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10 Of The Most Wickedly Smart Characters On TV

Television shows comprise many complex elements that make the final product. One of those vital elements is the characters. The audience needs someone to follow and guide them through the story, so it’s important for viewers to feel invested in the show’s characters.


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While one might assume the character the audience latches onto will be the story’s hero, a villain can often prove more interesting. Villains can be dynamic characters who keep viewers on their toes, providing a reason to come back week after week.

10/10 Princess Azula Is Fiery and Fierce

Azula from Avatar The Last Airbender

Princess Azula is one of the main villains of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The daughter of Fire-Lord Ozai and sister of Zuko, Azula comes from a royal legacy and is determined to maintain the power of the Fire Nation by any means necessary. She is ruthless and takes pleasure in the violence she doles out.

Besides being bloodthirsty, she is a strategic mastermind and seized power from rival nations such as the Earth Kingdom with ease by organizing a coup. Despite being an evil character, fans love her and were disappointed when she didn’t receive a redemption arc before the series ended.

9/10 Hannibal Lecter Is A Master Manipulator

Hannibal from Hannibal

Hannibal Lecter is one of the most famous villains in modern media. This cannibalistic serial killer and psychiatrist disguised his monstrous nature in Hannibal as he aided FBI Profiler Will Graham on his cases. Hannibal uses his position as a psychiatrist to manipulate his patients, including Graham, into doing the darkest things imaginable for his own amusement.

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He met his match with Will, and the pair truly brought out the worst in each other and made the other darker and more twisted. What made Hannibal so deadly is not his role as a brutal serial killer, but how he turns people into weapons.

8/10 Thomas Shelby Is A Criminal Mastermind

Thomas Shelby from Peaky Blinders

Thomas Shelby is the leader of a deadly criminal organization in the series Peaky Blinders. Thomas Shelby is introduced as the brains behind the operation and branches the organization to maximize the Peaky Blinders’ criminal reach.

He often relies on plans and mental fortitude rather than violence, but when violence is called for, he never once shies away from it. Thomas Shelby takes on adversaries that range from rival criminals to politicians to his own family. No matter the challenge, he approaches it with vicious ferocity, and odds are he’ll wind up victorious.

7/10 Beth Boland Is Deceptively Brilliant

Beth from Good Girls

Good Girls has its fair share of criminals, but few are on the level of Beth. She’s a working-class soccer mom who finds herself embroiled in criminal activity. While her sister and friend freak out when they find themselves resorting to committing crimes to make ends meet, Beth rises to the occasion and embraces this new life.

She comes up with new cons and crimes to put into place in order to make money and appease the gangsters they’ve gotten to bed with. There’s no denying Beth gets a thrill out of committing crimes, and there’s also no denying she’s damn good at it.

6/10 Elijah Mikaelson Is A Gentleman Monster

Elijah from The Originals

When one thinks of a wicked character from The Originals, several may come to mind, including Elijah. When it comes to intellect, the vampire Elijah wields it like a weapon. Elijah’s reputation is that of a gentleman who is eternally devoted to his murderous family.

He spent the thousands of years he’s been alive learning and using this knowledge to subdue any threats towards his family. While Elijah may have noble reasons for his bloody actions, make no mistake that the mask of a gentleman he wears hides a true monster.

5/10 The Professor Is A Criminally Good Teacher

The Professor from Money Heist

The Professor, leader of a heist crew in the Netflix series Money Heist, has a lot of work cut out for him. He recruited thieves from all skill levels to rob the Royal Mint of Spain.

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He had to teach these loners how to work together before pulling off such a brazen heist that it seemed doomed from the start. No matter how close the cops came, The Professor anticipated their move and had the plan to circumvent it. No matter what the most skilled investigators have in their bag of tricks, The Professor sees it coming.

4/10 Simon Kelleher Knew Too Much

A smirking Simon Kelleher from One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying is rife with whip-smart characters, but Simon stands out from the crowd when it comes to weaponizing his intellect. He regularly exposes classmates the darkest secrets on his gossip app in a sense of twisted justice, and enjoyed dangling what he knew over his victims’ heads to watch them squirm.

Simon hates his classmates for their hypocrisy and enjoys making them just as much of an outcast as he is. When he joins forces with another student to destroy the lives of four of their other classmates, Simon meets his match, and the consequences are deadly.

3/10 Martin Whitly Has A Killer Intellect

Martin Whitly from Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son may follow the story of the son himself, Malcolm Bright, but Malcolm’s father is the truly wicked intellect on this show. Malcolm Whitly, better known as The Surgeon, is a vicious serial killer who performed experiments on his victims. He regularly tries to help Malcolm solve the cases he consults on for the NYPD.

This is not for selfless reasons; he consistently tries to groom his son into becoming a killer like he is. He takes advantage of his son’s mental health issues, which only exist as a result of Martin himself, and tries to manipulate him. Martin Whitly truly has no boundaries.

2/10 Jefferson Grieff Is A True Puppetmaster

Jefferson Grieff from Inside Man

Inside Man is a recent addition to the Netflix catalog, and it has a killer protagonist. Tucci’s Jefferson Grieff is a convicted murderer sitting on death row for brutally slaying his wife. From death row, he consults on criminal cases brought to him, utilizing his background as a criminology professor and a killer to solve the crime.

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Despite saying, he only wants to consult on cases that will do good; it’s clear he enjoys pushing people’s buttons. These interactions evoke the image of a cat playing with a mouse before it consumes it. For every moment Grieff shows a sliver of humanity, it’s immediately crushed by the stark reminder of why this man is deservedly on death row.

1/10 Raymond Reddington Is The King Of Crime

Reddington from The Blacklist

The Blacklist is centered around Raymond Reddington, who has been dubbed in his criminal underworld ‘The Concierge Of Crime.’ Reddington knows details about criminals the FBI didn’t even have on their radar. He exchanges this information with FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen and her team, assisting the team in catching criminals who negatively impact his own operations.

He poses a significant threat to the government because he possesses information about crimes committed by people from all walks of life, including politicians. Every character in this series knows that everything goes better if Reddington gets what he wants because anybody who gets in his way finds themselves with a shortened lifespan.

NEXT: 10 TV Villains Who Caused Their Own Downfall

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