HBO / NBC / 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 Ramsay (Game of Thrones)

HBO

Why this character is the actual worst: In a show about why people in desperate times do terrible things, Ramsay Bolton does the most terrible things for no reason at all. Or, almost no reason: Ostensibly, he tortures and murders to gain leverage that might win the favor of his father. But he consistently goes beyond what’s necessary—castrating Theon, raping Sansa, feeding various maidens to various dogs, flaying people in front of their own friends and family members, close-talking and making bad jokes to anyone in earshot. His character offers the uncomfortable suggestion that cruelty—mankind’s and Game of Thrones’s—ultimately has no motive.

Worst moment/s: Offering Theon a false taste of freedom—and then turning him into a dismembered slave named Reek.

Worst trait/s: Sarcasm while performing dismemberment procedures. It’s not the time for jokes, Ramsay.

Redeeming moments/qualities: You can cut him one millimeter of slack based on the fact that his dad is Roose Bolton, who brags about raping Ramsay’s mother under the swinging corpse of her husband. —Spencer Kornhaber


The Case for Mason (Hannibal)

NBC

Why this character is the actual worst: He’s an arch-villain on Hannibal, and you have to be really bad to be considered the villain on a show where the hero is a villain. Mason is a pompous, spoiled millionaire who is prone to sadism and sexually assaults his poor sister Margot. Later, he has her womb removed so that she can’t produce an heir to his fortune. He also has a collection of prize hogs that he likes to feed people to.

Worst moment/s: Well, pretty much everything mentioned above would qualify, but just in case you didn’t get the picture, in an early episode Mason bullies a child into crying and literally steals his tears with a vial so that he can drink them later. Yes, Mason literally drinks children’s tears.

Worst trait/s: For all his absurd evil, Mason seems to exist to represent entitlement run wild—he commits all his evil acts simply because he can, and because he obviously feels he’s better than everyone else around him. When he meets Hannibal, he tries to run roughshod over him like everyone else, but ends up meeting a truly grisly end.

Redeeming moments/qualities: When Mason gets brutalized by Hannibal, he puts a bounty on Dr. Lecter, which is very “two wrongs make a right,” but at least he’s trying to rid the world of an evil man? Even this is a stretch. Mason has no redeeming qualities. —David Sims

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