Saturday, January 17, 2009

The 24 Best 24 Villains Ever

With last week's 24 premiere still fresh in my mind, I decided it was time for a closer examination of some of those love-to-hate characters that Jack Bauer has spent so much of his time and effort worrying about these last six 'days.' Is your favourite villain on the list? Check and see!....though, probably, he/she is. It's a pretty extensive list. If your favourite isn't listed, just presume he/she was my 25th pick, so you can blame the producers for not calling the show '25.'

24. Marshall Goren (played by Carl Ciafallo)(killed by Jack Bauer)
Who? Well, you might not know Goren by name, but he is immortalized by one of the all-time 'holy shit' moments in 24 history. The situation in the S2 premiere was that Jack had to go undercover within a crew that was threatening to bomb CTU. The head bad guy in the crew was actually pending trial, with Goren at the top witness against him. Goren was CTU's only lead to the villain, but he managed to be such a dickhead in the ten seconds that Jack was interrogating him that Jack decided to shoot him at point-blank range and then ended up lopping off Goren's head with a hacksaw and presenting it to the head baddie as a sign of trust. Goren, if I recall correctly, was some kind of child pornographer and what really set Jack off was Goren taunting that due to the court testimony, he'd get a free pass on his crimes. Marshall, Marshall, Marshall...don't taunt Jack. What a mistake-a to make-a. Kudos to the actor for making Goren seem like such a hateable scumbag in just about a minute of airtime.

23. Philip Bauer (played by James Cromwell)(killed, presumably, by Jack Bauer)
22. Graem Bauer (played by Paul McCrane)(killed by Philip Bauer)

These two characters summarize the big letdown that was Day Six. The idea of Jack battling his family was a fresh one, since it had been only hinted in past seasons that Jack had some parental issues. I particularly loved the concept of Graem Bauer, who seemed to be as cunning with his manipulations as Jack was with his fists. In fact, I can point to the exact moment that S6 went was the moment we found out that the mysterious Bluetooth phone-wearing mastermind from S5 was actually Jack's brother. That was the peak of S6's creativity, as Graem ended up being quickly sloughed aside by Philip Bauer...who then disappeared himself for about 12 episodes since James Cromwell had other filming commitments. Great planning, 24 producers. Then, just to irritate me more, they left the door open for Philip to return since as anyone who has ever watched a movie or read a comic book could tell you, any villain who 'dies' in an explosion is probably alive. How in the world do you cast James Cromwell as Jack's evil father and NOT have it turn into a great storyline? Talk about missing an open net.

21. General Cheng Zhi (played by Tzi Ma)(still alive)
I guess you could lump General Cheng under the umbrella of 'Season Six disappointments' as well. There was a great story to be told in Jack escaping from the Chinese or trying to battle an actual government-sanctioned military foe rather than just a rogue terrorist, but General Cheng really didn't end up with much to do. Actually, given how Cheng's most villainous act ended up being driving Audrey Raines to the point of mental breakdown and thus getting her out of the show....well hey, thanks Cheng!

20. Ryan Chappelle (played by Paul Schulze)(killed by Jack Bauer)
Some may question Chappelle's inclusion on the list, but that's because of the S3 "6 AM-7 AM" episode, which might pound-for-pound be the best overall hour in 24's history. The episode was so good in making you feel sorry for Chappelle (targeted for death by Jack's hands due to terrorist Stephen Saunders' demands) that you forgot about the previous two seasons of the show when Chappelle was a complete dick. Ryan Chappelle was the walking embodiment of red tape that kept CTU from getting their jobs done, as if there was ever a regulation that could be cited to interfere with an operation, you could be sure that Chappelle would find it. And since the CTU directors kept getting killed or maimed, Chappelle had plenty of opportunity to swoop in from Division and muck things up. For two seasons you wished Jack would just shoot Chappelle in the head...and then, when Jack actually is forced to shoot him in the head, you're suddenly sad about it. The peak was Chappelle's pathetic response when Jack asks him if he wants to make a phone call or anything before he gets capped. Ryan's response is that he isn't close to his family and that his only friends "are people at work." It would've been funny if the situation weren't so horrifying. Ryan Chappelle, we salute you. Oh, by the way, in case you're wondering why original CTU-head and pain in Jack's ass George Mason isn't on this list, he friggin' sacrificed himself to pilot a plane carrying a nuclear bomb over the Nevada desert. I think that allows him to escape a 'villain' designation.

