9 Best Villains From TV Procedural Dramas Through the Years

C. Thomas Howell in 'Criminal Minds,' Pablo Schreiber in 'SVU,' and Andrew Scott in 'Sherlock'
Karen Neal / © CBS / Courtesy Everett Collection; Michael Parmelee / © NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection; BBC

As much as we enjoy the standalone element of a procedural drama that means tuning in and expecting (for the most part) to get a close-ended story, there’s just something special about those bad guys who aren’t caught when the 42 or so minutes Villainsare up.

Most recently, that has been the case with the Raven on NCIS (which was wrapped up in the Hawai’i premiere crossover) and Rosalind Dyer (Annie Wersching) on The Rookie. And NCIS: LA has the ongoing body stitchers case, with a new twisted element introduced this season. As a result, we’re taking a look at the major villains who have been unforgettable, from those who made it personal for those after them (like on Bones and Criminal Minds) to those who were chilling while spending some time locked up onscreen (The Following and Prodigal Son).

Scroll down to check out some of the best big bads on procedural dramas over the years.

Andrew Leeds in 'Bones'
Patrick McElhenney / © FOX / Courtesy Everett Collection

Christopher Pelant, Bones

What was Pelant’s (Andrew Leeds) worst offense: the people he killed, the way he kept manipulating the case against him, or the fact that he forced Booth (David Boreanaz) to say no to Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) proposal? The serial killer (known as the Hacktivist) kept finding ways to stay at least one step ahead of the Jeffersonian team, and we don’t think we’ll ever forget the skinned bodies he left.

Michael Mosley in 'Castle'

Jerry Tyson, Castle

Those serial killers who manage to set someone else up for their crimes and frame one of the team of investigators on their case for murder always stick with us, and Jerry Tyson (Michael Mosley) fits the bill. With 3XK, who began by killing women who reminded him of his mother, we also got him faking his own death — by having Castle (Nathan Fillion) shoot him — and later on, victims that were eerie lookalikes to the team (thanks to help from Annie Wersching’s Dr. Kelly Nieman).

C. Thomas Howell in 'Criminal Minds'
Karen Neal / © CBS / Courtesy Everett Collection

George Foyet, Criminal Minds

Initially posing as a victim (by stabbing himself!), The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell) would go on to focus on Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). After his attack on the FBI agent, Hotch sent his ex-wife and son into witness protection, but even that wasn’t enough. The phone call during which Hotch (and the rest of the team) could only listen to the moments leading up to and of Haley’s (Meredith Monroe) death, then him not knowing if his son was dead, too, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the series.

John Lithgow in 'Dexter'
Randy Tepper / © Showtime / Courtesy Everett Collection

Arthur Mitchell, Dexter

The Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) got away with killing for three decades, though his nickname came before the fourth part of his ritual (representing himself and his family) was discovered. And when he and Dexter (Michael C. Hall) crossed paths, it was the latter’s wife Rita (Julie Benz) who paid the price, killed in the manner of Arthur’s previous victims though not part of his cycle.

James Purefoy in 'The Following'
©Fox/courtesy Everett Collection

Joe Carroll, The Following

Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) wasn’t just memorable for the murders that landed him in prison, for orchestrating his escape, or his cat-and-mouse game with the FBI’s Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), but also for the network of Followers he cultivated and manipulated to be loyal to him. The things he made people do, the way he went after his ex-wife (Natalie Zea) and son, and the grisly crimes committed (by him and others around him) are hard to forget.

Pablo Schreiber in 'Law & Order: SVU'
Michael Parmelee / © NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

William Lewis, Law & Order: SVU

What was worse: what William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber) did to his victims, the way he charmed others into helping him, or what he did to Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) — when he kidnapped and later in the courtroom during his trial? From the moment he first sat in the squad’s interrogation room and they pondered just who this man was who’d “accidentally” burned off his fingerprints, we had a feeling he would be unforgettable.

Rudolf Martin in 'NCIS'

Ari Haswari, NCIS

In Season 1, rogue Mossad officer and terrorist Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin) held medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum), his assistant Gerald (Pancho Demmings), and Special Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) hostage. He would eventually end up in the morgue again, but not before one of the most shocking cliffhangers of the series in the Season 2 finale: Just after they thought the threat to Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) life was over and Kate could come off protection duty, Ari killed her.

Michael Sheen in 'Prodigal Son'
Barbara Nitke / ©Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

Martin Whitley, Prodigal Son

For most of the series, Martin Whitly a.k.a. The Surgeon (Michael Sheen) was locked up for the crimes he committed after his son (Tom Payne as the adult Malcolm Bright) called the police on him. But that didn’t stop him from trying to have relationships with his children, and he was utterly delighted and proud (“my girl!”) to hear about his daughter Ainsley (Halston Sage) killing. And it’s because of him that Malcolm may have followed in his footsteps as well.

Andrew Scott in 'Sherlock'

Jim Moriarty, Sherlock

When you think of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his foes, you think of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). And oh, did the BBC series deliver on that front, with Moriarty manipulating not only his victims and the justice system but also continuing to pop up after his death. Sherlock and Moriarty’s scenes in the former’s loft and on the rooftop in the Season 2 finale alone (as well as Scott’s portrayal) make him one of the best TV villains ever.