Oct 312014

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! I know that I have noticed–and I’ll bet you probably have, too–that most of the shows I review and talk about in this column are usually fantasy or sci-fi related. I apologize for this obvious bias, but these are just the kind of shows that I happen to like and watch the most.

Today, however, I’ll get going a little bit outside the mold and talking about (cue gasps) a procedural cop series. But it’s not just any crime drama: it’s the long-running FOX show Bones.


As the title would suggest, Bones is primarily focused on the efforts of a team of forensic anthropologists and other scientists at the fictional Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, D.C., who study human remains. For various reasons, this group of people, headed by the highly intelligent but emotionally distant and socially awkward Dr. Temperance Brennan, gets drawn into assisting the FBI with various criminal cases–most often through the medium of Agent Seeley Booth. Booth serves as the show’s everyman, often putting the techno-babble and lab jargon into more understandable terms for the audience, and even gives Brennan the nickname “Bones” (see what they did there?) which she at first hates, but eventually comes to accept.

I suppose this is a spoiler if you don’t watch the show, but it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Brennan and Booth are romantically interested in each other and eventually end up getting married in the show’s ninth season–although the writers sure took their sweet time getting there. While it is a bit clichéd, the relationship doesn’t come off nearly as cheesy as it could have due to all the emotional turmoil that Booth and Brennan undergo over the course of time, and the fact that they compliment each other very well, with Booth humanizing Brennan more and Brennan tempering Booth’s superstition and rash decisions with calm logic.

I should also take the opportunity to say that Booth and Brennan are also very interesting and well-grounded characters with good back-stories. Brennan is eager to get into crime fighting because of her mother’s disappearance when she was a child, and Booth acts tough to cover up the post-traumatic stress he suffers from his tours in the military. Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz do an excellent job of portraying these two complex people.

In fact, one of the things I like most about Bones is the large ensemble cast, filled with extremely different people who all seem to love working together, from boyish psychiatrist Lance Sweets to the prankster scientist Jack Hodgins and sophisticated artist Angela Montenegro. The supporting cast is really quite strong, and the interplay between all these different personalities brings out what I really love in the show: the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is the main drawback with most of the cop shows I’ve seen like CSI and all those other abbreviated titles. While it definitely has moments of distress and darkness, Bones is overall quite a light-hearted entry in the crime genre.

As an additional fun side note, I never cease to be amused by the meta-humor the series plays with as well. Bones is actually based on the writings of author and anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who serves as the show’s producer. Her books feature a main character named Temperance Brennan who solves murders, and this was given a nod in the show at large, as Brennan is known for writing novels about her own fictional scientist named Kathy Reichs.

My biggest complaint about Bones is that it falls into what I see as the same trap that pretty much ever cop show does to some extent–that of becoming drier, more predictable, and less original as the series progresses. The situations do start to get a bit more see-through every time you watch it, but I have been relatively pleased to see it branching out more in its later life, pursuing stories that are more dramatic and less to do with just poking at old bones–such as Booth being framed for murder in a recent season ten episode. That said, a show that can still entertain me and make me laugh after ten years on the air has to be doing something right.

Bones also tries to spice things up by introducing larger story arcs over several seasons that transcend the standard “Oh, look, we found some bones. Let’s catch a killer” mindset of the series. These include renegade sniper Jacob Brodsky and an assortment of serial killers–one of whom takes on one of the main cast as an apprentice. But there’s no way I’m spoiling that one for you.

In Bones, I’m actually reminded quite a bit of Castle, another crime show that I happen to like and watch frequently. The only real difference, other than slightly differing professions between the shows, is that one reverses the gender roles of the other. Bones features a humanistic male protagonist with an odd and eccentric female lead, and Castle goes in the opposite way by pairing a female cop with a male writer and millionaire. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but the point is that if you like one, you’ll probably like the other.


My Rating: 3/5

The only reason I didn’t score Bones higher is because it is a cop show by and large, part of one of my least favorite genres on TV. This should not dissuade you from watching it, however: in its field, Bones is definitely one of the freshest and most entertaining entries that I’ve seen in some time. I’m interested to see how the show can progress now that the romantic tension between Booth and Brennan has mostly been resolved, but if its long and successful run is any indication, Bones will probably be around for years yet to come.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Oct 272014

It’s still technically Monday as I write this, which means it’s about damn time for This Week in Anime. Hope you’re still awake by the time this article makes it to the website, dear reader(s). You could also just read it tomorrow, but where’s the fun in that? Let’s get to it.


