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.
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
The Case for Todd (Breaking Bad)
Why this character is the actual worst: Todd, the gentle red-headed sociopath, begins his arc on the show as a soft-spoken Vamanos Pest exterminator who just wants to be useful to the meth-making mastermind Walter White, proving his worth to the operation by connecting Walt with his uncle Jack’s gang of white supremacists. But it soon becomes clear Todd is perfectly capable of murdering and torturing those who get in his way, and his innocent, cheery demeanor and matter-of-fact attitude towards the horrendous crimes he perpetrates only makes his awfulness more acute. After murdering a young boy who witnessed the crew’s big train heist without hesitation or remorse, a crime for which he’s berated by Walt, Jesse, and Mike, Todd laughs it off nonchalantly, saying, “Shit happens.”
Worst moment/s: The aforementioned murder of an innocent child during the train heist (and subsequent serial killer-esque pocketing of the child’s mason-jar trapped tarantula as a trophy). Taking Jesse captive in order to learn how to cook purer meth and killing his ex-girlfriend Andrea in order to cow him into submission, THEN offering him AmeriCone Dream ice cream as a kicker.
Worst trait/s: Being unfailingly cheery and unpredictably violent—a pretty scary combo.
Redeeming moments/qualities: Crushing on Lydia. It might be a little-boy infatuation, but it’s kinda cute, and it must mean that he actually has emotions like normal people. Right? —Katharine Schwab