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.

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 Hannah (Girls)

HBO

Why this character is the actual worst: Hannah is a chronic ingrate who generally lacks the ability to take responsibility for herself or her actions. Her staggering level of self absorption is both her defining trait and the pillar of her awfulness. Whether she’s begging her parents for money, manipulating friends and boyfriends, brooding about her writing career, or making seriously questionable decisions (and then complaining about them), everything is always about Hannah. But what makes her truly unbearable are the times when she justifies this selfishness as necessary introspection, the product of being a writer or a 20-something woman.

Worst moment/s: When Hannah’s editor abruptly dies and she makes it clear that her primary concern is whether or not her book deal is also dead. The worst part of the scenario isn’t Hannah’s lack of emotion over a man she knew only briefly, or even her hovering around people who are actually grieving in an attempt to further her career. Instead it’s the ease with which she spins a lie by co-opting her friend’s (fictional) story of loss as her own in order to gain attention and rebuff claims that she’s emotionless.

Worst trait/s: Her inability to be alone, even when she moves halfway across the country. The way she whines in a baby voice to her parents.

Redeeming moments/qualities: For all her selfishness, Hannah does in fact care deeply about the people in her life. She clearly loves Adam, and wants the best for her friends, even when they’re at each other’s throats. —Gillian B. White


The Case for Hannibal (Hannibal)

NBC

Why this character is the actual worst: Hannibal is a serial killer, which is a bad foot to start on. But he’s a special kind of serial killer who likes to cook and eat his victims after they’re dead, prepare them as gourmet meals, and serve them to guests. He’s also a psychiatrist with a predilection for chaos, who allows the clearly mentally ill FBI agent Will Graham to continue fighting crime even as he slips into madness under Lecter’s watch.

Worst moment/s: The list of Hannibal’s misdeeds is absurdly long. Maybe his grossest trait is serving cooked people up to other people; topping even that, though, is what he does to poor Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard), a fellow murderer who gets on Hannibal’s bad side by taking credit for his crimes. Hannibal chops his legs off but keeps Gideon alive, and then they share a meal of, well, human leg together.

Worst trait/s: Probably the whole “he kill you and eats you” thing. Still, there are people in Hannibal’s life that he clearly values, and through the course of the series he has to turn on all of them to save his own skin—for all his politeness, he’s as inherently selfish as the rest of us.

Redeeming moments/qualities: There’s a lot to like about Dr. Lecter. He’s a well-read man, a witty conversationalist, a fantastic cook, and he’s sartorially blessed. It’s how he gets away with all that murdering—people just don’t want to think Hannibal could be up to no good. —David Sims

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