Netflix / Starz / 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 Vee (Orange Is the New Black)

Netflix

Why this character is the actual worst: In a show that pointedly presents each of its cast members as neither entirely criminal nor completely innocent, the exception to this rule arrives in season two with Vee, who’s just plain evil, through and through. She uses a maternal routine (it literally involves a cake) to win over inmates in Litchfield, including the unstable Crazy Eyes, before her manipulative self slowly emerges. It’s this combination of taking women under her wing and then using their loyalty to her own ends—resulting in a cigarette cartel, increasingly segregated cliques inside the prison, and murder, both actual and attempted—that makes her such a villainous figure. After she pits BFFs Taystee and Poussey against each other and blindsides Red with a brutal attack, both inmates and viewers are pretty happy when Rosa runs Vee over in a glorious getaway scene at the end of the season: “Always so rude, that one!”

Worst moment/s: While Vee might be a mastermind at deceiving many of the other characters, it’s her manipulation of Crazy Eyes that catapults her into contention for the Actual Worst. The most horrifying moment happens after Vee assaults Red: In order to save her own skin, Vee attempts to frame Suzanne for attempted murder by convincing her that she’s at fault, betraying the last person who still believes in her.

Worst trait/s: She thinks using trusting children to carry and sell drugs—and seducing/paying someone to murder her own adoptive son when he wants to start his own drug ring—is just good business.

Redeeming moments/qualities: Despite Vee’s nefarious end game, she does manage to unite her gang under a common goal (even if that goal is smuggling and selling cigarettes) and inspire them in the process, giving them purpose in a prison system that isn’t exactly rife with self-improvement opportunities. “This is about more than a business,” Vee tells her charges. “This is about making something of yourselves.” —Katharine Schwab


The Case for Black Jack (Outlander)

Starz

Why this character is the actual worst: A sadist in smart trousers, Captain “Black Jack” Randall is an 18th-century Redcoat who savors beatings, rapes, and blustery speeches. At times, he seems self-aware, but instead of making moves toward redemption, he embarks on monologue after tedious monologue—surely getting violently whipped must be worse if your captor is blathering on in a pretentious British accent?

Worst moment/s: The rapes and attempts thereof, always relished and accompanied by some serious psychological meddling. First, he goes after Jamie’s sister; then Claire; and then, finally, Jamie himself.

Worst trait/s: He looks exactly like Claire’s 20th-century husband, Frank, who is his opposite in every way—kind, gentle, nerdy, actually worth hanging out with. (The two characters are played by the same actor and described in the series as distant relatives.) The cognitive dissonance of seeing Black Jack’s cruelty and Frank’s love-driven search for his wife makes the former seem all the more detestable: There were genetically viable alternative paths for you, dude!

Redeeming moments/qualities: There’s a moment, when Claire encounters Randall by chance during her venture to prove to the Redcoats that she hasn't been kidnapped, when Randall seems vulnerable: curious about Claire, trying to figure her out with an almost childlike obsession. But, then he immediately punches her in the stomach. So. —Emma Green

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