Stories don’t exist without the dark to balance out the light. A well-crafted story requires a villain with enough drive and motivation that, on some level, makes the audience wants to cheer them on.
This year is full of stories with compelling antagonists, and protagonists that defied convention. Whether a story’s antagonist comes from a demon inhabiting the body of a high school history teacher, a secret society, a hero exploring the dark side, or a corporation, their stories move the plot forward.
Here are some of our favorite TV villains from 2018.
1. Madam Satan (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
One October night, a demon killed Greendale High School’s history teacher and took over her body. Her mission: deliver Sabrina Spellman to The Dark Lord.
Throughout the first ten episodes of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s first season, Madam Satan works behind the scenes, slowly manipulating Sabrina into signing her name in The Book of the Beast.
Her lies are so well spun and so calculated that it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s fact, and what’s fiction. But if the lying and manipulation aren’t scary enough there is also the fact that she eats men.
2. Emma Whitmore & Rittenhouse (Timeless)
Timeless came back for a second season in 2018, and Rittenhouse was stronger than ever. This time, attempting to rewrite history with the help of sleeper agents placed throughout the timeline.
It’s hard to pick just one person with so many agents involved in Rittenhouse. There was Carol Preston, who kidnapped her daughter and dragged her back to World War I.
Then there was Emma, a loyal Rittenhouse agent who only betrayed her team when it looked like the Rittenhouse plan meant she’d lose the right to vote. And let’s not forget the goons who tried to kill a young John F. Kennedy.
But perhaps the most notorious of all was Jessica Logan. Rittenhouse bought Jessica back from the dead, only to have her be a sleeper agent. That’s low Rittenhouse. Very low.
3. Olivia Pope (Scandal)
Olivia Pope is commonly associated with a white hat, but on Scandal Season 7, Olivia went to the dark side.
In the last episode of Season 6, Olivia Pope consolidated some power taking the position of both Mellie’s Chief of Staff and Command of B613. The final season of Scandal saw her take actions that were very—well, un-Olivia Pope.
While Cyrus and Olivia clearly played off of each other in Scandal’s final season, it was Olivia Pope’s seizure of power that drove her actions and her desire to hang onto power that pushed the final season forward.
4. Octavia Blake (The 100)
The Girl Under the Floor won the last conclave in The 100 Season 4 Episode 10, “Die All, Die Merrily,” but she wasn’t quite ready for command. In The 100 Season 5 she’s in charge of the Wonkru bunker, but leadership doesn’t come naturally to Octavia.
Finding out that there are too many people in the bunker, Octavia enacts a justice system inspired by ancient Rome, where all offenses lead to citizens to the arena.
While the fighting pit was bad, that didn’t compare to what was revealed on The 100 Season 5 Episode 11, “The Dark Year.” With news that the hydroponic farm wasn’t going to produce enough food, Octavia ordered her people to become cannibals as the dead from the fighting pit became a food source.
She made examples out of anyone who refused by holding a gun to their head.
5. Remi Briggs (Blindspot)
Blindspot Season 3 ended with a surprise: the return of Remi Briggs. Jane Doe’s original personality reasserted itself because of a life-threatening condition called ZIP poisoning. This put a strain on Jane and Weller’s relationship as Remi attempted to work out her plan.
The result is a character who is very much a spy in the FBI’s house. The duplicitous relationship between Jane Doe and the rest of the team makes for great storytelling in the first half of Blindspot Season 4 and has resulted in one of the most compelling storylines of the series so far.
6. Villanelle (Killing Eve)
Villanelle is a skilled assassin who isn’t afraid to flaunt her talents. The globe-trotting assassin and primary antagonist of Killing Eve Season 1 is terrifying, but also childlike in her behavior and demeanor.
For Villanelle, killing is a game and she loves her job, but her sociopathy is mitigated by her need for a connection to others. Whether that’s her handler Constantine or the series title character, Eve Polastri, Villanelle is searching for a connection and doing the one thing she does well at the same time.
7. Wilson Fisk (Daredevil)
Since the infamous Kingpin was such an important part of Daredevil’s inaugural season, it shouldn’t surprise most people that his return in Season 3 makes the list of 2018’s best villains.
Fisk masterfully orchestrates his release from prison by manipulating the FBI, pinning the blame for his previous crimes on Daredevil himself, and molding a psychologically broken agent by the name of Benjamin Poindexter into a killing machine.
But despite his horrific actions, Fisk remains remarkably human, thanks to the depth of his love for Vanessa, which remains the primary motivator for all his (mis)deeds. After all, it’s hard not to respect a villain whose ultimate evil plot turns out to revolve around planning his own wedding.
8. Sophia Falcone (Gotham)
Admittedly, Sophia Falcone doesn’t seem like much when she first enters the scene, and it is easy to toss her away as just a “B” storyline. That is until this mob princess decides her dad has gone soft and needs to be taken out of the picture.
Seriously, how evil do you have to be to hire someone to off your own flesh and blood?
But that is just Sophia getting warmed up. Her actions against Oswald’s little protegé, Martin, are downright despicable.
Poor Martin is put in danger repeatedly as he is used as an easily manipulated chess piece. Luckily, Oswald steps in and gets the child to a safe house before any harm comes to him.
This game of cat and mouse is definitely a highlight of the season.
9. Mariah Dillard (Luke Cage)
A Stokes or a Dillard? That was the question that consumed Mariah for the first half of Luke Cage Season 2. Desperately seeking to regain the prestige and respect that her Dillard name represented but unwilling to cut ties with the power and intoxicating nihilism of being a Stokes.
In a powerhouse performance by Alfre Woodard, a battle raged within her between two incompatible identities building a volatile, nervous tension that had to come to a head.
When it does, when she finally decides who she is she doesn’t look back, in fact, she revels in it. That nervous tension is replaced by a monstrous appetite that is chilling and terrifying but always compelling.
10. The Gargoyle King (Riverdale)
There’s a dark and haunting figure rolled into Riverdale this fall and has the town with pep (and the audience) in its clutches. The Gargoyle King is a mystery that ties the past and the present together in a terrifying game.
Lording over the Riverdale version of Dungeons and Dragons, this winged creature has everyone either playing along at his will, running from their past with him, or trying to unmask him.
The Gargoyle King and his game are seemingly connected to everything in Riverdale. As Season 3 goes on The King and Gryphons and Gargoyles both continue to pop up in unexpected places, including the detention center where Archie was being held and The Sisters of Quiet Mercy mental institution.
Could The Gargoyle King be one of the parents from The Midnight Club, or is someone more powerful playing with the residents? Ascend to the next level and you may just find out.