Whether or not you saw that tragic twist coming, it’s hard to stomach William’s turn from the sweet, compassionate man who loved Dolores to the violent, narcissistic Man in Black he became. Whether that’s always who he had been is debatable. Yet, despite everything he’s done and the evil “stain” he insists was always part of him, there are times when the show seems to want viewers on his side. He’s almost sympathetic when he saves Lawrence’s family in Season 2, when he expresses genuine anguish at realizing he killed his daughter and when he continues to hallucinate Dolores decades after she was reset.
Dolores Abernathy, Westworld’s “rancher’s daughter,” was kindhearted, empathetic and sweet. Her alter ego, Wyatt? Not so much. Determined to dominate the “real world” and force all humans into subjugation, Wyatt spent much of Season 2 killing guests and hosts alike (“Not all of us deserve to make it to the Valley Beyond”) in pursuit of her ultimate goal — freedom. Did Teddy’s noble sacrifice help Dolores re-emerge from that dark, malevolent haze, or will Bernard and Maeve eventually have to destroy her to save the world? Time — and future seasons — will tell.
The Duttons, Yellowstone
The Duttons have one goal — to keep their land. As such, they’ll do anything to hold onto it, including killing innocent people and taking advantage of the Native Americans living on it. Nonetheless, there are moments where you can almost feel bad for them, and the show spends plenty of time explaining how this family of ranchers came to be so twisted.
Villanelle, Killing Eve
Villanelle is fashionable, hilarious, beautiful and smart — and incredibly deadly even to those she claims to care for, as Eve found out in the Season 2 finale. Both her and Eve aren’t quite heroes and aren’t quite villains. They make the best choices for themselves, and often those choices are selfish, short-sighted and immoral. In many ways, they’re mirror images of each other, which makes them fun to watch.
Sergei Bachlakov/The CW
John Murphy, The 100
This “cockroach” is always looking out for number one … even when that puts his interests directly in conflict with his friends, and the right thing. In Season 6, worried he was going to Hell based on a vision he had, Murphy spent most of the time choosing immortality over his companions and Clarke. But, as Murphy often does, he came around in the end and helped save everyone.
Robert Falconer/The CW
Octavia Blake, The 100
After Season 6 she’s not as much of an antihero as she’d once been, but in Seasons 3-5 Octavia absolutely fit the bill. After Lincoln’s death O became increasingly ruthless and unstable, focusing all her energy on revenge, fighting and killing. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that she became Blodreina and championed a system of justice where people had to fight to the death. Yet, despite her dark deeds, it was still possible to understand her — at her core she was driven by confusion, grief and fear, not genuine bloodlust.
Negan, The Walking Dead
We hate him. We love him. We can’t imagine The Walking Dead without him. It’s a testament to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance on the zombie drama that Negan’s as well-loved as he is — the leather-clad baddie is responsible for two of the biggest character deaths on the show! Still, it’s hard not to feel for him, especially when he’s separated from his beloved Lucille, when he goes back to the Sanctuary and finds it empty and when he saves little Judith Grimes.
Madison Clark, Fear the Walking Dead
Though many of the characters on Fear during the Erickson era fit the “antihero” type (especially Nick, Daniel and Troy), Madison is perhaps the best example of a protagonist who was far from a traditionally noble figure. She lied and manipulated people to get what she wanted, she seemed to play favorites with her kids, and she was willing to keep a sociopath in their group as long as he could be useful to them. Rick Grimes would never.
Dean Buscher/The CW
Cheryl Blossom, Riverdale
Plenty of characters on Riverdale aren’t exactly heroes — they’ve all done bad stuff at one time or another — but Cheryl seems to stand out from the rest. From the beginning, she’s largely been concerned with herself, though as the show went on, her focus changed. Nonetheless, she’s burned down houses, shot people with arrows, and insulted pretty much everyone in the town of Riverdale.
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Westworld.]
Walter White. Dexter Morgan. Jaime Lannister. Jax Teller. What do all these characters have in common, besides belonging to iconic drama shows? They're all antiheroes.
These types of characters are neither good nor bad, though they might lean one way or the other at times. Their methods of solving problems might raise eyebrows — they typically employ some kind of deception, bribery, violence or immorality — but they get the job done, often for the right reasons. And even if they seem cruel or selfish, they usually have some kind of a sympathetic moment, which can be a tragic backstory or a major loss that humanizes them, just a little.
Bottom line, they're just fun. There's a good reason many of TV's most compelling characters have been antiheroes: It's hard to predict where their story will end, and their struggles with their demons tend to bring plenty of powerful narrative twists.
Here are 9 characters from currently airing shows we think qualify for "antihero" status.