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.
The Case for Fish (Gotham)
Why this character is the actual worst: Fish is a ruthless criminal and nightclub owner who governs Gotham City’s underworld in this Batman prequel, though she answers to the mob lord Carmine Falcone. As such, she’s wrapped up in all kinds of murder and vice, and not only that, she’s plotting to knock off her boss by any means necessary.
Worst moment/s: As Fish schemes to usurp her boss, she auditions young women to seduce him, playing on Carmine’s dormant mommy issues. When she selects her assassin, a girl named Liza, she dresses her up in pearls and white sweaters, all the better to scramble her boss’s brain. The ploy doesn’t work—Carmine eventually figures it out and strangles poor Liza to death—but that’s no skin off Fish’s nose.
Worst trait/s: She has terrible, terrible taste in comedy. She’s always auditioning stand-ups for her club and she laughs uproariously at the worst ones. No wonder she can’t climb the ladder of crime any further—she’s clearly lacking in judgment. Oh, also she’s prone to viciously beating anyone who defies her.
Redeeming moments/qualities: She has tremendous style, from her Goth outfits to the scarlet streak in her hair, and she’s got a decent sense of honor, only going after her friends if they betray her. But that contributes to her downfall in the end, as the Penguin (a former protégé) takes her down. —David Sims
The Case for Joffrey (Game of Thrones)
Why this character is the actual worst: It’s usually wrong to speak ill of the dead, but Joffrey did much worse in his brief lifetime. As many people do, he started out as a petulant child. But as few do, he grew into a sneering boy-king with a fondness for torture. Even those who’ve never seen the show have likely heard of his gleeful corpse-mutilation, and his penchant for sexual violence is nauseating even by Game of Thrones standards. Somehow, the fact that his mother and father are both siblings and longtime lovers was the least awful thing about him.
Worst moment/s: The numerous times he tormented Sansa—like when he ordered her to look at her father’s severed head on a spike or when he got her direwolf Lady killed. Or when he forced one prostitute to beat another one. Or when, at his own wedding, he humiliated his uncle Tyrion (and most of the guests) by forcing a group of short-statured actors to reenact the gruesome War of the Five Kings. Fortunately, it was one of the last things he ever did before a glass of poisoned wine dispatched him to the Seven Hells.
Worst trait/s: He’s power-crazy, stupid, pampered, sadistic, and craven—a horrifying cocktail of qualities for the leader of an entire continent, again, even by Game of Thrones standards. As his grandfather Tywin Lannister once said, “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”
Redeeming moments/qualities: In his defense, he grew up around terrible adults—murderers, adulterers, manipulators, drunkards. (Though that excuse collapses when you consider how pleasant his siblings Myrcella and Tommen turned out.) He deserves a couple points for his instantly meme-able “You’re perfect the way you are” line—delivered as an insult to his uncle, but beautifully motivational out-of-context. —Lenika Cruz