19. Syed Ali (played by Francesco Quinn)(killed by Jonathan Wallace)
The terrorist mastermind behind the atom bomb threat in Season Two. He was pretty successful, as far as 24 villains go --- he made it through most of his day before he eventually felt the cold hand of death. Syed is perhaps best known for being fooled by one of Jack's most breathtaking stunts. In order to get Syed to admit where the nuke was, Jack staged the execution of Syed's wife and two sons. Syed held out until the second son was about to be shot before finally cracking. Ali, fabulous he, Ali of Los Angeles also gets added bonus points for the fact that after his plot was concluded, Season Two really kind of wheezed to a finish over the last six or seven hours.

18. Carrie Turner (played by Lourdes Benedicto)(still alive)
Carrie was a bitch. That more or less sums it up. Her crimes (trying to advance her career by ratting out Jack, Tony and her arch-rival Michelle in S2) are pretty minor compared to those of Syed Ali or the Bauer family, but man, Carrie was just really bitchy about it. One of the most notable of the "CTU is facing an international crisis and people are worried about this petty inter-office political bullshit?!" moments.

17. Ira Gaines (played by Michael Massee)(killed by Jack Bauer)
The major villain in the first half of Day One, and in fact he would've been the only villain had the series not been picked up for a full season. This is why the episode where Jack rescues Teri and Kim wraps everything up so nicely; that would've been the season/series finale. But, in hindsight, he was really like the Morton Koopa Jr. to Victor Drazen's Bowser Koopa. Gaines also inexplicably had a name that made him sound like an 1880's prospector. Fun fact about actor Michael Massee: he was the guy who actually shot Brandon Lee during the filming of The Crow.

16. Hector Salazar (played by Vincent Laresca)(killed by Ramon Salazar)
15. Ramon Salazar (played by Joaquim de Almeida)(killed by an exploding canister)

One of the running gags in every season of 24 is how major characters and developments in the early part of the day/season are completely forgotten by the end. For instance, the first half of S3 is all about the Salazars. If you took a shot every time the name 'Salazar' was mentioned, you would've been dead about halfway through the second hour. I rank Ramon ahead of Hector because Ramon was the bigger bad-ass of the two, and because he was played by the always-solid Joaquim "Don't Call Me Tony" de Almeida. Also, let's be honest, I'm always going to favor the older brother.

14. Andre Drazen (played by Zeljko Ivanek)(killed by Jack Bauer)
13. Victor Drazen (played by Dennis Hopper)(killed by Jack Bauer)

By all rights, Victor Drazen as played by Dennis Hopper should've been a shark jump for 24. We had spent all of the first season hearing about what an epic monster Drazen was, and when we're finally confronted with him, it's Dennis Hopper with a goofy accent. Hopper is one of those actors who just seems to invite parody and derision, but what people forget is that he's a hell of an actor, and more accurately, a hell of a villain in the right role. Drazen was the kind of guy who killed his old friend and the friend's daughter just in order to make sure Jack was still in captivity. Hopper played Drazen with malevolent gusto, and also gave my pal Eric lots of chances to use his 'Wave of the future, Jack? Eh? Eh? Nyah!" Hopper impression from Speed roughly 200 times over these few episodes. Backing Victor up were his sons Gallant (the cool and efficient Andre) and Goofus (Alexis, whose plan to seduce a woman in Senator Palmer's employ in order to get close to the Senator backfired when his girlfriend ended up killing him herself). So yeah, obviously Andre is the one who gets the higher ranking.