Visual Censorship in Terraformars


For this installment, I figured I’d talk about the Internet kerfuffle regarding the censorship in the anime adaptation of Terraformars. If you’re not familiar with the series or the debate surrounding it, here’s the short version. Terraformars is a sci-fi action series that features genetically modified super-soldiers fighting hyper-evolved cockroaches on Mars. It’s a violent and gory show by design, but you wouldn’t know it from the first few episodes.

In order to make Terraformars acceptable for broadcast, someone had to go in and cover up much of the blood and gore. In scenes where humans are messily dismembered by the space bugs, any objectionable content is obscured by black circles and rectangles. It quickly becomes obvious that Terraformars is a pretty gruesome series, because the censor blobs are everywhere. At some point, the whole thing starts to feel comical. It’s hard to resist the temptation to make a Photoshop game out of guessing what might be going on behind the big black shapes.

Herein lies the problem: all that blood and gore is kind of the point in a show like Terraformars. It’s not a clever piece of science fiction, or even a particularly good series. If you’re watching it, you’re there to see people and space bugs tear each other apart in spectacular fashion. Blocking those images doesn’t just derail the dramatic tension; it nullifies the whole point of the show. It’s like bleeping out the jokes in a comedy series. Either someone on the production staff made a terrible mistake or this is a weird attempt to boost home video sales.

While I’m not entirely sure what anyone was thinking on the Japanese side of things, some credit is due to the folks on the other side of the Pacific. US licensor Crunchyroll has been fairly quick to respond to criticism of the show’s current state. They’ve managed to talk the production companies into giving them an uncensored version of the show, which will hit the web at some point this season. Crunchyroll ran a preview of the first three episodes over the weekend, which suggests that we’ll be seeing the uncensored version sooner rather than later. The whole story is a bit vexing, but at least it’s headed for a happy ending for fans in the US.


Weekly Spotlight: Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road


“Gosh Paul, it seems like you’re talking about a lot of sequels in the Weekly Spotlight.”

Be quiet, hypothetical voice of dissent. I don’t need to take sass from my own corny rhetorical devices. Besides, I try to give new shows five or six episodes before making a definitive judgment on the Internet.

Yowamushi Pedal is a long-running sports anime about a high school bicycle racing team. Grande Road, the new season, picks up where the first one left off. No, really, the first season just up and ended halfway through a story arc. The Inter-High race story arc continues moving forward, complete with lots of intense inner monologues.

What impresses me about Yowamushi Pedal is that it’s enjoyable for people (like me) who find real bike racing to be painfully dull. As with most endurance sports, half of the action goes on inside the athletes’ minds, so it helps a lot to be able to understand what each racer is thinking. It has some issues with pacing and believability that are common to the genre, but Yowapeda is still a lot of fun to watch. It has two core strengths that make it entertaining.

The first of these is the goofy sense of humor that shines through from time to time. When two of the main characters fight their way through a field of rivals while singing a magical girl theme song, it’s hard not to fall on the floor laughing. Yowapeda has a good sense of how far to push the limit with its characters’ special abilities, and the result is a heaping helping of cheesy fun.

Yowapeda’s other big strength is its interest in what drives a cyclist to push the limits of physical endurance. The inner monologues and flashbacks may drag on a bit, but they can also be very compelling when they’re done well. Any series that can build sympathy for its creepiest, most underhanded villain is doing something right.

Is Yowapeda the best sports series out there? No. Does it provide plenty of entertainment while I wait for a Formula One anime? Yes. Give it a watch if you’re so inclined.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back next time to occupy your brain with another rambling block of text, so come on back.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Oct 242014

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! So if you’ll recall a few weeks ago, I told all of you about some new shows that I planned to watch out for this fall. Well, now I’m back with the verdict, on some of them at least. While I haven’t had the time to keep up with every single show that came on recently, a few of them have caught my eye. Let’s see which shows are going to succeed, and which may not get another season.


Gotham (FOX)


The critical consensus right now seems to be that Gotham is the best thing since sliced bread as far as TV is concerned. I’ll agree that the show has a lot of things going for it, but I’m not quite sold yet. As with all of these shows, the season’s not over yet, so who knows what will happen between now and then, but there’s a few things that just really bug me.

For one thing, while the Penguin for me is the best thing about Gotham so far, I don’t think that his back-story was explained well enough to make him a totally credible villain. Speaking of villains, I got over Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney really, really quickly. Why couldn’t we delve into Carmine Falcone, a real Batman bad guy, a little more instead of wasting time with a character that’s not even in the comics? Also, on the hero side of things, Jim Gordon’s diatribes about honor and justice get old pretty fast, too.

