It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 10 years ago since the character who famously went on to become “the one who knocks” first graced TV screens. Yup, as a recent Breaking Bad reunion reminded us, it’s now been a decade since we first met the man who… well, broke bad: Walter White.
Sure, there have always been TV characters who went to the dark side, but it wasn’t really a trend per se, until Bryan Cranston showed us how it’s done. Since then, there have been a more than few more characters ditching their white hats thanks to traumatic, life-altering circumstances, and if we’re being honest, we kind of love to watch.
Here are just a few of our new favourites.
Teresa Mendoza, Queen of the South
Alice Braga’s take on the poor woman from Jalisco, Mexico who goes on to become the glamorous head of a drug empire is the stuff awards shows crave. But in terms of character development, well let’s just say that when you’re forced to flee your country and are chased by cartel hit men, you don’t have very many options but to eventually turn the guns on your attackers and take back your own life.
Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams was just as sweet and innocent as her onscreen character when she began filming the HBO series, but now she’s all grown up and her role reflects that. The kick-ass Stark sister watched her direwolf be banished, witnessed her father’s beheading, learned her brother and mother were killed at a wedding, and has had numerous other hardships along the way. Of course she’s now a killing machine.
Grant Ward, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Actor Brett Dalton may believe that his character on the Marvel series was still a hero even after he turned out to be working with John Garrett (Bill Paxton), but you can only screw over your friends so many times before you’re done. Still, look at Ward’s awful childhood, cruel brother and negligent parents, and we suppose you can begin to see why he sided with the man who stepped up to be a pseudo father to him.
Nick Brody, Homeland
You either loved or hated Damien Lewis’ turn as the war vet (not to mention his weird, subsequent romance with Claire Danes’ character), but whatever your take on him there’s no denying he started out as the good guy. He also just happened to be captured by one of the world’s biggest terrorists and tortured until he was brainwashed against his own country. The guy spent the rest of his TV life trying to become good again, but the jury is still out on whether he was successful.
Stefan Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries
Paul Wesley’s vampire character was the epitome of the nice guy when he first came to Mystic River and wooed one Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). Eventually though, when he was blackmailed into turning off his “humanity switch” we learned he had an awful past, in which he once killed people for fun and went by the nickname “The Ripper.” We suppose that technically means this guy broke bad twice, but both times he was able to eventually find the light and go good again.
Lester Nygaard, Fargo
Martin Freeman was feeble and unassuming as the leading character in the first season of Fargo, which made the scene in which he finally succumbed and killed his nagging wife so damned memorable. The rest of the season was about the man finally getting in touch with his feelings (while avoiding Billy Bob Thornton’s character), but once he went bad there really was no turning back.
Alison Hendrix, Orphan Black
Tatiana Maslany was known for playing all the clones on this Canadian series, but one of the most complex clones had to be Alison. The soccer mom seemed like the perfect mom, wife and community leader when we first met her, but before long the stress of trying to take down an evil corporation got to her and she found herself with plenty of blood on her hands.
Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black
The perfect little inmate, Taylor Schilling’s character was intent on riding out her time at a minimum-security prison and atoning for her mistakes as the drug mule who just happened to fall into a bad relationship. But over the course of the first season prison life chipped away at her, until she retaliated to the point of near-murder in the first season finale. She hasn’t been the same ever since.
Bill Compton, True Blood
Apparently vampires make for great breaking bad subjects, because Stephen Moyer’s undead character was another good-guy turned bad. It all went down when the southern gentleman wound up drinking the blood of Lilith (Jessica Clark) and went on a killing spree, creating a huge war between humans and vampires. Eventually he reclaimed his good-guy essence, and officially redeemed himself before his ultimate death in the series finale.
Slade Wilson, Arrow
When Manu Bennett’s character first met billionaire Oliver (Stephen Amell), the pair struck up a fast friendship (as you do when you’re trapped on an island together). But when Oliver had to choose between letting his bestie’s love Shado (Celina Jade) and his own former love die, that choice led Slade down a dark path in which he became the villainous bad guy known as Deathstroke.
Quinn Perkins, Scandal
Remember the early days of this Kerry Washington series, when Quinn (Katie Lowes) was an innocent person who was recruited by the white hats of OPA? As we all know the lifestyle eventually got to her, and she went on to chop up and torture people without batting an eye. Thanks to BFF Huck (Guillermo Diaz) she eventually found the light again while still retaining the essence of a bad ass, even going on to lead OPA when Liv quit.