Feeling Bad For Villains When They Lose

I make evil look good.

I finished watching the first season of Once Upon a Time last weekend, and found it both entertaining and a great example of fully-formed villains.

If you’ve never seen the show, it takes place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, where fairy tale characters, like Snow White and Red Riding Hood, live in our world as real people with no memory of who they were. The Evil Queen, who’s now the mayor of Storybrooke, has taken away their memories with a curse, so none of them will ever have their happy endings.

Every episode deals with two stories: The present one in Storybrooke, and flashbacks to the fairy tale world to give you the story behind the fairy tale and insight into what the characters were like before the curse. The writers’ treatment of the Evil Queen was awesome.

Hey, who wants to help me steal Pinocchio’s lunch money?

For the majority of the season, I watched The Evil Queen killing, lying, manipulating, you know, being evil and then came the episode where her origin was revealed. I was shown a woman who barely resembled the monster I’d come to know. She smiled, had hope and was capable of being in love.

And then I watched it all be ripped away.

I couldn’t believe I felt bad for her, despite knowing her future evil ways. (Nice acting, Lana Parrilla!) At this point, she’s at her lowest and has to decide whether she wants to forgive or seek revenge. Even though I knew what she’d choose, it didn’t lessen the impact of it. It did the total opposite. (Nice writing, Once Upon a Time, writers!)

There were hints of her humanity throughout the season, but that episode brought it all together. So when she does lose, I don’t feel a simple, “Yeah! Take that, you evil see you next Tuesday, you!” It’s more of a, “You had this coming, evil person, but I wish your life would’ve gone in a different direction.” Because dammit, those clever writers got me wanting the Evil Queen to have a happy ending.

Evil? Ewww! I’d rather hug a unicorn.

Not every villain requires the full This is Why I’m Evil treatment, but I’m definitely going to look into the villains I write, to see if their origins add depth and can create more compassion for the reader to feel.

Ever look at a villain thinking he/she got a raw deal?

3 comments on “Feeling Bad For Villains When They Lose

  1. Once Upon a Time’s best characters (in my opinion) are Regina/The Queen and Mr. Gold. The baddies are multi-dimensional and you do find yourself feeling for them. There’s a reason behind their evil.

    I love when writers write villains like that.

  2. I agree completely with you. But I also feel the same way about Mr. Gold, whom Amber mentioned. I think he’s probably my favorite character. I keep wanting him to find love and KEEP love. It amazes me how well the writers have done with Regina and Mr. Gold. You just can’t hate them.

    I think it’s great to have multi-dimensional villains, but we still need villains that are just pure evil, too. It’s a balance, I think. 🙂

  3. @Amber and LL- I thought about including Mr. Gold, but then this would’ve been a long post. I always looked at his villainy as a result of mistakes he wished he could take back.

    With all his power he couldn’t undo his mistake with his son or with the woman who loved him. That’s enough to darken anyone’s soul. But by the end of the first season, he’s gotten an opportunity to make things right. And depending on how that turns out, I’m sure I’ll be very upset with him.

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