All complaining aside, Gotham has just the right blend of noir-cop thriller and superhero fantasy, as well as strong performances by most of the actors involved, to keep it going for a while. I’m not sure if FOX can keep it up for the long haul, but it’s certainly worth a try.


The Flash (CW)


Honestly, I’m in love with this new superhero series. The Flash hit the ground running with its blockbuster pilot and hasn’t stopped since. Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen has just the right balance of academic and man of action, with a little newfound confidence thrown in, to make him the better version of Peter Parker. And let’s face it: Flash is a way cooler hero than Spider-Man.

Also, I’m a sucker for a good time-travel story, and the show strongly features some kind of weird conspiracy from the future regarding the Flash’s destiny as a hero and the eventual appearance (we’re assuming) from his arch-nemesis the Reverse Flash. There’s more than enough action and intrigue in this series to keep me interested, and I sincerely hope it catches on like Arrow has.

Sure, the pilot laying everything out in the space of an hour, complete with Barry’s team and tights, was sort of cheesy, and the show runs the risk of becoming a “monster of the week”-type adventure, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’ll sum things up with what’s sure to be the show’s most memorable quote: “Run, Barry, run!”


Gracepoint (FOX)


While Gracepoint has a lot of potential, I personally have yet to be thrilled by FOX’s new crime drama. This may be because it closely mirrors its source material in the BBC’s Broadchurch–as in, a shot-for-shot remake in some cases. For me, the highlight of the show so far hasn’t so much been the murder mystery, but rather the interplay between David Tennant and Anna Gunn as they clash over their completely opposite approaches to the case.

I’m more partial toward Tennant right now, though: while his methods and demeanor are obviously somewhat more abrasive and harsh than the small-town residents of Gracepoint can handle, sometimes I think Ellie Miller’s arguments for humanity and understanding are a bit too naïve for a real cop. Which kind of makes me suspect her a little. So that’s good, I guess. Overall, Gracepoint is a decent way to kill an hour, but it’s far from where it could be and I doubt we’ll be seeing another season, even if they don’t solve the murder in this one.


Supernatural (CW)


Okay, so Supernatural is now on its tenth season and therefore doesn’t exactly qualify as a “new” show, but I just had to talk about it. This is mostly because so far, the CW is once again hitting it out of the park. Supernatural has been progressively getting better with each new season released, and last year’s massive twist of making Dean a demon promises to be the highlight of this fall’s run. Watching Dean and Crowley’s relationship develop into a complicated kind of bromance has been really, really entertaining, and so has been seeing Dean finally cut loose and let go of all his responsibilities.

Also, because of the demon thing, Sam and Dean’s brotherly bonds are obviously going to be pushed to the limit this season–especially because Dean clearly likes being a demon and doesn’t want to go back to his old life, even if it were possible. Strangely, the main disappointment in the show has been the storyline of perennial favorite Castiel. While he’s running around with the other angels right now trying to undo the damage Metatron caused last season and keep himself from dying, I’m just not that interested unless he gets more involved with solving Dean’s problem. Who knows where Supernatural will go after this season, but this one is shaping up to be one of the best yet.


Doctor Who (BBC)


Again, I realize that this is, strictly speaking, neither a fall show nor a new one, but I just had to throw in my thoughts on Doctor Who’s new series. It took me a really long time to get over the departure of Matt Smith–my personal favorite Doctor–but now that I have, I’m realizing that Peter Capaldi is pretty good. Actually, scratchthat–he’s VERY good. After a shaky start that was mostly made so due to the polar opposition of Capaldi and Smith’s personalities, each episode has added dimensions to this “grumpy old man” Doctor and also allowed Jenna Coleman’s Clara to expand on hers.

With Clara apparently leaving the Doctor at the end of this series, it remains to be seen how things with her will be wrapped up, but I can definitely say I’m looking forward to seeing more of Peter Capaldi in the future. He’s been doing a very good job bringing Doctor Who back to its roots and away from the increasingly goofy direction that David Tennant and Matt Smith took it. The Doctor is once again an aloof, intellectual enigma–and that’s just the way it should be.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Oct 202014

As you may or may not have noticed, our anime coverage has been a bit sparse lately, courtesy of some writing gigs I’ve picked up elsewhere on the Internet. This will hopefully mark the return of regular anime content here on SharkPuppet.com, albeit with a few format changes.

