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Walter White and 10 Other ‘Bad’ TV Heroes

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Walter White (or is he simply Heisenberg now?) makes his last stand tonight on the Breaking Bad series finale, bringing an end to five seasons of crystal-meth mayhem. New Mexico’s deadliest drug kingpin, White is also one of television’s all-time greatest antiheroes — and he’s in good company.

Ahead of the Breaking Bad finale, Spinoff Online looks back at some of the other television characters who deserve a place in the Antihero Hall of Fame.


Dexter Morgan, Dexter
Before Lumen and Hannah and Devious Deb and all the other twists and turns that tanked the back-half of this series, Dexter was can’t-miss television. Credit goes to Michael C. Hall’s magnetic performance as Dexter Morgan, Miami’s finest blood spatter analyst by day, its deadliest serial killer of serial killers by night. Junk ending aside, nothing can negate Hall’s chilling work during the show’s first four seasons.


James Ford, Lost
He lacks the destiny-driven purpose of fellow islanders Jack Shephard and John Locke, but the artist frequently known as Sawyer is the king of the world when it comes to one-liners and put-downs. But there’s intensity to Sawyer, too, from his ruthless executions of Mr. Friendly and Anthony Cooper, among others. Charming at times and lethal at others, Sawyer is easily one of the tallest trees in Lost‘s jungle of mystery.


Patty Hewes, Damages
Glenn Close’s Damages “protagonist” is as ruthless as they come, never afraid to get her hands dirty if it means closing a case before it ever gets to court. Highlights of her career include putting out hits on fellow lawyers and bullying rivals into suicide. She’s pretty bad.


Jack Bauer, 24
The man who immortalized the phrases “son of a bitch” and “damn it, Chloe, there’s no time,” this ticking time bomb of a counter-terrorist operative remains Kiefer Sutherland’s greatest role by miles. Indeed, the power of Bauer is so strong that not even cancellation can keep him off the streets for long: Like Jack himself, 24 is set to return from the dead with a limited series airing next spring.


Omar Little, The Wire
It’s all in the game for this scar-faced modern-day Robin Hood. With a shotgun at the ready, Omar marches through the mean streets of Baltimore, as if he’s playing on god mode. He’s far from the only antihero on The Wire, but he’s in a league of his own. Put another way: The cheese stands alone.


Al Swearengen, Deadwood
Insert endless expletives here.


Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody, Homeland
You can’t have one without the other. The Homeland heroes — if you can even call them that any more — have broken countless laws and risked even more lives in the name of love, and because of confused purpose. We’ll see how many more laws they’ll break when Season 3 premieres tonight.


Vic Mackey, The Shield
The Strike Team leader is the very definition of Machiavellian. For Vic, the ends always justify the means, and the means are always mean. By the end of The Shield‘s first episode, you know all you need to know about the Barn’s deadliest detective — but that won’t stop you from wanting to learn more.


Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
Bryan Cranston has said there would be no Walter White without Tony Soprano, and he’s absolutely right. The late James Gandolfini’s powerhouse of a mob boss is the character responsible for the “Age of the Antihero,” and deservedly so. Tony is ruthless against his enemies, old-school in his perception of the new world, deceitful in his personal life, and weak with women. But he loves animals, so you know he’s got a heart. Tone is tops when it comes to television’s all-time great antiheroes.


  • Vanourney

    I would add Jim Profit from PROFIT to that list.

  • Aditya Iyer

    Good list, while anti-heroes, guys like Dexter, Sawyer or even Omar were definitely not ‘bad’ in a sense. And no, Dexter’s ending was not great, but it wasn’t junk, not their problem if most can’t appreciate it. And he did a great job on ALL EIGHT SEASONS, blame the creators for the poor ones of 5 and 6 (and to an extent 8). 7 was in fact the top 3, but well, once in bad books always stuck there eh?

  • BillyTheHero

    Where’s Don Draper, scumbag supreme? More importantly, where is J.R. Ewing????

  • Manish Singh

    Rightly pointed by Aditya. Despite the poor ending and bad writing, what kept the viewers love this show was Michael C Hall’s performances. Just too brilliant. Just as a character, Michael C Hall on par with Bryan Cranston, if not better.

  • Qixotl

    This would be my #1: Kerr Avon, Blake’s 7. He is my personal definition of anti-hero.

    I see that Josh didn’t make this an actual “Top 10 List”, but restricting all of the choices to characters which debuted with the past 14 years offsets the best benefit of making lists like this: exposing people to TV series that they may not know much about.

  • Edmund Blackadder

    Think you missed out a brace of Lanisters there chum.

  • Someguy

    Mayor Tom Kane of Chicago (Boss, Starz)

    I miss that show already.

  • MJ

    I’d add Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire.

  • Tia Nadiezja

    Francis Urquhart, the original House of Cards.

    “You might say that. I could possibly comment.”

  • Leo Vader

    the Al Swearengen one was pretty perfect.

  • Mark DeLoatch

    Let’s not forget Jax Teller from “Sons of Anarchy”. His ruthlessness hides a soft spot for his kids.

  • Spider Jerusalem

    Jax Teller, John Crichton, Raylan Givens, Justin Crowe, Tobias Beecher and Walter Bishop deserve to join Al Swearengen on this list.

  • JoshWigler Sucks

    It is amazing how you didn’t venture past more than 10 years or so. Great job on only doing recent shows!!

  • turnthepagecomics
  • Topher

    Sylar should be on before some of those characters. Honestly? Carrie Mathison? She is pretty far from bad. And Bauer is a good guy.

  • Brandon Roberts

    i love anti heroes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!