TV's 9 Most Unbearably Charming Killers
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TV's 9 Most Unbearably Charming Killers

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | June 25, 2013 | Comments ()


As TV dramas get murkier and murkier these days, the line between "anti-hero" and "villain" continues to blur in lurid and exciting ways. You can't throw a rock without hitting a morally compromised protagonist. Heck, even our lawmen ain't what they used to be. And, to be honest, that just makes for better storytelling and more interesting television. We can trace the beginning of this TV trend to the magnificent James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano. But even Tony couldn't hold a candle to some of these charmingly twisted killers. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments, but for this particular experiment I limited the entries to shows that are currently or will soon be airing. Enjoy.

Hannibal Lecter -- "Hannibal": As "Hannibal" oozed its way to an uncomfortable but inevitable-seeming conclusion this week, I found myself completely astonished that it's going to receive a second season. This is thanks, in large part, to Mads Mikkelsen's astonishing performance. Of course he had big shoes to fill, and he did so. Dapperly. Beyond the elegance of his lifestyle (seriously that office, seriously), Mikkelsen's Dr. Lecter possesses a curious tragedy, a strange, intractable sympathy that makes it hard to reconcile the man with his actions. He's deeply psychopathic, so I suppose that's the point.

Boyd And Ava Crowder -- "Justified": Our star-crossed, tragic Bonnie and Clyde of The Holler had a rough go of it this year. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, we watched their entire dizzying trajectory with knuckles clenched. It's Olyphant's show, sure. But despite all the tragedy and darkness Raylan faced this year, it's the Crowders who, ultimately, had our sympathy.
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Ray Seward -- "The Killing": Ray Seward is far from lovable, for sure. And who knows where this season will go. He may not even end up being a killer at all. But thanks to Peter Sarsgaard's reptilian charm, he's currently one of the more compelling characters on TV. Watching him f*ck with his guards may make you hate him, but the hollow way he admits "they won a long time ago" must surely tug at something in you.

Jaime Lannister -- "Game Of Thrones": Without a doubt, Jaime Lannister had the most compelling arc this season on HBO's blood- and gore-fest. And while most of the people walking around Westeros are some form of killer, Jaime Lannister *did* push a kid out of a window and later choked his own kinsmen to death. But you love him. You maybe want to have babies with him. And why? Redemption? Is he a good man now? Does that erase his past? It's hard to say. And it's why his is the best plot line.

Alice Morgan -- "Luther": As much as I love love love Idris Elba, I was disappointed by the significant lack of Ruth Wilson in Season 2 of BBC's grittiest crime drama. But she's back at the end of summer for Season 3, and I couldn't be happier. She'll kill you with a look and you'll die happily.

Philip and Elizabeth Jennings -- "The Americans": This FX drama was a little shaky in its freshman season, but there was enough good there to keep me coming back for more. The good, of course, was the marital drama between Philip and Elizabeth. Not the espionage (though watching Keri Russell cat burgle her way into a car was delightful), not the wigs, but the ordinary story of two people trying and mostly failing to love each other. It's almost enough to make you forget how many people they slaughtered. Almost.

Jesse Pinkman -- "Breaking Bad": SPOILER ALERT FOR LAST SEASON OF "BREAKING BAD." If I had written this list a year ago, it would Mike here. But he's no longer with us. And as I'm not one of the many weirdos who still think Walter White is sympathetic, I'm going to hang this title on Pinkman. Sure he's not an indiscriminate or frequent killer. And sure he killed Gale because he "had" to and Joaquin Salamanca was self-defense. But as long as he's in this game, he's putting people at risk. And not matter how racked with guilt he feels, he keeps coming back. Sure he's being expertly manipulated, but it's his choice to keep coming back. But that won't stop us from loving him or curling into a ball of despair if he ends up as collateral damage. Because, I mean, come on, just look at him.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Flash635

    Arya Stark has my vote.

  • KoaL

    dexter should have been #1 how can you not love him as a killer?

  • Mal

    What, no Omar? That's just wrong!

  • dizzylucy

    Justified is loaded with charming killers, but definitely Boyd tops my list. Even rewatching the pilot, when he's probably at his worst as a human being, and I still like him. Ditto for Wynn Duffy - I love when that Winnebago pulls into town.

    Agree on Jesse - I'm ready to see Walter White pay for all his sins in a spectacular fashion, but I'm rooting for Jesse to make it out alive and get to start over.

  • Chester A Arthur

    Interesting how you guys bemoan the lack of female roles in today's entertainment, but you're all on board with glamorizing violent murderers.

  • Becks

    You're going to have to draw me a diagram because I can't even find the relationship, let alone why it's interesting.

  • Candee

    So is this season of The Killing actually worth watching, now?

    They left such a bad taste in my mouth.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm enjoying it but then I liked season two. Grain of salt.

  • Boothy K

    Three reasons to watch with Sarsgaard as bonus: Elias Koteas! Hugh Dillon! Aaron Douglas! It's like they added a bunch of Canadians and all of a sudden, the show is compelling...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I find Hugh Dillon very compelling, his face is like an angry clenched fist.

  • TheAggroCraig

    I was initially in the "what is wrong with her face" camp on Ruth Wilson but after oh about half an episode, I was a believer.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Yeah, she's got a case of The Simpsons overbite but GD is she a good actress. I've loved her in everything I've seen her in.