This Week in Anime will be following a less formal structure for its articles, and will serve as a general-purpose commentary column on current events in the world of anime and manga. Kawaii Overthink will eventually return as well, but as a less frequent, in-depth analysis kind of deal. With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get right to it.


New Season, New Shows

The fall season is here, and it’s brought a fresh slate of interesting shows. A new version of Fate/Stay Night has been grabbing a lot of attention with some quality writing and animation. Think of it more as a sequel to the fantastic Fate Zero than a remake of the comparatively flawed 2006 version.

Speaking of sequels, holy crap there are a lot of sequels this season. We’ve got continuations of Psycho-Pass, Mushi-shi, Yowamushi Pedal, Chaika The Coffin Princess, and probably a few more that I can’t think of offhand. The new season of Psycho-Pass has some new people in key positions on the production staff, so folks are rightly concerned that it might not live up to the original. As for the rest, it looks like we’re in for more of what made earlier seasons good. Works for me!

The anime adaptation of Terraformars has been causing some controversy thanks to its graphic violence. More accurately, the general harrumphing has been about a conspicuous lack thereof. The “Humans vs. Space Cockroaches” series has been running with some frequent and severe visual censorship, and black circles and rectangles have been slapped over any instances of blood and gore. I tend to prefer minimalist or psychological horror myself, but censoring the violence in a series like Terraformars makes as much sense as obscuring the sight gags in a comedy. The good news is that Crunchyroll is in the process of acquiring an uncensored version for their simulcasts.

The beginning of a new season is always exciting, and just about any series has a chance to turn into something awesome. Well, maybe not Cross Ange, but I’m not going anywhere near that landmine.


Weekly Spotlight: Chaika The Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle


Instead of covering a current simulcast AND a physical release every week, I’m just going to have a general-purpose weekly spotlight section from now on. To kick things off, I’ll be highlighting the new Chaika season.

By-the-book genre fiction doesn’t get as much love amongst fans and critics as original content, but there’s something to be said for telling an old story really well. I would’ve passed Chaika over if I weren’t covering this season for another site, and boy was I missing out. It’s a fairly standard case of teenagers with magic powers trying to collect all the important plot devices, but it’s made with plenty of style and intelligence.

The cast delivers satisfying drama, fun humor, and exciting battle scenes in equal measure, and the animation is always competent enough to keep up with the script’s ambitions. Coffin-toting heroine Chaika is a delight. Her character design and quirky speech patterns are enough to charm the jaded otaku crowd, but she’s also complex and self-assured enough to win over the rest of the audience. She fights with a comically oversized magical rifle, which is somehow still effective as a visual gag after all these years.

What surprised me while I was binge-watching the first season was the amount of thought and insight hiding inside the story. The series deals with issues of identity, morality, and loss in a post-war reconstruction setting. More impressively, it does all that without sticking its foot in its mouth. Chaika reminds me a bit of “magical battle road trip” classics like Fullmetal Alchemist, and has that same kind of appealing accessibility. If you’re in need of a current simulcast to recommend to an anime newcomer, look no further. Speed your way through the first season before while it’s still a quick catch-up process.

That’s all for this week. Come back next week when I finally get back on a regular schedule and maybe even make a logo for this column.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Oct 172014

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! Once again it’s time for a show review, and this week I’m going off the TV screen and onto the Internet. Today’s topic of examination is Netflix’s critically acclaimed drama series House of Cards. The show features a great cast and has a fascinating setting in Washington D.C., the home of political intrigue, but how does it really stack up?


First of all, let me say that this show reminds me a lot of HBO’s Game of Thrones in both its premise and content­–and when I say a lot, I mean in almost every detail. Characters decide they want more power for their own personal reasons and engage in a series of complex plots and maneuvers designed to raise themselves up and destroy their opponents, no matter what it takes…is this sounding familiar to anyone?

While it may not be original, the similarity is not all bad. The fact that House of Cards is set in the real world–well, more or less–versus the fantasy land of Westeros, makes the tension between the characters and the events that happen in the show hit home in a much more personal way. Sure, we can be upset about the death of our favorite GOT character or aggravated at the political landscape of Westeros that favors the ambitious and tears down the honorable, but seeing the same kinds of things happen in House of Cards makes you wonder if this really is the way things work in Washington these days.

