The Telefile
Just How Bad Are TV's Most Morally Ambiguous TV Characters?

It's been over a year now, but we couldn't (and didn't want to) forget the transformation Walt has made during the last three seasons of Breaking Bad -- he started out as a high school chemistry teacher and is now a full-blown murderer. With the show returning on Sunday, we're taking a look at Walt, as well as some of TV's other morally ambiguous characters, ones we're not sure are good or bad, innocent or guilty -- which is why we watch.

Walter White, Breaking Bad
Remember that one time Walter White was a harmless high school chemistry teacher? Neither do we. Walt started cooking meth "for his family" after he found out he had terminal cancer. He made it his mission to leave them money for when he was gone. And with a high school teacher's salary and a baby on the way, it seemed...well, not okay, but understandable. But even after Walt made enough to support his family and pay for treatment, he kept cooking, establishing a frightening alter ego named Heisenberg, warning other cooks to stay out of his territory, making deals with criminal masterminds like Tuco and Gus, forcing himself on his pregnant wife and school principal, missing his daughter's birth and committing multiple homicides. Creator Vince Gilligan has said for a long time that he's wanted to transform Walter White from Mr. Chips to Scarface, and he's doing a good job of it.
Verdict?: Walt is a baddie. There's just no coming back for him, especially after Season Three. Having Jesse (apparently) murder Gale, the nicest person on the show, just so Walt could continue to cook? Walt is past forgiveness.

Don Draper, Mad Men
Although the dapper ad man hasn't been on TV for quite some time now, he remains one of the most morally ambiguous characters in the pack. The central question of Mad Men is "Who is Don Draper?" and four seasons in, we still don't really know. He drinks, smokes, cheats, and makes brash moves at work -- his job, for crying out loud, is bending the truth to make people feel good. And worst of all, he led his family to believe he died at war so he could steal another man's life. On paper, Don Draper is a full-on bad guy. But then there's everything else -- he was physically abused by his father, who he then watched die in front of him; he lost the only person who really knew him this past season; he's arguably a good friend and a good boss; and he certainly loves and looks after his children far more than his ex-wife Betty ever has. But then there was his engagement to Megan just when it seemed like Don was finally turning his life around. Will that surprise decision end up being a good or bad thing? Well, Megan seems to know who he is and doesn't want to change him, so maybe it's Don's most authentic move yet.
Verdict?: We're going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and say Don is a good guy, even though it probably won't ever be clear if he is or not. He's a caring father, so that gives him a lot of points. And we're hoping for the best with Megan (though knowing Matt Weiner, we probably won't get it).

Dexter Morgan, Dexter
Can a serial killer be a good person? The answer to this question has almost always been no... until Dexter Morgan came along. Dexter is built to kill -- he quite literally has homicidal impulses -- and it's something that he's been aware of since he was very young. But what (sort of) redeems him? He only kills people who deserve to be killed; in other words, he only kills people he knows are murderers. (It's no surprise that Casey Anthony's not guilty verdict prompted an Internet meme of a picture of Dexter smiling, under a thought bubble that said, "Casey Anthony, not guilty? We'll see about that...") The way Dexter sees it, he is the justice system when the justice system fails -- which is often.
Verdict?: We're going to say he's a bad guy (umm, he kills people) with good intentions. So we're cheating, but this one is almost impossible to make a decision about. That is, after all, what makes the show so good.

Nancy Botwin, Weeds
Once upon a time, Nancy's decision to become a pot dealer was -- like Walter White's decision to cook meth -- somewhat understandable. She was a grieving widow with two young boys to support and okay, she was already kind of nutty. So it wasn't too much of a stretch to believe that drug dealing would seem like the best idea to her. Also, she had Heylia and Conrad keeping her in line. (Aww, we miss those two.) But as the series continues, Nancy has shown herself to be selfish, immature and irresponsible; a woman who took the people around her for granted and stayed involved in the criminal life because she wanted to, not because she needed to. While Shane and Silas became more and more messed up, Nancy seemed to care less and less. She's had very few redeeming moments -- telling the cops about Esteban's tunnel, for one, and taking the blame for Shane's murdering ways, for another -- but she's fresh out of jail this season and already back into the drug biz. (Running away from the visiting Andy, Silas and Shane was a classic Nancy move.) Worst of all? She definitely still tells herself she's doing this for her family.
Verdict?: This one is pretty easy -- Nancy is a baddie. While her constant air of "Who, me?" and incessant coffee sipping can be distracting, she has left a wake of destruction in her path for seven seasons now. (That includes the burning down of one town and the death of three DEA agents -- one was her husband -- for anyone who's counting.)

Detective Holder, The Killing
Holder began Season One as one of the most questionable characters on The Killing -- smoking fake weed with some high school students to get the information he needed, trading packages and money with a strange man and going to mysterious meetings. Then, thanks to Linden's snooping, we found out he's just a recovering addict trying to keep his sister and nephew in his life. And, strangely enough, for most of the season he kept Linden sane and turned into something of a comic relief, what with his strange affinity for maple donuts and pork rinds. But then there was the completely out- of-character twist in the finale -- Holder faked the picture of Richmond in his car so he and Linden would be able to arrest the senator. It seemed the ultimate good guy, the hoodie-clad cop with the heart of gold, had been bad all along.
Verdict?: We won't be sure until next season (or knowing The Killing, the season after), but for now, we're going to say he's good. We have a feeling Holder forged the picture for reasons that will be understandable once they've been made clear -- hell, for all we know, it's part of a complex plan to flush out the real killer. For someone so committed to changing his life -- so much so that his sponsor keeps his paychecks for him -- we can't see Holder being a serious villain.

