Elizabeth Jennings, The Americans — She’s a Cold War communist working against the United States, and everything the United States stands for, and yet … and yet … I don’t even fully understand why we’re rooting for her. It’s not because we’re sympathetic to her cause; it’s because the people she’s pitted against, at least on a personal level, seem to be as morally suspect as the people she is working for. We root for her to win, especially when she slaps around Margo Martindale, but we do not for her cause. Are we even rooting for her to defect? I don’t think so.
Don Draper, Mad Men — We root against Draper because he’s a terrible person who respects no one (including himself). Driven by vanity and ego, he’s an asshole of a boss; he’s an adulterer; and he’s a bad father. And yet, we kind of understand why (he was raised in whore house by abusive people), and there’s part of us that roots for Don Draper to at least have a moment of honest self-reflection. We want him to atone for his sins, but it’s those sins that make him such a compelling, complex character to watch.
Dr. Narcisse, Boardwalk Empire — You could pick practically anyone in Boardwalk Empire to both root for and against (including and especially the lead, Nucky Thompson), but the most compelling figure in season four is Jeffrey Wright’s Dr. Narcisse, who is deliciously wicked. He’s driven by a desire to elevate African Americans, to get them out from under the control of white men, and yet, there’s something insidious in his scheming. Why wouldn’t we root for him to take down Nucky Thompson and the black man, Chalky White, who is clearly under his control? And yet, I think we ultimately want Chalky and Nucky to win. But why?
Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones — He’s a cold, ruthless, and cruel leader, who gives no f**ks about the feelings of anyone in his family, only their political usefulness. And yet, what is his end game? A peaceful, stable realm. Joffrey is easy to root against because Joffrey is a monster, but there’s nothing monstrous about Tywin Lannister. He arranges the deaths of people we like, but his reasons are not unjust or illogical, only calculating.
Daniel Holden, Rectify — Is he a man prone to violent outbursts who deserves to be executed for raping and murdering his girlfriend nearly 20 years ago? Or is Daniel Holden the sweet, self-reflective quiet guy who appreciates the small things in life? I have no idea. All I know is that, after one season, I am rooting hard for him, although my allegiances may shift if we find out he truly is a monster.
I want more like this!
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