Also, at least Game of Thrones has some people I like in it. Who the heck am I supposed to root for in House of Cards? The ruthless politician who steps on whoever he has to in order to get ahead? The wife who uses her non-profit organization that supposedly does good in the world for her own selfish needs? The reporter who throws away her integrity and self-respect in order to get inside information? At least in GOT we have dependably plucky underdogs like Tyrion and Arya to hold out hope for, but in House of Cards it seems that if anyone makes a mistake, they’re finished forever. Again, not necessarily bad, but just frustrating.


I must admit, however, that the characters are the main draw of this show. In particular, Kevin Spacey shines as the menacing and merciless Frank Underwood–which pretty much figures, since he’s the star of the show. If you read my last article on TV’s best villains, you’ll understand why Frank is such a fascinating figure to me. I find myself simultaneously hoping he gets caught and brought to justice, but also hoping that he gets away with it just one more time so that we can see what he’s really capable of. He is clearly not a good person and doesn’t really think of himself as one: he’s just a total pragmatist who’s going to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, and Spacey captures his alternatively cold and charming character in true Usual Suspects style. Plus, we get cool little tidbits like the Freddie’s BBQ connection that shows us that despite all appearances, Frank is still a human being with similar tastes and vices to the rest of us.

I’m a little confused about Frank’s motivations, though. Why exactly does he want power again? Oh, right: because he was annoyed that someone else took his job. So where did the presidential ambitions come from? No clue. Unless they were there from the start–which I really don’t think that they were–the whole thing kind of comes off like a politician’s temper tantrum. Except that when Frank Underwood gets mad, he doesn’t scream or throw things, he just undermines the government of the free world. I guess you could argue that Frank’s desire for absolute power was always there and that his passing over for Secretary of State just accelerated his plans, but this should have been clarified in the show.

I’m also not sure how I feel about Spacey’s heavy use of addressing of the viewer directly. Breaking the fourth wall is not normally something that is done in fiction, and when it is, it is usually a technique that is used sparingly because it can get cheesy very quickly. I have always been of the belief that we learn much more about a character by watching what they do rather than what they say, so in some ways Frank’s self-narration seems like a cheat to make us like him more or to fill out his character in a convenient and easy way. Granted, there are a lot of times where I laughed at Frank’s blunt analyses and enjoyed the obvious divide between what he tells others and what he really thinks, but I have to question where this idea to consistently break the fourth wall came from in the first place.

And another thing: how in the world does Frank always know how people are going to react to everything? Before you say anything, yes, I understand that the whole point of the show is that things didn’t always go according to Frank’s plan and that he had to act on the fly several times to put things back on track, but it seems to me that any normal human being would have stumbled over the intricate web of lies Frank spins half a dozen times before the first episode was over. The ending of season two felt especially forced to me: Frank writing a personal letter to the President to get back in his good graces and convincing him to turn on his long-time friend Raymond Tusk seemed way, way, way too good to be true. It was a Hail Mary play that should never have worked.

Yes, I understand that it’s a work of fiction. Yes, I understand that leaps of faith are required in pretty much any show to really get into the plot. But seriously, is Frank Underwood like another Jim Moriarty or something? Because it seems to me that only a superhuman intellect­–and maybe not even that–could have accounted for all the variables in this complex human equation.


My Rating: 3.5/5

Okay, so I should probably score this show lower due to all the complaining I’ve just done about it. But the fact is that from the moment I started watching House of Cards, I was addicted in a very similar manner to my Game of Thrones obsession. Despite all the holes present in the plot, the characters are just so engaging and the story so filled with twists and turns that it’s almost impossible to get enough, and that’s what it takes for me to give it a pass on some of its larger flaws.

Don’t let me discourage you from watching House of Cards, because it is most definitely a good show that never fails to entertain and astonish. I just can’t help but think that with a little more care and attention to its setup and methods of storytelling, it could have gone from being a good show to an extraordinary one.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.

Oct 052014

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another week’s edition of Channel Chaser! Since I seem to enjoy doing list articles a lot, I decided to just make said articles a recurring segment called “The Countdown.” And for today’s topic, I’d like to thank the staff of Dorkly.com for providing me with an interesting topic for reflection: the best bad guys on television.

From now until October 11, the pop-culture web site is running a bracket-type lineup of what they consider to be the most memorable villains from current and off-air TV shows, and there’s a lot of great choices to choose from. I have to admit that for me, one of the main indicators in whether I like a show is if it has a multi-dimensional and dynamic villain to keep things interesting for the protagonists, so this got me thinking about what characters I would pick as my favorite bad guys. Here are my top picks, in no particular order of badness.


