they all seem to be willing to kill, torture, mind control and otherwise abuse the human population despite their public relations campaign about wanting to "mainstream" and live peacefully with humans.
  • The cause of all the problems of WandaVision turns out to be Wanda herself. After all the trauma she had suffered, she had a mental breakdown and psychologically retreated to the comfortable world of sitcoms; she just didn't know that she had Reality Warper powers that would drag thousands of people into that world with her.
  • The Wire features a plethora of them, as all but the most minor or monstrous of characters are shown as having a lighter or more sympathetic side, Pet the Dog moments, or having a point of one kind or another. Below are just a few examples:
    • The most poignant case is probably Wallace, a young boy who has been more or less abandoned by his junkie mother. He's a cheerful, bright kid who is only part of the drug trade to provide for his brothers and sisters, (who he's shown being a Parental Substitute to, complete with helping them with their homework, making sure they have lunch to eat at school, etc.) and is completely horrified after witnessing the "muscle" of criminal empire that he works for viciously torture and murder a thief who stole from them. The experience gives him PTSD and sends him into using drugs for the first time. Later he attempts to pull a Heel–Face Turn and get out of the drug trade by giving the police information about the Barksdale Organization, the criminal empire Wallace works for. A couple of weeks of being forgotten by the police and loneliness of not fitting in or having any friends makes him go back to the drug crew he worked with, just to be around friends and people who understood him. He gets a bullet in the head for his trouble.
    • D'Angelo Barksdale is a drug dealer not because he wants to be; on the contrary, he's pretty opposed to it, (saying at one point that there's nothing good about working in the drug trade except the money) and something of a fish out of water, as he's a kind and often decent guy caught in a cutthroat world. The problem is that his entire family, back to at least the days of his grandfather, have been criminals and drug dealers to one degree or another, and so it's assumed that everyone born into the Barksdale clan will somehow work to continue supporting the family through the game. (And as D'Angelo's mother Brianna points out, without The Game, as the show calls the drug trade, not only couldn't they support the family, but they probably wouldn't even be a family, just a bunch of people begging for change or looking for food in a dumpster.) One of many subplots of the first season is painting a portrait about how, just because D'Angelo was born who he was, he's forced into The Game whether he wants to do it or not, and how he becomes more and more trapped in a world that he doesn't belong in as his kingpin uncle Avon and Avon's coldblooded Dragon-in-Chief Stringer only get more and more ruthless to stay ahead.
      All my people, man, my father, my uncles, my cousins, it's just what we do. You just live with this shit until you can't breathe no more. I swear to God, I was courtside for eight months, and I was freer in jail than I ever was at home. ... I want it to go away. I want what Wallace wanted. I want to start over. That's what I want. I don't care where. Anywhere. I just want to go somewhere where I can breathe like regular folk.
    • Frank Sobotka is a classic Well-Intentioned Extremist. Frank's a Working-Class Hero who has spent his entire adult life working in the Baltimore docks, as it's hinted his family has for generations before. And for 30 years, he's seen the docks slowly dying off as the city goes further downhill, as politicians steal from and neglect the workers and the various criminal empires drive people and business away. In desperation to see the people he's worked with for decades have some sort of future and see future generations of Sobotkas be able to make a living working the docks, Frank makes a deal with international criminal mastermind "The Greek" where Frank and the other dock workers will ensure that The Greek's shipments of drugs, prostitutes and stolen goods are safely smuggled through the dock and past customs. With the money earned from doing this, Sobotka doesn't enrich himself, but instead frantically lobbies the city and state politicians into rebuilding and revitalizing the docks, which would not only give new hope to the people working the docks, but would do the city of Baltimore itself a lot of good. As Frank says of himself as the whole plan is falling apart under police investigation and shortly before The Greek has him murdered:
      I know I was wrong. But in my head, I thought I was wrong for the right reasons.
    • Omar Little is a criminal who only steals from other criminals. He's extremely personable, witty, badass, a Friend to All Children, and lives by a strict code of conduct that includes never swearing and never stealing from or harming anyone not involved in the criminal underworld, not even when they see him committing a crime and it could possibly result in him being arrested or convicted as a result. He even spreads around some of the profits of his robberies to others in the neighborhood. He's still a thief who has killed or crippled many of his targets during the course of his thefts, and, as the show points out, is part of the continuing Baltimore's Vicious Cycle of crime and decay, especially since the children that Omar is so charitable towards idolize him and aim to imitate him, which will someday get them caught in the cruel world of The Game.
      Omar: Don't get it twisted, I do some dirt too, but I ain't never put my gun on nobody who wasn't in the game.
      Bunk: A man must have a code.
      Omar: Oh no doubt.
    • In the final season, Detectives McNulty and Freamon go Jumping Off the Slippery Slope to catch Marlo Stanfield, the most ruthless and murder happy drug kingpin that Baltimore has ever known, who has dozens of murders tied his ambition to rule the entire Baltimore underworld. In the process of hunting Marlo they are forced by circumstances to take actions including falsifying the existence of Serial Killer, altering crime scenes and innocent deaths to make it look like the killer's work, kidnapping a barely functional and helpless homeless man, using an illegal wiretap, committing fraud within their own police department, all of which inadvertently also gets in the way of other investigations. McNulty in particular is hit with this, as his behavior spirals into a self-destructive course, and he finally realizes it towards the end of the season, when he tries to justify all his actions only be hit with a Heel Realization.
      You start to tell a story, you think you're the hero. And then when you get done talking...
  • HG Wells from Warehouse 13 is this when's she actually a bad guy. She was a Nietzsche Wannabe and a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, but she's nowhere as malicious as either Macphearson or Walter Sykes, and she spends most of her time on screen helping out the Warehouse team.
  • Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place. She is self-centered, manipulative, irresponsible, and often cruel to those she loves, but she really does love them and will usually do the right thing in the end, even though "the right thing" usually means fixing a problem she created.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In "Spaced Out", Kimball played by René Auberjonois, steals the lenses, hogties a guest star at the Convention, and escapes Wonder Woman by threatening to throw a large flowerpot on a group of innocent civilians - all with a smile, and joke, and a laugh. He even teams up with Wonder Woman to foil Simon Rohan's plans, but makes his escape once again in the confusion
    • In "The Queen and the Thief", Evan Robley played by David Hedison, is hired by Ambassador Orrick to steal the crown jewels, and is duped by the fakes, but joins the good guys helping Wonder Woman foil the evil plot and even gaining a Royal ambassadorial appointment in the process!


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