The anti-hero is a relatively recent phenomenon on television. Think about it, before characters like Walter White took over the small screen, all we really had was Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. And thanks to the burgeoning cable drama, where the creators of shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Ray Donovan are given free rein, it looks as if the anti-hero is here to stay. Here are five of TV’s best.
5. Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) on Boardwalk Empire
This Atlantic City mob boss’s soft spot for his family is marred by a brutal coldness that caused him to callously murder the same man he once called a son. Talk about a contradiction.
4. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on The Shield
The television landscape is littered with corrupt cops. But only Vic Mackey is ruthless enough to burn a dude’s face on a stove.
3. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) on Breaking Bad
He may be a high school chemistry teacher, but when it comes to crystal meth, no one can cook it like Walter White (AKA Heisenberg).
2. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) on Mad Men
He cheats on his wife, lies to his children, and backstabs his co-works. Oh yeah, he also just happens to be the best damn ad man working on Madison Avenue.
1. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) on The Sopranos
When James Gandolfini unexpectedly died last month the world lost not only a great actor, but also the very man who brought to life the greatest anti-hero the screen has ever seen. The Walter Whites and Don Drapers of the world would never have existed, if Tony Soprano hadn’t been there first.