12. Abu Fayed (played by Adoni Maropis)(killed by Jack Bauer)
Fayed and his bald head of doom was, it could be argued, the most successful 24 villain. After all, he and his evil comedian henchmen Kumar and Shaun Majumder did in fact succeed in their mission to detonate a nuke on American soil. That's a pretty big notch in Fayed's belt. Even though he didn't get a chance to use the rest of his suitcase nukes, hell, using just one successfully puts Fayed ahead of every other terrorist in 24 history. So why did he fall out of the top ten? Part of it was due to the laziness of the S6 writing, which made Fayed into sort of an amalgam of past villains in the show's history (he hated Jack because he killed his brother, he used a nuke like Syed Ali, he was bald like...uh, Cal Ripken Jr). And, like most early-season villains, he was eventually revealed to be a pawn of greater powers later in the season, which lessened his overall impact. On the bright side, at least Fayed was a key part of S6's last great episode and moment, when he and Jack had a huge fight that ended with Jack killing Fayed via hanging him from a chain on a pulley. We were all pulley-ing for Jack in that fight! *rimshot* *crickets*

11. Miles Papazian (played by Stephen Spinella)(still alive)
CTU's has a history of being run, or at least temporarily run, by upper-level bureaucrats who are looking out for number one, but most of them (George Mason, Ryan Chappelle, Lynn McGill) turned out to be good at heart. In the fifth season, when Karen Hayes and Miles Papazian came over from Homeland Security to supervise CTU, this trend partially continued as Karen turned out to be a beloved hero. Miles, however, ended up being a piece of slime who decided to cover up Logan's involvement in the Palmer assassination in exchange for a job with Logan's administration. To quote Bill Murray from Ghostbusters II, "Oh Johnny, did you back the wrong horse." (Ironically, Murray says this to a character played by Peter MacNicol, who played Tom Lennox on Day Six). Papazian never got his comeuppance, but presumably he arrived in Washington just in time to find out that Logan had been arrested, and that Papazian's new job was President Gardner's official ass-wiper. But the joke was on Gardner --- Miles bought the rough, scratchy kind of toilet paper. VENGEANCE IS SWEET.

10. Marie Warner (played by Laura Harris)(still alive)
The 'Kate Warner suspects her sister's fiance is involved with terrorists' subplot was a bit of a yawner in the first part of S2, notable perhaps only because her bearded dad looked like Michael Gross from Family Ties, thus causing my friends and I to yell out lines like 'Gross negligence!' and 'Gross incompetence!' after almost anything he said. (Fun fact: Bob Warner was played by John Terry, better known as ghost/terrible father Christian Shephard on LOST.) However, the Warners' story perked up noticeably when it was revealed that innocent little sister Marie was actually the one involved with the terrorists and, to boot, batshit crazy. My favourite detail of this season was that Day Two was also supposed to be Marie and Reza's wedding day. Was it possible that Marie's lunacy was merely a really advanced case of Bridezilla-ness? I also can't help but think that this was a shout-out to Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow's original concept for the '24 hours in real-time' gimmick to be switched from setting to setting every season. So, Day One would've been stopping an assassination, but Day Two would've been something more mundane like a wedding day. This particular idea was used on another, much shorter-lived, real-time sitcom called 'Big Day.'

9. Christopher Henderson (played by Peter Weller)(killed by Jack Bauer)
The 24 writers flirted with the idea of an 'Evil Jack' villain with Stephen Saunders on Day Three, but the concept didn't take full fruition until Christopher Henderson arrived on the scene in S5. He and President Logan were the bizarro version of Jack and David Palmer. Like Jack, Henderson had the ability to outwit, out-tough and pretty much out-man everyone on the show, even tricking Jack himself a few times. Henderson was so stone-cold that he let his wife be shot in the leg by Jack rather than give up any information. He momentarily elevated himself into 24 history by 'killing' Tony, though the events of the current season have lessened Henderson's accomplishment a bit. Also hurting his case is that he was finally taken down by the ol' empty gun trick.

8. Mike Novick circa Day Two (played by Jude Ciccolella)(still alive)
I could've pulled a Chappelle/Mason here and given Novick an exemption for his villainous acts based on his morph into a good guy on Days Four and Five, but that would be doing a disservice to his wonderful role in S2. Maybe the fact that he's an otherwise good guy makes his temporary heel turn in S2 all the more shocking. Anyway, after being Palmer's right-hand man for the first season and a half, Novick decides to go all in with Vice President Prescott and try to force Palmer out of office. Lynn, Palmer's other chief advisor, learns of this and Novick decides to lock her in a room to prevent her from telling the President. Lynn escapes, but falls down a flight of stairs and is badly hurt. She is taken away in an ambulance, but as she's being loaded into the back, she raises her hand to point at Novick, in the vain hopes of trying to tell Palmer that he had a rat in his inner circle. Novick then grabs her hand in a "there there, it'll be all right" motion. Dick. Move. Even though Novick ended up redeeming himself in the rest of the series, his momentary turn to the dark side actually ended up being a clever way to generate suspense in future seasons. We no longer knew for sure that Mike was on the good side, especially given his deep involvement with the slimy Logan. And finally, as contractually obligated to do in any discussion of Jude Ciccolella, the man looks sort of like a turtle.