The Master (Doctor Who)


Sure, BBC’s sci-fi classic has a ton of iconic bad guys to choose from, like the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels, etc. But the one that always stands out for me is the Doctor’s arch-nemesis, the renegade Time Lord known as the Master. For as long as the Doctor has been around to protect the universe, the Master has been trying to conquer and rule it with his own, twisted vision of perfection, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his most recent incarnation, portrayed in Series 3 and 4 by John Simm.

The “Master Trilogy” at the end of Series 3 will always be one of my favorite moments in modern Doctor Who purely because of Simm’s show-stealing breakout performance. While the Master is obviously crazy and evil, he shows genuine moments of tenderness when conversing with the Doctor, and shares the same joyful and wild (albeit darker) energy that makes the hero so appealing to viewers. The Master is great because he clearly loves playing the villain. Good for him… I guess.


Crowley (Supernatural)


Moving away from established villains, we next turn to a character who first came on the CW in a bit part and now has a starring role in one of its most popular shows. Seriously, where would Supernatural be without Mark Sheppard’s snarky, sadistic demon overlord Crowley? Not nearly as successful, that’s for sure.

What makes Crowley such a great villain is that he will do anything–absolutely anything–to serve his needs, including teaming up with the “good guys” of the series on multiple occasions before he inevitably turns on them again. This makes the King of Hell more dangerous than any other enemy Sam and Dean have faced, in that his loyalties and motives are completely unpredictable. Crowley may do a good thing from time to time, but the show also serves up a reminder every now and again of what a brutal and deceitful being he really is–in his own sneaky, smarmy way. He’s the kind of villain you love to hate, and one that’s not getting dull anytime soon.


Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Game of Thrones)


Speaking of evil masterminds (and major spoiler alert to any GOT fans who aren’t caught up yet), it turns out that everyone’s favorite traitorous royal treasurer has pretty much been behind every big plot point in the show so far: the execution of Ned Stark, the murder of Joffrey at his own wedding, the killing of Jon Arryn…the list goes on. The honest truth is that, without Littlefinger, the story of Game of Thrones would never have happened.

Littlefinger is power-hungry, merciless, and scary smart–pretty much everything you’d expect from the architect of a conspiracy of such magnitude. And the best part is that he has really never been anything but upfront with the other characters about what he’s up to; he’s just so unassuming and flies so far under the radar that everyone overlooks him. He’s the least emotional and least prone to violence of anyone in Westeros, but causes the most bloodshed. He’s the one that no one ever counts on, and that’s what makes us watch what he’s doing so intently.


Frank Underwood (House of Cards)


It’s pretty rare that the villain of a piece is actually said piece’s main character, but if there ever were such a case, it would be ruthless politician Frank Underwood in Netflix’s DC drama House of Cards. Portrayed brilliantly by veteran actor Kevin Spacey, the whole allure of the show, and of Underwood’s character, is that the audience is simultaneous rooting for his sinister plans to succeed and for the ostensible “good guys” (if there really are any) in the story to catch him at it.

Underwood is incredibly interesting in that he’s not really your textbook bad guy: he just wants what he wants, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it, even if it means stepping on other people along the way. It’s clear that he wants power, but what he plans do with that power once he gets it is a mystery. And in spite of his obvious ambition, he has a strict code of conduct and morality, as skewed as it may be, that drives his actions by principle rather than partisanship. Maybe he won’t be so bad as President. But that’s probably wishful thinking.


Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica)


I should be clear that I’m kind of stretching the definition of “villain” when it comes to BSG’s Gaius Baltar. Baltar’s not inherently a bad guy, or even a bad person, although he is certainly more flawed than most. The major reason he is included here is due to his overwhelming sense of self-preservation, in that he only cares about himself and will do whatever he needs to in order to survive, including things that most other people wouldn’t. The worst part for him is that he sometimes even has good intentions behind what he does; but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with plenty of those.

Besides his overdeveloped sense of self-preservation, Baltar’s main crime is that he is weak, often too cowardly to take responsibility for what he has done, and self-centered to the point of narcissism. Oh, and he caused the near-annihilation of the human race through his own carelessness. Even when he tries to do good, it turns sour on him. But bad guys are best when they’re dynamic, and Baltar is definitely that: in fact, by the time the series is over, he actually redeems himself by almost single-handedly saving humanity. Baltar takes us through a roller-coaster ride of bad to good and then back to bad again, and all the while maintaining an awkward, quirky style that proves to be quite endearing. If there was ever a villain to cheer for, Gaius Baltar is the one.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Friday for new articles.