6 "Good Guys" Who Got Away with Being Terrible People
It’s no secret that the protagonist of any TV show can do questionable things and get away with it for no other reason than that they’re the hero. When the good guy sabotages his douchebag boss’s presentation and gets him fired, we all cheer him on. There’s no need for remorse or comeuppance for that type of behavior, right?
But sometimes heroes go too far. They commit acts so over-the-top that it would leave them friendless in real life—if not rotting in prison—and yet no one around them seems to care. The audience is left shouting at the screen, “REALLY?! IS NO ONE GOING TO MENTION THAT SIX INNOCENT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MAIMED FOR LIFE BECAUSE JIMMY DIDN’T WANT TO PAY A PARKING TICKET?”
And so, your friends here at HNTP got together to create this list of kind, noble, goodhearted characters who did some totally fucked-up shit that no one ever called them on.
Show: One Tree Hill
Crime: Abandoning Her Marriage
Though the blue-collar-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold Lucas and the popular-cheerleader-just-barely-hiding-her-hidden-emo-sensibilities Peyton were marketed as One Tree Hill‘s It Couple, it wasn’t far into Season 1 before their title was obviously usurped by a much less likely (and definitely less clichéd) duo. When Nathan, the golden boy jock with a serious side of douchebag, accidentally fell for Lucas’ nerdy girl next door bestie, Haley, the chemistry between the unlikely mismatched couple was palpable. And though it seemed positively ridiculous that two kids like this, both with such bright (if vastly different) futures would choose to toss it all away on the off-chance of achieving the rare unicorn that is “happy teen marriage,” fans the world over truly believed that if any minors could make it in the Big Leagues of Love, it would be these two crazy kids.
And because of that, most Naley shippers pointedly choose to ignore the entire second season of One Tree Hill where, in a bizarre twist not-so-cleverly designed to boost the actress who played Haley’s fledgling music career, Haley runs out on her new husband and leaves high school for months to go on a music tour (?) with super slimy musician Chris Keller, who, despite having all the sex appeal of a month-old dish sponge, Haley decides to suck face with. Heartbroken, Nathan turns into a violent drunk and eventually attempts suicide.
At the start Season 3, Haley is back with her tail between her legs, and it’s a race to see how fast the writers can get them back together again. After that, Haley’s brief and tepid “love affair” with Cringeworthy Chris is rarely mentioned again. Haley and Nate would eventually go on to have a child and end the series with a hard-fought, and much deserved, happily ever after. But, still, you’ve got to admit, it was a pretty dick move, on Haley’s part.
– Julie Kushner
Crime: Destruction of Property
Okay, maybe this isn’t the biggest crime in the world, but given that it was the first injustice I ever witnessed on television, it made a big impression on me. You guys remember Arthur on PBS Kids? Remember that Season 4 episode “Arthur’s Big Hit” where Arthur punched his sister D.W. for breaking his model airplane?
Yeah, yeah, one kid punched another on public television. But that wasn’t the shocking part to me. You see, Arthur “worked all week” on that model plane and “told her a million times not to touch it.” So when he’s finally finished with it, what does D.W. do? She throws it out the window to see if it can fly.
Arthur punches her in the arm, she cries to mommy and daddy, and Arthur is punished. Okay, fine, but what happens to D.W.? “We’ll deal with what she did,” says Arthur’s mom. Here’s a spoiler: No, they don’t. Today’s episode is about not hitting people and we’re not going to muddy the waters by holding D.W. responsible for destroying the plane.
Even as a little kid, I was outraged. The closest D.W. comes to acknowledging fault is saying, “How was I supposed to know? I can’t read!” Why do I have a feeling that’s going to be her excuse for everything? “D.W., you murdered my wife!” “What do you expect? I can’t read!”
– Susan Velazquez
Crime: Felony Assault with a Controlled Substance
A big part of the humor of Seinfeld is that our main characters are obliviously self-absorbed and never learn a lesson. Their callous indifference is usually played for laughs, so when it accidentally leads to death and destruction—and often it does—that’s just part of the joke. Fine, I get that. But there’s a difference between accidentally hurting someone through selfish disregard and deliberately committing felony assault.