7. Stephen Saunders (played by Paul Blackthorne)(killed by Theresa Ortega)
Saunders --- 24's answer to "what would happen if Jack faced an evil James Bond? Okay, not one of the cool Bonds, maybe just a Timothy Dalton Bond...okay, fine, Bond would eat this guy for breakfast, never mind. But he's British! Ooohhhh!!" --- is best remembered today as a running joke amongst my friends. Literally, a 'running' joke. Near the end of S3, as Saunders is trying to reach his helicopter to make his getaway from the CTU team, he runs in a comically-upright running style. Imagine someone trying to run with a six-foot metal pole strapped to his back and you'd have the image of Saunders. Therefore, whenever we see someone with an awkward or 'proper' running style, we cite the name of 24's British nemesis. It's kind of a goofy tribute to what was otherwise a terrific villain. Saunders got Tony to turn on his mates, had Chappelle killed and nearly killed an entire hotel's worth of people. He was only stopped since Jack, after going through two years of people trying to get to him through Kim, finally realized that using people's kids as bait is a GREAT idea and took Saunders' (hot) daughter Jane into custody. Saunders then fell apart like a house of cards. It was enough to make the Queen herself shake her royal head in disgust. (I presume Her Majesty watches 24.)

6. Mandy (played by Mia Kirschner)(still alive)
Mandy would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids...and by meddling kids, I mean Curtis' right fist. The end of Season Four finally delivered on the encounter that had been built up since the pilot --- Jack and CTU against Mandy the assassin. She was responsible for bringing down a plane in 24's first-ever episode and for almost killing President Palmer in the S2 finale. Yet not only had she not been caught, she had never even been mentioned by CTU, let alone confronted. But Day Four finally brought Mandy down, as her habit of screwing and then killing her targets finally, uh, screwed her. Frankly, I was a little disappointed. It would've been kind of awesome to keep Mandy around for the entire series, continually being an unknown monkey wrench in Jack's life and acting as a symbol that CTU, for as much as they kept on top of things, were still in the dark about some threats. But, at least, Mandy went out with a bang. And by bang, I mean the sound Curtis' fist made when it slammed into her face. Not to sound like I support violence against women or anything, but that punch was a 'fuck yeah' moment if there's ever been one on 24. And when it's to stop an assassin who may have information about a nuke-wielding terrorist, a good punch is always necessary. All that scene was missing was Chris Tucker making a cameo screaming that Mandy just got KTFO. Tucker could've say, oh, say, Jack's long-lost brother.

5. Dina Araz (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo)(killed by one of Marwan's thugs)
On the downside, Dina has the least-notable killer of any of the dead villains on the list, even moreso than Stephen Saunders, who was killed by friggin' Gael's wife. Also on the downside, she spent quite a lot of her time on the show fleeing, injured, and actually not being villainous as she was turning on her husband and Habib Marwan while trying to protect her son. On the other hand..."Behrooz, I am so disappointed in you." BAD. ASS. Shohreh Aghdashloo's creepy voice and evil poker glare from hell are burned into my memory. 24 briefly turned into a horror movie during that episode where Behrooz doesn't kill his girlfriend and tries to hide it from his parents. As I recall, the episode featured roughly 59,205 shots of Dina suspiciously peering around a corner at her son, and it was creepy every single time. Mike Novick, as pictured above, was a master at sneakily peering around corners; with Dina, she peered in a way that made you feel like the end of the world was nigh. Dina was so evil that she even gave her son a name that she could intimidate him with by stretching it out to its maximum length --- "Behhrooozeeee...." Between Dina's evil, Navi Araz's more generic villany and Behrooz's incompetent boobery, the Araz family really carried the early part of S4. I guess you could say that Day Four could've been called...Arazted Development. (rimshot) (editor's note: that's not the first time Mark has used that joke.) By the way, in researching this entry, it turns out Behrooz's girlfriend was played by...Leighton Meester?! Wow, nice going Behrooz. He's pretty slick for a teenage sleeper agent.