Gregory House, House
House has spent seven seasons trying to convince us that people don't change, and it seems the show is right -- at least about its lead, Dr. Gregory House. House started out as a rude and inconsiderate, but brilliant diagnostician, and he remains one today. He's pretty much unchanged from all of the tragedies and hardships he's faced in the past few seasons -- Amber's death, Kutner's suicide, the end of his relationship with Cuddy and, above all, the fact that his leg will never be fixed. He's still as angry and manipulative as ever. At the end of Season Seven, he pulled the ultimate self-destructive, unthinking House move -- he drove his car into Cuddy's house after seeing her with a new guy. House is redeemed only by the fact that he will do absolutely anything to save a life.
Verdict?: Because David Shore claims House saw Cuddy leave the room before driving his car into the house -- which means House was actually not trying to kill Cuddy, like so many initially thought -- we're going to say he stays on the good side here. That's because his rude bedside manner is usually to get to the truth about someone in order to save their life. Is he totally inappropriate and completely out of his mind? Sure, but does he move mountains to keep someone alive? Yes. And that is, above all else, good.

Chuck Bass, Gossip Girl
Oh, those pesky daddy issues. If not for them, Chuck Bass might actually be a good person. Ever since the beginning of Gossip Girl, Chuck has been a conniving, selfish, society-obsessed playboy -- even and especially while dating Blair Waldorf. Bass Industries, the company Chuck's father left to him, was so important to Chuck that he traded Blair -- literally traded her -- to save it. But while Blair brings out the worst in Chuck -- those two just love to ruining other people's lives -- she also brings out his softer side. He's done everything from kissing a guy for her to taking a bullet for her (well, for her wedding ring) to letting her marry someone else because he knows she'll be happier without him. It was the ultimate act of love at the end of a tumultuous Chuck-and-Blair season.
Verdict?: Although we're not thrilled about admitting it, Chuck is a bad guy. He only does things for Blair when he's either A.) jealous, B.) in a good place himself, or C.) wants to swoop in and save the day at the last moment. Their relationship was one of unhappiness and competition, and much of that was due to Chuck's behavior. Oh, and there was that time he took Lil J's virginity.

Sue Sylvester, Glee
Forever the Glee Club tormenter, Sue Sylvester's cruelty made her funny in Season One, but sometimes, especially lately, the cruelty is so unnecessary that it becomes more upsetting than funny. (Remember when she fired Becky?) But then, like all characters on Glee, her personality changes out of nowhere and her actions are totally inconsistent with who she's "supposed" to be. Her relationship with her sister Jean -- and depression after Jean's death -- was so tender it made us wonder how Sue could ever think to actually put dirt in Brittany and Santana's lockers, or make fun of Quinn for getting pregnant. She also fell in love with Rod Remington (and fell for Mr. Schuester when he attempted to seduce her), expelled Karofsky after he threatened Kurt's life and even voted for the Glee Club when she was a judge at Regionals. Sue is morally ambiguous above all things -- one second she seems caring and even insecure, the next she's recruiting Will's ex-wife Terri to help her bring down the Glee Club.
Verdict?: We're going to say bad. It's no surprise that the episode after Jean's death, Sue was back to her old ways, taunting Mr. Schuster and the kids at Nationals. No matter how kind she seems at times, it's been two seasons and she hasn't stopped trying to destroy the Glee Club -- which brings a group of kids a lot of happiness -- and she probably never will.

Ari Gold, Entourage
The self-proclaimed "fucking miracle worker" Hollywood agent would quite literally do anything for his job -- "lie, scream, beg, borrow and steal," but he'd do the same for his family, and we've seen it time and time again. The most powerful Ari Gold scene wasn't a phone call with E or meeting with Vince, but when he begged -- cried! -- to the principal of a good elementary school to let his son in even though Ari knows he's not exactly well-liked. Yes, he's an asshole, but he's good to his love ones in the moments that it counts. Unfortunately, Ari's putting the job before the marriage finally cost him -- his wife left him in last season's finale.
Verdict?: Ari's a good guy. When Adam Davies posts ....errr, unflattering pictures of Ari's wife online, Ari tells Adam, "Games are games, Davies, but that is the mother of my children. So apologize, or I will kick your ass." He's not the most profound of TV characters, but we think his heart is in the right place.

It's Tubey Time! Make sure that your favorite shows, actors, reality stars and characters get the recognition they deserve by voting in our annual Tubey awards. It's where fans have total control over what rates as the best and worst of the past year in a variety of categories. Vote now!




Get the most of your experience.
Share the Snark!

See content relevant to you based on what your friends are reading and watching.

Share your activity with your friends to Facebook's News Feed, Timeline and Ticker.

Stay in Control: Delete any item from your activity that you choose not to share.



The Telefile

March 2014


February 2014


January 2014


December 2013


November 2013


October 2013


September 2013


August 2013


July 2013


June 2013


May 2013


April 2013


March 2013


February 2013


January 2013


December 2012


November 2012


October 2012


September 2012


August 2012


July 2012


June 2012


May 2012


April 2012


March 2012


February 2012


January 2012


The Latest Activity On TwOP