In the second season episode “The Revenge,” George quits his job in a rage after being told he can’t use the executive restroom. When he tries to un-quit, his boss insults him and boots him out. So George decides to drug the guy’s drink to humiliate him at a company party. Ha, ha, that George, what a charac—wait, what? That’s a premeditated felony. Jerry shrugs it off as ridiculous, but it’s not going to affect his opinion or friendship with George. Elaine is all for it and helps carry out the crime. What’s next, burning down the guy’s house?
– Rick Lewis
Crime: Leaving His Girlfriend in a Post-Apocalyptic Future
When Heroes hero Peter and his recently introduced love interest Caitlin time travel to a plague-filled future where 93% of humanity is dead and rotting, only one of them makes the return trip and, yes, it’s the one whose name is in the opening credits. The producers originally planned a rescue mission for the Irish lassie, but a writers strike cut the season short and her character was abandoned. In a post-apocalyptic future. By her superhero boyfriend.
No one ever mentions it again. Peter is even good buddies with a time traveler and never gets around to remembering that he’s got an old flame stuck in a low-budget TV version of The Stand. The producer’s explanation? “No, we passed it. We leapfrogged it… We have enough stuff to [deal with].” Oh, I’m sorry, did keeping up with your own show become too much of a hassle for you? If you didn’t give a crap about continuity or character, it’s no surprise your audience stopped giving a crap about your show altogether.
– Sara Hope
Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Crime: Manslaughter, First Degree
Lots of characters committed major sins on Buffy the Vampire Slayer only to be left picking up the pieces of their shattered lives for a season or more, but only one unleashed a plague of flaming death on the city of Sunnydale without anyone batting an eye. I’m looking at you, Xander. And I’m not talking about that time you caught syphilis.
If you know Buffy at all, you’re familiar with episode I’m talking about… although you may not immediately remember how many people Xander carelessly slaughtered that day because no one ever mentions it again. It’s “Once More, with Feeling,” the one where the demon du jour causes people to randomly break into song, and these songs express the characters’ innermost feelings because… well, any excuse for a musical episode. We see the demon causing his victims to dance so frantically that they literally burst into flames, and he also kidnaps Dawn with the intention of making her his bride in Hell, so this is a pretty bad turn of events. At the end of the episode, Xander reveals that he summoned the demon, all because he wanted to learn his fiancée Anya’s true feelings about their pending marriage.
When everybody finds out, they’re all like, “Oh well, that explains that, then.” Possible reasons that no one is more than very slightly peeved at Xander include: (1) they are all preoccupied with their own unintentional lyrical confessions (everybody ends up blabbing a big secret in song before it’s all over); (2) Xander has given the airtight excuse that he didn’t know anything negative could result from summoning a demon from the bowels of Hell; and (3) Xander is too much of a doofus to even waste your time being mad at. As for Xander himself, he’s clearly more concerned about his relationship problems than about those unlucky people who burned to death while dancing. I guess the idea is: You lives in Sunnydale, you takes your chances.
– Cindi Brown
Torchwood, for the three nerds out there who don’t know, was a more grown-up spinoff of Doctor Who. It was a show that I very much enjoyed for its humor, willingness to deal with adult themes, and flawed characters. That said, there is such a thing as too flawed, and the writers set the bar for awful so high for Owen Harper in the pilot that I couldn’t find it in myself to like him again for the rest of the show.
When newbie Gwen Cooper is being shown the ropes at Torchwood HQ, Captain Jack tells her that nobody is allowed to take their weird alien tech home. We then get a montage of all the Torchwood employees taking tech home. Toshiko, for example, uses a device that allows her to absorb the entire contents of a book into her brain in seconds. Owen, on the other hand, heads out to the bar with a spray that makes him suddenly irresistible to whoever he hits on. He uses it to pick up a woman who previously showed no interest in him, only to be accosted outside the bar by her boyfriend, but no worries: another spray, and the bf is on board the threesome train. So basically, Owen uses a chemical to make it impossible for a person to say no to his offer of sex. I’m not sure this could be any clearer an example of rape, and yet, after he hands back the spray, it’s never condemned, nor mentioned. Ever again. Luckily, Owen, like nearly everyone else in Torchwood, goes on to die horribly, sooooo I guess he gets his comeuppance?
– Cy Chase