  • with_club_sauce

    blowfishin' this up

  • jon29

    Finding Walter White less sympathetic than Hannibal Lector makes someone a weirdo, but I don't think it is who you think it is. Fun list!

  • NoPantsMcLane

    Despite a couple of bad seasons lately, Dexter should have made the list.

  • PaddyDog

    Al Swearingen.

  • Manuel Granados

    If he was still on TV I think he'd be #1 in every list. Best bad guy to grace the screen in a while, even better than Walter White

  • toblerone

    No Jaqen H'ghar / Tom Wlaschiha?

  • Sirilicious

    He is hot & murderous. Going by the pilot, he is neither on Crossing Lines. Congrats to him on getting that role though, and i'll root for his character to heat up.

  • luthien26

    A Man! <3

  • toblerone


    Peter Quinn / Rupert Friend

  • BWeaves

    No Dexter?

  • Brian Merritt

    The lack of Dexter is upsetting.

  • Becks

    Joanna, can you look into this? I think comments are showing up from four years ago.

  • Brian Merritt

    New season starts Sunday. Don't forget to set your DVR.

  • Becks

    Thanks Brian!

  • JoannaRobinson


  • lowercase_ryan

    No Dexter.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Really glad to see Sarsgaard get some love, he's been really great so far.

    I'd add:

    Wynn Duffy on Justified, Jere makes everything better.

    (No Spoilers) Also Helena on Orphan Black isn't charming, but I find her ridiculously adorable. When she's not frothing at the mouth.

  • emmalita

    I think we didn't quite get enough time with her to really love her. Ah, such is the tragedy of Helena.

  • lowercase_ryan


  • emmalita

    We didn't get enough time with her in Season 1....

  • PaddyDog

    But we'll always have sugar on jello to remember her by.

  • lowercase_ryan

    That reaction was SOOOOO GD priceless!!!!

  • Tinkerville

    Helena's a hypnotic "holy shit" kind of train wreck and I sincerely love watching her for that.

  • lowercase_ryan

    You friggin nailed this list.

  • Aratweth

    Jesus, could you guys have picked a more terrifying photo of Walton Goggins as the header? All of the teeth, none of the sexy...sigh.

  • $27019454

    I have never heard of much less watched The Killing but I luuuurve me some Peter Sarsgaard. I want him so baaaad and I hate myself for that. So dirtydirtydirty. Ugh.

    Bring it.

  • Jill

    Every time I see his name written out I think of the pirate sketch from when he hosted SNL where they kept pronouncing his last name with the extra "AAARRRGH".

  • Rocabarra


    Every. Damn. Time!

  • lowercase_ryan

    This season is really good. Give it a shot.

  • I'm completely fascinated by how clearly and perfectly you can see Hannibal's skull. I'm not sure if that's a basic characteristic of Mads or if it's something they've carefully emphasized for Hannibal, but it's like this beautiful, subtle cue that you're looking at some sort of anthropomorphization of Death.

  • Jill

    This is a bit off topic, but they always seem to light him, on the show, so his skin looks gray. As if he were rotting. I noticed this the first time in a scene with his character and Anderson. Her hair color, skin and clothes are all light and warm colors. They even have her sitting in front of the window most of the time during their scenes so she is literally glowing. And then the camera turns to him and he's sitting in a shadow and looks like death.

  • True_Blue

    I didn't think of it, but you're right. They do have a color about clothes? Has Hannibal ever been shown _not_ wearing a suit? He is always dressed so formally (then Death is not the sweats-wearing type), while Will wears jeans/hoodie/boxers--not suits.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I think he's been technically not in a suit a few times, but he still had a really nice blazer and stuff happening, so it's not like it'd qualify as dressing down. I consider it part of his human suit, that this is how a person like who he wants to be dresses. But he never really looks comfortable, does he? Hell, I would barely even say he looks like he's even really wearing them; he comes off like a mannequin at times.

  • Maguita NYC

    Jamie Lannister - I don't mind so much the attempted murder of a young boy, or the murder of a family member.

    It's the sister buggering where I draw the line. Other than that, he can fill me with his babies.

  • Memme

    Two Danes making the list, Mads and Nikolaj - lovable viking killers :-)

  • $27019454

    Nothing will redeem him for that defenestration thing (in my book). He's good looking but I hate that mofo. Forevah.

  • Maguita NYC

    The defenestration of his sister... Or Bran?

    'Cause you know, we weren't there to watch the first.

  • $27019454


    Also: Huh?

  • JCaude4553

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт...­ ­ViewMore----------------------...

    (No Spoilers) Also Helena on Orphan Black isn't charming, but I find
    her ridiculously adorable. When she's not frothing at the mouth.

  • Maguita NYC

    Didn't she lose her virginity to her brother... Oh wait, I believe it was the other way around, she was already knowledgeable.

    Lord it's been a while since I've read the books.

  • Jakesalterego

    Defenestration does not mean what you think it means.

  • Maguita NYC

    The joke was so lame it went right over your heads, didn't it?

    That's fine. I will own it and defenestrate myself to another post.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Well, since I read it as "deforestation", it definitely went over my head.

    My thought process at 4:50 AM: "Jaime's a logger? Huh."

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