In long-running programs, television villains either double down on their villainy and turn into straight-up maniacs or they get redemption arcs and become functioning members of society. Or, shudder to think, a member of the main cast. That's just how it goes for TV characters in the modern era.
Every once in a while, TV redemption arcs are well thought out and satisfying, but more often than not, they're rushed and they ignore all of the horrible crimes the character has committed. The following redemption arcs may have felt like they were earned at the time, but in hindsight, they're lacking something important and emotionally satisfying.
- 11 VOTESPhoto: Showtime
It's rare that a television character has so many chances to screw up and redeem themselves, but Fiona Gallagher really takes the cake. Throughout her nine-season arc on Shameless, she's unfairly tasked with taking care of her expansive family, and rather than rise to the occasion, she routinely puts them in a worse situation than they've been left by their alcoholic father.
By the end of her run on the show, Fiona nearly bankrupts her family and leaves her younger siblings to take care of her while she follows in her father's footsteps. Eventually, she gets her act together and attends AA, which should be the beginning of her redemption arc, but instead, she gets a win that's so ridiculous that it's hard to understand why she was written out of the series on such a high note.
After hitting rock bottom and getting a job at a gas station to keep herself afloat, she literally has 100K fall in her lap when an old investment pays off. A character shows up that the audience hasn't seen for episodes upon episodes and offers Fiona $100,000 as an upfront payment rather than making her wait for the money to trickle in.
- 21 VOTESPhoto: HBO
How is Ari Gold a beloved character? He's a misogynist, he's homophobic, and an absolute jerk to everyone around him aside from his favorite client, Vincent Chase (to whom he's a complete sycophant).
Listing everything awful that Gold does throughout Entourage would just turn this into the character's Wiki page, but in short, he cheats on his wife constantly while berating her for wanting him at home and he's capital H homophobic to his assistant again and again with no backlash. In fact, he just gets more power in Hollywood. Is that how things really go in Lipstick City? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that audiences want to see gross dudes winning in our fictional entertainment.
Gold ends the series with his marriage back in place, and a job offer to be chairman and CEO of Time Warner. Nice guys really do finish last.
- Photo: HBO
Remember when Jaime Lannister pushed a child out the window, rendering him disabled, before hooking up with his sister Cersei? That's basically the opposite of saving the cat. After starting out on top of the Game of Thrones hierarchy, Jaime is knocked down as low as a character can go and eventually has his sword hand chopped off after he's captured by some House Bolton soldiers.
The newly handless Jaime begins a complex redemption arc that sees him rescue Brienne of Tarth from a bear, but the whole thing is derailed when he sexually assaults Cersei. It doesn't really matter that Jaime is humbled or that he gives his life for Cersei in the finale, because it's clear he views women as nothing more than sexual objects.
Damar, Gul Dukat's second in command on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, spends most of the series sneering and generally acting like a jerk. He plays a major part in the Cardassian genocide of the Bajorins, but even after their war comes to an end, he refuses to see the race he helped enslave and kill as worthy of his respect.
His face turn is a slow burn across the final seasons that sees him turn his back on his old boss while working with the Dominion to take over the Alpha Quadrant. It's obvious that the work wears on him, but rather than remove himself from the situation, he drinks himself into a stupor. When he finally decides to do something, he turns to domestic terrorism and becomes a hero to the people of Cardassia by embracing the teachings of a Bajoran. His lengthy redemption is meant to have weight, but it feels unearned.