Traitors, betrayers, backstabbers -- they have reservations to dine with Judas and Brutus, but when it comes to TV they're a necessary evil. Their ability to pull the rug out from under our heroes is what keeps us glued to our screens. Finding out if they will reign supreme or finally be outwitted is what keeps coming back for more.
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Why do they do it, we ask. Some times there are sympathetic or tragic motives. Others delight in being a card-carrying villain who brings chaos to the realm. Many do it for riches and power. Whatever the reason, all we can do is watch in awed horror as they commit one unspeakable deed after another.
Traitors come disguised as all sorts of characters: saintly doctors, childhood friends, or grandmas raising a pack of kids all on their own. Beneath the jovial veneer, any one of them could be biding their time and sharpening their knives. Below are some of the most notorious backstabbers TV has to offer.
Penguin - Gotham
How did Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot rise from a low-level thug to kingpin? He betrayed his employers: Mooney, Falcone, Maroni, and manipulated them into taking each other out while he remained the last man standing.
Lane Hunter - The Resident
The Hippocratic Oath and basic human decency mean nothing to a woman who purposefully misdiagnosed patients with cancer solely because of greed.
Tony Soprano - The Sopranos
Ask a member of either one of his families -- they'll confirm Tony Soprano expects the utmost loyalty to him, but the moment you do something he dislikes, he makes you pay -- most likely with your life.
Ruby - Supernatural
Ruby wasn't like other demons. She formed a working relationship with the Winchester brothers, became a mentor to Sam and then his lover. All of it was part of her plan to manipulate Sam into freeing Lucifer.
Rumplestiltskin - Once Upon a Time
The number one rule to remember when making a deal with Rumplestiltskin isn't "magic always has a price." It is, "Rumple's agenda always comes first." If the heroes have to lose and Belle's feelings get hurt while he pursues his goals, so be it.
Artemis - Arrow
Artemis aka Evelyn Sharp was a promising addition to Team Arrow. However, her inability to let go of her resentment towards Oliver led to her allying with Prometheus, selling out the team, and trapping everyone into an explosive showdown on Lian Yu.
Grant Ward - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Finding out Ward was a Hydra agent was devastating for the team. The damage and ramifications lasted for seasons. It also made for one of the greatest twists in recent television history and marked the moment Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D really came into its own.
Saffron - Firefly
In the span of one episode, Saffron (aka Bridget aka Yolanda aka YoSaffBridge) tricked Mal into thinking they were married, caused discord between Zoe and Wash, and set up Serenity to be ambushed. She's completely unrepentant and can't seem to take a breath without double-crossing someone.
Theo Raeken - Teen Wolf
Describing Theo as a wolf in sheep's clothing only partially explains the situation. He was a childhood friend of Scott and Stiles' who moved back to Beacon Hills to join Scott's pack. However, Theo wasn't telling the full truth. His real plan was to take away Scott's alpha status and pack.
Eliza Minnick - Grey's Anatomy
Don't let Minnick's seemingly cool, edgy teaching methods suck you in. When Grey Sloan was under fire (literally), she prioritized following protocol over the lives of a patient and one of her residents.
Shane Walsh - The Walking Dead
Shane and Rick were best friends, but living in a post-apocalyptic universe only intensified Shane's jealousy. He couldn't stand seeing the other survivors prefer Rick's leadership over his. Watching Lori, Carl, and Rick be a family was unbearable. It ate away at Shane's better qualities and led to the tragedy of betraying of his best friend.
Harmony Kendall - Angel
Harmony is a chronic backstabber. Fortunately, her incompetence balances out her treachery. In the series finale, Angel incorporated Harmony betraying him to Marcus Hamilton into his plan, and it worked like a charm.
Hiram Lodge - Riverdale
Hiram's favorite form of entertainment is screwing people over. He turns sons against their fathers. He abuses his wife and daughter. When he is not busy being petty, he's taking over and betraying everyone living in Riverdale, Athens, and who knows how many other places.
Jessica Logan - Timeless
Jessica had sympathetic reasons for joining Rittenhouse, but that's no excuse for faking a pregnancy, causing a chain of events leading to Rufus' death, or kidnapping Jiya -- the friend who watched an entire season of Vanderpump Rules with her. Some things are plain unforgivable.
Larry Sizemore - Burn Notice
Larry earned the nickname "Dead Larry" due to faking his death, but it also applies because he has no soul. His profession is psycho for hire. Jobs he accepts include killing a woman at the behest of her whiny, man-child stepson, and when he's caught ripping off millions, he pins the blame on Michael.
Mona Vanderwaal - Pretty Little Liars
Over the course of series Mona more or less made peace with the Liars, but she never could be trusted. Considering how the torment she put them through during her stint as A was only the tip of the iceberg, can you blame them?
Littlefinger - Game of Thrones
Littlefinger is a devil in plain sight. His enormous ego and ambition to claim the Iron Throne for himself means no one -- neither king nor smallfolk -- is safe from his treachery as Ned, Lysa, Sansa and pretty much all of Westeros learned to their sorrow.
Smurf - Animal Kingdom
Smurf didn't raise children. She raised cannon fodder. She uses them (and her grandkids), pits them against each other, and when she's finished, she has them killed.
Gabriel Lorca - Star Trek: Discovery
The varieties of backstabbing Lorca committed include murder, impersonation of his prime universe counterpart, and attempted usurpation of the Terran Empire.