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The anti-heroes we love to hate: Our favourite TV redemption arcs

(Vogue)

You know the writers of a show are really good, when halfway through the season you realise that the villain character or anti-hero that you’re supposed to hate is actually your favourite of the whole cast.

There’s nothing better than a well written antagonist that makes life difficult for the hero in the cleverest of ways, while somehow still being a complex, well-thought out character. You know, the ones that exist not just as an obstacle for the hero to overcome, but as their own person with light and dark parts to them. We almost find ourselves rooting for them – which is nothing against the main character – we just love a good redemption arc. Sometimes the villains don’t even get redeemed – we just understand them and their motives better – which makes their fight with the protagonist all the more delicious to watch!

Check out our favourite antagonist and let us know which ones are your favourites and who we’ve missed on our masterlist!

Petra Solano – Jane the Virgin

(Cosmopolitan)

Ah Petra. Truly one of the best character development moments in recent television. On the surface, she’s a spoiled manipulative, scorned ex-wife, determined to exact revenge of Jane and her baby daddy – Petra’s ex, Raphael. But once we discover more about her crazy and sad past, the mystery of Petra begins to unravel. Determined to build something for herself so her daughters don’t have the same difficult childhood she did, Petra’s ruthless side suddenly makes a lot more sense when she becomes a mother. Aside from that, she has several of the series’ more iconic and hilarious moments – the turkey baster anyone? – plus the development of her relationship with Jane over the seasons is gorgeous to watch, really reinforcing the strong female friendships message.

Dwight Schrute – The Office

(Lifestyle Magazine)

Evil – and weirdness – incarnate, Dwight Schrute is somehow the villain that morphs into the hero of The Office. As his prank game levels up throughout the seasons to combat Jim, we find ourselves switching from rooting for Jim to rooting for Dwight as we learn of his vulnerabilities (Angela) and find hilarity in his nuts German upbringing. From Recyclops to the snowman/snowball pranks, Dwight slowly grows on you as softer sides of him come through in his friendships with Pam and eventually even Jim.

Devi Vishwakumar – Never Have I Ever

Netflix drop the hilarious trailer for 'Never Have I Ever' season two |  SHEmazing!

The second season of this show dropped recently on Netflix and I’m not sure how to feel about it. Devi drove plenty of us nuts in the first season with bad decision after bad decision being made and while she seems to have learned to prioritise friends (for the most part) in season 2, she still manages to screw up a extraordinary amount. And yet, what should be an incredibly unlikeable character is made totally vulnerable and stripped bare before us in her therapy sessions. It’s a rare occurrence that the main character almost functions as her own villain. These brief breaks from Devi’s crazy life decisions are where we see her really make sense – her father’s death and the grief that comes with it all comes pouring out and we end up rooting for her to recover – despite, or perhaps because of, the craziness.

Ross Geller – Friends

Girl texts randomer asking for Ross – Guy pretends to be Ross Geller |  SHEmazing!

Okay, so not technically an anti-hero, but I guess that kind of depends on whose perspective you look at the series from. If we look at Rachel, he’s like her antagonist throughout the series – especially when he’s being his own worst enemy. We have to love him, because he’s part of the iconic core six, but he’d drive you cracked with his stupid decision and self-sabotaging. With everything from ‘we were on a break’ to not getting the divorce from Rachel, he’s a fairly toxic antagonist. But if you can’t handle him at his ‘we were on a break’, you don’t deserve him at his ‘Did she get off the plane?’

Emily Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

Snarky, nit-picky, fussy, proud and a nasty streak a mile wide – Emily Gilmore had the stage set to be the evil anti-hero mother that would come to rain on Lorelai’s whimsical and kooky parade in season one. But it’s Gilmore girls, so it’s always going to be a little more complicated than that. I know Gilmore Girls has a whole array of colourful characters to choose form but I genuinely think Emily is my favourite. She is such an unexpectedly complex character with so many layers to her and her relationships. Watching the mending and breaking of her relationship with Lorelai over the years just gets more fascinating with each re-watch as we begin to sympathise with her more and more each time. The real clincher is that scene when she realises Lorelai lived in a boat house with Rory at 16, rather than return to her own home – the heartbreak on Kelly Bishop’s face at that moment is such a turning point for the character and the real moment where the layers begin to be peeled back.

Sue Sylvester – Glee

(IMDb)

I think most of us hated her for the majority of our teens – and with good reason, remember those slushies? But Sue Sylvester not only worms her way into the Glee club’s hearts, but also int ours. Like Petra, her ferocity makes sense when it’s contrasted with the gentleness she shows her sister and while she is simply diabolical in her plans – stealing Christmas, blackmailing the principal with NSFW photos and sabotaging Glee club at every chance – we kind of love her for the pure evil creativity. And that how Sue...sees it!

Doug Judy – Brooklyn 99

(Bustle)

We don’t know how Jake lets Judy get away with the crime every time – but we suspect it’s because he secretly doesn’t want him to be caught, just like us. The charismatic thief should almost annoy viewers at this point with the predictable escape at the end of his episodes, but the writing is so fresh every time that we eagerly wait to see how the trickster has wiggled his way out of trouble this time!

Schmidt – New Girl

(Buzzfeed)

I think we were all very ready to finish with Schmidt by season three when we realise he’s cheating on Elizabeth and Cece – especially after Cece called off her wedding for him and he begged Elizabeth to give him another chance. And yet somehow, he always manages to redeem himself. The pompousness, the ridiculous amount of hair products, the over pronunciation of words – all should be incredibly annoying, and yet Max Green pulls the hilarious character off to perfection. By the end we’re rooting for him and Cece and we can’t wait to see their future together.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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