4. Habib Marwan (played by Arnold Vosloo)(committed suicide)
Most 24 seasons feature at least three major villains, two of which are 'legwork' villains that cause most of the direct damage and pose a physical threat to Jack, and then a third villain who's operating things from behind the scenes. The one exception to this is Day Four, where Habib Marwan is the Big Bad --- ah, Buffy references --- for virtually the entire storyline. The reason for this is pretty cool; Marwan was originally going to be a secondary-level baddie, sort of the second phase of enemies in the day (the Araz family was step one, Marwan was step two, and who knows would've been step three). But because Arnold Vosloo was doing such a great job in the role, the 24 producers decided to just keep him around and make him the central antagonist of the entire season. While it was a little goofy that one guy had four or five different plots cooking on the same, Marwan was built up as such a bad-ass and such a capable plotter that it seemed almost plausible. Fun note: Marwan is the only major 24 villain who went to his grave thinking his plan actually succeeded, as he committed suicide rather than be captured by Jack. I'm glad I was able to find the picture of his great final scene, as he shoots Jack a shit-eating Joker grin before intentionally falling to his death. I'm sure Marwan was in for a big surprise once he got to hell, pulled up an easy chair and switched on the evening news.

3. Sherry Palmer (played by Penny Johnson Jerald)(killed by Julia Milliken)
In addition to the aforementioned 'three levels of villains' in a 24 season, each Day usually also features at least one bureaucratic manipulative villain that's trying to work things from the White House. Examples include Tom Lennox, S2 Mike Novick, Chad Lowe's character in S6...but they all pale in comparison to the Queen of Mean, Sherry Palmer. The picture above says it all: Sherry once killed a guy simply by screaming at him until he died. If you could combine Lady Macbeth, Hillary Clinton and Shrieky from Care Bears into one person, the result would be Sherry. Moreso than a lot of villains on this list that I felt could've lived another Day to continue to torment Jack, I feel that Sherry's death was the most unnecessary. Sure, yelling Alan Milliken to death probably crossed the line even by her standards and Sherry deserved to be punished, but getting involved in 24's blood-and-guts action scenes wasn't Sherry's style. She was the one who could corrupt things just with an understanding of her foe's nature, or by explaining her bullshit in a way that seemed completely logical to her target. Sherry deserved more than to meet her end at the hands of Jasmine from Angel. Just as an example, imagine how much Sherry could've improved S6 if she had been alive to weasel her way into Wayne Palmer's administration, and it was her in Tom Lennox's role or Regina King's role (not as Wayne's wife, of course, but speaking as the 'concerned' sister-in-law). BTW, David Palmer was well served to split up with Sherry after Day One, but is there any doubt that he missed out on some wild makeup sex?

2. Nina Myers (played by Sarah Clarke)(killed by Jack Bauer)
Nina is in many ways The Villain of the series. Her murder of Teri Bauer was 24's turning point; it was the moment that told viewers that the series wasn't going to finish in happy endings, especially not for Jack. It also elevated Nina into a realm of hatred rarely shown by viewers towards a TV character. My friend Eric, to this day, refers to her only as 'Fucking Nina' and will no doubt be horrified that I'm placing her anywhere but first on this list. I'm a little surprised myself, given that Nina was a great villain, perhaps the most important villain in the series, and I only just realized that Sarah Clarke looks exactly like a brunette Amy Poehler and I hate Amy Poehler. But the only reason Nina is ranked a step downwards is that I thought her appearance in S3 was, like the Indian's buttocks in Wayne's World II, a trifle unnecessary. Nina being finally killed was satisfying to see, but that's also something that could've been saved for (in my opinion) the series finale. Fun fact: Sarah Clarke met husband, Xander "George Mason" Berkeley while working together in S1. At one point in S3, a CTU video screen showed a driver's license featuring one of Nina's 'aliases' --- with the name Sarah Berkeley. There is no truth to the rumour that Clarke fell for Berkeley's pick-up line, "Hey baby, wanna have sex with the X?"

