ABC / FX / 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.

This bracket, while intended to determine the relative awfulness of characters on television, is subject to the fact that “worst” is a complex superlative that can incorporate a number of different qualities. In no way are we suggesting that being a narcissistic 20-something is equivalent to, say, killing people and eating them. Rather, our goal is simply to map out which of these fictional characters we love to hate and which we hate to love.

See the bracket in its entirety here.

The Case for Fitz (Scandal)

ABC

Why this character is the actual worst: It’s impossible to beat Linda Holmes’s case for why Fitz is the worst, or Alyssa Rosenberg’s, or Kid Fury’s. Let’s just recap thusly: Fitz is an overprivileged, murderous, man-shaped infant whose libido dictates his foreign policy. As punishment for manipulating the engines of democracy to get him elected, his friends and associates have had to spend his presidency coping with his soul-deep corruption, petty jealousies, and severe allergy to anything that looks like accountability. He has, essentially, everything he’s ever wanted, yet he insists on more, thereby ruining the lives of everyone he says he loves.

Worst moment/s: Sending American troops to war in a bid to save Olivia’s life. Going to the hospital to visit an old friend about to die from cancer, just so he could murder her instead. The fact that he cheated on his wife with at least two different women barely even rates a mention in the long catalogue of Fitz’s sins.

Worst trait/s: He’s one of the richest, most powerful people in the world, with two gorgeous women vying for his affections. Yet this is his only expression.

Redeeming moments/qualities: Olivia and Mellie both out-league Fitz, but he’s nice to look at, preferably without sound/his shirt. —Matt Thompson


The Case for Elsa (American Horror Story: Freak Show)

FX

Why this character is the actual worst: While running her “Cabinet of Curiosities” in AHS season four, Elsa is equal parts protective mother and murderous narcissist. These two personas make her the kind of woman who would take in society’s most vulnerable—such as a sweet, physically tiny woman, or a man born with shortened upper limbs—only to threaten their lives if they get in the way of her fame. There’s something especially grotesque about a person who behaves maternally only to betray the love and trust of her “children” for a vague chance of stardom.

Worst moment/s: When she accidentally-on-purpose stabs her secret lover Paul in the gut after strapping him to a spinning wheel. Later, as his condition worsens, Elsa lies about having called an ambulance. She also secretly sells the twins, Dot and Bette, to a serial killer because she thinks they’re stealing her spotlight.

Worst trait/s: She’s the World’s Worst Surrogate Mother, but it’s her accent that makes Elsa unbearable to watch. Her German lilt strains at some echoes of Old World glamour, but rendered in Jessica Lange’s trademark AHS breathiness (why she is always whispering?!), it makes every line of dialogue a struggle to digest.

Redeeming moments/qualities: Her wistful, aging-starlet performance of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” is one of the few truly charming moments of American Horror Story: Freak Show. —Lenika Cruz

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