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The best villains on modern television

A myriad of villains have graced television screens for generations. They provide considerable conflict by creating the most invigorating stories and plotlines on screen. The villains that have originated in the modern age of television are no less different, setting precedents and providing even more chaos. In honor of these groundbreaking characters, here are some of the best modern villains on television right now:  

Bev Keane ("Midnight Mass")

The main antagonist of Netflix's "Midnight Mass" is the self-centered, religious devotee Bev Keane. Samantha Sloyan's portrayal of Keane, an estranged, middle-aged spinster, effectively makes the audience dislike her within a few episodes. Keane's villainous attributes include branding herself as a victim and a hero while wavering scripture to benefit her absurd behaviors. 

Harmony Cobel ("Severance")

Apple TV's psychological thriller "Severance" introduced the villainous Harmony Cobel, a manager who reports to Lumon Industries' unrevealed board of directors. Played by Academy-Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette, Cobel utilizes her intelligence to perpetuate manipulation toward the other employees to protect the company's interests. From the first episode, Cobel's abusive intentions become well-known, quickly setting her character up to be the show's most unlikeable character. 

Dave ("Dave")

FXX's "Dave" centers its main character, rapper Dave Burd, who is the villain of his own story. Based on the rapper's rise to musical fame, the show overtly fictionalized Burd as dislikable from the beginning. Surrounded by a barrage of helpful supporting characters, Dave tears himself apart with consistent self-deprecating language and a lack of interpersonal skills. His antagonism continues to grow within each season, continually setting the bar lower with each of his choices. 

Kathleen Coghlan ("The Last of Us")

Driven by the murder of her brother, Kathleen Coghlan (Melanie Lynskey) becomes the head of a ruthless rebellion. Inspired by Madame Defarge from Charles Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities," Coghlan is obsessed with vengeance and bloodlust. Her complex perspective forces audiences to think about what they would do in her situation, making her one of the most perplexing villains on television. 

Love Quinn ("You")

Season two of Netflix's "You" introduced Joe Goldberg's innocent love interest, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti). By season three, Quinn's character grows just as obsessive and manipulative as Joe. Quinn's intricate character arc transformed the series, allowing her to stand out as a better villain than the show's main protagonist. 

Barry Berkman ("Barry")

The titular hitman character of HBO's "Barry" is the epitome of an anti-hero. Though he seemingly embodies a character worth rooting for at first, Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) continuously digs himself a deeper hole as each season progresses. His psychopathic actions become less excusable, ultimately making him the villain of his own story. Consequently, Berkman's complications as a villain contribute to the show's most tumultuous conflicts. 

NoHo Hank ("Barry")

NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) simply becomes a fan-favorite character of the HBO series while portraying the show's second antagonist. Playing a Chechen mobster with optimistic, golden retriever-like qualities, NoHo Hank personifies a rare type of villain. It's easy to overlook Hank's violent mob tactics and his obstructed oversight and instead begin to root for him as the show progresses.

Vecna ("Stranger Things")

The fourth season of Netflix's "Stranger Things" introduced one of its most horrifying and vigorous villains yet, Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). With the previous seasons leading up to Vecna's entrance, this villain enhanced the show's entire concept. Vecna's telepathic and telekinetic powers are more severe than other series villains. He uses trauma to reel in his innocent victims, leaving the show's most desirable characters helpless. Not only is the villain terrifying in power but also in appearance, thanks to his monster's flayed, tentacle-like skin.  

Lalo Salamanca (“Better Call Saul”)

First appearing in season four of the "Breaking Bad" spinoff, "Better Call Saul," Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca (Tony Dalton) guided the show into a new direction with his bold entrance. As one of the most ferocious members of the Salamanca family, his lack of remorse shines through his abundant smile. Salamanca utilizes a charismatic and handsome charm to manipulate and disarm others, advancing his unpredictability. Even though the antagonist was only in 22 episodes of the show, Salamanca had a prominent impact on the series.    

Homelander ("The Boys")

Amazon Prime's satirical superhero series, "The Boys," launched the fear-mongering "superhero" Homelander (Antony Starr). Often referred to as "Evil Superman," Homelander looks like just a charismatic actor, but he possesses superpowers of strength and durability. Beneath the facade, Homelander is a violent manipulator and ubermensch. His character is meant to resemble intolerant public and political figures, which provides one of the most elaborate yet entertaining antagonist portrayals in modern television.


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