1. President Charles Logan (played by Gregory Itzin)(killed by Martha Logan)
A note about the picture: I really, really tried to find a pic of the look on Logan's face when Aaron Pierce totally owned him by calling him 'Charles,' but I couldn't track it down. Apparently Glenn Morshower didn't tell Itzin he was going to do that, so Itzin's reaction shot was one of legit surprise. C'est la vie. As I mentioned in my last 24 post, for all of the flack that 24 takes over being a right-wing show, it's interesting that the show's most significant villain was a) the President, b) a thinly-disguised caricature of Nixon and Dubya Bush and c) a Republican. Logan was an utterly fascinating character and a great departure from the heroic President Palmer; here was a president who was a spineless weasel, easily manipulated and seemingly unable to muster any kind of effective leadership qualities whatsoever. I almost wish that Logan hadn't been outed as involved in the S5 plot, since he would've been a great roadblock/nemesis for Jack for the rest of the, if you're counting, that makes five of the top six villains that I wish were all still alive. In Logan's case, however, his continued life would've spared us his actual last episode, in S6, which ended up being both anti-climactic and ridiculous. I still cannot get over Gregory Itzin losing the Best Supporting Emmy to Alan Alda. Alan Alda! He of the closet full of Emmys from MASH and of the barely-half-the-season's worth of appearances on The West Wing. Complete and utter nonsense.


Hal Incandenza said...

How could you have left the cougar out, Shuk? How??

Great post (once again--as seems to happen at least a dozen times a year--I saw your post title and immediately thought "God, I wish I came up with that first!").

Can't disagree with your Top 5, though I'm a bit surprised that Syed Ali isn't much higher (he is, after all, partly responsible for the single best scene in 24 history, wherein Jack, while he's holding Ali's kids hostage, turns to the villain and says--with the absolute most malice you could possibly imagine--"I hate you for making me do this," and then blows one of them away (or so it seems). Amazing.

Peter Lynn said...

Logan was a great, great villain, and definitely worthy of a top-five spot. However, Nina Myers is the only character in the history of 24 who makes me absolutely furious whenever I think of her. I don't even think of her as Nina Myers -- she's "that bitch Nina Myers".

I own the first season on DVD. I paid over a hundred bucks for it right after it came out. And I've ended up never watching it. Why? Because that bitch Nina Myers murdered Teri and broke my heart, and the thought of seeing it again turns my stomach.

Hal Incandenza said...

Oh...thought of someone that should've been included: "guy who teams up with Teri in S1 because he, too, is looking for his daughter, then he finds said daughter and smothers in the hospital, as, it turns out, he's not her father at all." (OK, he's not top 10 material--case in point: I don't know his name--but he's gotta be better than Carrie Turner.) That was the show's first real twist, and it was extremely well done.

val1224 said...

What?? You didn't include Kim???? OK, so she's not really a villain, but she's annoying - doesn't that count for something?

Unknown said...

Kevin Carol (to Hal's post). And what about Gredenko from S6, Berekev from S5. Those were 2 that were real bastards.

Anonymous said...

And what happened to Nina Myers? She ended up in a thankless role as Bella's mom in Twilight.

Anonymous said...

I know this is old but seriously How is Mike Novac even on this list? That guy was a good guy through and through? Just because he made one stupid mistake in day 2 your calling him evil? Really?
Credibility has left the building

Alfie said...

I was really happy to see Marie Warner in your top 10. Her portrayal of that part was so convincing. She looked like a demon when she she was in custody and looks at Kate and says " Do you think you will be safe out there.

Anonymous said...

Charles Logan awesome villain!! I hope the new season gives us more villains like Charles, Nina, season 1 and Marwan in season 4.
Any villain that can just catch public transportation, secure a warhead attach it to a missal and set it off. Infiltrate CTU and have a cover like Nina did. What a way to get a series started!!! I love this show!!! Thanks for pushing the envelope. Do it Again.

Anonymous said...

graem and phil bauer should be higher and how do you not include Alan wilson i would say he is definitely top 3 for the pure fact he was behind everything since david palmers death