AMC / HBO / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

Throughout the month of November, we’re soliciting readers’ help to definitively answer an age-old question: Who is the actual worst character on television? We reviewed your submissions, did our own research, and came up with a list of 32 characters across four different categories, who’ll go head to head over the next four weeks until one of them is crowned as the most despicable, unlikeable, flat-out awful (fictional) person on the small screen.

See the bracket in its entirety here.

The Case for Carl (The Walking Dead)

AMC

Why this character is the actual worst: Children mostly get a pass after the zombie apocalypse. And Carl’s been through a lot—his father’s disappearance, his mother’s grisly passing, his own brush with death. But over the years, Carl’s squandered most of the goodwill his tender age affords him. In the comic-book version of The Walking Dead, Carl spurs his father’s conscience: Rick is motivated by a desire to safeguard his son’s innocence, to demonstrate a moral approach to a corrupt world. But AMC’s Carl is more like Rick’s id, mimicking and exaggerating the sheriff’s worst tendencies, such as his showy, misguided machismo and his (related) penchant for internalizing his distress rather than communicating about it. Even as he matures, Carl makes you worry who he’ll become if he grows up.

Worst moment/s: Probably the time he coldly shot and killed the soldier from Woodbury who was apparently trying to surrender his gun. But then there was the time he teased a seemingly immobilized zombie until it got loose, came after him, and killed sweet, solid Dale instead. Oh, and don’t forget about the time he mocked a grieving mother for believing her daughter was in heaven.

Worst trait/s: Confuses “having a gun” with “being an adult.” Thinks the most responsible action in most circumstances involves killing someone. Inherited his father’s fashion sense.

Redeeming moments/qualities: Even though his bravery is often just stupidity in disguise, Carl is genuinely brave. He may be fully or partially responsible for the deaths of several characters, but he’s also stepped in to save the lives of a few, including his father. —Matt Thompson


The Case for Marnie (Girls)

HBO

Why this character is the actual worst: When people use “pretty girls” as an epithet, they’re talking about girls like Marnie Michaels. She’s a high-strung, annoying perfectionist who jumps to judge others, while her own life is a professional and moral mess. She manipulates men into having sex with her out of insecurity, including at least two of her best friends’ ex-boyfriends. Worst of all, she’s fake, offering false-toned apologies and always performing for those she’s trying to impress.

Worst moment/s: Being drawn in by the artist Booth Jonathan with the worst pick-up line in all of history; singing a ballad-version of Kanye West’s “Stronger” at her newly successful ex-boyfriend’s work party to get his attention; every time she sleeps with someone else’s boyfriend. And: Marnie and Desi.

Worst trait/s: She’s taken with fame, flattered easily, and willing to make a jerk of herself to win approval—mostly from (really lame) men.

Redeeming moments/qualities: In spite of herself, Marnie can be generous. She’s the first of the girls to be really patient with Shosh; she pays Hannah’s apartment bills. They’re rare moments of non-self-absorption, but they’re redeeming. —Emma Green

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