Immoral, twisted, psychopathic, sometimes misguided but almost certainly charismatic, a memorable villain is what makes a TV show great says CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES

In the past villains used to be two-dimensional, with no depth, and mostly cartoonishly evil. Bad for the sake of being bad. But modern writers understand that villains need to be more complex and have actual motives that make sense, albeit in a twisted way. They are usually the hero’s antithesis, challenging him/her to become better by overcoming the hurdles thrown their way. Deep down, there is a small voice in every one of us that wonders: what is it like to be like the villain? How does it feel to wield such power and would I have made different choices?

There is an abundance of great TV villains (Roy Logan in Succession, Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad, Negan in The Walking Dead, just to name a few) but which are the best currently on TV?

Omni-Man (Invincible, Prime Video)

The pilot episode of the animated show Invincible is one I will never forget. The episode went smoothly, the story of the son of a beloved superhero who hasn’t gained his powers yet and is afraid that he won’t live up to his father’s name. “Ok”, I thought, “interesting take, not very original but sure”. Then in the final minutes of the pilot, it is revealed in the goriest, bloodiest way possible that the beloved hero is a murdering villain. I didn’t see that coming and it won me over for the rest of the show!

Omni-Man, the all-powerful superhero in question on the surface fights to save the world but really has nothing but disdain for humanity. He is part of an ultra-imperialistic race of aliens called Viltrumites and he is sent to Earth to prepare it for colonisation. What makes Omni-Man (voiced by JK Simmons) great is his complexity and depth: he is not bad, he is indifferent, in the same way we are indifferent towards ants. Is there anything more terrifying than a god who doesn’t care?

Homelander (The Boys, Prime Video)

Homelander (The Boys, Prime Video)

Omni-Man might be scary but in the end, he is an animated character. Enter Homelander, the main antagonist in The Boys. Homelander is what Superman would have been had he been sociopathic and had a TikTok account.

Homelander (played by Anthony Starr) is terrifying because he is all-powerful and has no sense of morality whatsoever. He is only driven by his planet-size ego and has a complete disregard for anyone else. He is also deeply mentally disturbed and prone to violent mood swings. One moment he is chatting casually and the next he burns to a crisp because he was accidentally slighted.

Prompted by a lack of accountability, Homelander is the type of villain who can make everyone’s heart stop by just entering a room.

Bernard Holland (The Silo, Apple TV)

Season 1 of The Silo has been a major success for Apple TV so future seasons are already in the making. The Silo tells the story of a dystopian future where following a nuclear war, the remnants of humanity are crammed into a gigantic underground silo. Nobody dares venture outside and generations of people have been born and died within its walls. Bernard Holland (played by Tim Robbins) is the head of the IT Department in the Silo, a de facto leader albeit without the title. While he appears cordial and polite to everyone, Bernard is ruthless and will stop at nothing to protect his power, going as far as to lie, misinform and even kill.

Vecna (Stranger Things, Netflix)

Complexity in a villain is nice and all but sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned monster who wants to destroy the world to watch it burn.

Vecna who was introduced in season 4 of Stranger Things and has terrified audiences with his appearance, malice and cruelty. Grotesque, monstrous, a skeletal figure covered in tentacles like something straight out of a Lovecraftian story. By the end of the season, we learn that Vecna (played by Jamie Campbell Bower) used to be human but through tragedy embraced the darker side of the Upside Down and now wields power to destroy the world that hurt him. He is merciless, terrifying, and bent on destroying anyone who gets in his path.

Vault-Tec (Fallout, Prime Video)

In a world of immortal humanoid monsters, cannibals, merciless marauders and sadistic religious fanatics, it says a lot that the biggest villain in Fallout is a company.

The breakout hit from Prime Video is set in a dystopian future where (surprise surprise) a nuclear war broke out and left the Earth a hellscape of radiation. During the course of the series, we learn that the war was instigated by a huge multinational company called Vault-Tec (Amazon) as the only way to boost their sales and secure a financial future for the elite.